Trinity Square Video, Toronto, ON
July 6 – August 25 2016
Maria Alejandrina Coates
Originating in science fiction, terraforming is a term that refers to the alteration of foreign environments in outer space in order to make them suitable to support human life. The term represents an outward horizon for colonialist projects of expansion and hegemony. In addition to political and social encroachment, terraforming can also be seen as a way to describe human encroachment onto the natural world. This exhibition directs attention to the process of terraforming found not only in the physical manipulation of environments, but also in the systems of thought shaped by language and culture that give order to society. These works re-position subjectivities to highlight their entanglement within their environments, and to critique current capitalist and machine-based systems that governs humans' relationship with the land.
Featuring work by Melissa General, Kristina Guison, Trudy Erin Elmore, Anna Eyler, and Safiya Randera, Terraforming encounters Nature as a medium for creating alternatives in relation to the established socio-economic order. From the physical movement of bodies from one place to another, through the regenerative qualities of fire and water; to expanded virtual landscapes and digital subjects; these artists engage with the elements of nature to alter, transfer, move, and reorganize established social systems or prescribed modes of thinking and acting. In resistance to the naturalization of socio-political hegemonies, these works look to the earth in search of tools for rethinking our histories and futures.
Beginning with an act of recovery, Melissa General’s video work Reclamation taps into the local history of the Toronto Islands to uncover its use by the Anishnaabek as a place for healing. By situating herself between earth and water, General reclaims in the landscape an ancestral relationship that establishes well-being. The rhythmic sound of waves moving against the earth accompanies the artist's gentle and slow-moving gestures as she digs into the sand; unearthing a long and narrow piece of fabric which trails over her shoulders and cuts through the ground with its bright red colour. Wrapped around her, the cloth becomes an extension of her body and is enveloped and held up by water. As a life supporting element, the water's flow carries with it a cyclical symbolism of cleansing and re-birth, yet at the same time can be conceptualized as a conduit for history, presencing the passing of time. In this moment, the connection between body and land reclaims a balance between the two, while at the same time acknowledging the impact that colonization has had on both.
The precarious balance between time, body and water finds an echo in the physics of buoyancy at work in Kristina Guison's Displacement. Based on the design of a paper canoe, Guison's sculpture is a large-scale steel vessel that was intentionally sunk into a lagoon, also in the Toronto Islands. Weathered by a winter under water, this vessel reveals the effects of cold temperatures, ice, snow and other seasonal manifestations on its steel surface. In itself, the canoe represents the earliest type of vessel developed by humankind in recorded history. Its technology enabled the movement of people and cultures across space and time; beginning with indigenous migrations, through early colonial settlements, to what is now the foundation of international commerce and global competitiveness. For example, in Canada the marine transportation industry has a significant role in economic growth1; in 2015, the value of waterborne trade was $205 billion, whilst 1.34 million passengers passed through major Canadian ports2.
The erosion and displacement of surface materials in this sculpture parallels the displacement of cultures in moving from one place to another, characterizing human expansion through loss. As a symbol of movement, globalization, and the consumption of natural resources in the name of progress, the rust and peel of this metal sculpture also functions as a reminder of human's fragile existence, ultimately subject to the physics of nature and the passage of time.
As much as the vessel appears as one of the earliest technologies to support movement and travel, the controlled use of fire has a deeper history in human evolution.
From cooking to forging metals and clearing forests for planting, fire emerges as an essential tool that supports our existence. Located in the midst of Toronto's High Park, the endangered 110 acre Black Oak Savanna is what remains of what was once the primary and autochthonous landscape of the area surrounding the Great Lakes3. As an ecosystem that is always in transition to forest, this particular environment lent itself for hunting and farming, and was the dwelling place of The Huron, the Wendat, the Petun, the Seneca, and the Mississauga's of the Credit River4. The ecosystem was maintained through controlled burns by its inhabitants with a fire that stimulates the seeds and regenerates the soil. This practice disappeared after European colonization, and the surviving savannah was maintained by cattle grazing and aesthetic landscaping. Only recently has the practice of controlled burns been recuperated5.
As a three channel installation, Safiya Randera's Oak Savanna witnesses the controlled burning of the High Park Oak Savannah. The work documents the ceremonial nature of the burn, and foregrounds the regenerative power of fire. The videos' slow paced and silent qualities further enhance its meditative aspects, enabling the viewer to commune with the elements. Contrasting the notion of fire as a destructive force, this visually stunning and high resolution imagery reconceives fire as a tool that balances the ecosystem by witnessing and returning to indigenous forestry.
While the domestication of fire supports a balanced relationship between humans and the land, it is also forged as the root of technology which precedes the machine. Trudy Elmore's, Stranded Assets, is a self aware animation based on the complicity between the spectacle (built within the modern conditions of production), and its foundation in unregulated mining, agriculture and farming that is responsible for the destruction of habitats and the extinction of innumerable species.
Elmore creates a three dimensional world that contains modular assets such as computers, oil refineries, and animated skeletons that navigate an abysmal oceanscape accompanied by digitally distorted ambient sounds. These skeletons wear a crown of flowers and smartphones on their heads and bow down to the screen in worship of the hyper-real consumer culture that mediates our world. Here, Elmore re-distributes the relationships between ritual and spirituality from a physical communion with the earth, to a virtual realm where wireless social relationships sustain increasingly more power. In this evocative reflection on the age of the machine and our dependance on technology as a species, Elmore articulates the material anxieties that tie us to our own mortality6.
