IN NORTH CENTRAL, REGINA
My current art practice includes many mediums that I have used in the past and include video, sound, still photography, performance, sculpture and drawing. I am experimenting with some new techniques in the editing function and overlays - that is combining images so we are looking at a subject and for example, the surrounding landscape of the neighborhood simultaneously. Some of the themes I have chosen to explore in previous exhibitions and installations are technological change, urban renewal and decay, the media - specifically the effects of advertising on our perception of the world, and a video sketchbook entitled, "super fantastic video art fun party!". As I move forward, I expect to continue to use these mediums in interchangeable ways, and to collaborate with other artists to inform and expand my practice of art-making.
I think it is important to note that in our modern world, there have been rapid shifts over the last half century and these have been facilitated by technological development, communication and the transfer of information. The result is that globally the world is changing and reshaping - borders and boundaries are not so defined and are becoming more blurred. This will further change and transform the identities of cultures and societies and will effect a change in the sphere in which artists work.
Nam June Paik was one of the pioneers of global communication when relatively new technology enabled him to broadcast his art pieces: "Good Morning Mr. Orwell" in 1984, and "Bye Bye Kipling" as a nod to colonialist writer, Rudyard Kipling's phrase: "East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet". The East and the West were indeed "meeting" by his own "specular border" position. Paik was born in Korea, but he lived outside of his native country for most of his life.1/ Villem Flusser in his article "On the Alien" suggests that borders exist when cultures are different, but when global communication networks break down, those borders and the flow of information and language is more easily transmitted. The result will be a "crisis of identity" when these differences are
The North Central project I am currently working on, speaks to the theme of "identity" and as the video work portrays, I suggest questions of identity - how the world including the media (MacLean's Magazine) view the North Central neighborhood; how the residents of North Central view themselves; and how the residents of North Central view those outside of their neighborhood.
Within the context of the borders and boundaries theme, I have come to an understanding that borders are not only geographical, but exist on multiple levels. For example, beyond the obvious geographical boundaries, there exist social boundaries which differ depending on who is the observer. I have had conversations and exchanges with a number of residents of North Central as well as with residents outside of the defined boundaries, and each of these interviews reveal a different concept of what constitutes essence or identity which create the borders in North Central. As well an exploration of the landscape of North Central suggest other groups of people who practice their spirituality in the Buddhist and Hindu temples.
The identity theme has been explored effectively by other artists. For example, James Luna and Rebecca Belmore, both performance artists who work in multi-media, were motivated and inspired to express their shared social and cultural identities. Both challenge the official record of Aboriginal people that was written by the dominant culture and therefore assume the role of "artist as activist". Their works probe the identity that has been conferred upon them through five centuries of colonial presence.
James Luna's "Artifact Piece" displays his body as an artifact in a museum display case with descriptive labels by his scars - the result of alcoholic binges and fights. By placing himself in this way, surrounded by relics and dioramas, Luna contrasts how Aboriginal people are viewed but shows the viewer the reality of their lives in the modern world.3/
Similarly, Rebecca Belmore, a Canadian performance artist, explores issues around race and gender, residential schools, and her Aboriginal heritage. Belmore's symbolic work entitled, "The Fountain" which was perfomed at the Venice Biennale of Visual Art in 2005, calls upon many metaphors, beginning with the title itself as a symbol of water, and therefore life, but also fountains were used in architectural designs in the Renaissance period and were symbols of power and prosperity. The work has a shocking conclusion when Belmore struggles with a "bucket" (symbolic of the burden carried by Aboriginal people) to carry water onto the shore, but when she struggles with the bucket of what we believe to be water, it turns out to be blood which splashes against the lens of the camera.4/
In the North Central Research project, I use a dialogical framework to explore the neighborhood and its culture. The video creates a space to explore identity between the residents of North Central and the rest of the city of Regina, and from national media journalistic reporting, with the citizens of the country. My approach to this project is to explore by means of dialogue and visual imagery, North Central society by probing the physical, cultural and spiritual spaces that divide us.
While North Central is a specific geographical area of Regina, the social circumstance that exists there extends to other parts of the city. It was suggested by Jonathan Gatehouse in his "MacLean's Worst Neighborhood" article that..."while Regina's crime problem may be city-wide, there's no question where its epicenter lies...North Central".5/
My intent is not to enforce a negative perception, or give it more power, or to sugar-coat the positive, but to probe deeper into the layers of cultures that exist and defines identity. As James Luna suggests, the modern problems that exist in his culture require a modern approach. The goal of the North Central video is to bring an awareness of the area's borders, to create a dialogue around the issues of concern, as well as that it is also perceived as a flourishing neighborhood because I have experienced both perspectives as well as the subtle layers of identity that reveal itself through my lens. When I began the project, I attended the "Fall Festival" and I discovered a vibrant and spontaneous group of people who were willing to engage with me. In conversations with residents I encountered an open exchange of communication at times tinged with emotions of passion, agitation, humor, warmth and hope.
In my role as artist in this work, I provide a glimpse into a challenged neighborhood, and to humanize rather than avoid or ignore this area within our city and to integrate it as an important part of the larger community. It is important to note that in my travels as an artist exploring North Central, I was able to identify another layer of culture - that of a flourishing arts community, such as the Common Weal. The "Common Weal Community Arts" links artists and communities to create positive change. The diverse array of multi-media artistic projects have a strong presence in North Central.
"The Dewdney Avenue Project" was a collaborative artistic work that explores not only the current social circumstances, but delves into the history through narratives and shared experiences the of the area. For further information on this work, visit the Common Weal website.
When I selected North Central as an exploration of borders, my crossing the geographical border to study the spaces within, I found a connectedness with the people, the layers of culture and the street-scapes that form a mosaic of identity.
1/ Jieun Rhee: "Reconstructing the Korean Body: Nam June Paik as Specular Border".
2/ Villem Flusser: "On the Alien". From The Freedom of the Migrant: Objections to
3/ James Luna: http://www.jamesluna.com/
4/ Jan Bailey and Scott Watson: Rebecca Belmore, Fountain, Kamloops Art Gallery,
University of British Columbia, Canada Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2005.
5/ Jonathan Gatehouse: "Canada's Worst Neighborhood", Jan. 15, 2007, Vol. 120, Iss. 1;
pg. 20, 7 pgs.