Work-In-Progress (i.e. #WIP) is an Art Gallery of Greater Victoria podcast that offers some insight from behind the scenes to curatorial and educational projects and collaborations that could be seen as open-ended or process-based — highlighting some of the experimental and exploratory work that is taking shape both inside and outside of the AGGV’s physical gallery spaces.
In this episode we are joined by some of the early career artists who were invited to respond to objects from the Gallery’s extensive museum collection in the Reverberations exhibition. Listen as Mel Granley, Guest Curator at the AGGV and your host for this episode, chats with Emily Geen, Estraven Lupino-Smith and James Summer about bringing different voices and interpretations from a range of perspectives, disciplines, and generations into the AGGV’s exhibition spaces. Our hope is that this podcast episode will help extend the relationship building that began with this project and offer additional insights into the new knowledge that these folks brought to the collection!
Learn more about Reverberations at: https://aggv.ca/exhibits/reverberations/
Learn more about the #WIP Podcast at: https://anchor.fm/art-gallery-of-grea…
This podcast series is generously supported by a Canada Council for the Arts Digital Now Grant.
The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is located on the traditional territory of the lək̓ʷəŋən speaking peoples, today known as the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations. We extend our gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to live and work on this territory.
Videography and editing by Marina DiMaio.Work-In-Progress (i.e. #WIP) is an Art Gallery of Greater Victoria podcast that offers some insight from behind the scenes to curatorial and educational projects and collaborations that could be seen as open-ended or process-based — highlighting some of the experimental and exploratory work that is taking shape both inside and outside of th …
About the exhibition
About the exhibition
About the exhibition
The process of selecting an artwork
The process of selecting an artwork
The process of selecting an artwork
Exploring the collection
Exploring the collection
Exploring the collection
What was it like to select an artwork
What was it like to select an artwork
What was it like to select an artwork
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Use CTRL+F to find key words if it is a longer transcript.
Mel Granley: Hi, everybody. This is a Work In Progress, an AGGV podcast
where you’re going to hear
from artists, curators, gallery staff, collaborators,
and even different hosts as you listen to each episode.
I’m Mel Granley, your host for the day. I’m the guest curator at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
and one of the co curators of the exhibition Reverberations.
And so I’d like to start out by introducing myself in my language. Taanisii kiiyawow, Mel dishinikashoon. Mistahi maaka amiskwaciwâskahikan pi Ukraine. Mon faamii Paquette, Chalifoux, Blake, Roland, pi Granley. Nimooy nashkahtayn.
So, hi everyone, my name is Mel, I am from the traditional Métis settlement of Edmonton, otherwise known as maaka amiskwaciwâskahikan,
and my family is also from the Ukraine. My family names are Paquette, Chalifoux, Blake, Roland, and Granley, and it’s really nice to meet all of you today.
This episode is being recorded
and will be produced on the traditional lands of the lək̓ʷəŋən
Speaking Peoples, also known as the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations. Land acknowledgments are a really important
aspect of events and introductions
when you’re hosting something like this.
I like to think of it as a way to remind people
of their responsibility to learn about these lands
and to think of how they came here.
I think a lot of times
land acknowledgments can become viewed as an obligation to fulfill and they become really standardized
and maybe are summed up in one sentence or two.
But it is this opportunity,
and the intention is to contemplate how you got here, why
you’re here, who your ancestors are,
and what your responsibility is to this place.
So I’ve been here for about nine years now. I am from… my family’s from Edmonton,
but I grew up around Calgary and I moved out here in 2013.
Yeah, so in this episode we’re joined by collaborators
from the exhibition Reverberations.
This exhibition aims to bring fresh eyes and minds
to the AGGV’s permanent collection. This exhibition was not only a chance
for the gallery to offer its collection as a resource
for building new relationships within local communities,
but also an opportunity for these artists
to bring their own work into conversation with historical and contemporary art objects from the collection
that they felt a resonance to. Here
today are several of the artists who were invited to select
from the over 22,000 objects in the AGGV’s vault
to share more about their experiences
diving into the basement archives. And so we’re lucky
to be here today with Emily Geen, Estraven Lupino-Smith and James Rodriguez.
They’re three of the artists that we work with on this exhibition. And I will ask them all to introduce themselves.
Estraven Lupino-Smith: My name is Estraven Lupino-Smith. My pronouns are they and them and I’m a settler of Italian,
Scottish and Irish descent.
My family immigrated to Canada in the 1950s and I am based here on lək̓ʷəŋən territory
and I’ve been on these territories for almost five years
and I’m originally from Toronto, which is Dish With One Spoon territory
which is where I was born and grew up.
Emily Geen: My name is Emily Geen. My pronouns are she and her. I am of English French and Irish.
Ancestry. And my family is settled in the Okanagan Valley or Syilx Territory
and that’s where I grew up
until I was finished my undergraduate degree
and then I moved to Victoria
or lək̓ʷəŋən territory for my graduate degree
at the University of Victoria.
And that is also where I teach now. I teach photography and video art, mostly there.
And it’s coming up on close to nine or ten
years that I’ve been here.
James Rodriguez: Hi, my name is James Rodriguez. Rodriguez is a Spanish
name from my dad, who comes from El Salvador,
and I’ve been located here in the lək̓ʷəŋən Territories
for ten years.
