Thursday, March 31, 2005

Fennel Plunger Corporation

Well, it seems it is time to tell you about my latest project. Steve Reinke, Jean Paul Kelly and I have formed a collective - Fennel Plunger Corporation. Our inaugural show will be at Gallery TPW, opening June 11th.

Fennel Plunger Corporation rehabilitates the tired indexicality of the photograph through all means available, including but not limited to photography. Web-based performance, drawings, handwritten notes, small echoing sounds and daily invisible interventions are also part of Fennel Plunger Corporation's inaugural exhibition. The exhibition delineates concerns about representing the pain of others, the ability of images to solicit empathy and the use of camp as a representational strategy.

I am filled with trepidation. The pills aren't working.

Words For Feeling

Thanks to simpleposie for pointing me in the direction of Emily Vey Duke's C Magazine article replublished by It was quite a timely read for me as I've been grappling with ideas surrounding empathy and art.

I had no idea that empathy was a term originally associated with art.
The idea was first elaborated by Robert Vischer inDas optische Formgefühl (1872) as a psychological
theory of art which asserts that because the dynamics of the formal relations in a work of art suggest muscular and emotional attitudes in a viewing subject, that subject experiences those feelings as qualities of the object. Aesthetic pleasure may thus be explained as objectified self-enjoyment in which subject and object are fused.

Empathy is said to involve the entire body of the viewer. It is a state in which the body responds unconsciously to stimuli and is used frequently in describing someone feeling pain for another's situation. I suppose the pain that we experience watching a particularly moving work of art allows us to engage in catharsis. We can feel it and, then, release it.

Can a work of art inspire a bodily sensation of joy?

I had this discussion before with friends. Why is there such a large appetite for the suffering of others? I wanted to see if it was possible to make art that spoke to happiness and have it be as effective or affective as art based on sadness. Can I make something about falling in love without it coming off trite, ironic, or corny? Pollyanna, they said. That's what ecstacy is for.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Now I Remember

I've been thinking about how a memory is a creation of now and how I am always reinventing new versions of the past, adding new layers to the version I created before. Archives remove the need to remember in much the same way as a photograph has been said to become memory.

I dream in series.

J. wants one of those new hard drives that store memory in terabytes. Imagine how much a terabyte can hold. Imagine how much you would be able to forget. A thought that is as comforting as it is sinister.

I am fascinated by the ability of the internet to telescope time. When I come upon an online project, it is being performed as I interact with it. Archives make me a part of a conversation that already occurred and is occurring the moment the page loads.

Much is made of the impermanence of the website - the shock of the error page when a site is taken down and effectively erased from cyberspace. Deleted. But, the opposite is also happening. Old information, images, sounds, are hidden in dispersed pockets of the web, recovered from the hard drives of second hand terminals.

The last image taken from the first webcam:

Trojan Room Coffee Machine

Sunday, March 27, 2005

What It's All About

Karen D'Amico of Fluid Thinking has mentioned my blog! I am truly honoured. Anyone who posits the question,
What if the Hokey Pokey really is what it’s all about?
is alright with me.

She also provided a link to NEWSGrist's interesting series of articles going back to June of last year. There is even a PDF link to a research paper by Marie Omann entitled Artblogs: Why Such a Timid Emergence?

In the paper, Omann wonders why artists have not embraced the weblog in the same way that people working in other fields have. I have wondered that myself. Although the paper was written last year and there have been many more artblogs introduced into the ether since, there does seem to be a general lack of interest in them as a structure for communication and community. My friends and family rarely read my blog (with the exception of k.) let alone consider starting one themselves.

I think I understand why many artists don't want to expose themselves through blogging. Publishing anything online, even under another identity, does expose you in both good and bad ways. Who wants to put themselves up for ridicule? Omann writes:
Time has an irreversible character in blogging as in real time communication: just as you cannot take back a word spoken, you cannot deny a post published in your blog, though you can effectively delete it (or some of its content) after having published it. The way of writing is instant and spontaneous and therefore you can easily end up writing something you regret the moment later.
I have noticed in my short time here, that the fear of looking like an idiot can be immobilizing. Institution-raised artists are aware of the competitive aspects of the game of art. Who is smart, clever, insightful, going places? Who is a total hack, amateur, headed for the local community art centre?

