Microscopic Attempts of the Community
In 1985, researchers reported that on average Americans had 3 confidants. In 2004, 25% of Americans reported having no confidants—that is they had no one to talk to about personal matters. Modern culture focuses on individualism and forging one’s own path, which often means leaving one’s roots and moving from city to city or country to country. But biologist Lynn Margulis makes the point of saying that independence “is a political, not a scientific term.” We are a social species yet technology and urban development are driving us apart and leaving us feeling lonely and disconnected. Amid this trajectory of weakened human connection, what can art do? While we can still derive pleasure from aesthetic objects, their relevance in today’s world feels less important or powerful. On the other hand, taking action to disrupt the everyday and the norms of society feels necessary.
More than forty years ago, French philosopher Felix Guattari said, “microscopic attempts of the community and neighbourhood committee type…play an absolutely crucial role”; this thinking is the impetus behind my projects. My recent attempts at relational art consist of experiments testing how this art can work as well as exploring methods and tools for social engagement. Even if artists may not always offer a radical critique of society, as Belgian political theorist Chantal Mouffe points out, this isn’t always necessary to be political. What can art do today? It can disrupt, make people think, and it can help create new ways of being.
Relational art: Nicolas Bourriaud defines this as “a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than independent and private space.”
The confidants statistic & the Lynn Margulis reference is from Cacioppo, John T. and William Patrick. Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008.
Felix Guattari quote from Bourriaud, Nicolas. Relational Aesthetics. Dijon: Les Presses du Réel, 2002.
I am an interdisciplinary artist currently working with interventions and printed matter in various forms. I first studied fine arts, majoring in Photography, in 1992 at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design (NSCAD). After graduating from NSCAD, I practiced as an artist for a number of years exhibiting my photography work at the Anna Leonowens Gallery in Halifax, and the now defunct artist-run Exposure Gallery in Vancouver. After being somewhat unsure about the purpose of my photography, I took a break from practicing as an artist but returned after a hiatus of about 10 years. In 2014, I enrolled in full-time studies at Emily Carr University in an attempt to spend focused time on my work.
In the past two years, I have found myself moving away from the idea of art as object, turning instead to actions and printed matter in an attempt to create an experience and to elicit feelings from people in the public sphere. This has led to performing interventions in public spaces and often bypassing the gallery system. In 2013, I founded The Prohibitive Genus Collective through which I run projects that occur in the public sphere. The collective interprets collaboration very loosely and plays around with the definition of what is a collective. My recent work has been experienced mostly in the streets of my neighbourhood in Vancouver and in people’s personal spaces, when they take an apple, a can of sardines, or a zine home.