Wednesday, December 29, 2010
This is the third rock-related post in a row, which goes to show that when I'm not in school and have the time, I dive head first into record geekdom. Found this glorious piece of work on the blog Retro To Go-- a colouring book of Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett. Looks great...! The people behind it are appropriately called Piper Gates Design.
Monday, December 27, 2010
Raymond Pettibon is on the cover of the latest issue of Border Crossings magazine. I bought it about two or three weeks ago, and still haven't had the chance to curl up and read the interview with him. Maybe today is the day.
More on Raymond Pettibon here and here.
Images of his art for Black Flag and other bands here.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart died on December 17th. I was so busy with City of Craft that I didn't even know until days later. Not only was Captain a mindblowing and innovative musician, but he was an abstract painter too. He will always be one of my favourites. Do yourself a favour and treat yourself to a Captain Beefheart Youtube orgy, or a Captain Beefheart album (Safe as Milk, Trout Mask, or Lick My Decals Off Baby, preferably!) today.
Don Van Vliet's painting's can be found here.
The ultimate Captain Beefheart online resource is here.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
New interviews have been posted with Love and Money exhibitors over the last couple of days. These latest two are with fibre-based artist Rachael Kess and craft superhero Kalpna Patel. Rachael's interview can be found here, and Kalpna's can be found here.
Images, from top: Rachael Kess, Blush, Kalpna Patel, Stay Gold necklace
Sunday, December 12, 2010
I did the following interview last month with Liz Worth for an article on Zines in Canada in the 70s, 80s, 90s and today for the next issue of Broken Pencil. Only snippits of this interview will likely make it into the article, but I enjoyed doing the interview enough that I thought it would be worth posting here in its entirety. Lots of stuff is included about zine culture in the 90s and my own introduction to the world of zines. The picture above is of me when I was 17...I'm the one on the left, and it was taken in 1999 at Who's Emma, 69 1/2 Nassau Street.
It seems that a lot of people have the impression that no one makes zines anymore, that we have the internet now and blogs and websites are the new zines. But we know that's not true, because people still make zines. Why do you still make zines, and why do you think other people still do, too?
I make zines because I always have made them...I never questioned whether I should stop making them. I suspect zine-making was part of the youth culture of a certain time, or a fad for many people, but for me zines have always held a great deal of importance. I made my first zine when I was 12-- after drawing, zine-making was the first creative practice I ever engaged in, and definitely the first creative practice I took seriously enough to work at and put the product of out into the world. In some ways, I think zine-making really paved the way for my art practice as an adult. I still make zines today-- when I was a teenager, I had a zine that went on to do thirteen issues, but now I generally make one-off zines a few times a year, on a variety of topics. I make little recipe zines on Japanese paper, zines of sketchbook excerpts, and I recently made a limited-edition zine on creative practice within the context of the punk community. My zines now feel tied to my art practice, as opposed to when I was a teenager, they were more tied to punk rock and feeling my way through radical politics.
A huge reason I still make zines is my relationship to the physical act of making them. Making them can be a very long, persnickety process of cutting, pasting, measuring margins by hand, adjusting contrast until you get it just right...it's a very tactile process and the result is very personal. There's a level of intimacy and personalization in making a printed zine that you just can't achieve with blogs. This sort of thing applies to reading and the reception of zines, too....there's an intimacy and tactility in experiencing a zine physically that is not common within internet-oriented contemporary culture. I know that the tactile and tangible quality of zines and the yearning for something physical is what draws a lot of people to them.
What did you see as the zine's role in the '90s? What do you think that role has become in the '00s?
In the mid-90s, the internet wasn't nearly as widespread as it is today, so the role of print media in general was one of greater importance then than it is now. Zines were definitely an alternative voice in print at that time. I remember as a teenager, it seemed like a revelation that you could make your own little books and for twenty bucks you could make 15 of them and put them in two or three shops on consignment, or trade them with your friends, or trade ad space with another zine and sell your zines through the mail that way. The zine community was very much an in-person and through-the-mail phenomenon back then. People were actively forging relationships and community this way, and in retrospect, while it took a lot of time and effort, I never thought of that part of it. It just felt like I was part of something bigger than myself and my suburban, teenage life...it was exciting!