E, an admittedly clever and insightful artist once said of another artist "Keep reaching for that middle rung". She didn't say it to his face. If he had had a blog, however, she might have felt no compunction in dropping him an anonymous comment.

Artists know that artists can be mean. There is often little difference between criticizing (in the vernacular) and critique. I know because I'm an artist and have made people cry and have enjoyed it. Whether I'm proud of that fact or not depends on the number of shots I've kicked back after the opening.

Friday, March 25, 2005

I Have Intentions

Thinking about J and his views concerning video bloggers and their relationship to video artists, I came upon an art video that asks these same questions about intent.
The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal
Matt McCormick

16mm / Digital Video - 16 minutes - 2001
Experimental Documentary

Graffiti removal: the act of removing tags and graffiti by painting over them.

Subconscious art: a product of artistic merit that was created without conscious artistic intentions.

It is no coincidence that funding for “anti-graffiti” campaigns often outweighs funding for the arts. Graffiti removal has subverted the common obstacles blocking creative expression and become one of the more intriguing and important art movements of our time. Emerging from the human psyche and showing characteristics of abstract expressionism, minimalism and Russian constructivism, graffiti removal has secured its place in the history of modern art while being created by artists who are unconscious of their artistic achievements.

Wardomatic asks:
Is it really art if the creator is not aware of it?

To these "removal artists," what they were doing was WORK. They were not thinking in creative terms. They just picked out the paint, the rollers, and did their thing. In fact, in the film, the filmmakers mention that there had to be some creative process going on, as the workers had to pick and choose which gallon of paint to use, and how to paint over the graffiti. But the big difference is that these workers were not making these choices with the knowledge of having an end result (aside from the fact of getting the job done). Is it necessary for the artist to knowingly benefit from the process?

I really don't have any answers here. I am, however, always fascinated by the things people do and why they do them. And I want to be a part of it.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Mean Something

The time of getting fame for your name on its own is over. Artwork that is only about wanting to be famous will never make you famous. Any fame is a bi-product of making something that means something. You don't go to a restaurant and order a meal because you want to have a shit. Banksy

Concerning Maurizio Cattelan

In an effort to learn about other artists and what they do and how it relates to what I do (contextualizing myself), I came upon a quote that should be my mantra;
"It is good for the artist to insinuate himself into the open mesh of any system—not in a provocative and visible way, but mimetically, using their same mediums."—Maurizio Cattelan
I have always been interested in the ways in which ordinary people do ordinary things. I want to be ordinary too and so I attempt to mimic these actions but it is too late. My home videos are too contrived. My porn site is too ironic. I don't know who my audience is. Know your audience, they tried to drum into me at crits. But it was no good. I have only passing acquaintances.

I am familiar with Cattelan's work although I didn't know it until I googled him.
cattelan did not attend art school but taught himself. he worked as a cook, gardener, nurse and mortuary attendant, before turning to making art with the hope that the art world might offer him ‘better treatment’.

I saw this piece installed at Ydessa Hendeles in Toronto. The little Hitler inspired empathy - quite improper.

© maurizio cattelan
(photorealist sculpture of a miniature hitler in prayer
- an icon of fear.)
installation at faergfabriken, center for contemporary art
and architecture, stockholm

This is one of K's favorites:

© maurizio cattelan
(a stuffed squirrel apparently shooting itself at a
kitchen table)
installation at the laure genillard gallery, london

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Sharing the Glory

I had misplaced the address to Front and googled it. This is what I got:

Jesse Jane & Devon Cover Front Magazine
Source: Digital Playground
by: Company Press Release

(VAN NUYS, CA) -- Digital Playground's exclusive contract superstars, Jesse Jane & Devon grace the cover of Front magazine's 69th anniversary issue, available on newsstands now.

The article claims that the mag is all about "the now". I'm jealous.

The Arrival

Well. I received my copy of Front Magazine in the mail today. At 44 pages, it's about average for these types of mags and of average quality physically. Thin cover and b&w, but full sized. If you manage to find a copy (newstand price of $3), let me know what you think of what you see and read within. Here's my take.

Dual Bunnies, Sonja Ahlers, (pg 5) might be compared to the stuffed alterations on Morbid Tendencies but the feel is altogether different. The lovingly homemade conjoined bunnies (joined at the side) feel more like mutual need.

