Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dewdney Avenue "Common Weal" Community Art Project

I attended the panel discussion held at the Albert-Scott Neighborhood Center located at 1264 Athol St. I had an opportunity to hear what artists have done in North Central, specifically "The Dewdney Avenue Project". This collaborative effort explored the narratives and histories within the borders of North Central. The Executive Director of the project, Elwood Jimmy blogs that this art effort is "in response to the negative press people living in the neighbourhood have been experiencing". He elaborates on the goal of The Common Weal" as a way "to develop art projects, but the other half of the equation is to develop projects that promote positive social change within North Central".

The four artists involved in Common Weal are Cheryl L'Hirondelle, whose audio/radio project captured interviews with elderly and shut-in residents of North Central, and which were aired on CBC.
Edward Poitras, Regina visual artist, contributed art installations.
Terrance Houle was involved in a collaborative video project on the community. His portfolio includes powwow dancing, painting, drawing, performances and installations.
Sandra Semchuk, photo artist, exhibited her work on city transit buses.

Other efforts of Common Weal are the Hip Hop and Graffiti Art Projects, both historically practices of inner urban art. There was an overwhelming response as well as participation in thse offerings for skill development.

It appears that art is very alive and well in North Central, and this multi-media project is a reflection of this.

Terrance Houle, "Pray for Me", The Dewdney Avenue Project


North Central Project - Changing Direction

The sequence of events for Project 1.
September 21st
Some members of the class met me at the Aquatic Center to begin filming the first portion of the boundaries of North Central. As I began filming and placing the CAUTION tape, it became apparent that the high winds were going to be a problem, and that the visual effect was not what I had hoped. I therefore discussed this with my colleagues, and decided a new direction would be the better choice.

After a few false starts, I decided to begin again to focus on some interviews with persons involved in North Central's Community affairs. As I began filming the interviews, it occurred to me that I would be able to capture alot of the images of North Central by video, by filming some of the street-scapes, and a number of very unique images that define life within the borders of North Central.

I began to reflect on my previous work and my style of using counterpositioning images with narrative, to portray ideas that would help the viewer understand what contributes to defining the borders and boundaries of North Central, both within and outside of what is normally considered to be the geographic boundaries of this area.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Project Proposal

Art 490
Project I – Proposal

Evan Tyler
September 16, 2008

EXPLORING THE BORDERS OF “NORTH CENTRAL”, REGINA

The project I am developing is to investigate an area of Regina known as “North Central” located in the inner city, or core area. The recent media attention ignited by the MacLean’s Magazine expose written by Jonathan Gatehouse, and the subsequent responses in the Leader Post, which came from civic government and Regina residents , caused a furor in the city. The finger is pointed at the social and economic conditions of the area which was named “Canada’s Worst Neighborhood” by Gatehouse.

I plan to set out to artistically respond to the perceived sociological and economic boundaries attached to North Central through a series of investigative, interactive and performance events. My focus is not to sensationalize the “urban fright” of the area, nor to sugar-coat the reality that there are sociological and economic issues to be addressed. Rather, I intend to investigate what North Central means to the residents within the geographical borders that define the area, as well as what it means to those who live outside the area, threading together information that will inform my questions, thoughts and experiences around the demographic boundaries pertaining to the north central area. This project plans to explore the area’s culture, and by speaking to the people who reside and work there, will inform and humanize North Central and therefore it is hoped to reintegrate the concept of this area as an integral and important part of the city. Rather than defining a boundary around the area, condemning it through sensationalist media, or ignoring it altogether, it is the responsibility of Regina’s community as a whole to build on an understanding of what is happening and to change our thinking and approach to the issues of these perceived borders, whether geographical or stigmatized, whether from a personal perspective, or a community view, or addressing the social and economic conditions that may exist.

My first plan of action entails a video-based project in which I will interview members of the North Central Community, gathering as much information and feedback about the area that I can. I will also do a video investigation outside the North Central boundaries to broaden my scope of research.










Page 2
Exploring the Borders of “North Central”, Regina


The performance piece will amplify the idea of a physical boundary around North Central by placing a yellow “caution” tape around what may be considered the “skirts” or “borders” that will divide North Central from the rest of the city. This symbolic act will provide a visual reference to the perception that North Central is a danger zone and is therefore a separate entity of urban life within a sociological barricade.

My intent is not to enforce a negative perception or to give it more power, but rather to bring an awareness of the area’s boundaries through visual means in order to create a dialogue around the issues of concern. I hope to have people reflect on their connection to North Central and to the city as a whole. Video documentation of me putting up the yellow tape will be captured and used in the final production along with a spoken word statement, bring context to the piece.

When the interviews, footage and work come together as a video, I plan to display the piece as an outdoor public projection in a North Central location (possibly on a street wall). This public installation will act as the collective representation of my work. The goal of the project is to gather input and experiences, and collage them together to create a piece of art that allows the public to speak to the public about the city.