Of course, the internet has really changed this sort of thing. What constitutes as an alternative voice in this day and age? Everyone has a voice on the internet...the internet has made it incredibly easy for people to self-publish at the push of a button, and people do. They talk and talk...about their cute cat and their breakfast and their favourite bands and clothing labels and their night at the bar or their day at the park and it never ends. The cacophany of voices on the internet is insane...how do we navigate through it all? What does it all mean? Is it meaningless? I struggle with these questions a lot.
Perhaps the role of the zines today is exactly the same as what it used to be-- maybe zines are still an alternative voice, or more of an alternative voice than they ever were. In an incredibly fast-paced world where we are inundated with facts, pseudo-facts, images, and useless information transmitted digitally, zines are something refreshing and different.
In the past 10 years, have you noticed any key moments or changes within the zine community that show how the culture has changed compared to what was happening in the '90s?
Definitely. The one key thing that I've noticed about zine cuture in the past 10 years is that a certain amount of focus and energy has come off of the production of zines and more focus has been put on the preservation of the zines and zine "history" through archival pursuits such as zine libraries, websites, larger distros and the publication of books that are collections of particular zine titles-- some examples of this include Cometbus, Scam, Doris and Absolutely Zippo. This is not to say that there aren't still people making zines, because of course there are many. In a way, zine culture is healthier than ever because there are individuals out there working hard to ensure that zines stand the test of time and are firmly imbedded in our cultural history. In the 90's, I'm not sure that these sorts of things were thought about nearly as much...I think at that time, people really embraced the ephemeral nature of zines, to the point that many of them from that time haven't survived. The archivist in me is so happy that there are a few hardcore zine collectors in every city that have ensured that their zines from the 70s, 80s and 90s have stood the test of time, tidily sealed in boxes and Ziploc bags in cool, dark rooms!
Over the past few years, more and more zine libraries have popped up, which is really great. In the GTA, we have three, and I'm pretty sure the Toronto Zine Library at this point has the largest public collection of zines in Canada, numbering in at about 5000 pieces. The Anchor Archive Zine Library is a library in Halifax run out of a house. The house-- Roberts Street Social Centre-- is home to other fantastic programming such as a screen-printing collective, a books beyond bars program, a seasonal artists residency program and a slew of skillshares, workshops and events. On the other hand, public collections of zines and related ephemera are starting to find their way into large public and university libraries. An well-known example of this is Kathleen Hanna's zine and letter collection, which she recently donated to NYU's Fales Library for their new Riot Grrrl Collection.
In a similar vein, collections of zines in book format have allowed more people access to the work of zine makers, which is essentially a good thing. Though they are very different in feel from the more intimate zine format, they allow the work of zine makers to have a wider reach. Zines that no longer exist are often collected in book format, which is great for people who would have otherwise missed the boat.
In the '90s, I remember buying zines at Chapters and Tower Records. They never actually seemed to enter mainstream culture, but they were available through mainstream outlets, but as the '00s crept along that distribution all fell away, and zines have gone back to the underground. Do you see this as an evolution, devolution, or anything at all? I guess I'm wondering with this last question is: are zines meant to be something of a secret underground? Are they where they should be right now?
I don't know that I see that shift that you're describing as an evolution or de-evolution. I started buying zines like Cometbus, MRR and Rollerderby at Tower Records in the mid-90s too, and I feel like retailers like Tower Records carrying zines at that time was most likely a hold-over from the just-dead grunge and riot grrrl movements of the early 90s. It makes sense that Tower jumped on the bandwagon of those movements a little late, and quickly dropped the idea of stocking zines as the mainstream completely lost interest in such things. Hilariously, I used to put my zines on consignment at Tower Records in '95 or '96...in retrospect it strikes me as rather surprising that a multi-national corporation would go through the pains of keeping paper files for consignment not unlike small punk record shops and anarchist infoshops!
