Thursday, March 24, 2011

Edgy Women 2011

As I write, I am putting the spit and polish on my talk for the artists round table today at Concordia in Montreal. I am honored to have been invited by Victoria Stanton and I will be revisiting the experience in the coming days.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Upcoming - Kristi Malakoff at Latitude 53 in Edmonton

I was recently asked to write a monograph for an upcoming show at Latitude 53, a contemporary art centre in Edmonton, Alberta. The following is that monograph - if you are in the area, come by the opening on October 1!

Kristi Malakoff is a hard working and prolific artist. The temptation to talk at length about her process, obsession, compulsion and commitment is heady, but I have become hung up on one quote about her work. Bear with me while I turn off my i-Phone and then turn on my i-Pad while I try to make my i-Point.

What is more interesting to investigate than “i”?

Malakoff does not directly state it, but I hope she’ll forgive my extrapolation: you and i. “Dualities are always more interesting to investigate than singularities”. Blazzamo. On an impromptu drive from Edmonton to Calgary recently, I learned that her background is mathematics. This is not terribly surprising, less so when dissecting the meaning of that quote in relation to her work. In math, a singularity is a discontinuity. A duality, however, is “a symmetry within a mathematical system such that a theorem remains valid if certain objects, relations, or operations are interchanged”. In laymen’s terms she is referring to something that contains its opposite. Or "the condition of being double". She likes contradictions.

So what does the math have to do with the art? Blazzamo is an assemblage of work from last five years and this iteration addresses Malakoff’s fascination with the absurdity of man made amusements and entertainments such as Vegas or Disneyland. The scale and commitment of gluing an eight foot tower of Fruit loops in an Islamic inspired design, the playfulness of a paper replica of the iconic Vegas ‘Stardust’ casino sign or the origamic melting pots of currency sculptures from Cambodia, China, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Bolivia, Iraq, Paraguay and Russia all reflect the absurdity that Malakoff identifies. The materials are ones we could easily dismiss or relegate to utility – but her use of them denies that possibility – the first of many contradictions.

By describing the show as being about the absurd - the quality or condition of existing in a meaningless or irrational world – she gives us a window into her intentions for the work. In early artist statements, Malakoff points to her employment of slipping her subject matter back to 3D from 2D as being a deliberate strategy to make people pause, to break them out of their everyday assumptions. She is a bit of an alchemist, with apologies to her grounding in math, one whose work demands contemplation. Our conversations about Blazzamo brought us to reflect on Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, in which all the immigrants to America have unconsciously brought their gods with them. These gods scrape by. They subsist in this land that is unfriendly to gods, even those of Telegraph and Railway, so quickly supplanted by Media, TV and Internet. In this story, roadside attractions (of which Disney and Vegas are larger, tricked out versions) are places of power, nexus for energy and adoration. Herein, I think, lies the kernel of what makes Disney and Malakoff’s work so compelling. You could go to Disney by yourself, but it would be absurd. Without considering others around you, your similarities and dissimilarities and the slippage between, such an experience would be excruciatingly lonely. The lead character in American Gods is accused by his lover of not being alive – and it is only in death that he learns how to live. When gazing upon these works – familiar in their content but not their expression, we can slip with them between states of being, start to recognize bits of our opposites in ourselves. The loneliness we all encounter is an illusion, this work seems to say, and all we need to do to move past it is acknowledge that the illusion exists.

Consider as you view the work the economy of her choices. While visually rich and pleasing, nothing extraneous exists in execution. How is this straightforward approach so disconcerting? The answer to that lies in the juxtapositions she exposes. Money is only paper, she implies, and so folds it into symbols which themselves are representations of other ideas. Paper can explode, she shows us, into colour and form that implies something far more glamorous than expected. This colorful marking tape can not only place an actor on a stage, but create a portal through which we are all welcome to travel.

So is there an i-Point? Regardless of your thoughts on that, there is an opportunity to walk away seeing the world and ourselves a little differently than we did moments before. That is the heart of successful artwork, and Malakoff delivers with admirable candor and simplicity.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Facebook Page for Monument

More information to be found here:

Hope to see you there.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Monument - Works Festival July 7

Too long between posts, but finally something more to report: I'll be taking part in a public art piece in Sir Winston Churchill Square on July 7. 'Monument' was conceived by Kristen Hutchinson and Jennifer Forsyth, and will involve the work of Jen Mesch, Todd Janes and Adrien Koleric, to name a few. I'll be performing a piece in or near the space on July 7, 5 - 9 pm.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Reframed Refain - post performance musings

