Robyn Laba is a Vancouver based artist. Since receiving her BA in Art History and Studio Art from the University of British Columbia in 1998, she has had solo exhibitions at the Or Gallery, Vancouver and her work has been included in group exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery and Charles H. Scott Gallery, Vancouver.
May 26–June 23, 2007
Robyn Laba’s practice investigates the weight of materiality, labour and information. Often referencing modernist markers and tropes through humourously employed everyday materials, Laba’s past works include large-scale monochromes constructed from woven, deflated balloons and a project that explored the faculties of thinking and judging in the work of political theorist/philosopher Hannah Arendt. Newsworks, her new work for Artspeak, considers the accumulation and almost immediate obsolescence of matter and information via newspapers. Her stacked and swirled column of discoloured and out-of-date newspapers references the cylindrical form and potential violence of a tornado. Like an upended tower of Babel, Newsworks presents newspapers as simultaneously disposable and enduring cultural objects. The newspaper form is threatened with obsolescence by television and the Internet and its information is almost immediately obsolete as it gets replaced the next day. However, its materiality (and perhaps its content) persists; it remains an object in the world and in this case, a building block for a potential Tatlin-esque edifice.
Invoking the authority of the monument through its sheer mass and volume, the reading of Newsworks is complicated by the fleetingness of the material. Newsworks’ swirling stack is unstable in construction, like the paper itself and the questionable facts it provides. Its daunting scale points to the pressure to assimilate volumes of information in order to judge and act in the world. Antithetical to the permanence of the cenotaph or memorial, the newspapers and their form literally turn the monument on its head. Together, the work’s conceptual and physical references, its instability and scale, draw out discussions of sensory knowledge versus mediated knowledge. The use of newspapers references the potential of a so-called democratic medium, its mass production and its popular appeal. Part sculpture/architecture and part collage, Newsworks instigate discussions around information dissemination and manipulation. In the face of knowledge “overload,” Laba’s work examines the desire to synthesize the sheer magnitude of information in the world while recognizing that it is fleeting.
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)
May 26, 2007
Artist talk presented in conjunction with the exhibition, Newsworks.
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
Printer: Hignell Book Printing
Year published: 2008
Binding: Perfect Bound
Features: 12 b&w images, 9 colour images
Dimensions: 20 x 14 x 1 cm
Weight: 173 g
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.