I have been doing poetry and mostly spoken word since 2017.
So I’m not sure, how many years is that, because
I’m not very good at math, but yeah, basically a little hot minute.
About the exhibition
Mel: That’s amazing. I’d like to like set the stage
a little bit for people listening in on how this process worked.
So this exhibition began with conversation in a backyard
between my co-creators Nicole Stanbridge and Heng Wu where
they had the idea to bring different generations and communities in, to look at our collection and create artwork in response.
The idea was to create a dialog between artwork and artists
as well as keeping our collection alive.
Collections are often stuffed away
into a vault underutilized and unseen. What was the process
of selecting an artwork from our collection like?
The process of selecting an artwork
James: All right, I could start off with this one because for me, First of all, I have always had such a soft spot for sculpture,
and I wish that it was something
that I could go into more as my journey with art moves on
and I probably will.
But just everything that you brought out in the pictures
for me to look at was just so, so like me, I loved it.
It was just such interesting works with glass and light,
and I really loved that.
I feel like that really connected to already
kind of what my writing is inspired by.
And the two works that really stuck out for me, I think were
just the ones that I chose immediately was the Home is Office
and Soft Works for Complicated Needs by Robert Youds.
And yeah, they were just so beautiful to me
and I feel like both the… you know, Mel, we talked about
the titles of them and how we also just
we felt really connected to that.
And I just feel like it worked out so perfectly
because, you know, first, Home is Office it was made in 2001.
But that sculpture is so interesting because just the title
Home is office and you know, when I looked at that,
that picture of it, at first I felt like it was… My interpretation
was like someone took the roof off of an office room
and you were like kind of looking into like an abstract
little office. And so once again, even though it was made in 2001 I felt like that
was really special to what’s been going on right now.
And in 2022 I feel like, yeah,
we are opening up a little bit more from everything
that’s been going on, but I feel like there’s a lot of individuals
that are still, you know, homebound and you know, like me, I
other than my work in poetry, I just work a full time retail job.
So I just go to work and I come home and that’s it. Not… you know, just because that’s all I really have to do.
So I think that it still is interesting to have those conversations
of what has it been like to be working from home.
I think we’ve talked about that a lot. I feel like I’ve heard so many people talking about… you know,
the phrase working at home but that’s so different for all of us.
And for some of us, it’s like totally brand new.
We’ve never worked at home before. And so it can feel really isolating
and that’s basically what I kind of dedicated
that piece to that
I wrote about, you know, that feeling of being in a room.
And I think I talked about a little bit about like blue light. And there’s a lot of, like, light in that sculpture.
It’s not blue, but just like talking about light kind of
that was referring to like coming from
like a screen, like we, you know, can from the push of a button
talk to so many people.
But in our physical space,
we’re sometimes just one person in a room.
So that’s kind of
what was my experience with choosing the sculptures. And I just felt like they really connected to what was going on
right now and conversations that I feel like I hadn’t gotten
to have if I hadn’t been alone in a room just like thinking about,
you know, what am I going to write about for this piece?
So yeah, it was so fun, so interesting. It was really enjoyable.
Exploring the collection
Mel: It was really fun for me too, because I’m newer to the gallery. So when you gave me your key words, I was able to explore
the collection and see the variety of items that we had.
And I remember I sent you the list of items and you emailed me back
and you’re like, I like all of them.
Yes. Yeah. We had to narrow it down, but I’m really happy that we went with Robert Youds’ pieces.
I love the poem that you wrote about Home is Office.
I feel like it strikes such a deep, visceral chord,
like beginning with the discussion about early human
and then going into like what we’re dealing with now. And I loved the title like immediately when I saw it
because I just thought
the context of the phrase Home is Office has changed so much
from when the piece was made just because of COVID
so I was really happy when we chose Robert’s work. There’s also an interesting connection to one of the other artists
in the room with Robert, Emily, actually.
Emily: Yeah, I’m like chomping at the bit to be like, I know him! [Laughter]
Rob, if you’re listening to this, I hope you don’t laugh too hard, or I hope you do.
Yeah, James, I was so pleased to see that you chose Rob’s work
because I got to say, I bookmarked his work too,
because he was my grad supervisor
when I was doing my masters at UVic.
But I was like,
I don’t know if I want to pick my grad supervisor for my response.
Sorry, Rob, but yeah, like, I was just so pleased to see that you did
because then I got to be like,
neighborly with Rob in the gallery in the end. And also I was just like, so
enthused to see, like, the relationship to James’ poetry because Rob is totally a poet as well.
Like, he had work at Open Space, I forget what year,
but it was like projected text and it was in blue
and it filled the gallery wall and I forget what the text
was about, but there’s definitely like kindred spirits there.
What was it like to select an artwork
James: Oh, that’s so amazing. I had no idea that he worked with poetry. Yeah.
Oh, my gosh. You learn something new every day. That’s so awesome. Emily: Yeah. But anyway. Yeah, so, Mel, I could respond to that question
as well of like, what was it like to select an artwork?
I found it, like, sort of challenging, actually. I spent like probably 3 hours
or so scrolling through the collection,
while my eyes sort of glazed over. And, yeah, there was just so much, I think I was like
paralyzed with indecision just because there was so much.