I am divided as to whether or not I think zines are meant to be underground. If it weren't for punk and zine-making becoming mainstream phenomena in the 90s, I probably wouldn't be a zine-maker of 15 years right now. Punk and zine culture reached kids at high schools in Scarborough in the 90s, and I'm grateful for that. In the years that zines were making the news, I think youth outside of urban centres realized that they could become media producers and form their own creative communities that encompassed not just music-making, but the production of related art and written output.
Regardless, I kind of like where zines are right now...they're not nearly as huge as they were at the apex of their fame in the 90s, the zine community that exists now (both locally and internationally) seems very healthy to me. Now (as opposed to the 90s), everyone can use the internet to it's fullest capacity as a tool to promote and distribute zines, which is really great. Zine fairs happen every year, and attendance is always incredible. I have a friend who travels across Canada and the US with her zine distro...it's amazing! It goes to show that there is still an interest and enthusiasm for zines which perhaps transcends notions of "underground" and "mainstream." Maybe this is indicative of the fact that zines have reached a point where they are imbedded in our culture for good, for the ages. I hope so!
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Love and Money
December 16 - 31, 2010
At the Ontario Crafts Council, 990 Queen Street West, Toronto
Reception: Thursday, December 16, 6 - 9 pm
City of Craft, in partnership with the Ontario Craft Council, presents Love and Money, a group exhibition that will take place at the Ontario Craft Council Gallery as a part of City of Craft’s 2010 off-site programming. City of Craft is Toronto’s largest independent craft sale and weekend-long event featuring craft-based installations, free workshops, and craft-related programming.
This year’s exhibition will explore the broad relationship craft and crafting has with commerce. Craft(ing) is currently a multi-billion dollar industry. From mainstream craft media personalities and the DIY Network to hipster how-to guides, mega craft fairs and fabric designers du jour, the commercial nature of the contemporary “crafting” movement often seems to starkly contrast the idea of crafting for necessity from days gone by. On the other hand, there are people who turn to craft and craft processes for a sense of transcendence and autonomy. Many would argue that there is more of a need to craft for crafts sake now than ever-- either to re-skill ourselves for an uncertain future, or simply to learn to slow down.
Are money and craft strange (or natural) bedfellows? How does craft transcend issues of commerce? How might one navigate or perceive the dichotomy of craft for love/craft for money? How do examples of contemporary craft and craft practices address or challenge issues of ownership, value, and exchange?
Love and Money is curated and coordinated by Tara Bursey.
For more information, contact cityofcraft(at)gmail(dot)com.
Monday, December 06, 2010
Sunday, December 05, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
When I was eight years old, I had a friend named Sandra. One day she came to my house to play. Within minutes of arriving, she pulled a see-through plastic take-out container out of her pink shoulder bag. “This is my kit,” she told me. Inside the container were the following items: a folded-up tissue, a length of green string, three maple keys, a black marble, a cut-out photograph of a overflowing basket of apples from a magazine, a tiny fabric doll and a Ritz cracker. I remember being jealous of Sandra’s kit. I tried to make one of my own, but it didn’t work out. There was something about hers-- maybe the way the tissue was folded, creating the perfect little bed for the doll-- that made it better, and far more alive than mine.
When I was nineteen years old, I moved into my second apartment on Maynard Avenue in Parkdale. It was an eight-story apartment building, and most of its tenants were over fifty. After moving my things into the unit’s smaller bedroom on my first night there, I decided to start hanging my clothes in the closet. As I was preparing to fold my freshly-purchased-and-unused towels (organized by the colours of the rainbow, of course) and put them on the top shelf of the closet, I noticed something red pushed to the very back corner of the shelf. I jumped to grab for it, and upon realizing what it was, my heart jumped out of my chest. I threw it back onto the shelf and slammed the door shut. The object was a used, strappy red high heel shoe. It may as well have been a dismembered limb. Later that night, I got my boyfriend to retrieve the shoe and throw it away.
