I Am Not The Label You Give Me

Don’t Feed the Stereotype was a pop up exhibition with artwork by international students, and is continued campaign at the University Ottawa. This exhibition took a popular culture or religious approach to addressing issues of diversity, in an effort to promote a positive approach to diversity on campus.

I Am Not The Label You Give Me was my project response to this, showing how we are quick to judge people and give them stereotypical labels, even though these are often far from the truth. I chose 10 participants to write down a stereotypical word, phrase or question that they have been told or asked in the past. This could have commented on gender, sexual orientation, religion, career choice, and many other factors. This work was inspired by the six-hundred photograph series Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say by Gillian Wearing. Jo Spence also provided inspiration with her works that use found objects to display words. I wished to display it in a grid formation, such as the systematic formulation of Arnaud Maggs.

The photographs were taken with a 35mm camera and black and white film. I developed the film and photographs on hand, producing twenty 8×10″ photographs.

These prints are not perfect, and I understand that as there are scratches and marks on the negatives, and some needed a stronger filter than others. I would have liked extreme detail in my photographs, such as the ones Richard Learoyd produces, but I knew that this may not be the case. Despite these technical difficulties, I believe that the overall piece is still able to project the central idea, that people do not live under the stereotypical labels that we may give them.

I, unfortunately, had little say in the display of the prints within the pop up exhibition. I ultimately wanted them framed and on the wall, however due to the small space with no walls, the choice was to display them in a photo book. This allowed the piece to be more interactive than I perhaps originally anticipated, but did not have the same impact that I wished for. When displaying again, I will have them in frames and up on the wall in a grid formation.

Sans Camera Exhibition

The Sans Camera exhibition was a two-week long exhibition held at Galerie 5.6 at the art department, University of Ottawa. This was a student effort, collaborating to curate a themed exhibition. The work chosen was from out first photography assignment, using pinhole cameras as well as photograms and invented negatives. Working as a group, we were able to choose two works from each person, selecting out of the ones the student wanted to exhibit. The photograms and invented negatives were then displayed in a portrait manner, laid across one wall with the pinhole photography reflecting them on the other side. The exhibition even went around the corner and down the corridor, enticing people to see it when they were walking through the department. To further entice those in the department to take a look at the exhibition, the pinhole cameras were displayed on a wall upstairs on the main floor, with instructions to go downstairs and see the photos that these cameras produced.

Those who came to the exhibition reception, held at the end of the exhibition, found viewing the cameras very exciting as they were not anticipating cardboard boxes and coffee tins. Holding the exhibition in Galerie 5.6 also allowed those visiting to gain more of an idea of our process and areas that we work in, allowing them to somewhat appreciate the work further.

The two works I submitted to the exhibition were “to pytalise” , an invented negative of my saliva, and Churchgoers, a pinhole photograph of cars lined up by the nearby church. These suited the theme of the exhibition, but also stood out, especially that of “to pytalise”, due to its subject matter.

The exhibition has now moved to Paradigm(e) Gallery, which is the Dean’s gallery at the University of Ottawa until the end of February, where they are all on sale.

Harold Edgerton

Harold ‘Doc’ Edgerton is known for his inventive use of a strobe light in photography to capture high-speed motion in photographs. This technique allowed him to freeze everyday objects and phenomena in motion, in both black and white and coloured film. Not only did Edgerton use the strobe light, but he also used a high shutter speed and allowed the film to roll through the camera as though it was a motion picture camera. It must be remembered, however, that the strobe light was key in capturing the motion.

He was first interested in photography through his uncle, Ralph Edgerton, who produced studio photography. Edgerton then went as far as producing his Engineering PhD paper on the use of strobe lighting in photography. He was interested in the extraordinary in the every day, capturing simple moments in a new perspective. Edgerton also made his first flash photograph without a motor, photographing running water, which transformed into crystal in the speed of the flash.

He used an exposure of up to 1/1,000,000 of a second, demonstrating everything from depressions of tennis balls and rackets to the controlled shuffling of cards between hands. The strobe light was still key here, with the momentary flash on the subject producing the image in the rolling film.

“Don’t Feed the Stereotype” Exposition Brief

International House Presents…
“Don’t Feed the Stereotype” Exposition

Call Out to uOttawa Student Artist!

On November 15th, the International House will be hosting a “Don’t Feed the Stereotype” Exposition and promotional campaign in UCU Level 0. The Expo and campaign will take a popular culture approach to addressing issues of diversity, in an effort to promote a positive approach to diversity on campus.

As part of the activity planned for the Expo, International House is looking to the University of Ottawa student community to make submissions for a campus-wide art competition!

Submissions in all fields of art will be accepted (within reasonable limits), including, but not limited to, dance, music, sculpture, painting, etc. The theme for all submissions is the phrase “Don’t Feed the Stereotype”. Submissions will be showcased in the Agora on November 29th from 9:00am-4:00pm. Prizes for top artists will be awarded at 5:00pm that day.

