Saturday, May 18, 2024

Liz Knox | A Void

Liz Knox
A Void
Sackville, Canada: Nothing Else Press, 2024
[28] pp., 21.5 x 14 cm., staple-bound with die-cut cover
Edition of 100

In  her extensive bookwork practice, Liz Knox mines online comments to produce portraits of changing cultural, political and sexual mores. Synopsis  (2013) featured brief, often poetic, descriptions of over fifty films,  sourced entirely from the parental advisory section of the Internet  Movie Database. Commentariat (2017) assembled responses to the  sex advice column Savage Love, portraying the shifting sexual politics  of the era of the Obama administration. The Anarchist Review (2023) collected comments from the Amazon page for the notorious Anarchist Cookbook,  ranging from those condemning the retailer for stocking a dangerous  title, to those disappointed the bomb-making instructions were not more  thorough. 

A Void continues this approach, reprinting Instagram posts regarding Urs Fischer’s controversial 2007 exhibition You,  a quarter-million dollar hole in the ground of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise  gallery. The spirited  debate poses questions that poke at the nature of art, nomenclature,  meaning, and what constitutes value.  

We soft-launched this title at the Halifax Art Book Fair last month but I failed to post it here. It’s a great project - big questions surrounding debated in hasty online outbursts. 

It’s available for $10 CDN, here

Friday, May 17, 2024

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Carolee Schneemann | ABC - We Print Anything - In The Cards

Carolee Schneemann
ABC - We Print Anything - In The Cards 
Beuningen, Holland: Brummense Uitgeverij Van Luxe Werkjes, 1977
158 pp. [loose leaves], 112 x 30.5 x 5 cm., boxed
Edition of 151

A handmade blue cloth box, gold-stamped and tied with a ribbon contains 158 cards, which function both as an unstructured narrative bookwork, and as a performance score. The cards are colour-coded: the pink index cards contain comments and advice by friends; the yellow are diary and dream extracts; and the blue cards contain comments by A (Anthony, the artist's soon-to-be ex), B (the artist's new lover, Bruce) and C (the artist herself). The choice of format was intended to encourage an open-ended reading of the piece, in no particular order.

The accompanying imagery features domestic items (a kitchen sink, a wall clock, pets, a pair of shoes), nude photographs of the artist, and photographs of primitive sculpture, typically eroticized ("a monstrous male figure penetrating a female figure who stretches back over a rock" and "a female sculptural figure reaching behind her to the huge erect penis of a male figure", etc.).

ABC was first performed at Franklin Furnace in New York, in November of 1976. The following year Schneemann presented the work in both Holland and Amsterdam. After this the artist became "dissatisfied with the static nature of the reading", preferring the random shuffled structure of the boxed work.

"Every dilemma of our life is in there, every contradiction. It was a wonderful piece to be able to create, because it came out of such chaos. My partner was leaving me and strange enough it seemed like I was falling in love with someone else. It was so confusing. So when people would talk on the phone they would give me advice…I would write that down and drop it in the drawer…Finally I looked in this drawer and I had all these notes piled up and thought maybe I could do something with this."
- Carolee Schneemann, 2001

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Joseph Beuys | Rose for Direct Democracy

Joseph Beuys
Rose für direkte Demokratie 
Heidelberg, Germany: Edition Staeck, 1973
2 x 2 x 13.25"
glass graduated cylinder with inscription, rose
Edition of 440 signed and numbered copies

"At the documenta 5 exhibition in Kassel, West Germany in 1972, Beuys established a ‘political bureau’ for the Organisation for Direct Democracy Through Free Collective Referendum, a group he had recently co-founded. Throughout the hundred days of the exhibition, he spoke and debated with exhibition visitors, putting forward his ideas for reshaping society through creative activity. Though his proposals were often radical, Beuys worked hard to distance himself from groups like the Red Army Faction (R.A.F.) in West Germany and the Red Brigades (B.R.) in Italy, who at this time were advocating violence as a means of achieving social revolution. In contrast to this position, Beuys emphasised his wish for a more peaceful, evolutionary route to societal development.

On his desk at documenta 5 stood a slender glass vase, in which a fresh-cut red rose was placed each day. The multiple Rose for Direct Democracy derives from this vase, but consists of a graduated cylinder, on which the work’s title is inscribed. Spiraling upward from the cylinder’s base, the inscription follows the direction of the rose’s growth, evoking the smooth trajectory along which Beuys hoped to see society progress. The petals of the rose, which differ radically in appearance from the rest of the plant, became a signifier of this process in Beuys’s eyes, since they emerge by means of a gradual transformation of its leaves. As he noted in this connection several years after the exhibition, ‘Bud and bloom are in fact green leaves transformed. So in relation to the leaves and the stem the bloom is a revolution, although it grows through organic transformation and evolution.’”