Recently I undertook a collaborative performative response to a show at the Art Gallery of Alberta titled 'Leaving Olympia'. The original show was designed to give context to a show of Polaroid studies by Attila Richard Lukacs, and our show was an expansion of that historical context. Details on our performance can be found at: event.php?eid=79069315958 There is a convergence happening here, and to explain it I must also refer you to the following: group.php?gid=72062231055&ref=ts Now why would I send you to a memorial site when writing about my own live art work? Anyone who knew Gilbert and knows me will understand, but for those whom the reference is more oblique, I will give some context: When I met Gilbert 17 years ago, we were both yet outside the art world in terms of our future relationships to it. Yet even then, he brought an engagement to the world, to politics local and global, to entertainment and to living in general that was influential on me and many others. When I later undertook seamline as a live art work, Gilbert was one that I thought about, and what he might say or think about the work. And when I was leading up to this work at the AGA, it was Gilbert's thoughtful and considered opinion that I most wished would be present, although he was already missing and ultimately gone. While there are others who were more directly mentored and influenced by Gilbert (and others whose presence I longed for in the work), I can not imagine working or writing now without him being a part of my thoughts, and so all that follows bears his mark. Some comments that have stood out during and post performance are telling: "We are surprised that the AGA gave permission to this work". "The closer I got to you in the space, the less nude you became". "The longer I sat with the work, the less I noticed the fact that you were nude". "This really pushed boundaries for me, but I felt I needed to stick with it for as long as I could". When asked about how I felt about the piece and its successes and failures, I respond in the following way - this piece is very specific to this time and place in history. In many other cities and institutions, appearing nude in a gallery space would be, to be honest, blasé. But here, in Edmonton, where nude statues never mind live nude people are shunned and defaced, it seemed important to point to a broader history, to underline how long and intelligently people have been engaging the nude as a political and social statement, challenging norms and pushing boundaries. I found the level of engagement of our audience to be diverse and satisfying in its diversity. Some saw Kristen and I as snobs (!!!!!!! But I am so working class, I wanted to cry!), others found the work to add greatly to their experience of the Leaving Olympia show as a whole. All in all, I am grateful to have been granted the opportunity to conduct this research and engage with both the show and the AGA public to this degree. In writing this, I realize that while I was trying to expose and negate my 'otherness' on many levels (daughter of a dark skinned, accented man raised in northern Alberta, female, bisexual, working class) the one 'othering' factor in my life that I did not confront is my history of mental illness. Like Gilbert, I have faced depression and suicidal thoughts and tried a variety of treatment strategies. Unlike Gilbert, I was able to emerge on the other side of that battle alive. What I recognize in the face of his departure is that to honour both his memory and my own past, I must include that component of my life, in an effort to break down yet another stigmatized aspect of post modern life. I considered not doing this performance because of that part of my history. Was I prepared to face an unknown public in this seemingly vulnerable state? Could I handle the consequences? Would the aftermath be untenable? What I learned was that there is specific and visceral power in bringing difficult issues to light. While sitting across from my collaborator in an entry way of the space, we noticed that most people felt it necessary to ask our permission to pass. There was enough space for them. And even those that did pass between us apologized as they did so (ah, Canadians). At one point I looked at Kristen and said 'So much power! Who knew?". In the end, I am glad I made the choice to do the piece, and that so many people were able to experience it. It may have been specific to this time and place, but it was and is valid - my thanks to all those who supported and contributed. My extra special thanks to Kristen Hutchinson, without whom this work would not have succeeded. Her participation as a performance art virgin (yes, her first live art piece ever! What a bar to have set!) added and expanded the piece beyond my wildest expectations, and I am honoured to have worked with her. I look forward to revisiting the work once we have viewed the footage, and welcome your comments and observations throughout. Rest in peace, Gilbert. You are and will continue to be missed for a long time to come. All the best, The Line

Sunday, May 17, 2009

5th year anniversary.

This spring marked five years since this line was completed, and the beginning of a series of conversations that have changed the course of my life. For many years, I would write my memories of these conversations in a paper journal. Tonight, I made a promise that I would revive this blog and begin recording those interactions here.

So, Virence (sp?), Kevin, Anna and even Sara - thank you for asking about my tattoo, and for responding with such interest and obvious pleasure as I explained it. Thank you for appreciating it's simplicity.

Tonight I also learned that prolific and profound writer and friend, Gilbert Bouchard, was found in the North Saskatechewan River after disappearing two weeks ago. Somehow this void must be filled, and I have no idea how we will do it. Rest in peace, Gilbert. You have no idea how much you will be missed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Thank you for visiting this blog. If you are reading this, it is a result of your curiousity or my invitation - either way, I invite you to explore the postings, post and comment, or write to me at if you have any questions.

In developing and living with this work, I have been influenced by/interacted with/studied or reacted to:

Randy Lee Cutler -
Margaret Dragu -
check out La Dragu if you can get your hands on it (YYZ press, Paul Couillard,ed.)
Todd Janes -
Christine Stoddard
Susan Stewart
Derrida - on blindness
Antonin Artaud - the theatre of pain
Marina Abramavic -
Linda Montano
Carolee Schneemann
Peg Campbell
Naufus Figueroa
April Davis
Jonathan Tyrrell
Harry Killas - in spite of himself
Rodney Konapeki


The Spiritual In Art:Abstract Painting, 1890-1985
By Maurice Tuchman et al, 1995

The Amenable Object,
Jeanne Randolph

Never Enough is Something Else
Kristine Stiles