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Artspeak,

Artspeak

Bopha Chhay

Director/Curator of Artspeak 2016–present.

Exhibitions

  • Yesterday, In The Years 1886 and 2017

    STEPHANIE COMILANG
    June 10–July 29, 2017

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    “Sunburned flesh
    We enter a new space
    I clip into the vestibule and right away
    I am ash baked
    These storybook villas still dream behind shutters
    Their balconies fine as handmade lace
    I am the colour of burnt pineapple, lemon, mango”

    “Yesterday, In The Years 1886 and 2017” is a two-channel video projection installation. The two protagonists José Rizal and Lourdes Lareza Müller occupy a channel each; projected adjacent to one another, they inhabit the same space while remaining distinctly separate. José Rizal (1861-1896) was a Filipino nationalist, considered a national hero for his advocacy and thinking that led to the Philippine revolution against Spanish rule. While he worked as an ophthalmologist he was well known for his literary works. While living in Berlin he completed his book “Noli Me Tángere (Touch Me Not)” in 1887, a book that many have credited for its proposition of nationalism and resistance to Spanish colonial rule through its formulation of the idea of an ‘imagined community’1 in the Philippines. Lourdes Lareza Müller is the other protagonist in “Yesterday, In The Years 1886 and 2017”. Having migrated to Germany in 1968, she worked as an archivist at one of Europe’s largest libraries, Berlin’s Staatsbibliotek, for 28 years.

    The thread that ties these two figures is their life in Berlin, away from the Philippines. The disembodied feminine voice remains unidentified throughout but narrates from a distant future. She hovers and is distinctly non-human and speaks of inhabiting both Rizal and Lareza Müller in human form. Positioned as a third protagonist, she speaks of a connectedness through adaptation, bodies as archives, and entangled narratives of possible futurities. While this film speaks to a specific place and particular people, the role of the disembodied narrator, casts a wider net of questions around mobility, a rearrangement of geographic concepts of centre/periphery, and the disruption of historical linearity and continuity.

    Music by NaEE RoBErts and Elysia Crampton.

    ¹ The concept of ‘Imagined communities’ was coined by Benedict Anderson.

  • Milman Parry’s Waiting Room Rhapsody

    JULIAN HOU
    April 1–May 20, 2017

    Artspeak - Julian Hou - "Milman Parry's Waiting Room Rhapsody"

    Artspeak - Julian Hou - "Milman Parry's Waiting Room Rhapsody"

    The Guild of Rhapsodes, a wandering band of orators, was most prominent in classical Greece between the 4th to 6th centuries BC. Rhapsode is translated as ‘singer of stitched words’. The craft of the guild conjures up the spectre of Milman Parry, the renowned scholar of epic poetry. Parry’s study of Homeric epic poems and his defence of oral traditions was significant in his argument against the idea of single authorship and questioning of whether so much weight and emphasis be placed on the ‘original text’. The work and craft of the guild required of them to carry a collective responsibility in ensuring the transmission of oral histories in the form of epic poetry. Acting as custodians of these stories, the cultural values and norms within these narratives were mediated through the bodies of the guild.

    ~~~~

    Waiting rooms encourage you to be still, quiet, patient and contemplative. The stillness is not for your privacy. Other bodies may or may not be present. The furnishings and décor remain non-descript, maybe a little kitsch, certainly inconsequential. They’ve absorbed the energies of all the bodies that have passed through, witnessing, acknowledging a spectrum of states of waiting. Your company includes magazines from several years ago, a water cooler without cups, averting eye contact and a mutual confirmation not to inquire as to the purpose of the other person’s presence. A body forced to wait or a body that willingly waits. How many hours do you think you’ve spent in waiting rooms? (In this lifetime). Being made to wait has the equivalence of being on the cusp of something unknown. The pending conditions of uncertainty have well worn associations to the waiting room as purgatory, a state of limbo. This unknown quantity is detrimental to your need to temper your anxiety. You have to abide by the prescribed code of patience, waiting room etiquette. In your attempt to inhabit and trace the shape of stillness, sound denies that shape. The sound coaxes us elsewhere, from out of a prescribed temporary stasis, out of stillness…

    ~~~~

    It is impossible to disengage the sound of Milman Parry’s Waiting Room Rhapsody. Though immaterial, it remains ever present. It becomes clear that the hands playing piano have free reign. One can visualize hands registering each key, demonstrating various compositional collisions, reconfiguring jarring approximations. Julian Hou’s loose improvisation is layered with vocal fragments. It’s possible that we’re being addressed, but as the piano composition gains traction, the voice becomes subsumed into the sonic haze. As the form of the composition wanes, the whispering voice re-emerges ‘…waiting for the night to bend…’

    ~~~~

    Several generic office chairs move as they wish, their wheels entertain a comic mobility as their red upholstery pouts at us. The muted greyish green carpet has a calming effect, with a vague evocation of a melancholic mood. Dedicated lighting for each of the drawings heightens their presence. Each drawing requires a longer engagement. The office chairs offer a moment to settle; to remain and prolong one’s viewing. The rhapsody and the suite of drawings sketch out an indirect affiliation, where attention shifts between the two works. The movement between notes within the composition of the rhapsody guides our contemplation; assisting us in acknowledging the line of the pencil and the weight of the paper. The incremental tensions within the rhapsody, loosen, and ease up. These gestures exist simultaneously, driven by an intuitive yet concentrated impulse. Hands wandering across keys, hands guiding pencil across paper…hands saying what?