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

A Handmade Assembly


[Various Artists]
A Handmade Assembly
Sackville, Canada: Owens Art Gallery/Struts Gallery, 2023
113 pp., 19.5 x 26.1 cm., hardcover
Edition size unknown

A Handmade Assembly was a beloved annual event that brought together artists and curators from around the country (and beyond) to take a critical look at the intersection of contemporary art and the “handmade". This took the form of symposia, workshops, performances, craft fairs, installations, interventions, exhibitions, meals, and other shared experiences. The scope was deliberately wide, to encompass as many practices and approaches as possible. 

Roula and I took over as Directors of Struts Gallery on March 13th, 2020, a few months after the ninth and penultimate A Handmade Assembly event. Two days prior, the World Health Organization had declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Travel from Europe was suspended, schools announced closures, concerts and sporting events were cancelled, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson tested positive, etc. etc. 

We found ourselves in the unenviable position of having to plan an event known for bringing people together, at a time when we couldn’t safely gather. Our solution was to propose a book that would not only commemorate the previous decade of A Handmade Assembly, but would serve as a continuation of it. We put out an open call to artists and writers to respond to the subject, with the aim of producing the tenth and final iteration of the event, as a hardcover volume. 

After this, we contributed very little to the title. We left the role 18 months in, to return back to our own practices, exhausted by having to work ten times as hard during Covid, for a tenth the results. The labour of assembling the Assembly fell to the new staff at Struts, and the staff at the Owens Art Gallery. 

In the spirit of collaboration that the event fostered, the directors of both venues co-wrote the introductory texts, past and present. 

Current Struts and Owens directors Paul Henderson and Emily Falvey contribute a Foreword, writing that “A Handmade Assembly has always encompassed a multiplicity of artistic practices and areas of research, including photography, performance, mending practices, food culture, collage, printmaking, flower arranging, and the intersection of new technologies with traditional craft approaches.”

Amanda Fauteux and Gemey Kelly - co-founders of the event in 2011 - co-author a text titled “What We Were Thinking”, outlining the process of crafting a follow-up to a successful fifteen-year long Performance Symposium. “The non-prescriptive, artist-centred nature of the Assembly was signalled by the way we thought about, and put together, the program. Each year, we scheduled the key-note speaker at the end of the four-day event, rather than the start, making it a time for reflection on what had occurred, rather than sounding out a theme, as is typical of the standard keynote address”.  

Poet Geordie Miller writes about Etsy and the cynical marketing of the term ‘Handmade’ to help suggest an online farmer’s market of crafters. The e-commerce site saw their gross profits triple in the first year of the pandemic, spurred in part by raising transaction fees for sellers at a time when their side-hustle
was most urgent. “Etsy’s carefully crafted marketplace dream of ‘free and equal exchange’”, Miller writes, "is an ideological abstraction that obscures exploitation and breeds alienation”. 

In The Why of D.I.Y., Germaine Koh examines “unplanned urban processes arising from need and desire, about play as fundamental to creative practice and about “do-it-yourself” as an expression of democratic purpose.” Her text features the subheadings “Desire Lines”, “Risky Play”, “Cultivating the Unruly”, “Citizen Effort” and “The Right to DIY”. A Covid Coda follows.

Anthea Black explores Queer and Transgender ceramics, Julie Hollenbach writes about the the “Meditations on Reverberations and Cultural Sovereignty in the Craftwork of Tyshawn Wright”, and Christina Myers contributes “Form on the Fringes: Representation and Distortion of the Body in Craft”. The latter examines the debt contemporary craft owes to second-wave feminism, using examples by Judy Chicago, Casey Jenkins, Shary Boyle and Lido Pimienta.

These texts augment the artists’ contributions, rather than overwhelm them. The book is first and foremost a collection of artists' projects for the page, including Erwin Wurm-style collaborative clothing by Lopapeysa, a cut-out hammer by Suzie Smith, collaged endpapers by Paul Henderson, and "Leather Looms & Limbering Up" by Hazel Meyer. Meyer’s piece charts desire “through the objects we make” - the artist contacted the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago, and requested materials on the “organization strategies of dungeons”.  Paige Gratland’s "Setting the Table" reimagines the Pride Flag as a series of textiles handwoven by over 200 participants, ranging from queer teens to skilled senior weavers. 