I really like Waiting For What Is Rightfully Mine - Aristotelian Version from Transit Lounge, Andreas Kahre (pgs 16-17). An empty baggage handling area is doubled, it's low ceilings bearing down on fat pillars over an expanse of wall to wall carpeting. The clean mechanics of the carousel. The expectant body. The space between destinations.

I would prefer that the image was not created by the magazine's editor (I know. I'm a purist) Also, the piece works well without the addition of the subtitle which, somehow, spoils it a bit for me. I don't need the image spanning pages 18-19 either. Perhaps, in a previous context, it is important. Here, it is superfluous.

As for the writing, there are a few gems - an evocative sentence here and there, but the journey to find them is a bit torturous.

I think that everyone should submit to this magazine for their next deadline (April 1st). Give them lots of gems to choose from.

Down to Business

I think that I should take myself and my work more seriously. And so, I am reading a series of articles on ArtBusiness.Com. While it won't give me the motivation to actually create, it does offer advice on what to do should I manage to get over the creation hump.

I thought that I would post this for the benefit of actual practising artists. On this site you can learn Strategies to Advance Your Art Career, How to Write an Artist Statement and much more! A few quotes to get you started:

Even though your art may contain negative or disturbing images, portray them as representing positive end results.

Any insights, enlightenments, sufferings, or inner pain you experience while creating art are your own business. Don't bill collectors for it.

...the art will never look as good as it does during the opening, and this represents an opportunity for significant advancement in an artist's career.

And, finally....
you must somehow convince others that they're better off owning than not owning your art.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Number Four

This, from the Bruce Mau Design Manifesto:
4. Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.

I don't find failure fun at all. I'm haunted by all of my failures.

Many of my performances are undocumented. S accused me of being a purist and I pled guilty, but I was lying. I don't want to have the evidence used against me at a later time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Front Magazine

Front cover

My image Mummy, Mummy is on the cover of Front Magazine this month. I haven't seen the issue yet and it's not offered anywhere around here but the gallery has graciously decided to mail me one. I'm interested to see what's inside.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Happy Homes

Happy little pills. I click my heels and swallow. There's no place like home.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Webcams and Routers


I am playing with an old webcam and trying to figure out how to get it to stream online but, so far, no luck. My router is giving me an internal IP address. I know that I need to use forwarding but I don't know how. I'm stumped. And getting tired. Time to make supper...

Sunday, March 13, 2005

For the Children

Apparently, Sartre is not the only one to have the cigarette erased from his history. I have learned a couple of things from an over the top article called Nicotine Nazis.

Only two pictures of blues singer Robert Johnson exist. In one of them a cigarette dangles from his lips. When the post office used that photo to create a stamp honoring him, they carefully removed the offensive cigarette. A few years later they did the same thing with a Jackson Pollock photo used for a stamp. A Utah newspaper ran a full page color picture of James Dean, but digitally removed the cigarette he was smoking. (They apologized for it afterwards.) An Eddie Bauer ad in Wired magazine also airbrushed away Dean’s cigarette. A boxed set of Paul Simon’s older works features an old picture of the singer on the cover. In the original photo he was holding a cigarette, in the new one both the cigarette and the smoke have been removed. In all honestly, though, we can’t use these examples to compare the nicotine nannies to the Nazis. Here, they emulate Stalin.

In 1999, Elaine Y. Wan wrote about the Pollock incident in Stamping out a Cultural Icon:
Jackson Pollock, the famed representative of abstract expressionism, will be featured on the new 33-cent stamp to be unveiled on February 18 by the United States Postal Service. Dressed in paint-stained denim, Pollock is pictured in the process of dripping the final touches to his work. But fifty years after his picture was taken, Pollock's idiosyncratic lip-hanging cigarette has been removed digitally for the stamp...

The image of Jackson Pollock taken from a 1949 Life magazine photograph was chosen to honor Pollock's contribution to abstract expressionism as part of the Postal Service's "Celebrate the Century" stamp series, a recognition of famous people, historical and cultural events, and invention in particular decades. The image was modified to produce a non-smoking and no longer bald-headed Pollock.