And I’m sort of at a crossroad in my practice right now
too where I don’t quite know, like
where it’s going and like what
sorts of works would respond to what I’m doing right now.
And because of the sort of short turnaround and
between when Nicole reached out to me
and when the exhibition was going to occur
and the fact that I was pretty busy with teaching,
I decided to work with works that I already had.
I don’t know how that process works for other people,
but like I didn’t make new work for this show.
However, I thought it was kind of cool to sort of take old works that never really got shown before
and bring them into the future and think well,
the future, the present… and think about them now
and use like a work from the collection as a way to do that.
Similarly, Nicole was a major part of like helping me decide
what work to use or what work to respond to.
And she actually suggested a completely different work
at first it was by Marlene Creates.
It’s called… I have it written down here,
Dwelling and Transience, Greater Victoria, from the year 2000.
And I kind of liked that it was like this Millennium commission
that she had. She’s an East Coast artist
who was invited out to do this commission
for like the turn of the millennium and it was like these
banal images of Victoria
and I work with a lot of banal images of Victoria,
but her work was massive
it was like it was going to take up like a whole gallery wall.
And there was a conversation
about like how my work would be in relationship to that. So we ended up sort of choosing a different work.
And I had bookmarked one page of the North
American Time Zone series, which is what I ended up responding to,
but it was really hard for me to know like what that work was
because they just kind of look like these gritty black
and white photographs. And what was the turning point for me
was that I was able to come into the gallery
and like physically look at the work and then I was like, Yes, this is a good decision for me
because that work is like, it’s like a portfolio.
And so being able to like flip through it and like understand
the physicality of those images was really important to me.
I’m photo based on my work, but like physical… physicality of materials is super important to my practice.
So it felt right after I was actually able to look at the work in person. And I found the online browsing
to be just like so difficult actually.
So yeah. Mel: Yeah, you’re touching on a lot of points
about like the inaccessibility of museum collections
but I appreciate you bringing those points up
and I love your work in the space.
It works so well with the works you picked.
I love that picture… Nicole told me the story. There’s like one picture of a woman laying on the floor,
she told me that’s your mom. [Laughter]
Emily: Yeah, so maybe just like, quickly,
what those works are is they’re like basically collages,
I guess you might call them collages,
but they’re just photos that I transferred from my, like, phone
archives. I’ve just, like, random photos that I’ve taken. I used stuff to transfer them to my computer
because I would, like, run out of storage space on my phone,
and they would pop up and preview, which is like Apple’s software for viewing images,
and it would just make this beautiful stack of images.
And I was like, Oh, my God, that’s beautiful. And I just took a screenshot of it.
And then that turned into a process.
So I would manipulate it a little bit. I would like intervene
and like delete certain ones to reveal what was underneath.
But yeah, that image is of my mom, because she was helping me move,
I left Victoria after I finished my
graduate program because Victoria, the hard place
to stay in after school unless you have something lined up.
And I didn’t. I left and I came back two months… or four months later,
to start teaching.
I left and came back several times,
but I was in a lot of… The works also encapsulate like a very transient time in my life
where I was bouncing around all over BC and elsewhere.
And my mom is amazing and she was very instrumental
in like helping me sort of navigate that time in my life.
And that’s her with a sore back after helping us clean out the apartment. And she’s just like laying on the cold apartment floor
trying to help her back out a little bit.
But I asked her, I was like, Mom, there’s this image of you
I want to use. Are you OK with it? And she looked at it and she’s like, Yeah.
And I was surprised because like,
I thought she’d be too embarrassed, but I’m so happy that she agreed
because it’s everybody’s favorite image.
Mel: Yeah. I really love it. Estraven would you like to…
What was it like being a part of the exhibition
Estraven: Yeah. I’d love to say a couple of things. Similarly, there was like a shorter,
I guess, turnaround time for me being a part of the exhibition.
So it felt a little bit
like the pressure was on to find the perfect thing, you know? And yeah, for me
because I was really thinking about materials
I was trying to search the collection based on those materials
and/or based on like theme,
which is not how the collection,
I guess, software or organizing software… where it’s like you can’t put in like resource extraction as like a theme,
which is not how a collection works at all.
But I guess in that I would say like a couple of things
about the difference between like a museum collection
and like a publicly accessible archive, which I hadn’t really thought about it before this,
but it really made me think about that.
And like a funny aside
that really brought that to life for me was that I was explaining,
you know, like I was having dinner with some friends
and it was the next day that I was going to come in to like
view some of the pieces that I asked the collections staff
to like pull so that I can take a look at them closer
and I was explaining, like even when I worked at the gallery,
like I didn’t have access to the basement,
you know, it’s like certain people only and it’s all these rooms
and it’s a vault really and all these things.
And he was like, Oh, should we set up a heist? Like as a joke, but it was this kind of thing where like someone who doesn’t have
any experience with art at all is like, Well, what’s down there?
You know? And the answer, I think, for a lot of us is like,
I don’t really know. Like some of the folks who’ve been at the museum for a long time
know that because they’re also carrying the institutional memory.
But if you haven’t been there for a long time, it really is like…
I mean, it’s so awesome to have this like digital searching tool,
but it’s still so limited
because I think we’re going to talk about this more later, but because you don’t have a relationship to any of that
programing over time just by having it collected, you know?