The book is beautifully designed by Lauren Wickware with a debossed cover, full colour photographs and braille pages for Faye Harnest’s project. It is available for $20 at Struts, here, or the Owens Art Gallery, here

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Dave Dyment | Pop Quiz

Dave Dyment [Emily Falvey, Lucy MacDonald, Geordie Miller]
Pop Quiz
Sackville, Canada: Owens Art Gallery, 2019
16 pp., 23 x 15 cm., staplebound
Edition size unknown

A booklet published on the occasion of a solo exhibition showing of the video (and bookwork) Pop Quiz, a project which collects every question from every lyric in my music collection. This slim volume features a foreword by Director Emily Falvey, a text by curator Lucy MacDonald and an interview conducted by poet Geordie Miller (whose questions also come from pop lyrics).

Pop Quiz was presented at the Owens Art Gallery in January of 2019. The three-hour work played on a continuous loop inside the gallery during opening hours, and on the exterior of the building in the evenings. 

“Jan Peacock once described Dave Dyment’s practice as “weird rigor” and his project Pop Quiz is a brilliant example of what she may have meant. Combining a playful interest in pop culture with a commitment to process-oriented creative strategies rooted in structured repetition, the project a restrictive formula  - every question from every song in the artist’s music collection - and uses it to generate a peculiar, at times poignant narrative of perplexity, doubt and yearning.”
- Emily Falvey, forward

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Diane Borsato | Cloud Collection

Diane Borsato
Cloud Collection
Sackville, Canada: Owens Art Gallery, 
16 pp., 26 x 20 cm., accordion fold
Edition size unknown

Subtitled "Observations of clouds and other ephemeral phenomena in the permanent collection of the Owens Art Gallery”, this concertina work employs the format of a printed field guide, taking readers on a cloud-watching expedition through the Owns Art Gallery’s permanent collection. 

Designed by frequent Borsato collaborator JP King, the work folds out to become a 56” skyline. It presents twenty-one works and accompanying texts that describe lightning, sun dogs, and various atmospheric effects. 

Cloud Collection is available in both English and French editions (I somehow ended up with the French version, which I cannot read), for free upon request. 

For more information, visit this virtual companion to the publication: 

"One category of accordions is the exhibition catalogue as they serve as an economical introduction to the artist(s) and the work on display, and for the most part they play a purely informative function. But sometimes they move beyond this utilitarian function and become objects of beauty in themselves, and this catalogue for an exhibition conceived by Diane Borsato does just that. Kudos should also go to JP King, the designer, for creating this wonderful design that seems so in sync with Borsato's cloud project.

The exhibition was comprised of works selected by Borsato from the permanent collection of the Owens Art Gallery that for her all related to clouds in different types of ways. In this catalogue Borsato combines reproductions of the works and accompanies each of them with short texts that illustrate the nature and topography of clouds. These texts and images all work beautifully together and this accordion left me with a renewed respect for these most elusive of nature's artifacts.”

Erik Edson | Other Stories

Erik Edson
Other Stories
Sackville, Canada: Owens Art Gallery, 2018 
53 pp., 19 x 24 cm., softcover
Edition size unknown

An exhibition catalogue for Erik Edson’s solo show of the same name, from 2017, co-produced by the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in P.E.I., and the Owens Art Gallery.

Other Stories presented a large-scale installation accompanied by smaller works spanning two decades of the artist’s practice. Still rooted in Edson’s longstanding printmaking practice, the works expand into sculpture and installation, informed by his original medium. 

The volume includes notes by curator Pan Wendt, the essay “On the Nature of Artifice” by Emily Falvey, a forward by Gemey Kelly, and an afterword by Kevin Rice. A detailed list of works closes out the title.

The book’s cover features a die-cut circle, square and rectangle, referencing an architectural structure from the exhibition. 

“Printmaker and installation artist Erik Edson is known work that explores the paradoxical space between art and the natural world. [...] Aptly tired, ruins (2017) combines printmaking techniques with those of mural painting, set design, and installation art, and incldudes a wide range of art-historical and pop-cultural references. Subtly interweaving diverse artistic styles and aesthetic categories, such as the picturesque, the fantastic, and the surreal, it brilliantly maps our connections between landscape art, capitalist visual regimes, spectatorship technologies [magic lanterns, panoramas, mis en scene], the history of European ornament, and the commodity form.”
- Emily Falvey

Friday, May 10, 2024

Derek Sullivan | Evidence of the Avant Garde Ex-Library

Derek Sullivan
Evidence of the Avant Garde Ex-Library
Sackville/Toronto, Canada: Umbrella Projects/Art Metropole, 2021
[unpaginated], 26.5 x 19.7 x .07 cm., softcover
Edition of 400

For many years now, Derek Sullivan has been drawing the 16-page signatures from Evidence of the Avant Garde Since 1957, a catalogue of ephemeral artworks published by Art Metropole in 1984.  Painstakingly rendered by hand, the resulting book drawings are then disrupted with additional interventionist illustrations: rainbows, ragweed, dandelions, birds, and other items are drawn as if scattered across the pages.