The crossover of the human self from a real to a virtual landscape is picked up by Anna Eyler in her piece How to Explain Love to a Tape Measure. While performing in Second Life her avatar appears not as a version of her human self, but as geometric forms that are often camouflaged into the scenery; such as shrubbery, rocks, and glaciers, in a kind of reverse anthropomorphism. This body is then animated with sexually heteronormative behaviour purchased in the Second Life marketplace, resulting in a performance that contrasts the bulky geometric shapes with soft and dance-like movements that are both humorous and seductive.
The title refers to the well known piece by Joseph Beuys, How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, of 1965, in which the artist tours an art gallery and explains each piece to a dead hare cradled in his arms. In relating with the transference of feeling to inanimate objects, Eyler uses the ubiquity of sexual scripts to animate her persona and transgress the idea of landscape as a passive environment, as well as that of the internet as a neutral space. In re-purposing these spaces in Second Life, Eyler challenges the boundaries between humans, the landscape, and technology, to disturb the ideologies embedded into our real and virtual selves.
Together, the subjective and experiential encounters with the natural elements proposed by these artists re-conceptualize the act of terraforming from altering environments that prioritize human existence to recovering a balance in our relationship with the earth. In doing so, the works deny the patterns of behaviour that establish anthropogenic paradigms based on industry and technology, and instead offer alternative thoughts and actions that intend to support a fluid, regenerative, spiritual, and borderless world.
1 “Transportation in Canada 2015 – Overview Report”, Government of Canada,
https://www.tc.gc.ca/media/documents/policy/2015_TC_Annual_Report_OverviewENAccessible.pdf accessed June 2 nd , 2016. Page 15
2 Ibid†, Page 17
3 “High Park Nature” last modified on February 05, 2016,http://www.highparknature.org/wiki/wiki.php?n=habitats.savannahs , accessed June 2nd, 2016
4 Ayeren Liberona and Natasha Myers in “Becoming Sensor in An Oak Savannah”: https://becomingsensor.com/ , accessed June 6th, 2016
5 “High Park Nature”, last modified on February 05, 2016,
http://www.highparknature.org/wiki/wiki.php?n=habitats.savannahs , accessed June 2nd, 2016
6 Trudy Erin Emore, Artist Statement.
Trudy Erin Elmore, Artist Statement
Anna Eyler, Artist Statement
Melissa General, Artist Statement
Kristina Guison, Artist Statement
Safiya Randera, Artist Statement
Q&A : Anna J Eyler and Nicolas Lapointe
BY MATTHEW KYBA
Q) Within your works, the binary between organic and inorganic is present. How does this relationship operate vis-a-vis and within your understanding of society?
Nicolas: Recently, I have focused my research on notions of simulation, indexicality, and artificial intelligence. By molding and casting rocks, I create an indexical relationship between the copy and the “real” object. The object is distantly familiar, but it exists at the limits of human experience. In Simulation and Simulacra, Baudrillard defines the “hyperreal,” which refers to a simulation that transcends the original to become itself more “real” than the original. Through the simulation of rocks, I attempt to create simulacra that reference the hyperreal. I then insert electronic circuits to animate the structures, further anthropomorphizing these objects, giving them an individual character and suggesting an internal intelligence.
Q) How does your art provide the ability to shift consciousness?
Anna: I think that the shifting of consciousness arises in the conflation of concepts of interior and exterior, real and fictional, absent and present, organic and artificial, or sacred and profane. By blurring the boundaries between these categories, the viewer is pushed to question any inherent identity therein. My work is heavily influenced by theorist Jane Bennett’s conception of “enchantment,” which is an experience of being “struck and shaken by the extraordinary that lives amid the familiar and the everyday.” Through the subversion of familiar forms and objects, then, I aim to reinvigorate these sites of wonder in daily life, which I consider tantamount to shifting consciousness.
Q) You’ve done installations, videos, and performance art. What artistic medium do you feel possesses the best capacity for audience engagement and consciousness expansion?
Nicolas: Every medium holds the potential to fully engage the viewer and bring them to another level of awareness. In a contemporary context in particular, the democratization of tools and techniques has allowed artists to work in a variety of different media. Rather than being tied to paint on a canvas, for example, artists can instead begin with their concept or idea and then select the most appropriate medium to express it. With this in mind, I wouldn’t say that one medium is better than another—it differs from project to project.
Q) Where do you see your practice expanding towards in the future?
Anna: Over the past several months, I have become very interested in working within virtual space, at times incorporating it into sculpture. I am currently working on How to Explain Love to a Tape Measure (Eyler), a series of machinima vignettes featuring flexible, geometric forms interacting within the Second Life world. Evoking at once the nature documentary and peep show, HELTM repurposes existing environments, animations, and models from Second Life, and in so doing subverts expectations of normative identity to open up a dialogue surrounding intimacy within virtual environments. Reflecting the abundance of “adult” themed animations, the videos primarily feature sexual encounters. By animating unexpected subjects, however, HELTM verges on the uncanny, straddling the line between reality and fiction, humour and sadness, beauty and sublimity. I hope to expand this project by creating an accessible space within the Second Life environment where individuals can interact with these geometric bodies in real time.
Nicolas: Likewise, I have also been working with computer-generated imagery, continuing with notions of simulation and simulacra within virtual environments. I have become very interested in the ontological nature of virtual spaces. In my upcoming work, physical space and substance will be conflated with their virtual counterparts, with structural forms mimicking digital space and vice versa.
