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Artspeak,

Artspeak

Lisa Robertson

Lisa Robertson is a poet currently based in California. Recent books include Occasional Work and Seven Walks From The Office For Soft Architecture: Essays, Toronto (Coach House Books, 2006), The Men, Toronto (Bookthug, 2006); Occasional Works and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture, Astoria (Clearcut Press, 2003); Doubt, Vancouver (Artspeak, 2002); The Weather, Vancouver (New Star Books, 2001); Soft Architecture: A Manifesto, Vancouver and Montreal (Artspeak and Dazibao). She teaches at the California College of the Arts.

Exhibitions

  • The Chatter of Culture

    LORNA BROWN, DAVID ZINK YI
    April 7–May 12, 2007

    It has been noted that the Age of Information is, in fact, an age of forgetting: we are inundated with a culture so overwhelming that it hurtles past us without remark, unabsorbed. This flood might be called cultural chatter. One of the results of the waves of information is boredom, a lack of curiosity in the face of the sheer magnitude of things and ideas in the world. A nod to Theodor Adorno’s discussions of the culture industry, leisure, and the “chatter of culture,” this exhibition brings together the work of two artists that approach the thematics and anatomy of world-weariness.

    Lorna Brown’s ongoing research into boredom has informed her recent visual and critical practice. The Structure of Boredom (After Oden) is a work that endlessly repeats an analytic diagram, mapping boredom’s characteristics of repetition, predictability, and temporal suspension. Installed in Artspeak’s windows, it functions not only as analysis, but as decorative hoarding or perhaps lolling dance step instructions. Brown’s video Threshold (cont.) projects an archive of rolling quotes on boredom that spills over the floor and up the wall like cinematic credits. The quotes complicate and contradict one another as they struggle to communicate. The use of text elicits a layering of histories. From the inception of the printed word through modern literature, theory, and into the age of Hollywood and digital communication technologies such as texting and Powerpoint, the work incites a consideration of the conditions of obsolescence in tandem with the conditions of boredom.

    David Zink Yi’s practice offers reflections on the hybrid character of cultural and personal histories, often depicting the body as an instrument or medium of both the individual and the collective. His video Ahumm is a short verbal, visual, and physical meditation in which a figure is shown writing variations of the expression “ahumm” on a piece of paper while intoning the expressions. It is unclear if the actions are synchronous and the actions reflect an emotionality that is at once personal and distant. The performative activity of the figure takes place in real time (but in its looping this “real time” is suspended), unlike the Hollywood structure of the film credits in Brown’s work. The work contains a tension between passivity and action, conceptualism and body politics. The works in The Chatter of Culture are potentially on the threshold between pessimism and hopefulness, at once frustrating and contradictory, meaningful and on the brink of illumination.

    Postscript 27: Rebecca Marks on The Chatter of Culture (PDF)

  • Doubt

    ELSPETH PRATT
    February 16–March 23, 2002

    Doubt features new and recent sculptural work by Elspeth Pratt, known for her exploration of architecture and furnishings, and for her inventive use of ubiquitous building supplies such as foam insulation, metal corner bead and veneers. Pratt’s new projects further her recent interest in concepts of leisure and consumerism in domestic and public spaces.

    One work, “Escape to Paradise”, uses countertop laminate (named Spa by its manufacturer) which mimics the effect of light on the surface of a swimming pool. This wall construction evokes a kidney shaped pool or a sheltered tropical cove, yet also suggests an abstracted logo or sign in a play of heft and surface.

    In “Adrift”, candy-pink foam insulation and metal mesh arouse the numbed buoyancy intrinsic to the fragile fantasy of the poolside lounge or the beachfront property. The works hinge on the familiarity of the lumberyard materials, and the surprising and contingent methods used to combine them; woodgrain ‘columns’ are stitched together with chain, model-sized balconies are propped on sponge in shapes that suggest a racetrack viewing platform or a cliff-top dwelling.

    The wry humour in Doubt leans upon a critique of the seamless aims of our built environment and the fetish of the custom finish. The work in Doubt suggests the skepticism with which the artist approaches the weight and permanence of sculptural tradition as well as the viewers’ hesitant response to her contingent and ephemeral negotiation of gravity.

    Artspeak and the artist would like to thank the Vancouver Art Gallery for the loan of Adrift.