We encourage all artists, and non-artists, to indulge their creativity and make a submission!

The artwork I created for this exposition is titled ‘I Am Not The Label You Give Me‘ and has recently been published on the uOttawa website (January 2019).

Gillian Wearing

Gillian Wearing has a method of documenting the everyday life through the use of photography and video. She concerned individual identity within the private and the public spaces, burring the line between reality and fiction. There is a concern over capturing the self-awareness of her subjects rather than the issue of aesthetics. The work of hers that comes up most often is the series Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say. This was a series of around six-hundred coloured photographs of the people of London. Here, the artist confronted strangers and asked them to write them what they were thinking, then taking a photograph of them holding this sign. Through this, Wearing was able to find a unique language which excited her. This project became very influential on everything from advertising to people doing signs for their Facebook page. Wearing continues with this unique language of confession and self-exposure through video, moving into the complexity of family dynamics and how such tensions are sometimes exacerbated when involved in public or semi-public display in her later work.

Oscar G. Rejlander

Oscar Rejlander is also known as the grandfather of photography. Working both in collaboration with others and on his own, Rejlander bought in techniques learnt from drawing and painting to create highly unique and beautiful photography that stretched the medium to new heights. One of the most infamous elements that he used is several negatives all together to create one large photograph. This was reproduced several times, but for several different audiences, and so small changes in positioning and head directions can be seen through the clever manipulation of the negatives. The knowledge of manipulation adds a sense of confusion, as you are unaware what is reality and what is the true negative. There was also the use of pairs of photographs, placing a juxtaposition of mood or expression next to one another, or opposing situations. Rejlander was able to transform a technical medium into an important means of artistic expression.

Andrew Wright

The photographer, Andrew Wright, captures the angled craggy, iconic conifers that are often seen in Group of Seven paintings, in a straightened format. This creates a destabilising yet correct image, as if there is a truth portrayed in setting them straight. The result produces a sensation that you wish to tilt your head, but when you do, it seems wrong. His work reflects his fascination of the public perception through photography, and how we perceive what the medium exposes. Wright’s work is “a powerful reminder of the import that photography has in the popular imagination, regardless of that which is actually depicted.” Several pieces of his work has recently been acquired by the National Gallery of Canada.

I was honoured to have Wright as my photography professor while at the University of Ottawa, and to learn the use of 35mm black and white photography.

Transforming Chairs into Sculpture

Working with the turtle shell design, I had to manipulate the wood of the chairs to gain the curvature of the shell in a geometric form. I wanted all the pieces to line up initially, but as the project went on I found this increasingly hard to do, and found that the imperfections within the shell were much more interesting. I was able to cut and sand the wood into the angles needed for the shell, joining each piece together with a nail gun and wood glue. For the smaller, second piece at the bottom of the shell, I was able to use all of the off-cuts and pieces that I wasn’t able to use anywhere else to preserve wood and create a unique pattern. The blue wood of the seat of the chair was used as the partition between each section as a clear break.

The wood workshop was only used after an introduction to the equipment, whereupon I was able to use most of it to my advantage within the project.

Brian Jungen

Brian Jungen is a Canadian-born artist who experiments until he is able to manipulate or take advantage of the materials he has, without completely changing them. Jungen explored his interest in using sports paraphernalia, creating sculptures out of catchers mitts, baseball bats, and basket ball jerseys and has made the deliberate choice to create further works out of materials produced by the sports industry. There is always a link to the Aboriginals from Canada throughout his work which is heritage, including that of sports teams names, Northwest Coast Aboriginal masks and the general re-using of items to prolong their life. Although there is always this connection, his work is not exclusively tied to his heritage, but rather finds it more of a personal involvement.

His more recent works look at his interest in architecture, creating shelters for humans, animals and birds. He disassembles and reassembles objects to maintain the integrity and meaning of the source material, while being able to create new possibilities for their meaning. This can be seen especially within his Shapeshifter (along with Cetology and Vienna) work that is currently being displayed at the National Gallery of Canada. This piece makes a statement about cultural hybridity and institutional displays of marine life, both alive and dead. The sculpture resembles a non-anatomically correct whale, with a composition influenced by the forms of white plastic chairs that can be found in discount stores around the world.

Kiki Smith

Kiki Smith found new ways to explore the social, cultural and political roles of women through figurative art, becoming known for her visceral and disturbing artworks depicting the human body in detail. Smith often worked from themes of women in mythology, folklore and Catholic religion. The animals that accompany the women figures in many of her works depict the different personalities that women are given in these tales, raising the woman out of the wolf, bird, or butterfly. These can be beautiful and serene, but also depict the feral and animalistic nature that women can hold. Smith is a multi-media artist and works with books, painting, sculpture, prints and collaborations.