Q) How has the history of art influenced your practice? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Nicolas and Anna: We are both influenced by American Minimalism, including artists Donald Judd and Eva Hesse. Judd’s use of architectural forms as well as the resulting ambiguity about the work being seen as sculptural is of particular interest. Meanwhile, Hesse’s influence stems from her investment of personal/psychological content into Minimalist form. Similarly, the 1970s Mono-Ha movement has been very inspiring in its combination of organic and industrial materials.
Outside of an art historical context, speculative fiction plays a large role in our work. Formally, many of our sculptures/installations have a distinct science fiction aesthetic, combining austere geometric structures with Plexiglas, electronic indicators, and concrete. On a conceptual level, we are both invested in imagined futures: in spaces and objects that hover between reality and fiction. In our imaginings of the future we also examine the past, with anthropological material, particularly as it relates to notions of the sacred, recurring in our individual and collaborative practices.
Abstract Ecologies – A Conversation with Amber Christensen
written by Greg J. Smith
“There Should be Gardens” is the title of the 14th edition of InterAccess’s Emerging Artists Exhibition. Drawing on her research in feminist/queer curatorial and media arts practices, the exhibition is curated by Toronto’s Amber Christensen and showcases five Canadian early career artists whose practices address “the interconnectedness of technologies, ecologies, botanies, gender and the cosmos.” In aggregate the show’s selected works invoke elemental qualities, amplify and abstract natural materialities, and offer different modes of seeing and engaging the world. With the exhibition winding down this week, CAN engaged Christensen in a Q&A to delve into its framing and provocative works.
In the curatorial essay for the show you describe the selected body of work as “an ecology” and identify its capacity for blending “the digital with natural worlds.” And of course the vibrancy of a garden is a different milieu—one teeming with life—than the sterility typically associated with the white cube and most gallery settings. Can you unpack the exhibition’s general thematics?
I think the white cube is imbued with a particular history, but that also opens up possibilities for re-imagining. With that in mind I attempted to re-create the InterAccess gallery as a sensorial garden in which various kinds of beings, both human and nonhuman (the physicality of the gallery visitor, digital and material technologies used by the artists as well as the concepts that the artists are working with) could come into contact with one another, and which they interact, pass each other by or just co-exist. The ideas that have shaped my approach are influenced/inspired by concepts that I’ve borrowed (and possibly misinterpreted) from scholars working in what is called feminist new materialisms—that acknowledge the materiality and affectivity of the body and other beings and things—that the matter of all beings and things are not separate and do act upon one another, but are these interactions still happen within a socio, cultural political context.
So as per the essay, Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto” looms large as an influence. What other scholars impacted your thinking?
My entry way into feminist new materialisms came via my interest in affect studies. Thinking and working on this exhibition I specifically revisited some of Sarah Ahmed’s writings on queer touch. As well, concepts of queer ecologies played heavily in the shaping of this exhibition and I highly recommended the book Queer Ecologies. Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire, edited by Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands and Bruce Erickson. Previous to the exhibition, but was still definitely an influence is the writing of Karan Barad who is a theoretical physicist and feminist scholar.
Beyond the theoretically inspired ecological investigations, the show foregrounds queer, feminist, transgender, genderqueer practices or methods of engaging technology. How do these approaches relate to or speak to ‘the natural world’?
I was interested in seeing what work was being made by artists who either identified or felt they worked within a feminist or queer feminist framework and I left this very open and loose as I don’t think there is one definable queer feminist/feminist practice or methodology. The artists in the exhibition engage in a variety of nuanced ways with the ‘natural world’ and I think that they are working from and unspoken but shared notion that ‘natural’ is not not inherently heteronormative, nor is it static—but always in flux.
A key focus within “There Should Be Gardens” is materiality. Could you provide a brief reading of each of the five works, in terms of how they interrogate or consider specific environmental materialities?
Anna Eyler’s mixed media sculpture Fugue in 3 Steps creates an assemblage with a hot pink resin cast replica of a piece of driftwood, water and fire that is the enmeshment of the organic, inorganic, elemental, technological; Alana Bartol’s Forms of Awareness based on performances in which Bartol inhabits a ghillie suit reimagined as the Ghillie, a female identified plant, technology and human organism that via a series of un-camouflaging reveals the paradoxical ways people interact with their environments; Adrienne Crossman’sPlant Series 1 is a hypnotic slow moving glitch study of plants that tangles together the cellular and the digital—breaking apart and reconfiguring both the digital code and the plants; Kara Stone’s experimental videogame Cyclothymia draws connections between the affective being of human emotion, bodies and feelings with the cosmological, challenging notions of human constructed temporalities; Alize Zorlutuna’sbecoming oblique of the world includes sound, the tactility of physical sand and a slightly uncanny video that follows finger as caresses terraced landscape, creating an intimate space for the gallery goer to feel, touch and through these experiences consider ideas of queer ecologies.
Beyond their unique materialities the Bartol, Crossman, and Zorlutuna pieces are all super-textural and visceral. All three artists foreground plant life (or at least plant-ness) to distinct ends. Can you talk about this centrality of this motif within the show in a little more detail?
Yes, I wanted to create a very sensorial and haptic experience of a technological-plant-earth environment. The element of connection or attempts at bridging a distance that is almost unbridgeable between the human and the non-human is an underlying thematic. I feel like the three artists you refer to are in some way other intentionally or unintentionally are exploring the sort impossibility of the project of truly being able to attain a fully actualized interrelationship between the two elements. But it’s not to say that they are pessimistic about this impossibility, but rather invigorated by the attempt to close the gap.
With its abstracted solar system, Stone’s videogame Cyclothymia may be the outlier in “There Should Be Gardens.” The game’s oblique narrative is quite esoteric and it operates at a macro—cosmological—scale that is orders of magnitude beyond the other works. Where exactly do you see this piece fitting into the body of work and what might engaging it bring to how we approach the other pieces?
