“All things human hang by a slender thread; and that which seemed to stand strong suddenly falls and sinks in ruins.” (Ovid)
In this work I am exploring ruins, focusing not simply on ancient piles of stone, but also the ruins of systems, cities, nature; the fragmentary; the decayed; the dead; the never-born; and dream worlds, using 20th century German writer and critic Walter Benjamin’s understanding of history as a constellation of events, rather than a linear progress through unidirectional, homeostatic time, as a guide or thread.
Instead of conceiving of progress as a straight line, Benjamin devised the image of the constellation to characterise history. This motif is a symbol of the understanding which emerges when one places a number of apparently unrelated historical events, or objects, in conjunction. The constellation links past events among themselves, or else links past to present; its formation aims to stimulate a flash of recognition or glimpse of understanding.
Vancouver is a city seemingly constantly in the process of reinventing or recreating itself. Older parts of the city fall into ruin or become the unseen foundations of newer urban visions, a process which is not without its anguish for those displaced in the process. This reinvention is especially visible in the downtown core, where gentrification brings condo towers, upscale stores watched over by uniformed security guards, and anxiety, commented on by the author of “Save Our City”.
Living here at the edge of the west, a subterranean thread connects us to those much older civilisations in the east whose ancient texts and ideas continue to influence us now. There, societies crack and sometimes crumble, too, through dislocation and economic imperatives. Travelling through Turkey recently, I was fascinated with the contradictions and similarities I found in the urban and village landscape. As in Vancouver, ruins (albeit much older ones) co-exist alongside the new: sometimes these older forms are left more or less intact; sometimes these become something new and unexpected, as in the “Nevsehir Prison-Church”.
This place, built about 200 years ago, was first a Christian church, subsequently a prison, and then closed about 20 years ago and left with all its belongings intact. I was told that, over the years between then and now, Roma “gypsies” descended on the place and carted off all the usable items, including clothes and furniture. It is now an empty shell, existing somewhere in a twilight zone between church and prison, reminders of both still very much in evidence. A sign on the outside of the building warns people that the building is not to be touched, otherwise locals would make off with the stones one by one for their own building projects and leave only a faint trace of foundations. Such foundations, remnants of old stone homes, can still be seen throughout this area; however, if one did not know these were houses, it wouldn’t be possible to identify them as such.
By juxtaposing these images, I seek to understand the forces at work transforming our world, here in Vancouver, and elsewhere.
Beauty in Things
Landscape with Cowboys
Satyr v 1
Hermes, Apollo & Mannequins
Landscape with Water XIII
Nevsehir Prison Church
This Would be Nothing Without You
Nevsehir Dump II
Shah Dede’s House I
Burrard Dry Docks
Landscape with Water XIV
Landscape with Water V
Save Our City
Two of these works, “Landscape with Cowboys” and “Satyr v1”, were selected for the international juried exhibition of electronic art organised by the Hungarian Electrographic Art Association. Matrices 2010 will be shown at the Danube Gallery, KAS Gallery, Hungarian Workshop Gallery, D-Court Gallery, and FISE Gallery in Budapest, Hungary from August until October 2010.
“This Would Be Nothing Without You” (above) was selected as one of the winners of the 2010 Digital Art.LA International Exhibition at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art.
The selected winners will be exhibited as the central focus of the “Digital Art.LA” expo in a large group exhibit at the LACDA gallery (selected net.art entries will be exhibited on the artists’ websites). The show will be widely promoted and will include a reception for the artists in Los Angeles on Thursday Sept 9 (which I will attend). The expo screenings, exhibits and events are throughout the day and evening on September 9, 2010 (concurrent with and promoted by the Downtown Art Walk and the Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles). The winners exhibit will remain in the gallery September 9-October 2, 2010.
The 2010 Digital Art.LA International Juried Exhibit is curated by Peter Frank, Critic, Curator; Riverside Art Museum, California
Read more about the show here.