And so, yeah,
it made me think a lot about how we access these kinds of works and like what happens in a museum when you’re acquiring things
and like what’s the purpose of acquiring and that.
Yeah. And maybe based on some of the questions,
I can say more about that later. But anyway, I so yeah, similar to Emily,
I really was just like scrolling and scrolling and scrolling.
Like I clicked on like certain things and I was like,
I’m just going to search all of “A” or all of “contemporary art”
or all of… you know, like big broad things
just so that I could really try to take in some of that.
And that’s how I found Sonny’s works – Sonny Assu.
And something just really struck me about his pieces.
I work with a lot of natural material, I guess, in my work.
And so seeing these big pieces of cedar
that are sort of displayed as masks, there was something…
Yeah, it just really resonated with me and I was like,
I want to see those. And then I also very luckily before the show happened,
to have a chance to actually talk to Sonny.
So we did a Zoom call with Nicole, myself and him. And it was really neat to hear the background of the work
because that gave me sort of even more of like some context
for how the work was produced. And so the pieces were actually collected from his home community.
Where like a fancy luxury log cabin building company, butts up right next to like the edge of like the res
or like the community.
And they cut down a bunch of cedar trees
to make these beautiful log cabins then and shipped them away. And so there was something really…
And those pieces are like the offcuts.
And so he said he took quite a few over time,
and was over time trying to figure out what to do with them. But that part really started to resonate where I was like,
oh, this is like
not only just like a native species to this area, but,
you know, Cedar has so much, in a variety of different nations,
the communities, even right here on Vancouver Island,
so much reverence and so much cultural value and use.
Whereas the work that I was doing that I was hoping to use
and to continue to make work, that’s about species that were imported here
through various roots of settlements.
And so it seemed like there was something really interesting
going on about land… connection to land base
and just thinking about sort of the layered histories
of those different plants. Mel: Yeah, I really love how the search process made
you think about acquisition and how that… thinking about how museums
How the search process made you think about acquisition
acquire works and have their works in their vaults influence
the way that you went about choosing a piece.
And I think you and Sonny’s works they work so well together,
I think the conversation between them just works really well
and it’s really beautiful. And I’m really grateful
you were able to be in the show on such short notice.
OK, so the next question, through reverberations,
there were many layers involved in
creating this exhibition, layers that are steeped in relationship
building with artists and a range of communities.
These are essential aspects to artistic and curatorial practices that often go unseen by the broader public.
And arguably this important
process based work has become more invisible
to our audiences over the last year as the AGGV and all museums
have been forced to grapple with the challenges and surviving
and maintaining relevance during the COVID 19 pandemic.
In the spirit of offering some additional
transparency of process, could you share a little bit more about what may have transpired
behind the scenes as the exhibition took shape?
Youth Poet laureate
James: Yeah, going back to talking about, you know, Home Is Office,
I really was in my own office
just kind of like sitting on the floor
and just like trying to muddle up these poems.
And I was really nervous
because also I had just finished my term as youth poet laureate.
And when I was doing that term, it was…
I had to be really cautious of, not what I was saying
and what my poetry was about, but you know who my audience was
because, you know, the people who I was working with was the youth.
And I wanted to make sure that, you know,
I was able to connect with them and that,
you know, that it was a little bit more geared towards them. And also, I was asked to do a lot of work for the city.
And so when you actually do the application for youth poet laureate
they ask you to submit a… or for me at least
they asked me to submit a poem that I would do in a casual setting
and a poem that I would do in a professional setting
because I would be doing
you know, I would be speaking for like city meetings as well.
That’s part of your duties being the poet laureate. So I did have to kind of, you know, think about what work
I was choosing to perform and so coming from that
and then like coming back into the world of like, OK,
you’re free, like just write whatever.
I feel like when I was doing that term, I was a little bit
restricted that I just I wanted it to connect with them.
And so there were some experiences that I held that I was really experiencing in that moment
that I kind of wanted to like keep back for later.
And so when I got to do this project,
that was just so like fun for me
because, you know, I just really felt like,
OK, I’m writing a piece and you know,
the point is just I’m going to really just enjoy the experience
of writing it and just, you know,
the whole year I had been worrying about, you know,
what’s the outcome going to be?
What is this going to look like on stage? What is this going to, you know…
how is this going to be responded to?
And so with this piece, these two pieces that I wrote responding to the two sculptures, or three, because the
the Soft Works for Complicated
Needs there’s two soft pieces.
So when I was writing it,
I was just like, OK, just like what do these mean for you?
And when I did the soft works,
which are these like pillows, basically,
I really just loved how they were folded.
And I had just kind of thought about another aspect of having,
you know, us
all been in isolation was that, you know, our bodies…
and I feel like our bodies have been changing through this time.
And you know, we’ve been in a different environment. And so I think, like,
I saw the two pieces and I saw them as like bodies
and like you know, our bodies fold and our bodies are like…
They can be flexible. They cannot be flexible.
Like, they can just, you know, move
and they don’t always have to be beautiful.
Like, you know, they’re just bodies and they just exist. And that’s where the title of that poem for those two soft works…
I don’t remember what the title of my own body was.
Oh, it was Existing Next To Each Other, or something, something…
And that’s basically what I felt like from that was,
you know, seeing
those two pillows was like existing
you know, we can be just bodies and we can just exist.