I think that Kara’s piece is less obviously tactile in that it’s drawing on elements that are to some extent more intangible to the everyday human experience. But, I think the affinity lies in the desire to connect with the very material existence of the non-human world, it’s not plants, but instead are the stars and the moon—both of which are matter that are also imbued with affect and energy of their own—just as the plants, sand and other earthly elements that the other artists are engaging with.
Also, all of the works are to some extent considering non-human temporalities—like Adrienne’s that brings together the frenetic temporality of the digital with plants that very much have their sense of time that is different than digital time. Kara takes the format of the video game, and forces the player to slow down, the speed of the game is performing and representing a slower temporality, the solar system’s sense of lived time is much different than constructed human time and I think Kara is trying to bring those two temporalities together and show that they don’t have to be discontinuous as the are.
With the show winding down, what is on tap next for you?
I just finished my MA in media studies at York and now I’m back at school at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information studies pursuing a post-masters information studies diploma. I’m also co-curating program of recent Toronto film and video works that’s coming up at the end of the month with Pleasure Dome a Toronto based film and video curatorial collective that I’m involved with.
InterAccess | Amber Christensen
“There Should Be Gardens” is open through Sep 26 | photos: Yuula Benivolski
TAGGED WITH: Adrienne Crossman, Alana Bartol, Alize Zorlutuna, Amber Christensen, Anna Eyler, ecology,exhibition, Feminism, InterAccess, Kara Stone, Queer, Theory, toronto
by Greg J. Smith
A writer and editor based in Toronto, Greg is interested in media art and its broader cultural implications. Beyond contributing to CAN, he is the Editor-in-Chief of HOLO and serves on the Board of Directors atInterAccess.
There Should Be Gardens is an exhibition structured as an ecology of five emerging and early career feminist and queer media artists
whose works address the interconnectedness of technologies, ecologies, botanies, gender and the cosmos. The artists and the works in the exhibition engage with and blend together the digital with ‘natural worlds,’ along withhuman and non-human worlds, to question the affectivity of things. The exhibition title takes its name from the poem There Should Be Gardens, written by Djuna Barnes in 1974. In Barnes’s poem, the garden is a space in which inter-species and inter-beings mix and mingle, and a place for “old men to whimper." In Barnes’s garden, humans and other beings—insects, plants, animals and organic
matter—are entangled. The garden is notmanifest as a site of reprieve and tranquility, manicured with the intent to serve as an escape from civilization and technology; nor is it a garden symbolizing the propagation and immortality of the human species. Rather, the garden, to borrow Donna Haraway’s term, is simply or complexly the “contact zone” for beings, nature, and culture.1
In the garden, time is anachronistic and ungoverned by arbitrary social constructs. Barnes’s garden pulses with life from all beings and matter; it is an unapologetically cruel garden, where the human ecology of death is revealed, and where, at death, the human becomes “cat-wise,” forced onto all fours where they must reconcile their animal nature, thus demonstrating humans’ inextricable link to nature.2 Within the garden, a multiplicity of species—plant, animal, mineral, and technological—all crisscross along varying temporalities, leaving behind the burdens of linear time. Nothing is stable or passive in this contact zone. It is rich with potentialities from these encounters; things come together and fall away in varying processes of becoming and unbecoming. It is in this garden space that one is able to critically affirm the materiality of all things: the body, technology, and nature. In the context of this exhibition, the gallery space becomes the garden and by extension the contact zone; the space in which the works, the artists’ ideas and the visitor coexist and interact.
What possibilities lie within human and non-human interactions, and the materiality of things? Thirty-five years ago, Donna Haraway imagined the merging of human, animals and machine into a hybrid, cybernetic organism when she first published “A Cyborg Manifesto” in the Socialist Review. One cannot dispute the superglue-like bond between contemporary humans and their smartphones and other devices. Yet, cyberfeminism’s early hopes of technology as being
a utopic haven of neutrality have proven difficult; the internet has failed to deliver on promises of gender neutrality (or equality), and notions of living in a post-gendered world have evolved to an acceptance of the impossibility of a post-anything state of existence. Cyberfeminism in its early iteration was a
reaction to a very specific cultural ecofeminism, which similarly re-negotiated the boundaries between animal and human, or, between nature and human but with an uncomfortably biological essentialist rhetoric. To quote Donna Haraway: she “would rather be a cyborg than a goddess.”3 Ecofeminism became accurately or inaccurately the catch-all label for organic humanism that insisted on the importance of the organic over the technological and one that embraced nature but from a decidedly humanist stance. But, Haraway’s trans-humanist technological paradigm does not necessarily rule out the
organic and biological, as her insistence on the transgressing of boundaries between the non-human and the human is an ever-present undertone in most of her work.4 The works and artists in There Should Be Gardens engage in feminist/queer feminist epistemological explorations, transgressing boundaries by
presenting us with bodies, beings and things that are more dynamic than static, locating themselves amongst complex systems of intra-actions of both the ecological, political and social. New Materialist approaches that have come after Haraway’s cyborg and the 1980s ecofeminist movements have enhanced
these non-human critiques, and continue to investigate the materialities of our environments. Dualisms of nature/human are blurred with human beings and re-contextualized in terms of the entire sensorium of other living beings.5 In this sensorium, humans and non-humans intermesh, but just as in Barnes’s garden, these entanglements between human, creatures, technologies and other matter are not necessarily harmonious encounters, intended to unify all experience.6 The encounters between plants, sand, the cosmos, and bodies are constantly in flux within this contact zone of the exhibition; in this space discursive forces (political, social, and cultural), the affective, and the material (both human and non-human) act upon, around, against, through, and with one
Alana Bartol’s “Forms of Awareness” is an ongoing performance and installation work in which Bartol utilizes a ghillie suit, a piece of military material technology used to conceal the wearer during military campaigns, rendering the camouflaged wearer a predator to the watched prey. The ghillie suit, as Bartol notes in her artist statement, is traditionally attributed male pronouns and gender, as the term is derived from the Scottish and Gaelic languages meaning
servant or lad.8 In “Forms of Awareness,” Bartol’s Ghillie is a female-identified synthetic plant/human hybrid that places herself in green zones on the edges of urban developments and suburban sprawl. Ghillie suits that are traditionally manufactured for purposes of warfare are re-made by Bartol into a plant-being who physically positions herself in the naturalized green spaces with precarious futures that serve as contact zones between the human and non-human worlds. Unlike her military counterpart, Bartol’s Ghillie is unconcerned with remaining unseen. The Ghillie’s reveal is often quiet and without fanfare. Even after the casual un-camouflaging in which she emerges from the landscape, the Ghillie often remains unseen and invisible to passers-by. This failure for the Ghillie to be seen within these spaces on the edges of suburban development provokes questions about our relationships with nature so mediated by capitalist/constructed experiences that we fail to recognize the oddity of a synthetic plant human organism amongst the natural spaces.