  • Soft Architecture: A Manifesto

    JOSÉE BERNARD, SHARYN YUEN, LISA ROBERTSON
    March 27–May 8, 1999

    Memory’s architecture is neither palatial nor theatrical but soft. — Lisa Robertson

    The project Soft Architecture: A Manifesto was realized through the collaborative efforts of Artspeak Gallery and Dazibao Gallery in Montréal, bringing together the work of artists Josée Bernard and Sharyn Yuen with writer/poet Lisa Robertson. Despite cultural difference and geographical distance, all three artists have used childhood and the notion of memory to discuss the discomforts of displacement. The intention of this project was to provoke ideas and forge links between different practices that would extend the parameters of both photography and writing. Inspired by a child’s quilt found in the house in which she grew up, Josée Bernard uses images and themes from Après les étoiles filantes that explore perceptions of comfort and the passing of time. The installation is meant as a symbol of fecundity and equilibrium in which memory and labour are juxtaposed. In Once Here, Sharyn Yuen addresses issues of displacement and dislocation. The departure point for this installation was inspired by stories of young Chinese girls sold overseas in the early 1900’s. Handmade shoes and images of childhood games become visual metaphors for vulnerability and innocence.

    A bilingual publication with prose by Lisa Robertson accompanies the exhibition.

  • Conviction

    SARA LEYDON
    September 14–October 13, 1990

Talks & Events

  • Speakeasy: Writing and Contemporary Art

    LISA ROBERTSON
    March 24, 2010

    How does writing, as a practice, inform contemporary art and vice versa? Speakeasy, a semi-annual series of talks and presentations, will interrogate Artspeak’s mandate to encourage dialogue between visual art and writing. From text based art, visual poetry, and parallel texts to activities of publication and research, how do writing practices and concerns intersect with contemporary art practices? This multipart series will take place at Artspeak from January to April 2010.

    Wednesday, March 24, 8pm
    LISA ROBERTSON: About Beginning: A Catalogue

    The fourth talk in the series examines the many ways of beginning. Lisa Robertson’s newest book of poetry is R’s Boat (University of California Press, 2010). Associated for many years with Artspeak and Kootenay School of Writing, in Fall 2010 she will be returning to Vancouver as writer–in–residence at Simon Fraser University. She currently teaches at California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

  • Rousseau’s Boat Book Launch

    LISA ROBERTSON
    October 30, 2004

    Lisa Robertson

    Rousseau’s Boat

    ISBN 0-9735337-1-4

    5.5″ X 8.5″ / 40pp / $12.00CAN

    Nomados Literary Publishers

    nomadosnomados@yahoo.com

    Saturday, October 30, 2004, 8pm, at Artspeak

    co-hosted by The Kootenay School of Writing

    Join us for the Launch of Lisa Robertson’s new book of poems, Rousseau’s Boat. Nominated for the Governor General’s Award for her long poem Debbie: An Epic, Lisa Robertson is also the author of XEclogue, The Weather, and Occasional Works and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture. Her work, which has often appeared in Nest magazine, includes texts to accompany the work of several Vancouver artists, including Liz Magor, Reneé Van Halm, Kathy Slade and Elspeth Pratt. Lisa is in Vancouver on a brief trip away from her new home in Paris.

  • Talk

    LISA ROBERTSON
    February 28, 1991

    Writers/Artists/Talks, a joint project of the Kootenay School of Writing and Artspeak Gallery, consists of a series of public talks and exhibitions by writers and artists with the intention to articulate a common theoretical and practical ground for the two disciplines.

Publications

  • The Chatter of Culture

    TCC front
    TCC spine
    TCC back

    Title: The Chatter of Culture
    Category: Exhibition Catalogue
    Artist: Lorna Brown, Robyn Laba, David Zink Yi
    Writers: Lisa Robertson, Melanie O’Brian
    Editor: Melanie O’Brian
    Design: Jeff Khonsary
    Publisher: Artspeak
    Printer: Hignell Book Printing
    Year published: 2008
    Pages: 52pp
    Cover: Hardcover
    Binding: Perfect Bound
    Process: Offset
    Features: 12 b&w images, 9 colour images
    Dimensions: 20 x 14 x 1 cm
    Weight: 173 g
    ISBN: 978-0-921394-56-3
    Price: $7 CDN

    A nod to Theodor Adorno’s discussions of the culture industry, leisure, and the “chatter of culture,” this publication brings together works that approach the anatomy of world-weariness. The works simultaneously reveal cultural overload to be curiosity-crushing as well as breeding grounds for new ideas. It has long been argued that (successful) art sustains curiosity and speculation rather than answers questions or provides conclusions, as scientific information intends to do. The publication assembles the documentation of two exhibitions held at Artspeak in 2007 that included the work of Lorna Brown, Robyn Laba, and David Zink Yi with a new poem by Lisa Robertson, About 1836 (an essay on boredom). Robertson was invited to write in consort with the themes of the exhibitions. The works represented here centre around investigations into cultural chatter, edging towards an articulation of a subjective yet social phenomenon.