This project binds these drawings together to mimic the original book, a copy of which the artist bought at a library deaccession sale for four dollars. The cover of Ex-Library is the only aspect of the book not hand-drawn, it is replicated to look exactly like Sullivan's library-laminated well-worn copy, complete with classification label and remainder sale sticker. In this way the object of the book functions like a decoy for the original, something Sullivan has consistently worked with in his practice. 

Priced the same as the 1984 publication, this new bookwork examines “the poetics of circulating artworks and the content that they pick up along the way.”

Evidence of the Avant Garde Ex-Library is available for purchase from Struts, The Owens Art Gallery and Art Metropole, for twenty dollars.

"As a meditation on both the subject and object of things Derek Sullivan continues his experiment in “slow reading” with the final half of the Evidence of the Avant Garde (ex-library) project. He presents 6 “press sheet” drawings of Art Metropole’s remarkable 1984 publication Evidence of the Avant Garde Since 1957 (an exhibition catalogue charting Art Met's first ten years via their collection of distributed artists projects). The drawings are created using a somewhat shabby ex-library copy and formatted as printer sheets (as they might have appeared as they came off the printing press). Each of the drawings are interrupted by a new secondary scatter that creates an assemblage of content and form that weaves both the material of the catalogue with observations from Sullivan’s every day. Weeds, prisms, rainbows, exhibition pamphlets, metro tickets obscure the pages as a poetic reflection on the unpredictable pathways and networks that works-in-multiple move upon.

The exhibition also includes a selection of 2021 drawings from the series Every day is the same. Every day is different. This project includes a sequence of daily drawings that arises out of tracings of an Enzo Mari-designed Formosa perpetual calendar (produced by Danese Milano in the early 1960s). The calendar, an ex-display from a bookstore Sullivan worked at in his 20’s, seemed to speak to the current rhythms of living in pandemic lockdown. Pandemic time wanes like that of a perpetual calendar — as an asynchronous rhythm that hums like the murmured heartbeat of the Avant Garde. The process of a drawing-a-day: Trace each panel. Update the day. Finish the drawing before going to bed. Each one different, each one the same.”
- BlogTO, about Sullivan’s September 2021 exhibition at Susan Hobbs Gallery

Daniel Olson | Small World

Daniel Olson
Small World
Cambridge/Sackville/Lethbridge, Canada: Cambridge Galleries, Owens Art Gallery, SAAG: 2000
44 pp., 17.5 x 11.5 cm., softcover
Edition size unknown

Published to coincide with the traveling exhibition of the same name, which was presented at the Owens Art Gallery from 16 March to 29 April, 2001, this slim volume features many of the artist’s editions and bookworks, including Factorial 12 and The Value of Pi to One Million Digits

features an introduction by Gordon Hatt, an essay by Martin Arnold and an interview conducted by Christina Ritchie. Ritchie focuses on performance and play in Olson’s work, something that extends beyond his performative work and into his videos (which are essentially performances for the camera) and into the multiples, most of which are toys and wind-up musical devices similar to the work of Joe Jones. 

Small World is available from the co-publisher, here, for $5.00. 

Owens Art Gallery

Last month the Owens Art Gallery launched a new section of their website, detailing all of the publications produced or available from the gallery. 

Mount Alison University’s sole imprint, the Owens’ publishing program has been active since the 1960s.
Available titles include works by or about Anna Torma, Derek Sullivan, Leah Garnett, Rita McKeough,Erik Edson, Ray Fenwick, Daniel Barrow, Andrea Morton, Garry Neill Kennedy, David Hoffos, Diane Borsato, Thaddeus Holownia, George Bures Miller, Jim Dine, Alex Coville, and myself

Alongside numerous monographs, the Owens has also published group exhibition catalogues, including the fascinating Warps, Heddles, Shuttles and Sheds: The Art and History of Weaving at Mount Allison University, which I reviewed here, and The Closer Things Are, here. For the latter, I collaborated with Micah Lexier on newspaper interventions that were published locally on the day the exhibition opened in the various towns it traveled to. 

The online catalogue was made  possible thanks to the work of J.E.A. Crake ArtsWork Publications Archive and Distribution Assistant Caitlin Gallant (2025), and 2023 Bourne Internship Community Engagement and Access Assistants Ranz Bontogon (2024) and Sophie Giese (2023).

View the publications here:

This afternoon, the gallery launches a new publication by Thaddeus Holownia and Harry Thurston, 
 at 4:00 pm. Of A Feather is the their third collaborative book project, featuring twenty-one photographs of birds by Holownia, and poetry by Thurston.