Working with digital glitch, Adrienne Crossman engages with the material manipulation, breaking, and remaking of the digital code. In “Plant Series 1,” Crossman draws from the world of plants for her source footage, tangling together the digital with the cellular botanical. The conflicting temporalities
of plants and the digital collide in Crossman’s piece; plants with their comparatively slow movements and growth responses that disguise their sentient existence, in contrast to the frenetic quality of the digital code that is constantly in motion. The normative generative capacities of both the plants and the
code are disrupted, converging plant and code, synthesizing, breaking apart and coming together, jumbling the cellular and the digital. Revealed in the process is the capacity of plants, much like the digital realm, to provide shifting templates for life that exist beyond heteronormative models.
Anna Eyler’s “Fugue in 3 Steps” is a calming yet vibrating assemblage made of fluorescent pink resin-cast driftwood, placed atop a wooden triangular plexiglass plinth filled with water. The piece is lit from within by a tiny array of black lights. In musical terms, a fugue is defined as a “contrapuntal
compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject that is introduced at the beginning in imitation and repetition of pitches that recurs frequently in the course of the composition.”7 Less an imitation or replica of the natural world, the electric pink driftwood is an amalgamation of the organic and inorganic. Organic resin is the viscous hydrocarbon secretion of plants and trees, but here the inorganic human-made synthetic resin interacts with the organic to conjure a new hybrid object—at once synthetic, elemental, and earthy. Together the water, the synthetic driftwood, and black lights come together in a harmonious yet discontinuous composition that is simultaneously a reminder of our conceptions of the ‘natural’ and human-made interventions.
Kara Stone’s videogame, “Cyclothymia,” speaks to the intuitive connections and affectivities of the links between humans and the cosmological. Whether these links are scientifically proven is irrelevant. The lack of human figure within the game heightens the sense of embodiment for the player, intensifying
the psychophysical response. Within the gentle waves of music and delicate drawings of the game space, an affinity is found between mental health issues, emotional cycles, and the sun, moon, and stars. “Cyclothymia” provides a vessel through which mental health transcends the clinical to acknowledge that bodies share affectivities with worlds outside of the physiology of an individual’s body. Stone writes in her artist statement that astrology has been a way for
her to “practice radical self acceptance.”9 Emotions, feelings—even those that go unexpressed—float, settle and unsettle within the haptic space of “Cyclothymia.” Time is connected to something outside of the human realm, and an ease is found within these multiple temporalities of human and
Alize Zorlutuna’s installation, “becoming oblique of the world,” takes its name from scholar Sarah Ahmed’s concept of a queer touch, which Ahmed uses to describe the experience of being queer in the world as a feeling of disorientation.10 As the hand and fingers reach to touch and caress the canted digital landscape, the viewer is digitally teleported in an unfamiliar geography with an uncanny horizon. Nature and the ‘natural’ are often associated with biological essentialist concepts used to convey an unfounded idea that the natural world and all it encompasses is inherently heteronormative. The embodied interaction of this queer haptic touch is a political act that forces us to address the materiality of bodies and landscapes and the chasms that can form between the two as a result of oppressive discursive forces. Touch in this way is an act of reclamation of the concrete and tangible, mediated through digital means.
1. Haraway, Donna Jeanne. When Species Meet. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2008.
2. Azzarello, Robert. Queer Environmentality: Ecology, Evolution, and Sexuality in American Literature. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012, 1.
3. Haraway, Donna. "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist- Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century," in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York; Routledge, 1991, 149-181.
4. Moore, Niamh. The Changing Nature of Eco/Feminism: Telling Stories from Clayoquot Sound. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2015, 67.
5. Grebowicz, Margret, Helen Merrick, and Donna Jeanne Haraway. Beyond the Cyborg: Adventures With Donna Haraway. 2013, 102.