These stories attest to the potency of objects. We connect with used and found everyday objects because of the traces of human life they contain. While we consume images, facts, and pseudo-facts in abundance on a daily basis, the voiceless, tangible stuff of everyday life contains the real truth or our existence but lacks the means to tell it. In an age of infinite information, are the secret lives of objects one of the last facets of our lives that have not been laid bare?
In the exhibition Odds and Entries, objects of ambiguous origin are contained in a series of salvaged drawers. Some of the interventions are as subtle as whispers—one drawer’s interior is adorned with a single spider web made of human hair, simultaneously evoking a sense of intimate human presence, desolation and loss. Another drawer contains a surreal, illuminated campground dreamscape, and another a forest of rotating cocktail umbrellas. While one drawer alludes to a pointedly domestic space, the others feel like strange and fantastical hybrids of space that is public and private, indoor and outdoor, sensual as well as mechanical. Another drawer plays with the idea of bodily detritus, attraction and repulsion, but to a more absurd and suggestive end.
Odds and Entries, like the closet with the red shoe and Sandra’s kit, involve containment as a way of isolating objects in order to give them new meaning. Situating work in repositories associated with the domestic realm-- as well as the exhibition’s emphasis on organic discovery-- defies conventions of gallery display and arrangement. The fact that the installation is situated in a raw, subterranean space further defies such conventions, while hinting at the role of our subconscious as a guide through the objects we encounter. Most importantly, the work presents us with objects and environments shrouded in ambiguity. While we can never know the true histories of the objects we happen upon by chance, we can lose ourselves in their mystery and meditate on their impact. In doing so, we not only allow ourselves to see the hidden life in inanimate objects, but can gain insight into our own lives and the lives of others.
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
In this exhibition, Barbara Balfour has invited thirteen artists who have worked in various forms of print media to respond to the notion of Printing Errors. They include: Janice Carbert, Shannon Gerard, Libby Hague, Micah Lexier, Patrick Mahon, Eric Mathew, Ken Nicol, Lauren Nurse, Dan Olsen, Derek Sullivan, Jeannie Thib, Daryl Vocat, and Joy Walker.
Once one moves beyond the detection of error – the dismay and disappointment of one’s own error or the Schadenfreude of detecting someone else’s – what can be done with it? Above all, can printing errors be interesting?
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
On a broader scale, this same idea relates to the concept of ownership. How much can we really claim to “own” our ideas? The repeating, reworking and re-contextualizing of ideas from the past is part of the postmodern condition. So many ideas have come to fruition over the course of history…when we make something, what are the odds that it hasn’t been made before? Anyone who has come across the work of another artist that is uncannily similar to their own knows what it means to have their sense of ownership over an idea thwarted.
How can we as artists deal with this sense that we cannot truly “own” our work? Perhaps the solution is to forfeit ownership altogether.
My piece, Crossed Stitches, explores these ideas. Using two very similar pattern samples as inspiration—one is by William Morris, and one is by a contemporary independent textile design studio called Terrain—I went through the painstaking process of creating accurate and fully-functional cross-stitch patterns that correspond to each design. This process involved transferring each design onto a large grid and translating each pattern so that it is comprised of squares on a grid. These large-scale grid drawings were then used to make a cross-stitch pattern on another piece of grid paper, dividing the colours of the pattern into symbols as “real” cross-stitch patterns do. This final pattern was then included in hand-made cross-stitch kits which include embroidery floss, a needle and canvas, so people can make their own William Morris or Terrain cross-stitched “fabric swatches.”
This piece plays with ideas of ownership (as well as consumerism and trends in art and design) in a number of ways. Crossed Stitches is a piece of work I have done based on the work of two other artists/designers. One might argue that the Terrain design was derivative of the William Morris design. If one was to take one of my William Morris cross-stitch kits and complete it, how much of the finished piece is considered their work, my work, or the work of William Morris? At the root of this work is the inevitability of “shared ownership” as a part of the current climate of making creative work in any media.