And even if we’re next to each other, even with were far apart,
you know, we’re kind of all as one.
And so that kind of brought me into like that
poem is a lot more writing about like nature
and breathing and water and flowing and the moon and how,
you know, we are water.
And so the moon, you know, affects us
just like it affects the ocean. And so, yeah, those two pieces just really got me into like writing
just for genuinely what I was interested in
and what I wanted to write about.
Same with Home Is Office. Even just like I said before, it was made in 2001
and for me… I was born in 2002.
But like I love that year just because I love film.
I’m super interested in film. And whenever I see that year I think of 2001 A Space Odyssey.
It’s one of my favorite movies of all time
because my dad got me into film.
And so when I was a little kid,
he was like, I’m going to show you one of my favorite movies, kid. You’re going to love this. And I was like,
What the heck is going on like this?
Like it’s such a weird movie for a dad to introduce
a kid to, to like get into the world of film.
But I’m very grateful for it because it’s just I love that movie. And so that was the inspiration for the beginning
of like starting off with, you know, like the first man
and like creating tools and, you know, being creative
even though you don’t really know
you’re being creative. To now,
which like sitting me… when I was sitting alone in that office
making that poem, what was going through
my head was like insecurity. And feeling like is…
how far can we go until no idea is original
and until you know, we’ve just used all these materials up
and there’s nothing left to make.
And, you know, how can I be creative when,
you know, all these artists from before me
have just already made the masterpieces is basically
what I was feeling like in my insecurity.
And so I just kind of threw that into my writing
and it just came out as like, you know, this piece about isolation
and like, “is there left to make in the office?”
Which is what the title is called.
And so, yeah, that was just, it was very interesting and such a lovely experience
to get back into really my own style of writing.
Mel: I love your reference to Space Odyssey. I think that’s amazing
and I love that that was part of the influence
I also think it is very interesting,
like the lens that you were able to switch from,
from being the youth poet laureate
and that you sort of had to be more conscious,
conscious of the content you were writing about,
and that with this exhibition you were able to be a bit more free.
That makes me happy
that we were able to like facilitate that for you. And also that this is sort of like your last thing in Victoria
before you move to Vancouver and film school.
Which is super exciting. Yeah James: Yeah, It was such a great like transitional project to do, for me.
It was just the perfect thing to help me move on
from that last year of really hard but really interesting work.
Mel: I think that a part of this exhibition too is just like creating
relationships with people and creating connections between us
as curators and with you, the artists,
because those connections, you know, they’ll continue on
down the years and down the line
and you know, like if I’m working later
in the future, maybe at a different gallery,
I could think of a project where a poet might be needed. And I’d be like, Oh, I’ve worked with James before,
and it was a delight to work with him
or anything that relates to either Emily or Estraven’s work
and things like that.
You know, those connections are lasting
and they’re things that you build over time.
So I’m really grateful
that we were able to do that with this exhibition. Estraven: I can say a little more about sort of my process.
One of the great things about being asked
to be part of the show at this time is that I’ve been an artist
in residence, fellow at the Center
for Studies and Religion and Society at UVic, this year.
It was a really nice way to take a bunch of the work
that I produced during the residency so far
and share it and felt really very fortuitous,
I guess, that it was now
and the largest piece that’s in the… in with
my work is called Landscape Liturgy, which is also what I sort
of… the title of the project that I had pitched in my application
for the CSRS residency and I did that one most recently.
And part of what happens at the CSRS is that every day,
well Monday to Friday at 11 there is what’s called a coffee talk.
And sometimes it’s just sort of
we just choose something to speak about. And other times
you know, people come and do dry runs on conference presentations
or somebody is working on something
and they want to present it or whatever. And so I actually set up
my loom… Actually I was kind of lucky that we ended up doing mostly
most of the coffee talks after the winter break via Zoom,
because even though I often was in my office down the hall,
I set up one of the looms
and actually wove while we were having these discussions. And so part of that was directly related to my project
with the CSRS,
which is thinking about weaving as a form of ritual
or kind of what gets tangled up when you’re weaving.
And so what ended up happening
was that so much of the piece was actually produced while I was in conversation with all of these other fellows
and the staff and scholars there at the center,
you know, about really tough issues like climate change
religion, the war in Ukraine and reconciliation.
And just like so many things,
we really talked about all kinds of current events. I guess not just… like it’s not really a theology place.
Certainly I would have very little to contribute if it was. But yeah. So that I think was really neat.
And so it’s really neat to see up and displayed and think about all those different layered conversations
that happened while it was being produced.
And just, I guess in general thinking about what happens…
I guess with my work like making with my hands,
collecting things from the landscape,
processing them with my hands and that weaving itself is like,
you know, thousands and thousands of year old ritual or tradition
that I’m also like embodying when I’m doing that.
So I guess that’s kind of like the background
of how those pieces were created. But I think all the ones that were there
were produced during the time that I’ve been a resident there, at UVic. Mel: I think that’s very interesting. It makes me think of how
the gallery space is so removed from the actual creation process. And I think a lot of times
people don’t think of where the work was made or
the context it was made in. So no one would think that, oh, this person made these weavings while they were on coffee breaks
or while they were talking about these issues with other people
and how those conversations may have influenced your weaving
and things like that, you know?
And so I think this is like a great space
for that information to come out for people to hear about that.