6. Roosth, S., and A. Schrader. "Feminist Theory Out of Science: Introduction." Differences 23.3 (2012): 1-8.
7. “Fugue”. Wikipedia. Web. 20 July 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fugue>
8. Bartol, Alana. “Forms of Awareness: Ghillie Suit A Series of Un-Camouflagings”. Web. 22 July 2015. <http://alanabartol.com/section/333127-Forms-of- Awareness-Ghillie-Suit-A-Series-of-Un-camouflagings.html>
9. Stone, Kara. “Cyclothymia.” Web. 22 July 2015. <http://karastone.itch.io/cyclothymia>
La symphonie des passages
Anna Eyler et Nicolas Lapointe
Deux personnes vêtues d’une chienne de travail verte se promènent sur la Place de Castelnau et ses rues perpendiculaires. L’une d’entre elles, Nicolas Lapointe, traîne bonnement une base de carrosse ancestral sur lequel est posé un cube rectangulaire en bois muni de haut-parleurs, de manivelles, de boutons de différentes couleurs et d’un trou dans lequel est disposée une plante. Ce dispositif atypique est près de me rappeler les jouets Playmobil ou Meccano qui ont diverti mon enfance. À côté de lui, Anna Eyler porte sur son torse une boîte similaire aux protubérances colorées et enfantines. À mon arrivée, les haut-parleurs se mettent à vibrer au rythme de la vie ambiante qui module subtilement les multiples variantes sonores. D’un pas lent et assuré ainsi que d’une apparence ludique et colorée, ils entament leur procession.
Chaque boitier est muni de senseurs de lumière, de mouvement, d’impact, de proximité et d’humidité afin de les transformer en des sons digitaux qui pourraient nous rappeler les fameuses Electrical Walks de Christina Kubish, mais sur un mode clairement plus joyeux! À l’intérieur des boites se trouvent des microprocesseurs programmés quotidiennement pour analyser les différentes constituantes de leur marche soumises au jeu improvisé des artistes qui se permettent de modifier les sons selon leur motivation personnelle. Ils jouent ainsi avec leur environnement immédiat en composant la trame sonore de leur expédition.
Tous les jours, ils exécutent cette même marche, à la fois cérémoniale et carnavalesque, où les détours et les rencontres sont les principaux objectifs. Ils errent dans la géographie bleutée de la Place de Castelnau en se faisant les réservoirs des traces sociales, atmosphériques et individuelles qui s’y trouvent. Ils s’arrêtent au coin d’une rue, devant un café ou à l’un des « placotoires » pour offrir le spectacle « ordinaire » de la vie ambiante. Ils expérimentent « les opportunités qu’offre le territoire urbain en matière de découverte sensorielle du locus». Ils se font les DJs des combinaisons d’existence qui parsèment leur route. Ils retransposent en une plasticité sonore les multiples interactions de la ville.
À la recherche de ces petites scènes qui ponctuent nos vies productives, Eyler et Lapointe s’introduisent joyeusement dans le panorama de Villeray. Pour un instant, les contours de leurs deux instruments s’accaparent du paysage sonore de nos passages modulés. Certains passants sourient en les croisant alors que d’autres arrêtent leur course effrénée pour s’immiscer dans l’espace audible et écouter la symphonie de leur présence. Ils se rassemblent en une communauté éphémère, l’instant d’un petit bonheur permissif. La flânerie sonore des artistes inaugure ainsi une matière discursive apte à délier les parcours linéaires de la ville.
Par une occupation sonore et mobile de l’espace, le duo Eyler-Lapointe produit des expériences anodines qui nous font redécouvrir l’architecture vivante de notre quotidien. Ils s’inscrivent dans la cartographie dispersée de nos mouvements en prélevant les différentes constituantes physiques et atmosphériques de notre environnement pour nous les faire voir, ou plutôt entendre autrement.
Les présentations publiques, organisées par Espace Projet, sont l’occasion pour les curieux comme les plus avertis d’approfondir le travail et l’expérience des artistes au cours de leur résidence. Pour cette deuxième présentation, la galerie a invité l’artiste en art sonore Magali Babin à revenir sur l’intervention du duo Eyler-Lapointe. La conversation s’est orientée, dès le début, sur la distinction dans leur travail entre musique et art sonore puisque le duo semblait « composer » avec le paysage sonore du quartier. Mais Eyler et Lapointe se gardaient bien d’aborder leur présence dans l’espace public en tant que musiciens, voire d’amuseurs publics, même si le caractère performatif de leur flânerie se définissait clairement par son aspect ludique dû à l’incongruité de leur présence. Ils préféraient plutôt se concevoir en tant que travailleurs du paysage sonore ou cols bleus de l’environnement ambiant, l’habit de travail venant ainsi renforcer ce sentiment. Durant la semaine, une personne en est même venue à la conclusion rapide qu’ils étaient des jardiniers municipaux, conclusion qu’ils ont aussitôt démentie en lui expliquant les grandes lignes de leur œuvre.
Cette petite anecdote reflète bien la portée relationnelle de l’intervention. Celle-ci, notent les artistes, se singularise par ce qu’ils nomment d’« effet du merveilleux », produit par le caractère attirant de leur uniforme, de leur dispositif et des sons, qu’ils qualifient eux-mêmes d’un mélange entre l’aquatique et la science-fiction, effet qui viendrait catalyser ou aider la rencontre étrangère.
Les artistes ont eu un plaisir fou à discuter avec les gens, à laisser les enfants, émerveillés par les sons de leur jeune existence, s’amuser avec les boitiers sonores. C’est qu’à prime abord, l’aspect enfantin de leurs instruments attirait facilement l’entrée en la matière et qu’un quartier comme Villeray, spécifiquement reconnu pour sa vie familiale, s’est avéré être une excellente terre d’accueil pour ce genre d’intervention.Comme l’a bien mentionné Magali Babin, il s’agissait, pour les artistes, d’établir un dialogue entre la technologie et l’humain afin de lier leur pratique à quelque chose de plus… immédiat.
