Category Archives: DJ Fraser

Four distinct visions in MFA show

MFA Thesis Exhibition
Visual Arts Building
University of Victoria Campus
Until May 11, 2013

Reviewed by  Dorothy June Fraser

Any kind of graduate show is going to be an interesting experience. Wandering from gallery to gallery requires a degree of care, as we shake off the intensity of one show in order to see the next. Overall, it becomes an interesting and transformational experience.

Yang Liu’s exhibit, All the Little Things You Left Behind, is built on small pieces, constructions of home and life and the little things that come to represent lived experience. He takes tiny objects and then rearranges these bits of life into larger forms, which he then photographs. The end result is a show that evokes both the architecture of daily life and the values that define culture. The divide between memory and object, construction and composition are present and at odds within Liu’s work.

Hilary Knutson’s Au Secours, drew me in as soon as I set foot in the room. Her approach included cross-stitch, needle-point and screen-printed fabrics, woven together with her virtual presence in the gallery via video. I loved the connection to feminist fibre and craft work that she invoked within the concrete studio setting. The inclusion of chronic pain gave voice to the  physical suffering that comes with art making and is rarely addressed in spaces which we associate with the “artist.”  By providing an alternative to the cold studio space, we see her personal workspace as productive and comforting, subverting the idea that there is one correct model of studio space.

Inside the Outside, despite an innocuous title, succeeds on several different aesthetic levels. Artist Chris Lindsay explores texture and structure as a means of conveying personal experiences. A constructed landscape forces the viewer to a supplicant’s role, stepping over the steel wires that hang on the ground. Across the hall is the sound installation of Lindsay’s that instantly spoke of individual experience within a larger network, reception of information and a larger interaction than the singular human experience.

Lindsay’s fabricated silk thread sculptures are painstakingly crafted: he strings several hundred silk threads through wooden forms to create a dazzling prismatic effect. All of Lindsay’s work vibrates, reminding viewers that frequencies differ between every individual person, every standpoint.

Paola Savasta uses sculptural forms to play with the space of the in-between where 3D objects need 2D representation and vice-versa in her show, The Heir. The sense of play necessary to cover a stool in a bathmat or faux fur provided an intriguing and surprising use of textiles that drew attention to expectations of these objects in daily experience. Soft, faux-fur lined cubicle shelf constructions of The Heir repudiate hard, Minimalist sculptural qualities. In a totally different aesthetic expression, her small end tables and 3D paintings patterned with colourful plaid build sculptures from everyday purposeful, flat surfaces. I think that Savasta’s work questions authority, experience and expectations of objects in the gallery space.

The visual arts students’ works provoke a questioning of everyday existence and suggest the possible (in)sufficiency of spatial reasoning to explain our surroundings.

Dorothy June Fraser is an MA History in Art student at UVic and the online gallery curator for Plenitude Magazine.

Vancouver’s Litany thrills audience

Litany Reading Series
Gallery Gachet,  Vancouver
Sunday, April 7

Reviewed by Dorothy June Fraser

The first Litany Reading of the year (back in January) was so well-attended it almost burst the small comfy surroundings of the Rhizome Cafe on E. Broadway in Vancouver. So well-attended that I couldn’t get in.  On April 7, Gallery Gachet on Cordova offered a larger space to house the queer reading series.  This larger-but-still-packed event was certainly a success for co-hosts Leah Horlick and Esther McPhee, both graduate students with the University of British Columbia’s creative writing department.

Horlick and I chatted briefly after the evening had wound down about the influences on the creators and the origin of the event. The series itself takes its name from Audre Lorde’s poem, “A Litany for Survival.” When co-creators McPhee and Horlick noticed a dearth of queer, anti-oppressive spaces and readings in Vancouver (with few exceptions, notably the thrilLITERATE series which was organized by Vancouver-based queer author Amber Dawn from 2007 to 2012), the two engineered the Litany reading series .

The evening introductions started with pronoun usage, identity and biography. Readers laid bare their histories in this safe space and were appreciated for exactly the person they identify as, whether the pronoun be she, he, or they. The showcase of five readers, with Adam Douba unfortunately out sick, contributed life experiences that most of the audience could relate to. First reader, Fayza Bundalli, explored rites of passage through coming out. Her frank, embodied performance of queer creative non-fiction was an excellent introduction to the Litany atmosphere. Kiran Sunar’s unfinished manuscript work about brown family queerness and diasporic existence in the Fraser Valley was impassioned poetry trapped in prose sentences. Nat Marshik’s short poems were sweet honey in my ears, a quick whisper of love affairs. Christina Cooke’s evocative short fiction brought sense memories of “home” into the gallery. The featured reader, Jacks McNamara, a Bay Area genderqueer artist, brought the house down with sexy queerotica. Jacks cooed short, punctuated bursts of radiant orgasm. I adored the high these writers gave me, and I floated out of the Gachet.

The next Vancouver reading will occur some time this summer. Check Facebook or Tumblr for updates.

Dorothy June Fraser is an MA History in Art student at UVic and the online gallery curator for Plenitude Magazine.


Poet’s team video undermines bullying

Shane Koyczan and collaborators
To This Day – TED Talk

Reviewed by DJ Fraser

Vancouver resident Shane Koyczan is already a fully fledged Canadian poetry star, and that is no easy stardom to come by. Koyczan appeared at TED this past February, where he performed the now-viral multimedia performance of “To This Day,” with violin accompaniment by Hannah Epperson and animated segments executed with the help of dozens of animators.

The animators who collaborated with Koyczan for this performance are not one-time colleagues–all are collaborators for the To This Day project, a continued effort to prevent childhood and adolescent bullying. This outreach project aims to connect and inspire those willing to stand up to bullying and to “find the beauty” in the world.

At any live TED talk, there are two screens onto which animations, graphs, charts or live feed footage are projected. Koyczan’s performance was augmented with an introduction that is not in the original video for the To This Day project, which exists as a animated video work. Throughout the performance, the rhythm of Koyczan’s words guides the visuals painstakingly through images that break apart, split at the seams and shatter to reveal new scenes of mixed media, from cut-out paper animation to pencil drawings. Breaks in the imagery shift back to the performers and the audience at TEDquarters, their rapt attention turned to Koyczan on stage.

If you view the TED talk from home, the segmented animation often occupies the entire visual space, with Koyczan’s sweet, impossibly fluid then abrupt, hopeful narratives as a sound track.  The conscious synthesis of Koyczan’s poetry and the graphic styles of literally dozens of animators remind the viewer of the absence of a monolithic style or predominant medium accompaniment to Koyczan’s poetry.

The combination of this multi-perspectival poem and multimedia presentation (at the live performance as well as in a home viewing) crosses media boundaries:  narrative, visual representation, graphic animation and music are cast together. Without any doubt, my favourite aspect of this TED video/performance was Koyczan and collaborators’ clever balance of media with poetry, and how this aspect of the work conveys a multitude of experiences, rather than Koyczan’s singular view. Calling attention to the universality of the bullied child in all of us, Koyczan and his team turn a singular work into a global movement.  Different voices speak out, turning words into shields, drawings into livelihood, casting collective hopes with each other. The presentation and intermedia experience offered by Koyczan’s performance reinforces the idea that collective strength, through art and self-expression, enables survival and success. On a bad day, this performance could bring tears of happiness to my eye in spite of the world. On a good day, it could bring tears because of it.

Subscribe to #ToThisDay for project updates.

DJ Fraser is an MA History in Art student at UVic and the online gallery curator for Plenitude Magazine.