  • Noise gives the listener duration as an artifact

    GABI DAO, STEVE HUBERT, DB BOYKO
    February 11–March 18, 2017

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    Gabi Dao, Voices Tuned (Like a Native Speaker Speaking, 1988), 2017, sound, 9 min 01 sec

    The title of this show is borrowed from Lisa Robertson’s prose essay ‘Disquiet’.(1) I find myself returning to Robertson in her writings on how noise/sound can constitute a distinct social fabric; how the convergence of the sonic, temporal, spatial is materialized and tethered to place.

    In acknowledging and being attentive to understanding the ways that we are part of the soundscape, as observers and producers, how does our being simultaneous with it provide a means through which to translate the associations and experiences sound carries? What are the possibilities of listening as a practice that can inform our personal and political agency? In thinking about the systems through which sound circulates, which are the voices that we hear and which are the voices that we do not hear? Works by Vancouver-based artists GABI DAO, STEVE HUBERT and DB BOYKO offer divergent approaches in their considerations of how the ‘intangible’ nature of sound can be materialized. Their practices navigate the space between transmission of information and reception, listening and response. How do we give and determine form to what is not immediately visually discernable?

    ***

    Foundational to Boyko’s practice as a vocalist is her consideration of how we work towards resolving our vulnerabilities within sounding and voicing. Boyko’s contributions to the exhibition will consist of two events; a workshop and a concert performance. In uenced by Pauline Oliveros’s Deep Listening practice, Boyko’s workshop sessions The Empty Vessel Makes the Loudest Sound invites participants to conduct an embodied form of listening. These exercises work towards achieving a heightened awareness of sound, silence and sounding, through which one can begin to differentiate between hearing and attentive listening. In consideration of how the act of listening can alter our spatial perception the trio ‘Hubbub’ (of which Boyko is a part) will perform one evening, playing the reverberations of Artspeak’s space through Theremin, Glasses and Cello.

    ***

    The conch shell has long been an instrument used in ritual and ceremony. To make a public declaration, breath channeled through the form of the conch sounds off an announcement. Here, Gabi Dao’s work Polished Like A Shell a conch shell remains mute. The adjacent radio is tuned to 88.9 FM, a frequency inhabited by those who chose to do so without license. This frequency plays host to Dao’s sound piece Voices Tuned (Like a Native Speaker Speaking, 1988). A layering of voices and intertwined narratives trace the perimeters of disparate dialogues where questions remain unanswered. In Voices Tuned (Like a Native Speaker Speaking, 1988) Dao responds to tapes she found of her mother practicing English. Common questions and phrases that one might find useful if you live in British Columbia; remarks in regards to the weather, inquiring into favourable sea kayaking conditions and other such activities. The fragmented nature of the voices due to variations in accent and tone is further entangled through the use of multiple recording technologies; voices recorded on tape, narratives run through text to speech software, recorded voices with a lowered pitch, mastered and finally experienced and received as a radio broadcast. Voices Tuned becomes a mediation on the process of listening and the various responses that are consequently shaped.

    ***

    Steve Hubert’s The Rich Interior Life II is a mind map that sketches out the process of listening, hearing and being attentive. There is no singular path or narrative that leads you to any particular destination, only a multiplicity of possibilities. There is no prescribed objective or outcome, only digressions that lead to commas. The viewer equally becomes the author and producer in determining the desired cognitive path. The Rich Interior Life II offers unfettered visual formations in an attempt to decipher what it means to listen, or hear. There’s a generosity that encourages an unlearning and ways to dismantle in order to engage alternatives. Similarly Hubert’s Poster Designs 1-6, are sketches of movie posters found online. They are attempts to map out a visual rhythm, before commencing the gestural painting process. Without obvious symbols and signi ers they behave as a blueprint. The movement and colour India ink of the sketch are almost like morse code ashes. Their formation operates in the manner of a sentence in construction. As it asserts itself, duration remains open ended.

    1  Lisa Robertson, Nilling, Bookthug, 2012, 57.

  • Perla/Pervize

    CHRISTIAN VISTAN, JASMINE BAETZ
    November 26–January 21, 2017

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    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?”[1] 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.

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    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.

    + + + +

    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?

    Pervize

    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?

    + + + +

    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.

    + + + +

    Perla and Christian; Pervize and Jasmine; Jasmine and Christian; Perla and Pervize…

    NOTE

    1 Céline Conderelli, The Company She Keeps, London: Bookworks, 2014, p. 116.

     

    Postscript 67: Dada Docot on Jasmine Baetz/Christian Vistan

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Erica Stocking

    ERICA STOCKING
    June 6–July 18, 2015

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    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.[1] 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.

    NOTE

    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.

    Postscript 63: Bopha Chhay on Erica Stocking (PDF)