Not only was the cigarette removed in this instance, but hair was added where it was found wanting. This seems to lead in an entirely different direction. Perhaps the exclusion of cigarettes is more than a moral protection "for the children". Perhaps it has to do with nostalgia and the recreation of our idols to conform to our version of perfection.
not only is the photograph never, in essence, a memory, but it actually blocks memory, quickly becomes counter-memory... because in it nothing can be refused or transformed.

...says Marguerite Duras in The Lover.
What is an authentic memory? Do we remember things as they were or is it always through a filter of nostalgia and how can we know? Is a photo a placeholder for memory? What role does photoshop play? If an image can be transformed to accomodate our desire for, say, a history without cigarettes and heros with full heads of hair, then, although each photograph may offer a fixed version of events, we can have many versions of a single photograph.

In most of my childhood remembrances, I am not moving. I fear that my memory is a series of polaroids.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Find a Grave

Find a Grave allows you to search a database for images of graves of famous and not so famous people. You can then, offer virtual flowers to the image/gravesite and leave a note.

Here's a note left for Jean-Paul Sartre:
I was in Montparnasse earlier this year (2002) to visit the grave of Charles Baudelaire. My friend, Nicole, stopped at your grave and gave you a tongue lashing for having a wrong philosophy. I don't know if Nikki was right or wrong to do such a thing but I was quiet and observed. To create such feelings after one is dead and buried must be worth noting.

Sartre's Smokes

In an odd bit of historical revisionism, The Daily Telegraph reports that a poster featuring the image of Jean-Paul Sartre smoking his ever present cigarette has been altered. The cigarette was airbrushed out of the picture.

The Bibliothèque Nationale de France has put together an exhibition to mark the one hundredth aniversary of Sartre's birth. In order to conform to avoid any nasty legal action for promoting smoking, the library decided to have the offending cigarette removed from the images of Sartre used on their promotional posters.
"Smoking," the Left-wing existentialist wrote, is "the symbolic equivalent of destructively appropriating the entire world.
I wonder what he would think of this? I wonder what the photographing artist, Lipnitzki, would think?

*I'm feeling sympathetic to Lipnitzki at present because I've just sent in some images to be made into promotional material for an upcoming show. The images will be altered to meet the requirements of the invite and I'm worried that they will be butchered. Or worse. I'm worried that they will be made better.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Tabletop

K. and I have been in discussion over the The Sharp Centre. He thinks it's a daring piece of architecture and sent me pics to prove his case:

ocad addition


I think it is an oppressive blight on the drab Toronto landscape. I also think it's corny, circa '50s avant-garde, crayola stilted, design was old on the drawing board. But that's just me.

I decided, in order to get a better perspective on the situation, to google this fortress in the sky to find out what others are saying.

Canadian Architect had an article about it last year that seems objective...
Design (OCAD) as shocking might be to overstate the case, but not by much. Designed by London architect Will Alsop in collaboration with Toronto's Robbie/ Young + Wright (RYW) Architects, the Sharp Centre delivers some 7,000 square metres of much-needed program space in a decidedly unconventional package. Alsop and RYW project architect Gregory Woods--who, along with interior designer Caroline Robbie-Montgomery, recently left RYW to co-found Alsop's Toronto office--have designed an audacious and playful addition that challenges conventional notions of institutional architecture along with the city's sometimes smug urban politesse. Supported by 12 multi-coloured steel stilts that raise its underbelly 26 metres above the ground, the new building--nicknamed the Tabletop--looms like a gargantuan steel-clad trailer above McCaul Street to the east, and, to the west, Grange Park, a landscaped open space of historic significance that the college shares with the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), soon to get its own makeover at the hands of Frank Gehry.

Audacious is a good word. Underbelly was also well used here. Why create relationships when you can rise above the neighbourhood?

There were other official words about the building in architectural digests and so forth, but I was particularly smitten with the discussions going on at Delta Tango Bravo. There are many comments, both fer and agin. I liked this one:
I think you guys are all missing the point here ... the design is brilliant. See, when the Roadrunner passes under the big flat part ("A"), Wile. E. pulls the rope attached to the pillar ("B") ...

This is an old discussion, I know. The addition has been up for some time. I am hopelessly out of step.

R, I miss you...

I love reading messages that people leave for each other in public forums. Little secret codes without a key. I saw these in Craigslist today:

R, I miss you - m4w
Reply to:
Date: 2005-03-07, 12:35AM PST

Textbooks didn't help, nor reason, nor distractions, nor time (5 months ... can't believe it.) The more I understand the less it matters. Few keystrokes can change a lot.