AFTERTHOUGHTS, THE FUTURE, AND AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

In high school, I collaborated with two fellow students to build a permanent legal graffiti wall where artists could come and freely practice street style art. A series of fundraising events took place including three successful hip hop shows that yielded a profit of $3,000.00. Despite the funds raised, and the press this project received, the wall was ultimately rejected by the City of Regina, perhaps due to the stigma of graffiti-art as an illegal activity, as well it has been used as a potent tool for vandalism. I have a personal history as a graffiti artist and the illegal and guerilla activity it presents in public spaces, as well as the trends and politics it has endured. My goal was never to discredit or change the natural essence of graffiti art, but rather to provide a space for artists to have fun making public art.








Page 3
Exploring the Borders of “North Central”, Regina


The money that was raised has sat untouched while I thought of ideas of what would be the best use of it in the art world. At one point I considered donating it to local graffiti artists who may get legitimate commissions, but this would mean that only a small percentage of artists could participate. It was the idea for the North Central project which sparked an exciting idea for the funds to be used for a more community-based art project.

I am planning to have some contact with representatives of the North Central Community Association and teaching staff at Scott Collegiate regarding this art project, and in loose conversation that I have had with people I met at the Fall Festival, they would welcome a “graffiti project” in North Central. I will plan for this event and my intent is to donate the funds to a North Central art project.

TIME SCHEDULE

I intend to work on this project throughout the semester, aiming to have the outdoor installation/projection ready for mid November. In addition, I am planning some supplementary extensions of this project for the final critiques. For the first set of critiques for September 23rd, I plan on having a body of work in progress to show (interviews and footage of my performance).

Saturday, September 13, 2008







Fall Festival

Saturday, September 13, 2008

ANNUAL FALL FESTIVAL, SCOTT COLLEGIATE PLAYGROUND
1264 Athol Street

Today I visited the Fall Festival event to make some contacts with people who live and work in North Central. I originally heard there was going to be a “Round Dance”, but it turned out to be a Barbeque and play day - the organizers had set up a giant plastic slide and a “dyna-bouncer castle” for the little kids to enjoy. I heard other activities included basketball, field hockey and a tug-of-war I had a very pleasant time talking to some of the people there and they were friendly and willing to share and speak to me. The message was mixed, though, that there were good and bad things about the neighbourhood.

It was most important to note that when I explained my project as an art student, and what I was hoping to accomplish, most of my interviewees brought up the “MacLean’s Magazine” article. There was a mixture of positive and negative signs around the event, for example, this was a family fun event, yet in front of Scott Collegiate, two police cars sat parked. At one point I heard loud rap music coming from a car that pulled up. I recognized the rapper called “The Game”. A few young men got out of the car to see what was going on. After breaking the ice about “The Game”, I spoke to one, “CJ” whose jaws were wired shut due to a fight. I captured his diaglogue on tape. As well I spoke to a young man, Shea McNabb, who used to live in North Central, but now lives in the Cathedral area. He also spoke of the MacLean’s Magazine article and offered some of the things he knew, heard and experienced.

A most interesting interview was taken with the coach of the basketball and football teams of Scott Collegiate. They had just arrived from a game. I introduced myself to him and told him what I was doing and he was very affable and willing to participate in my project. He said he also taught school at Scott Collegiate. He was very positive about the area and the school, the people and his choice to be there.

Other contacts of note was Dauna Ditson, who was the “Marketing and Communications Director” of the North Central Community Association. She was helpful and promised to meet me when she wasn’t so busy, as well as the President of the North Central Community Association, Brenda Mercer. Other people I hope to contact would be Tsquared (employment program), Saskatchewan Abilities Council, and some of the people associated with Scott Collegiate.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Specular Borders

Nam June Paik negotiated between multiple cultures; essentially he was "familiar with two cultures" but chose not to belong in either of these, negotiating between east and west. Paik was the child of a wealthy Korean family (born in Seoul),and was exposed to Western ideas, music, technology and culture from an early age. He lived in Japan during the Korean War, and then in West Germany in the 1950's. He returned to Korea much later (1984) - "The Homecoming".

Nam June Paik: Art
1. "Good Morning Mr. Orwell", 1984
Paik broadcast the George Orwell idea on television to the USA, Netherlands, Germany, France, Korea with a new technology of simultaneously broadcasting. The general idea was based on George Orwell's book "1984" written in 1949, suggesting the world would be under constant surveillance of the "omnipresent TV Eye" called "Big Brother". Paik's message, however, was that the world wasn't so badly off as his work challenged Orwell's prediction.

2. "Bye Bye Kipling", 1986 Paik's second broadcast (again using new technology to broadcast simultaneously to countries). (1986: also Asian Games in Seoul, Korea which helped put a focus on his broadcast and coverage of the games was part of his broadcast). The subject was taken from colonialist writer, Rudyard Kipling's phrase: "East is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet" shown by his broadcast to several countries, that east and west are indeed connected.