I also think about James
writing poetry in his room or something and maybe writing it
on a Google doc or on a sheet of paper first
and then it getting transferred into this new video format.
And then Emily’s process, which we’ll hear more about. You’ve already heard a little bit about that,
like uploading photos to her phone and
Yeah, sort of. Curating them. Emily: Digital struggles. Yeah.
Mel: And how that all comes together, like in the space and it becomes removed, that story,
that the work was created from is sort of removed.
So thank you, Estraven, for that insight into how the pieces were made
and what was going on while you made them. That’s awesome.
So a key component to this exhibition is the idea of relationships
and we’ve already talked about a few of the relationships
that we’ve found woven into this exhibition,
but we were interested in the relationship
between our incoming artists and our collections artists
as well as the relationship we as curators can create
between ourselves and the artists we were working with.
How did relationships factor into the way your work took place in this exhibition, and can you speak to any unexpected connections or developments?
Emily: Yeah, I could jump in next. Yeah, so Nicole and I worked together, as we mentioned, but yeah,
in terms of like relationship building, it’s been cool for me
because actually when I was working with Rob as a grad student,
I needed to choose somebody to be my external examiner.
So for my oral defense,
there’s like a committee of people, faculty in the department, but then you need somebody from outside of that department
to serve on your
examination. And so that can be like someone else at UVic,
or it could be somebody outside of UVic.
And Rob suggested Nicole Stanbridge.
And so I had her for a studio visit, and then like chose to work with her for that,
or she was able to volunteer time for that.
And yeah, so that’s how I first met her, but that’s in 2015 and then in 2019… or 2018/2019,
I applied to do a public art project at the Victoria Airport
and I was unsuccessful.
Charles Campbell got that commission and it’s a beautiful work. You should definitely check it out if you’re ever moving through YYJ, in the new wing there, now that we can travel.
But Nicole was on the jury for that. I was shortlisted
and she was on the jury and the work that I proposed for that,
I think that’s sort of like what stuck out in Nicole’s mind and
sort of reached out to me for this based on what I pitched then.
So it’s just cool for me
as somebody who’s been in the Victoria art community for a little while now to sort of
see how these threads sort of continue over time.
And as an artist, you know, you get rejections,
you know, you don’t win them all obviously.
And I was definitely like really excited
about that public art project, but it wasn’t the time for me then and it’s
cool to see how that sort of turned into something else
and how the thinking that was going on then has come forward
into the work that I showed in Reverberations.
So for me personally, that’s kind of cool. And yeah, it’s been great
getting to know Nicole better through this process.
Mel: Your story about the airport artwork feels serendipitous, I guess, that you ended up in this exhibition.
Emily: Totally, totally. Yeah. Mel: And all three of you have works in the exhibition
that are also connected to some sort of invitation to the public
to create, contemplate or engage more deeply with the exhibition
to find their own reverberations, so to say.
Would you like to comment on these participatory moments throughout the show? Or participatory artwork more broadly?
Estraven: Yeah, I really like that part of the show. Also, I think any time that there’s something
people can engage with, even if it’s not just that activity,
but doing the activity just helps folks like linger
and let them maybe process what else they’re taking in,
in the works themselves.
And also just like a big part of my practice, I would say is like a social practice kind of thing, either
through doing something that’s like more formally a workshop
or otherwise. And I really
think that, that part can be really transformational.
I think that there’s definitely something
to just going and experiencing works and just letting, you know… taking something in and taking a look at something
that other people have created, especially in a show like this
where there is this conversation happening between the paired work
and then also all the work together.
In the show. But I think that can be really helpful in a gallery. And I think it also…
I think it also helps folks maybe who wouldn’t normally
think of going to like an art gallery as a thing to do potentially.
If you see a show that has a little more conversation
happening, where you can sort of just… Like with me,
I have built this loom out of two by fours, that’s really meant to be exactly this kind of tool. Like I haven’t actually woven on that loom.
I use it mostly for these kinds of things, community participation or leaving it somewhere
and seeing how people interact with it or those kinds of things.
I think it lets people be a bit more involved and I think
that can be a kind of interesting thing to have happen
in like a big museum gallery. James: I feel like, with having the ability to write your own poetry
for that part of the exhibit…
I really got into poetry because of workshops and things like that
and you know, those things where you can participate
and do a little bit of writing and stuff like that.
That is totally what got me into poetry because, you know,
I feel like with artists mostly it’s like when you hear,
when you’re younger and you hear like the word artist, it’s like
such… at least for me, it was such a
a title to have! Like to be an artist is so, you know, fulfilling
and you can create so many things
but I feel like as I was growing up, it was like,
can I be that though?
And it’s so hard when you haven’t started to reach out
into doing that and into creating and how do you even begin?
And so I think having those, you know, workshops and just,
you know, even just having a little piece of paper
and pen in front of someone who has already created something, it’s
just… it kind of takes a little bit of the vulnerability away.
And whether you decide to share that piece of paper
that you wrote something on or whether you decide to keep it,
it’s just like opening a door into, OK, I can do it.
You know, it’s just, takes a little bit and it just takes an idea. And then you’ve got a little something and then that little
something turns into a little bit more something.