(I wonder if Google will spider this one and store it forever)

RE: Kitty...
Reply to:
Date: 2005-03-07, 12:18AM PST

You assume too much


You were pathologically flattered by my compliment - w4w
Reply to:
Date: 2005-03-06, 11:00PM PST

I burned myself into the ground at the gym. Before the gym I wept to my mother about my fears. Well, It all started again with Susan Sontag and now i've got a big ugly hole and everything is bleeding out.

My mother helped me a lot. She just let me express all the irrational fears and she let me just be a baby. Then I worked out as I were some kind of jock. Then I went to Barnes and Noble. I fucking love NY. I hate having holes.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Baggage Claim

This morning, I popped down to view the roundabout, sans Baggage Handler, and found the suitcases waiting to be claimed outside the gallery doors.

packed bags

In his place, someone placed cheesy statues and a letter to Frank concerning the weather and the condition of the posing female's tan.


It would have been better to let the remaining graffiti speak for itself.

all that remains

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Baggage Handler Sent Packing

Did I call it or what? Michael Hermesh's statue has now been taken down - at the artist's request.

It seems that spray paint wasn't the only defacement to poor "Frank". The statue was also castrated. Now, Hermesh, with a lawyer in toe, wants to have the statue restored by a professional conservator and reinstalled in the roundabout.

There are two stories surrounding this latest news. One from the Penticton Herald and the other from the Penticton Western News. The Western News article takes the side of curator Curtis Collins in a pointed slur against the artist.
Collins said he believes Hermesh has been trying to "bully" the city into making the sculpture a permanent art piece since the beginning, citing a Jan. 23 article of the Penticton Western News, in which Hermesh said the city would be "fools" not to buy the Baggage Handler.
"So the city's going to pay to have it shipped, to have it conserved, to have it shipped back to go somewhere else as another project - we're going to pay to have it repaired so he can sell it," said Collins.
"He's got dollar bills in his eyes."

It seems to me that all art is maintained by the gallery during the run of the show and expected to be returned in the condition it was received in at the conclusion of the show.

I can understand Collins' haste to put the blame on Hermesh in order to avoid public strutiny over the purportedly controversial work. He doesn't want to lose his job. His chief complaint, it seems, is over Hermesh's insistance on the statue remaining intact. Collins complains that the works sought in the intial call were to be ephemeral and degrade over time.If this is the case, why, oh why, did Collins choose a statue? According to him,
...the artists were asked to consider "water, electricity, plant life and wind as their primary materials." The document stated "The proposed installations may change, grow or degrade over the exhibition periods so as to underline the temporary quality of this project."

Did the committee receive no projects that would accurately reflect the supposed theme of the call? The article mentions that artists would have their work returned to them following the exhibition. Returned ephemera? Something smells here...

On the other hand...a conservator??? It seems neither of these guys knew what they were getting into.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


park dweller
Originally uploaded by no practice.

While out taking lovely, tourist pics of the local landscape, I couldn't resist this one of a homeless man sleeping on Skaha Beach. I felt somewhat guilty taking it - what right do I have to take his image? I was furtive about it too which only added to my guilt.

Viewing people from the camera, I felt somehow justified. I told myself it was art and, therefore, not only acceptable but something of a calling. I told myself that it wouldn't do to ask him if he would mind because I wanted him "natural" not posed. It added to the piece.

Really, though, I was scared to. Would he have told me to piss off? Would he ask me who I thought I was turning his circumstances into a lovely tourist photo? Would he have asked me if I was trying to make some sort of statement? Would he have, perish the thought, tried to become friends with me?

Too bad I don't have a telephoto lens. It could have been so much nicer.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


Originally uploaded by no practice.


Originally uploaded by no practice.

I left the house today and took a trip up the valley to Kelowna to visit the Alternator Gallery which, of course, was closed for installation. bah! I really should plan my trips more carefully. Instead of gallery going, I ended up at the casino across the way and lost $50.

The trip was a visual feast, however. I honestly don't know how people can paint landscapes here. They paint themselves. Painting them could only end in failure.

The Okanagan Lake was a perfect looking glass today. Everything felt so photoshopped. Special effects everywhere.