Paik lived outside Korea for most of his life. The success of Paik's art demands a critical review on cultural insularity and conservatism. Paik has both of so-called "ours" and "others", "old and "new", "traditional and non-art". He questioned those concepts. In 2001, he adapted his work to a Korean audience.

PAIK'S IDEAS:
1. Art reflects the cultural and ethnic experience of the artist.
2. It is possible to distance yourself from your own cultural experience, but it requires considerable and consistent effort, and is likely to be only partially successful.
3. Paik is representative by a globalizing world where an individual may be born into a particular cultural background, but begins to morph into the multiple influences that he experiences as they are affected by other cultures, experiences, histories, contemporary influences and increasingly by the larger trends of global communications, travel and large culturally diverse cities around the world.
4. The rapidly evolving multi-media technologies of today will cause artists in all parts of the world to both explore their own cultural experience, but also using these methods, to make it available to a global audience. The speed of exploration will increase as more people are able to interact with larger audiences.

Exploring North Central's Borders

The project that I am developing is to investigate an area of Regina known as North Central. This urban location has been identified and stigmatized as "Canada's Worst Neighborhood" by Jonathan Gatehouse's article written for MacLean's magazine, January 15, 2007. It created a furor in the city with descriptions of "frightening" social and economic conditions in this area he geographically describes as: "153 blocks, 153 back alleys, sandwiched in between the CN and CP rail tracks". (J. Gatehouse, MacLeans Magazine, Jan., 15, 2007). The general theme of Gatehouse's article addresses social problems such as poor housing conditions, crime, gang warfare, drugs and alcohol addictions, prostitution, to name a few.

I plan to set out to artistically respond to the perceived sociological and economic boundaries attached to North Central through a series of investigative, interactive and performative events. My focus is not to sensationalize the "urban fright" of the area, nor to sugar-coat the reality that there are sociological issues to be addressed. Rather, I intend to investigate what North Central means to the residents within the area, and those who live elsewhere, threading together information that will inform my questions and thoughts around the demographic boundaries pertaining to the north central area. Ultimately, I wish to humanize the location and begin to reintegrate the concept of North Central as an integral and important part of the city. Rather than creating a boundary around North Central and condemning it through sensationalist media, or ignoring it all together, it is the responsibility of Regina's community as a whole to build an understanding of what is happening and change our thinking and approach to the issues of those borders, whether geographical or stigmatized, whether from a personal perspective, or a community view, or addressing social environments or racial issues as expressed in "Wihtikow City".

My first plan of action entails a video-based project in which I will interview members of the North Central community, gathering as much experiential information and feedback about the area that I can. I anticipate that I will receive a great diversity in responses. I say this because there are variables and diversity in every community by nature. The video investigation will also include the opinions of those living outside the North Central boundaries. It is integral to the project to gather a wide range of responses as possible in order to broaden the scope of my research.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Art about North Central Neighbourhood


Neal McLeod/Gabriel Yahyahkeekoot: collaborative exhibition entitled "That's my Wonderful Town", 2003, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina. Neal McLeod is of Cree heritage who grew up on the James Smith First Nation. Gabriel Yahyakeekoot is a video artist who grew up in Regina. Together they created an installation on the subject matter of the north central area of Regina.

McLeod's art work grew out of the Cree storytelling tradition. He writes in his artist's statement: "The wihtikow is a being within Cree stories which consumes humans, and is similar to a vampire in European culture. The wihtikow's consumption is relentless and without end. As a contemporary Cree painter, I draw upon metaphors and narratives of Cree storytelling in my work. In "Wihtikow City", the city of Regina is conceived as a wihtikow: consuming the life-force and light of Aboriginal people in the massive immigration from reserves in the last forty years". (Neal McLeod, Artist's Statement, "That's my Wonderful Town", 2003) Yahyahkeekoot projected video images of the north central area of Regina onto a part of McLeod's painting to draw attention to the societal injustices toward the people who live there, specificially the First Nation.

Friday, September 5, 2008

On The Alien

The Alien is the outsider - the other who does not fit within the borders of the norm or the masses. The alien is outside the border of what defines a cultural or social group.

"The tension between difference and identity leads to sanctification of the Alien". V. Flusser, On the Alien. "Self-identification requires one to differentiate from others", which leads to discrimination of others. The Alien establishes differences so we can have identity and establish borders.

Crisis of Identity creates a disintegration of a social order. To create identity, the masses create the Alien, the guilty, someone to blame.

Religion: Alien in religious myth is ambiguous. Saints are aliens because they are holy yet "devilish". The Alien "negates" you while at the same time "affirms" you.

Paradigm Shift: The world is changing from the old order - linear system of knowledge now challenged by globalization as well as global/circular networks. (literary vs. internet)

Borders exist when cultures are different: language, experience. Global communication networks are breaking down borders and there is a free flow and exchange of information more easily transmitted around the world. Will this change the way cultures are defined in the future?

Artist as Alien. An artist's role is sometimes that of the activist who may comment on social issues. Artists are interpreters of different cultures, societies, and realities.