 Si le projet de Kubish vous intéresse, visitez son site Internet au http://www.christinakubisch.de/en/works/electrical_walks
 Paul Ardenne, Art contextuel : création artistique en milieu urbain, en situation, d’intervention, de participation, Paris, Flammarion, 2002, p. 98.
SIGN AND DIFFÉRANCE
(A Reading of Between Différance, And Now: 1)
Strange objects populate the room. The scattered uncanny, upon entry:
1 : Roche de Bostrom: A cast resin rock is embedded with a generic liquid crystal display. The screen features abstract patterns referencing the processing of information as well as suggesting some form of communication.
2 : A Sandstorm of a Different Name: A Plexiglas tank filled with water holds a buoy illuminated by a red light from inside the plinth.
3 : Freeplay: A 3D printed buoy is suspended over a tank of water illuminated by a path of white LEDs.
4 : Untitled Pink: A resin rock on a plinth, seeming to move of its own agency.
5 : Fugue in 3 Steps: A fluorescent pink resin casting of driftwood sits atop a Plexiglas tank containing water. The water and driftwood are illuminated from within the wooden plinth that supports the tank.
6 : Reclining Algorithm: A long slab of concrete with bands of gold leaf rests atop a resin rock. The rock contains a small LED light that blinks as if communicating.
Through the title of the exhibit, Anna J. Eyler and Nicolas Lapointe reference Derrida’s writing on différance: a [play] on the homonymous closeness of difference / deference (FR). Difference: to distinguish separateness / [Defer]ence: to redirect, otherwise delay.
In between différance, and now, the artists experiment with objects that lie outside of the function that symbol applies: none of the objects in the exhibit reveal any specific purpose. Their motivations, their very identities, are evasive as they are somewhat outside of the familiar: resin deceives the eye to be rock, further, why would rock be under glass, what rock may move, what is this futile buoy near to the ground, and so on.
Différance is considered in the exhibit in contrast to the state of being that precedes and exists outside of the signification of language. This object to which we give a sign—that is, identity—is separate from this sign. It is a persistent other. We are witness to an absence of the origin in an infinite evasion. Negation: the object becoming sign is a losing of the essential, of the origin. It becomes, instead, the symbol: be that the word or the image. Derrida writes: “Signs represent the present in its absence; they take the place of the present.*”
* “Difference”, Derrida.
We see this discourse continued by Jean-Francois Lyotard, whose libidinal economy interprets Derrida’s différance as a mode of political economy. “Postponement of the signifier” (Lyotard*) = temporal nature of representation.
The temporal element of Derrida’s différance can be interpreted in Eyler’s A Barrier Against the Abyss*. In keeping with Eyler’s current exploration of serialization—linear repetition—a set of 3D-printed yellow buoys reference a set / a system.
In a single line, we are presented with a multiplicity of instants, of object-encounters, events. Our reading of this series relies on 1) our perception of it: do we see one at a time, or do we see all at once? 2) our secondary interpretation of the series: do we then define a beginning and read each buoy as an independent instant, or do they evade such serialization and retain a self-contained totality, where one cannot be distinguished from another?
* Jean-François Lyotard, “Libidinal Economy”, trans. Iain Hamilton Grant. London: Continuum (p. 44).
** “A Barrier Against the Abyss” (2015) was not featured in between différance, and now, but was part of the same series of work created by Anna J Eyler.
Fugue in 3 Steps: organists will experience a delay between playing the keys and the sound of the notes. Playing a fugue on an organ = delay in hearing / postponement, referred to as latency. The organist playing the fugue experiences the delay of the sign that is given to encounter, or event*. Encounter with [being / structure / object / event] is then a play of many notes that are heard only with delay. The musician must then rely, must recall and contain some innate [knowledge] of a music that comes before sound, as though a perceiving of a music as a whole that does not rely on hearing each note to play the next—that exists before the external.
And it is in this way that we perceive every event—with the postponement that creates a miniscule state of silence after the internalized encounter with the ideal—so that by the time we are able to read the symbol, the meaning and function that is assigned to this undefined, we have already experienced this delay. All of this has already passed. So, is it not in this same way that we are asked to internalize the signs by which we define the world?
* Jacques Derrida, “Writing and Difference”, trans. Alan Bass. London: Routledge (p. 278).
“and now”: so, we come to the present moment, that which we perceive as the immediate, and contains our encounter with sign. Word, symbol, interpretation—the conscious mind. This too is examined inbetween différance, and now.
Signification in Reclining Algorithm relates to specific codified images throughout art history. We see symbols that have persisted since our earliest systems of signs. The obelisk fragment takes the posture of a reclining nude—architectural refuse taking on the glorified body, a flesh that is tamed into megalith. The nude painted and sculpted, the dominance of the female body: in concrete and angles and brutal absurdity. We are given little else of form, but are left with the signs applied to colour.
Such meanings have by now become so deeply engrained, that we ask, can colour exist for us outside of its signification? In the blue of Reclining Algorithm, there are the most persistent traces of ancient architecture; blue that is revealed in the preserved brickworks, ceramics, fabrics, of our archaeological discoveries. In this blue, we see an ancient Egypt, a Mesopotamia, a distant Mayan civilization. In the gold that is painted onto the concrete, we are reminded of the caps of ancient pyramids. In the rhythmic separation of these painted bars, we may read a binary system, a language, a division, and again, a difference.
