John Timberlake corrects our oversight, making powerful arguments for science fiction as a visual discourse. There is an element of surreal within the photographs as you are unaware of whether you are looking at a real planet, or a made up one. Timberlake focuses on ‘imaginary topos’ of science fiction, drawing on the intersection between historical and prehistorical time. The works begin with influential historical works of visual art, whereupon the artists impression and digital environment is drawn out to produce his own works.
Thomas Demand alters perception in his photography and three-dimensional models. These look like real images of rooms, often sites that we recognise and hold social or political meanings to, but they are not real. Each model is made out of paper and cardboard to replicate those spaces. Photography was used as a part of the process to record these constructions, but now Demand creates work for the sole purpose of photographing them, altering our sense of reality. Demand uses a large format camera to capture these images and destroys the ‘life-size environments’ once this has been done, so that we never truly see the size of the room created.
Barbara Brown and Cynthia O’Brien come together in a collaboration working on a combination of artistic vision. Both artists work in different mediums, but ‘both employ the changing beauty and delicacy of plants and flowers as a commemorative act and as an observance of transience, loss, remembrance, decline and rejuvenation in all living things’. The installation of their works in this environment reflect the emotional impact of living in a long-term care residence and as artists. The works reveals insights gained from this experience that they have had in this world where they had to interact with the nature around them. There is also an interactive element to the final piece seen in the back of the exhibition with a description;
Columbariun: A Consequence of Life
archival pigment print and clay
Columbarium is defined as a memorial space with niches for funeral urns. In this commemorative installation, each clay or photographic plaque represents a deceased person remembered by the artists.
The public is invited to place a person memorial note in one of the niches provided.
Tiffany April is a current MFA student at the University of Ottawa whose work looks at the alien and unknown through painting, video and installation. The pieces work in conjunction with each other to produce a sense of calmness and an almost out-of-this-world experience. The soft palette of her paintings with the dispersing light from the videos and reflections from the installations, create a space that you are fully invested in, and become immersed within as each individual piece hits you one by one.
All images from Ottawa MFA Blog
Joi Arcand uses the almost lost written language of Cree as a message giver in an aesthetically beautiful form with cultural significance. There is a play on how language appears on street signs and shop windows, and the expectation that western societies hold. With depictions of how the world would look like in the Cree language, replacing all signs to create a somewhat surreal environment. There are often no translations available so then the audience have no satisfaction of having the right answer.
Ben Woodeson came to the University of Ottawa for a short term in residence, where he held an artist talk to explain his practice and journey since art school. Woodeson knew he was a sculptor from the first time he made something. As part of his work practice, he would find things, buy items and just make something out of this. At his graduate show, he strung up electric heaters with ceramic mugs full of tea sat on top of them, commenting on the domestic. Throughout the talk, Woodeson exclaimed that he didn’t know what he was doing there, and he still doesn’t.
In Piccadilly Station, London, he used 400 tins of tomato pulp as a battery source. When travelling to another residence in Toronto, they were unable to get the tomatoes due to price, so they had to pulp old tomatoes thrown away by farmers, by hand. This process led Woodeson to the thought of energy. In his MA, he accidentally made an induction coil, expanding the metal column, and slowly raised the roof. Now he felt like he was onto something and travelled back to Canada where he made a magnet inside of a wall. There was a nail, with its tip pointing toward the wall, and this was the only thing in the gallery space, showing the powerful effect of magnets.
Woodeson then got invited to do a solo show in London, which was a steep learning curve for him. He rigged microphones all around the gallery, which fed into one set of headphones placed at one point. People in the gallery reacted badly to this and often crowded around one table in the cafe that was not rigged. Another piece listened to a conversation at the reception desk, then ran it through processors to spell out the conversation at the other end of the gallery. The timing was too quick for you to run through, so people collaborated to see what they said. In this exhibition, there was a continued commentary on energy and magnetism with Morse code from self-help books being played on handmade conductors.
There was a large period that Woodeson wanted to make dangerous work. One of his first dangerous pieces he produced was 34,000 ball bearings that you are invited to walk on. He was very surprised when people signed the waver and braved the room where they were all placed on the floor – people loved it! The work then extended into dangerous kinetic works, so he went back to thrift stores for source material and continued to work with electricity.
From here, his pieces shift to working in response to a material and trying to push it to its limits. He did not want to hurt people but wants to challenge them, and the health and safety limits of the galleries that he exhibits in. This led him to glass, balancing it in corners and dangling from bungee cords attached to the ceiling. With the volume of glass that he went through on a regular basis, Woodeson wanted to move to something that would be less dangerous if something did go wrong.
Teaching was in his books, so Woodeson had to send instructions for his piece to be replicated. What was then seen in the exhibition was an interpretation of these instructions by the curators. There was a reaction to materials, which has been seen throughout his work, but now also in the written word. This is a reflection of his studio also – a collection of bits that need a home because he is reacting to them. Another university then invited him to teach, and here he created Rat Trap Neon, which used the precarious once again. If you had touched it, it was so delicate that it would break the piece and cause a chain reaction.
Woodeson took up an iron residency in Minnesota where he continued to play with the material and to stretch limits. There was play with scattered pieces that would most certainly trip someone up if they weren’t looking where they were going. He also choreographed step shingles in New Mexico, balancing them like a stack of cards. The precarious element made a return with this work as there were no fixings, nor were there any fixings throughout his work.
For now, Woodeson is working on several projects that work with the material and continuing to stretch it to its limits. Colour has also made an appearance along with glitter, and he uses these with cast iron items that are impromptu and dipped to set. Woodeson finds the smaller pieces covered in glitter attractive and sexy, while also being beautiful traps. He bought the balancing glass back with this along with cyanotypes. The world of VR has also come into play and Woodeson is playing with more technological artworks by creating it in this environment and then 3D printing the result.
All his artwork takes time to construct, and yet it is instantly made. There is always a constant process that occurs. The precarious element within Woodeson’s work will remain there, but the colour of it may change.
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.
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 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.
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.