  • Doubt & The History of Scaffolding

    Doubt front
    Doubt spine
    Doubt back

    Title: Doubt & The History of Scaffolding
    Category: Exhibition Catalogue
    Artist: Elspeth Pratt
    Writers: Lisa Robertson
    Editor: Lorna Brown
    Design: Judith Steedman
    Publisher: Artspeak
    Year published: 2002
    Pages: 32 pp
    Cover: Paper
    Binding: Perfect Bound
    Process: Offset
    Features: 7 b&w images, 4 colour images
    Dimensions: 16 x 12 x 0.6 cm
    Weight: 53 g
    ISBN: 0-921394-39-X
    Out of print

    Doubt, an exhibition of new and recent sculptural work by Elspeth Pratt, took place at Artspeak in the spring of 2002. Known for her exploration of architecture and furnishings and for her inventive use of ubiquitous building supplies such as foam insulation, metal corner bead and veneers, Pratt’s new projects further her recent interest in concepts of leisure and consumerism in domestic and public spaces. The works hinge on the familiarity of the lumberyard materials, and the surprising and contingent methods used to combine them; woodgrain ‘columns’ are stitched together with chain, model-sized balconies are propped on sponge in shapes that suggest a racetrack viewing platform or a cliff-top dwelling. The wry humour in Doubt leans upon a critique of the seamless aims of our built environment and the fetish of the custom finish. The work in Doubt suggests the skepticism with which the artist approaches the weight and permanence of sculptural tradition as well as the viewers’ hesitant response to her contingent and ephemeral negotiation of gravity.

    In Doubt & The History of Scaffolding, The Office for Soft Architecture embraces the architectural paradox of scaffolding as both stable and “almost a catastrophe”; as a skin, as ceremonial furnishing and as an obscuring grove. Scaffolding’s shaky contract with gravity is drafted in the letters of the alphabet suggested by its form – Ts and Xs. This essay luxuriates in the fluid grammar and transience of such a system. Doubt and The History of Scaffolding builds on a body of work undertaken by The Office for Soft Architecture, beginning with Soft Architecture: A Manifesto, published by Artspeak and Dazibao in 1999 and including numerous contributions to Nest Magazine.

  • Soft Architecture: A Manifesto

    Title: Soft Architecture: A Manifesto
    Category: Exhibition Catalogue
    Artist: Josée Bernard, Sharyn Yuen
    Writers: Lisa Robertson
    Editor: Janou Gagnon, Jacqueline Larson, Robert Majzels
    Design: Kevin C. Rowdon
    Publisher: Artspeak, Dazibao Gallery Montreal
    Printer: Dufferin Press
    Year published: 1999
    Pages: 16pp
    Cover: Paper
    Binding: Staple Bound
    Process: Offset
    Features: 4 b&w images, bilingual catalogue (English/French)
    Dimensions: 21 x 15 x 0.2 cm
    Weight: 51 g
    ISBN: 0-921394-30-6
    Price: $4 CDN

    A bilingual catalogue realized through the collaborative efforts of Artspeak Gallery and Dazibao Gallery in Montréal, bringing together the work of artists Josée Bernard and Sharyn Yuen with writer/poet Lisa Robertson. Despite cultural difference and geographical distance, all three artists have used childhood and memory to discuss the discomforts of displacement.

  • Conviction

    Conviction front
    Conviction back

    Title: Conviction
    Category: Exhibition Catalogue
    Artist: Sara Leydon
    Writers: Lisa Robertson
    Design: Laiwan
    Publisher: Artspeak
    Year published: 1990
    Pages: 8pp
    Cover: Paper
    Binding: Staple Bound
    Process: Offset
    Features: 5 b&w images
    Dimensions: 28 x 22 x 0.1 cm
    Weight: 31 g
    ISBN: 0-921394-09-08
    Price: $2 CDN

    Robertson examines Leydon’s series of collages of women tried and silenced by death or entombment both historically and from a feminist perspective.