Burrard Inlet Trail Shrine

The Burrard Inlet Trail Shrine is an art installation that represents the intersection of a number of ideas and concepts from this course, through it is centered on 2 major conceptual themes; play and animism.

The inspiration for play comes from the work of Michael Nicoll Yagulanaas. I am also using formal studies of play to inform the work such as Ludology the study of game playing, and play psychology. The second major theme guiding this work, Animism, is inspired by Walter Benjamin’s ideas in Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction where he suggests that both natural and art objects have an aura that radiates from their beauty and authenticity. Benjamin’s ideas that art has ritual, magical, and religious functions combined with an aura stemming from authenticity have some distinct resonance with Animistic spiritual beliefs, rituals, and practice.

In the Burrard Inlet Trail Shrine am using play in a number of contexts: play as in an attitude of whimsy and fun, playing across media, playing outside of what is considered traditional art showing spaces (like a gallery) and how that space interacts with art, playing with the interactivity of audience, playing with collecting, the theatricality of play, playing with preconceived ideas of what art is, and playing outside of my comfort zone by trying new things. I am attempting to create a space that distances itself slightly from reality that evokes fantasy, myth, and ritual that celebrates the aura within both natural and art objects. I have set up the installation on the Burrard Inlet Trail (hence the name.) As a location it appeals to me as the Trail is in both a residential area of the city of Burnaby and in a natural area at the same time. This Trail is also in the vicinity that I call home so it has a certain feel and familiarity to me. In Burrard Inlet Trail Shrine I worked relatively intuitively allowing the process to guide the form of the installation that was anchored in research and inspired by visual images of Japanese Shinto shrines and other animistic nature shrines, the work of Andy Goldsworthy and some imagery from the video game Skyrim. To create the shrine I used a combination of found objects and things that I sculpted. I recreated some small Skyrim inspired objects by sculpting them with clay and painting them. I also displayed some of the items in bowls and glasses that I purchased from a thrift store. In addition I went to the site beforehand, collected some rocks, brought them home and painted them, then re-incorporated them back into the shrine. I am attempting to engage the audience (anyone who happens to walk this trail) into an interactive Seeing or deep observation as inspired by Anne Dillard. I will revisit the shrine every few days for a week or so to see if any interaction or participation happened with the piece. I’m not sure if or when I will take it down or not, I will decide once I see how people have reacted to it and how it reacts to the elements.


Investigating the Aura of Space and Craft at Maiwa

Much as art is described by Walter Benjamin as having its own aura, the space it’s situated in too has its own unique aura that affects the way we experience the art. There is a relationship between the art, the space it is situated in, and the identity of the audience. It is through this relationship that I will review Maiwa as both an art and a business space.

Maiwa is located on Granville Island. I worked on Granville Island in the public market for just over 2 years so my relationship with the space is both tainted by, and knowledgeable from that experience. The overall feel for most people on Granville Island I would say is a relaxing, slower paced, and entertaining environment. It is a partially staged environment, like a mild Disneyland for arts and craft. The staged space has been readopted and re-contextualized by the people working there every day which in a sense makes it authentic. Many people visiting the island, particularly in the summer months are on vacation, or in weekend mode. This touristy vibe guides the pace of the island. It is so influential that people forget about simple things like not to walk in front of moving cars. The experience of browsing in and out of locally owned small stores and studios full of art and artisanal items provides an entertaining experience for tourists, and a low aggression sales environment for them to buy their unique souvenirs. Most of the locals coming on errands do their shopping early in the morning before the crowds, and have a pre-planned trajectory for getting in and out fast. Conceptually the space and feel of Granville Island is a fitting location for Maiwa as a business/arts space.

Our class was directed upstairs into the Maiwa ‘library’ of fabrics to be read. As soon as I entered the space I felt completely welcomed by the transformative beauty of colour, pattern, and textures of fabric. As a person who compulsively collects thrift store scarves (and covers their walls, lamps, and tables with them) the space felt extremely comfortable and at home. I was also immediately aware of how blandly I was dressed and was overcome by a desire to reinvent my wardrobe with the beautiful fabrics around me. The handmade, one of a kind, labour intensive cloths at Maiwa are heavily embedded with the cultural memory and identity of the places they were made, and with the personality of the textile makers. The cloths aren’t being used for traditional purposes as they once may have been. They have now partaken in the ceremony of (a perhaps gentler) capitalist exchange. However, I would feel no guilt in buying one of these beautiful garments as I find the Maiwa business model ethically preferable to many clothes shopping alternatives for a multitude of reasons. Alas my budget does not allow it. While being surrounded by the Maiwa textiles my mind led me to the Japanese idea that the wearer of a garment embeds a piece of their soul into it. I am comforted in thinking about this when thinking about the future of each neatly displayed and price tagged piece of wearable art in the Maiwa store. There is an evolving relationship in each textile between the traditional cultural and ritualistic contexts of each Maiwa garment and the continued  re-contextualization through the cultural and ritualistic experiences of the new wearer.  I would recommend to anyone who has respect for the knowledge, history and labour of craft, and an eye for beautiful things to visit Maiwa. If the wallet allows, and the desire grabs you, you too can participate through a wearable performance, in the dynamic life of a Maiwa Textile.