There is only différance, writes Lyotard, “signification is always deferred, meaning is never present in flesh and blood.”*. In its place, we encounter all of the objects and meanings that are in the signs we apply to these objects: we encounter a legion of signs, we are met with the weight of multiplicity. Our problem is not of a fluidity of this being, where each sign may interchange variably, infinitely, with another. Rather, it is the association of sign that locks the [signified] down into a singular history: we are bound to a music that cannot exist without being heard by the one who plays. But, as with all of between différance, and now, we must become like the organist; we must listen to an internal music and assign meaning with an internally structured rhythm that requires no validation from the external.
* Jean-François Lyotard, “Libidinal Economy”, trans. Iain Hamilton Grant. London: Continuum (43.)
FORGETTING BEING, AND THE DIVINE
(A Reading of Between Différance, And Now: 2)
between différance, and now, stated by Anna J. Eyler and Nicolas Lapointe: “investigates the shared understandings of the sacred that have existed over time and across cultures”.
The sacred that cannot be explicitly associated with the religious exists before language. Divinity is negated through sign. A non-definition of the sacred allows for the sacred.
Derrida quotes Heidegger: “The forgetting of Being is the forgetting of difference between Being and beings.”*
Such a forgetting is a sublime absence of signification and sense of the ‘other’. It is the naivety of a universe of which everything contained is as changing water, indistinguishable. The totality before the binary, light before the distinguishing of colour. It is a forgetting of a suffocating memory to which an object-event is bound is the recovery of an ancient world, before the politics of the object.
* Jacques Derrida, “Difference”
Absence of declared function is as the first draft of an ideogram with no definition. Formed: the [inspiration] for an iconography, before being bound to the material. The state of suspension between the object and its nature of ‘prior-being’ that is before the assignment of symbol—this is what Derrida refers to as freeplay, or “the occult zone of the nonknowing”*.
Freeplay: “field of infinite substitutions in the closure of a finite ensemble” ** / buoy is suspended above water, its action indeterminate in what might be a moment before falling. This stasis is certainty suspended, function unassigned, action suggested but not executed. A line of lights illuminates the bottom of the Plexiglas tank. Each light suggests: moment, serialization, progression. An echo of A Barrier Against the Abyss. Water rests in the tank in an eerie stillness.
* Jacques Derrida, “Difference”
** Jacques Derrida, “Writing and Difference”, trans. Alan Bass. London: Routledge, pp 278-294
The sacred is found in the moment of the indefined, as it is, in [between différance and now].
This can be reflected in a concept found in Japanese philosophy, known as Ma. In this, undefined space is recognized as equally important to defining object / event as the material. To encounter the sacred is to recognize the boundary of sign and the limitless space [void] that encompasses: a state between the known and the unknown.
Note: To be revisited under “Mono-ha and the Interrupted Object”.
Lyotard writes further, “the object of the search is no longer God or truth, but the search itself”.*
The question of between différance, and now is turned to the act of identifying the divine. Sacredness: is necessarily a distinguishing, therefore différance. Where the sacred is lost, we remain enraptured with false ideals, indebted to an incorrect divinity, adhering to crooked symbol. Language killed the sacred by making God: the religious and the political.
Why not consider this problem of object-bound politics—where predetermined sign manipulates our relationships with objects, events, and their significance—that is inherent to symbol?
Can we relate to such a problem on purely visual terms, where the wordless image—the hieroglyphic with no written or spoken form—becomes the interpretive mode of knowledge?
Can we substitute the role of language, which stands now as the secondary, interpretive element to the “original and lost presence” (Derrida), for the world in its immediate encounter? Is this act not a radical act that disrupts and reclaims the construction of sign, and thus, the significance and relationship to the inhabited world?
Iconography is acceptance of sign: an ecstatic rapture. Acceptance is to permit the history and author of the sign: this is the political.
* Jean-François Lyotard, “Libidinal Economy”, 44.
TRANSPARENCY, AND ROWE & SLUTZKY
(A Reading of Between Différance, And Now: 3)
In the combined practice of Anna J. Eyler and Nicolas Lapointe, the material is a method equal to its form. An earlier collaboration between Eyler and Lapointe,CEP I, contrasts the monolithic presence of concrete with Plexiglas. This transparent material unites much of the work in between différance, and now.
The nature of transparency in structural and architectural forms is written about by architectural theorists and historians Colin Rowe and Robert Slutzky, inTransparency: Literal and Phenomenal (1982).
Transparency takes on a literal form (the material, that which we perceive), and the phenomenal form (a conceptual and spatial experience). These two forms of transparency contrast the act of looking versus that of reading. between différance, and now incites us to look, in that moment before the object becomes known by sign.
Rowe and Slutzky refer to transparency as it is expressed in Cubism. An intersection of layers that allow for simultaneity – a single representation depicts multiple instances of time.
Transparency is made possible in the Minimalist reduction of the visual form, to approach an expression of the essential. between différance, and now takes on simplistic rectilinear forms, stark palettes, and the unadorned character of its industrial materials. This reduction to the essential allows for a fluidity of meanings, identities and signs, achieving that dissociation from associated function. The essence, then, is beyond the tangible, beyond the phenomenal.
In a less figurative way, we can find this transparency applied to between différance, and now in its linguistic challenge: the multiplicity that comes before différance, and the expression of time in this rupture.
Transparency is the immediate: a linear representation of time distills the multitude into the singular. Anna & Nicolas’ use of “and now” refers to this exact temporal experience. In this way, the sought-after immediacy of encounter may be alluded to through the spatial layering of a material transparency.