And then I always find that when I was doing…
I remember in high school, actually, we had a teacher or a coach,
I think for slam poetry come into our school
and she had us, you know, if you would like,
I have a prompt and you can
you know, write about… just write a sentence based on the prompt.
And so I had, and I had taken that home with me
and I continued to expand on it once I was at home.
And that turned into something like totally new. And that probably was like one of my first times
writing a little poem
that was like not for a class project it was just for me. And I was like, oh, wow.
Like, that’s something I can do
and that I can, like, continue to do. So I think having those bits of,
like, opening it up to the public is so important
because especially after having a year of working with youth,
I think it’s so important because, you know, youth,
no matter how old you are, you just, you know, write a little bit
and you just get to see that you have created that.
It’s so important for everyone. I think it’s so healthy too. So I just love that.
I just love that that was there and I love, you know, work where
you get to participate and create your own little bit.
And so, yeah, that’s basically my take on that.
I think it’s very important to have. Mel: Thank you for sharing that. I really agree that… Or I love that you brought up the idea of encouraging people to step into art I think that’s a really important thing
Stepping into art
and thinking about
like how it can be an intimidating thing to come into.
And your experience of working with younger people and fostering
their artistic abilities, I think that’s really amazing.
Yeah, and I want to acknowledge also like people who come into art later in life,
I love when an artist starts painting when they’re like 45.
Or when someone starts painting
when they’re like in their sixties. I think participatory art is really important in like enabling that.
So thank you so much for bringing that up, James. I really appreciate that point.
Emily: Yeah, maybe I’ll just share about how I addressed that. Also, when I first walked in the gallery to the writing
station, it was like near the beginning of the open house day,
and I think someone had said something about Emily’s work,
but I think they were talking about Emily Carr, not my work.
But for a second
I was like, Oh, they’re talking about my work. Oh, I think they’re talking about Emily Carr.
And that just leads me to say that like,
I think a lot of people come to a place like the AGGV
you know, in the summer to see some of the,
you know, names that they would associate with a place
like Victoria, like Emily Carr, and I think as an artist
myself, I’m very tired of Emily Carr shows
and artists in BC. Yeah, I’m just really tired of Emily Carr shows. That’s my personal take on things.
And OK, so we’ve got like an Emily Carr show
right next to this Reverberations show, I think.
And then people who come for
maybe one thing are in this other space and there’s all this stuff that they don’t really know what to do
with, like it’s not paintings.
So I think having those little moments
that are a little less formal
is like, yeah, a way to let people in, because sometimes contemporary art
can be not very friendly in that way.
And this is my first time showing work in an institution
of this sort of level of like programing and support
so it’s not been an option for me to sort of like
have this sort of engagement component to my work.
So I wasn’t sure exactly how to deal with it, but I just figured
having… mine is just like a verbal or textual invitation.
And I was thinking about
how sometimes like interpretive panels are really opaque
like I don’t like reading them sometimes
because it’s always sort of the same language. And yeah, sometimes
if it’s just worded a little bit more casually or a little bit more
in a little bit more of an open manner in inviting people in,
that’s maybe a little bit better. So that’s what I chose to do.
I just ask people to reflect on how they
relate to their own image archives
and just ask people to think about how… Think about their own personal images, how I think about my images and question
the role of digital technology and how they archive their lives.
Contemporary vs traditional art
Mel: I thank you for bringing up this comparison drawn
between contemporary art and more traditional art.
Like Emily Carr and painting. I also have opinions about Emily Carr. [Laughter]
So I do think it’s really good and beneficial
to more traditional art viewers that there’s Emily Carr,
but then there’s three rooms full of contemporary art.
So I think contemporary art can be a lot for people
to grasp and digest initially.
Emily: Yeah, if you don’t have the frame of reference for it,
it can sometimes be hard to walk into it.
Mel: Yeah, and I’ve worked in a few galleries over the years
and there’s so many different types of visitors and how people like
go through an exhibition space. There are people who read everything
and spend 5 minutes at each piece,
and then there are people who just sort of like run through
and maybe like don’t read, they don’t read anything and they’ll look at something
that they like for a little bit longer than other things.
Or there are people who are really selective
about what they read. So that also speaks to like… it’s interesting
to see like what people engage with for longer amounts of time
so I think that the inviting people to participate in the reading or the writing of a poem
is a way to make the space more comfortable for them, maybe.
Yeah, yeah. James, do you have time to ask your questions? James: Ah, yes, I do. I guess my question is
kind of like going back to Robert Youds.
When I decided on those pieces
I had already gotten like some blurbs from Mel
with like descriptions,
but I decided I would go down the rabbit hole of Google
and Google his name and see… and I ended up,
you know, downloading like an entire document
that was like an archive, like list of every single place
like his work had been or something.
So that’s just like downloaded onto my computer now. But basically when I
decided to do that Google search, I was so… I was like, Oh no,
this guy is so awesome.
How am I going to respond to his work?
And so I was wondering if, like either of you had felt
any like intimidation or pressures by responding to someone else
and how you kind of navigated through that?
Emily: Cool yeah, maybe I’ll just jump on by saying, yeah,
I felt some pressure and maybe that’s… maybe that’s why… because I looked at Sandra Meigs’ work and I looked at Robert Youds’ work.
I think there might be even Vikky Alexander’s
work in the collection? All these people were on my committee,
at UVic, but it felt too close and I needed a bit more distance.
