Director/Curator of Artspeak 2016–present.
CHRISTIAN VISTAN, JASMINE BAETZ
November 26–January 21, 2017
In her discussion of the importance of friendship as a form of solidarity in cultural production, artist Céline Conderelli posed the question “How do you want to inhabit the world, in whose company, and upon what terms?” Jasmine Baetz and Christian Vistan have continued to work in a way that has foregrounded their friendship, guiding how to speak to and engage with the often fraught terrain of personal identity and histories. Their work in Perla/Pervize echoes Conderelli’s proposition of friendship as an organizing social principle in forging bonds and structures of support to enable a means to explore mutual associations and affinities.
With Vistan living and working in Vancouver, British Columbia and Baetz in Boston, Massachusetts, distance and proximity have guided their collaborative work through which the artists frequently consider geographic borders as legal jurisdictions and sovereign states that determines or denies access and movement between countries. In this body of work, limitation becomes a material in itself. Repetitive forms mark an attempt to create and locate a psychic transformative agency through material and newly formed familial bonds. The title of the exhibition Perla/Pervize takes the names of family members as an initiation of a matriarchal incantation; Perla, Christian’s mother and Pervize, Jasmine’s grandmother.
Pilipino Fainting Filipino Painting Pilipino Fainting Filipino Painting Pilipino Fainting Filipino Painting
The repetition of these words in their type set pattern almost appears to mimic code, an immersive physical poetic intervention. Assonance as repetition emboldens the words to take on a perfunctory incantation, where the limitation of these four words within themselves becomes the material. They bring together two bodies; that of the artist Christian Vistan, and that of his mother Perla. The words personify and rehearse the repetitiveness of labour becoming the embodiment of Christian and Perla’s daily rituals and tasks. They command concentration and acknowledgement of being present in the moment, an attentive activity in their work that demonstrates respect for our environments and social relationships that we nurture. Perla’s drawings punctuate this repetition. Read yourself into the world. Slowly. Carefully. Precisely.
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Read, each and every word at your desired pace. Pilipino Fainting Filipino Painting Pilipino Fainting Filipino Painting Pilipino Fainting Filipino. It seems crass to reduce such complexity for the purposes of efficiency however functional they may be. O.F.W. a three-letter acronym that in its brevity suggests a confident familiarity, devoid of an emotive core, also working to obscure the entanglements. Overseas-Filipino-Worker. The formation of these three words locates this three-letter acronym within a very specific lived experience, along the intersections of class, race and gender. Whether these work conditions are temporary or not, the body is now a diasporic body. Words shaped through repetition reveal a working rhythm attached to a body that is stretched, a body stretched and worn across continents and seas. What are the narratives that we embody as we write ourselves into the world?
While the limitation of words forms the material basis in Vistan’s work, the limitations of the material of clay determines Baetz’s work. Third shift signifies a revision, a reworking of the same form; a retelling, or the production of a new version. The material fragility and suspension of Third shift defies its assumed lightness and instead the ceramic carries weighted histories. The haphazardly forged links and bonds, cloaked in a rust like surface, tenuously connected resemble chain mail. The mass of ceramic chains and the repetitiveness of the forms implies continuity, shackles or a burden carried, wrought in clay and fire. An arduous desire and measured reenactment guided by hands is evident within its production; proposing invocations of embodied forms of knowledge, histories, herstories, and narratives shared. Third shift maintains an openness that allows for vulnerability to permeate. What is it to acknowledge and embrace vulnerability as we read and write ourselves into the world?
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A singular Dr Scholl’s sandal (which belonged to Baetz’s grandmother Pervize) rendered in clay, sits by the door. The sandal is without a companion. Disembodied cacti limbs, skeletal in form endured the heat of a kiln. While these remnants of broken bodies, missing companions and absent ties of kinship might assume narratives of loss and mourning; deterioration and production start to fold into one another creating spaces of healing and renewal. In his poem Pilipino Fainting Filipino Painting Vistan mentions “The labour of painting often hides itself”. The mass of entanglements permits not only fragments of a narrative, but fragments of forms start to emerge and bind themselves together through familial ties of friendship that were not there previously.
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Perla and Christian; Pervize and Jasmine; Jasmine and Christian; Perla and Pervize…
1 Céline Conderelli, The Company She Keeps, London: Bookworks, 2014, p. 116.
June 6–July 18, 2015
Bear with me here, I am going to make an argument for the middle. Not as a space of mediocrity or stunted progression or where disappointment transitions into bitterness. But the other middle, the insides, the guts, the glue. If the things worth remembering are the highs and the lows, what about the middle that binds it altogether? We are in a moment in which beginnings seem naive and endings are too often depicted as tragic or apocalyptic. Maybe we got it all wrong, the middle is where the good stuff is, where the real things happen but also where real things are dismissed as banal and inconsequential. Where do the things worth forgetting go to grow old?
The original source material of these sculptures is a collection of video recorded moments, real things that occurred in the life of Erica Stocking and her family over the span of six months. The highs and the lows are present—birthdays and dinner parties and tears—but the compilation is mostly comprised of the middle, daily activities routinely left behind. The shapes and sounds that constitute her narrative morph in film, as they do in life and in memory. Stocking lifts patterns and forms that appear throughout, constructing a vocabulary for the collection from the architecture of her house, to her children’s artwork, to the most obvious reference of clothing. In previous work she has created new use value out of discarded materials from her home, and in a similar fashion this collection salvages moments potentially destined to disappear.
“There are so many bodies that request me to be a body. A confused body in the sense that it is a mirror body, a reflective body. A body of the surroundings. How do I be that body but let it be guided by the inner one and the inner conversation?” The presence of bodies (the other other middle) is implied in the structure of the clothes themselves—a stiff bend in a sleeve or underwear resistant to collapse. We define ourselves amongst the bodies around us. They carry the weight of our memories, they construct our lives. But these bodies are moving, each on their own timeline and trajectory. What happens when one body leaves or if not enough stay? When one is lost? When no one that remembers your childhood is left? Do you cease to exist? Or do you exist, but less? You begin to wonder how many things in the world are not discrete, things that are in fact defined by missing bodies, like parked cars and vacant benches.
It is uncertain what happens to bodies in the subtraction of time. Does the body become a vessel for memory? There is no intention of nostalgia in these clothes, nor should they (or bodies) be confused as props. They are not stand-ins or players tasked with telling a specific story. They are a ground to experience nothingness. They are real things that elicit jamais vu, operating in the neighbourhood of our actual experiences and memories but are completely unfamiliar. The intimate life of someone else is not ours to take, and here we are given real things that are replicas of replicas. What connects the real things, the insides, the guts, the glue, cannot be accessed. We grasp at strands of recognition, mining our pasts or our current lives that never feel private enough. We are reminded of a time when beginnings were not yet naive and when failure felt distant, when unrealistic expectations could still take root. When fingers could be extensions of toes.
We are not time, we inhabit it. Living in the middle is a very explicit habitation of time, so much so that we barely mark its passing. We are losing time all around us. But the might of insignificance is almost calming. It means we do not need to find what has been forgotten. It means choosing to participate in the living, the middle, the now.
These objects remember for her but it is possible she is remembering for us.
1 “Is not the experience of the thing and of the world precisely the ground that we need in order to think nothingness in any way whatever? Is not thinking the thing against the ground of nothingness a double error, with regard to the thing and with regard to nothingness, and by silhouetting it against nothingness, do we not completely denature the thing?” – Maurice Merleau-Ponty
The artist gratefully acknowledges the support of the BC Arts Council.