-Andrea Terpenkas

A Criticism of the Role of Criticism in Vancouver’s Arts Apocalypse … (or not apocalypse)

This is a creative critical response (attempting to be kind of) in the style of New Journalism to:

  • ideas from the Morrison article “No Place for Self Pity, No room for Fear”
  • Thoughts thrown around in last night’s panel discussion with Max Wyman, Larry Green, and Susan Mertens
  • Peter Dickenson and Jerry Wasserman’s talks to our class about the Vancouver arts scene, and their experiences within it as critic/artist

I was 18 when I was first introduced to the world of criticism. I had just entered into my first year of university in a Bachelor of Fine arts program. My being was vibrating on another wavelength than it is now, one that I have been trying to get back to. I was immersed in exploration tuned on to art and ideas and creative exploration, what Susan Mertens calls becoming. I was also a keener so one evening I bravely took bus over to Detroit .Not brave because I was going to downtown Detroit; I did that almost every weekend to see music. I was brave because I was 18 and sacrificing my Friday night to go and see a famous art critic David Hickey lecture at the DIA (or was it Wayne state?) This was the first time I’d ever been to an event in Detroit where the rock star wasn’t playing any music. This was not Jack White, this was some old white dude in a suit talking about fine arts yet the place was buzzing. If you know anything about Hickey you will know he’s (in the words of Ron Burgundy) “Kind of a big deal” having written for giants like Rolling Stone, ArtForum, etc. In retrospect I’m not always congruent to what Hickey has to say about Art. However in this instance my 18 year old self sat for 2 hrs and listened, transfixed, to a man talk passionately about supporting new art, new artists, and showed examples of artists he’d found doing street art/graffiti in Detroit, Japan, New York and other places around the world. He was supporting and validating new ideas and arts practices through his criticism. I realized there were cultures, discussions, and worlds of art I knew nothing about. As a budding artist, and musician I wanted in. I knew that it would be a hard choice but in my world I would have critics like David Hickey as my both my devil’s advocate and my champion, pushing me towards greatness yet supporting and defending the new. At a certain point in my life eventually I gave up on my goal to make arts a career for many reasons including necessity due to lack of financial support in combination with depression, grief, and loss. I’ve been slowly working my way back to practicing art and music for the last 3 years now, which has been essential to my overall well being. I’m not sure if I will ever become the full fledged participant that I had once intended but I know now at least no matter how small my participation I will not give it up again!

Last night Max Wyman and Larry Green talked about two things that I connected with my own personal loss of arts to the bigger loss of arts (and their affects) being experienced on a human scale. Larry spoke of a shared Human experience of having no home; Max spoke of us losing a moral centre. Loss of memory, history, place, and self tend to be at the centre of what an apocalypse feels like. As the arts represent all of these themes (and more) then a lack of arts in a culture is indicative of an apocalypse. According to both Peter Dickenson and Jerry Wasserman’s assessment it seems that they would agree (I know Jerry mentioned he thought the scene was thriving but his lens and tone of criticism makes me want to argue that he supports a rather apocalyptic view of Vancouver arts.) As was mentioned in the Morrison article, “No Place for Self Pity, No room for Fear” in this time of crisis it is more important now than ever to produce work as an artist, to resist, to create, and to inspire. This sense of loss in combination with our obsession with individuality drives a Human crisis that I believe the arts can answer. If supporting the growth of arts is the answer than what becomes the role of a critic during the apocalypse? If the arts are at an all time low in terms of needing support how does criticism maintain its integrity but redefine its function so as to not hinder the much needed space and growth for all artists today in Vancouver? I think it is important for the health of an artist’s growth to be able to step outside the art and critically examine it as a tool for evolving, In that way the role of the critic is essential. I would also say that criticism is its own kind of art form that is lacking in support. That being said in an arts apocalypse how useful is it for a critic to take on the duty of stomping out mediocrity within the arts if that is all a city is capable of producing due to its surrounding conditions? Is there a danger of critics stomping out the flame all together? Vancouver has a flame, and as Jerry Wasserman and Susan Mertens pointed out it can burn with mediocrity. At least it’s still there, trying to burn under all the conditions that threaten to blow it out. What if that mediocrity is a stepping stone to something greater? Every guitar virtuoso probably started by badly playing songs like smoke on the water, what if that was the moment a critic caught him or her at the game?

In its defense I also need to say I have seen Vancouver burn brightly with passion, talent, and innovation particularly within what I know of its large yet small music scene. I say large because there are a large number of musicians living here. I say small because most of them work elsewhere to make a living. Many of the musicians I know playing in this city are grinding it out, and do everything they can to push themselves to be the best they can be in the most challenging of conditions. There are consistently amazing live shows happening in small clubs, rented halls, dive bars, and illegal venues such as house concerts on any random evening. How does a critic contend with that? How can a critic be aware of a secret venue? A secret venue is an affordable option for musicians to put on a show where they can play what they want to play. Because of that it this venue might exist in an industrial area that smells of chicken factory and musty old couches, but inside there is Jazz being played by a group of heavy Vancouver players that undeniably has a finger on the pulse of what is hip and happening in Vancouver music… for an audience of three. The musicians though invigorated by their performance go home without their rent money because the cover was by donation, and it was raining too hard so no one felt like coming out. The next night they play in a large, relatively well funded venue with comfortable seating for a band that plays cover songs people like to dance to in order to please the audience, who they will remain seated, on their cell phones, taking pictures, and texting, and tweeting their selfies, and statuses such as “Mind blowing show tonight at the _________.” A critic attends and calls the musicians out on the mediocrity of their performance. This brings up another problematic scenario in the arts apocalypse. Who/what is driving the direction of the arts besides artists and critics? What is the responsibility of the audience and how does that effect the artist’s performance?

I have few answers, little continuity within my thoughts and writing, apparently some bitterness, and lots of questions about the things I just wrote. I am pro critic and criticism, yet what I’ve said above contradicts that. I guess I’m trying to present and embrace my ambiguity as was suggested by one of the panelists last evening. I’m hoping this critical/reflective response will improve once you all start to give it some of your criticism….

andrea t –  aka.( blogger handle) beetbanshee

P.S. Yikes, I promise my next post will be closer to 500 words! I just needed to get this out there!