So I ended up choosing work
that I had actually never encountered before.
I didn’t realize N.E. Thing Co. was like a precursor
to photo conceptualism or like they’re known for that.
So they’re sort of like a big deal, N.E. Thing Co. But I think it was sort of nice that I didn’t go into it
thinking of them as a big deal.
But yeah, I think that yeah… Their work is from like 1970.
It feels so far away. So I think that distance helped me to feel intimidated.
Estraven: Yeah, and similarly, I was definitely intimidated, or just like especially
because I had the chance to meet Sonny, but I didn’t know him from
before. So like what if he says no, you know,
what if he’s like, no, I don’t want to be in,
you know… It seemed unlikely, but it’s just like
maybe there might be something about what I presented
that just wasn’t part of how he envisioned his work being presented. And since he’s a living person,
you know, he was right there to get to have that conversation with.
And also, I at least, I’m
somebody who thinks a lot about responsibility and the vulnerabilities
of putting your work in the world and how people will see that. And well, of course, we can never know for sure
how they will respond to it in every possible way.
But thinking about what it means
to put work in conversation together and that you’re kind of
responsible for some of those conversations. So, yeah, I definitely felt a lot of, I guess
being a bit intimidated, feeling a lot of the responsibility,
I guess, in this type of show where it’s not just like,
well, here’s my work and I can, you know, as most of us have been
in the last little while, like talk about our work
and how we think about it and what we’re trying to do with it. But as soon as you’re in
this kind of really particular kind of intimate conversation…
And I think with me and Sonny’s work part of the reason it works
well is also there’s like a bit of tension
not between us, but it just like creates a space for tension
around materials and land based
and that kind of thing, which I think is really cool. But, you know, again, with tension, there can be some…
Yeah, you’re holding a space that can be a bit…
well you don’t always know what will happen. So, yeah, I’m so thankful for the way that it turned out.
And yeah, I think I’m always a little bit nervous to share my work,
not just in like my heart.
Here you go, you know? Or like, oh,
I spent 1000 hours making this thing. And maybe it just won’t be up to my own standards on anyone else’s.
But also just that sense of responsibility.
I think it’s always there’s always there for sure.
James: Yeah. That’s so interesting. I definitely felt that. I mean, I just,
Oh my goodness, just going through even more of Robert’s pieces,
I was like, just they are so amazing.
And I just fell in love with all of them. But that in itself made me really nervous about what I was going
to be writing about just because I was like, I hope it lives up
to some sort of standard where like these beautiful sculptures
are just, like, so unique and fun to look at.
And I was just like, OK, you can do it. But yeah, I was pretty nervous about it.
Emily: I think… I’m sorry I just want to jump in and just say like, I think that what’s so cool about this exhibition
Living up to a standard
is it sort of, you said like living up to a standard,
this sort of like de-standard like de-standardizes…
Like there’s… Right? Like there’s poetry,
there’s a composer, there’s Chinese calligraphy,
there’s like… There’s not like a hierarchy. And I think that’s cool to see.
And just having younger generations responding to
I think… Well, Sonny Assu’s work isn’t in the far off
distant past but like a lot of us are responding to older… Some of those
Chinese calligraphy works were very old.
So it’s cool to bring that timeline into the gallery. Mel: I also wanted to speak to like the sort of trepidation
of being an emerging artist or an early career artist.
And how everything… You don’t have that experience. You feel like you have to live up to these certain things.
So I appreciate you bringing that up, James, because I don’t know if you would consider yourselves
I consider myself an emerging curator. I definitely don’t have as much experience as my co curators,
but I learned a lot through this exhibition.
I got a lot of experience with this exhibition. It was one of my first exhibitions working with like real artists
and not just the collection.
It’s a totally different experience. It’s really rewarding working with people.
And there are times where I felt like, Oh,
I’m not answering my emails quick enough, or I’m not going as fast
as my other co-creators and yeah, it’s just interesting,
everything comes together the way it’s supposed to.
And I think, Emily, I really like your point
about the Non-hierarchical system of the exhibition.
I love that it’s so interdisciplinary
and how there’s so many different mediums that are in the show.
Like Rob’s pieces are so unique. There’s poetry in the space, being spoken into the space,
there’s weaving with natural materials.
The Chinese calligraphy is so beautiful, and the composition,
the musical piece by Anna Höstman is just amazing.
And so cool to listen to. And the other artist that I worked with, Sage Paul, she’s a Coast Salish artist and she responded to a print that we have
in our collection by her dad and so it speaks to this
really beautiful idea of intergenerational storytelling.
OK with that I would like to thank you all so, so much for joining us.
I want to thank you all for being vulnerable
like Estraven said earlier. It’s always amazing when people can come together
and have those kinds of conversations,
even though we don’t know each other really well
and we can be really honest and speak about what it was like to create this exhibition
and to create these relationships
ultimately. I’m really grateful that I know all of you now. And so I’ll end the podcast by saying, this is Work In Progress.
The series is programed through the Art Gallery
of Greater Victoria, in Victoria BC, lək̓ʷəŋən lands,
and is generously supported by a Canada Council
for the Arts Digital Now grant. For those who want to learn more about the Reverberations exhibition,
on view at the AGGV from April
through September 2022, visit aggv.ca.
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