AVAILABLE FOR FREE STREAMING MARCH 31 - APRIL 14, 2021

 

Fragile Propositions: Where Art Belongs

Curated by Casey Wei



Fragile Propositions: Where Art Belongs, examines this very question through a series of five media works. Through set-ups involving a DIY event space, a mischievous art handler, a turtle in a history museum, a gas mask fetish, and an artist residency pairing cops with high school students, this program asks us to consider the ways through which artists intersect and grapple with systemic issues individually, and collaboratively.

Borrowed from Chris Krauss eponymously named book of essays, this program is a small survey of recent works distributed by Video Out. Where Art Belongs? is a sphinx-like riddle, subject to complex debates over theory and practice up to this day. The tensions between the notion that art should be for everyone, while simultaneously made for and collected by patrons and institutions, create divergent rubrics of value at times difficult to reconcile. As writer Hedi El Kholti points out about Tiny Creatures, a DIY anti-gallery subject to Kraus’ attention, the space is “at once a music school, a screening room, a performance space, an art gallery...but mostly it’s a fragile proposition.” [1]
 

The tensions between the notion that art should be for everyone, while simultaneously made for and collected by patrons and institutions, create divergent rubrics of value at times difficult to reconcile.
Still image from Less Lethal Festishes, Thirza Cuthand, (2020), VO
Still image from Less Lethal FestishesThirza Cuthand(2020), Video Out

 

In 1974, the Satellite Video Exchange Society was founded by artists who demanded that their video repository “straddle multiple and oppositional worlds,” emphasizing the politicized nature of ‘art videos’ as integral to their portapak form. Works deemed “too political. Too activist. Too queer. Too much like television. Too little like the movies. Non craft based. Too seemingly immaterial. Too technical” [2] laid the foundations of the discipline we now call ‘media art.’ Today, the SVES, better known as VIVO Media Arts Centre, is home to over 13K holdings in its Crista Dahl Media Library and Archive. Though much has changed in how the centre operates, the aforementioned founding vision is still reflected in the organization’s activities.

Fragile Propositions: Where Art Belongs begins with Tracey Vath’s Collective Questionings. As she readies The Toast Collective for an event, the audience is privy to her inner monologue. Located at the crosshairs of the Fraserhood and Mount Pleasant gentri-hoods[3], the Toast is one of the few remaining DIY spaces in Vancouver. She asks of herself, and of us, just how much more energy we have to give to a soon-to-be demolished cause?

Christian Nicolay’s The Day Job offers a mischievous response, as the camera follows him making various interventions into an otherwise passive relationship between viewer and art object. As a BTS art handler, Nicolay has the tools, and uses his expertise to enliven spoken-for art commodities with the potential for future discovery.

From The Day Job’s hotel rooms, we are taken into an air-tight history museum in Gaëlle Cognée’s Blind Alleys as Ocular Ex Voto, guided on a museum tour by a turtle. “Like a prehistoric silence, [the turtle] almost takes on the role of a museum object,”[4] putting into question the context by which we narrativize these historical objects, via both content and form of Cognee’s inquiry.

The program climaxes with Thirza Cuthand’s Less Lethal Fetishes, a visually striking work utilizing gas masks, smoke bombs, and the artist’s first hand experience of the Whitney Biennal’s 2019 artwashing scandal.

At the limits of institutional critique, this program ends with Elijah Hasan’s What Connects Us. In a 2016 artist-residency at Open School North (in Portland, Oregon), Hasan brought together teenagers from HB Lee Middle School and officers from the Gresham Police Department. Over the course of a week, students and officers were paired up to create portraits of each other, resulting in an undeniably impactful community art project, with an optimism that has no doubt been challenged since.

 

Works deemed “too political. Too activist. Too queer. Too much like television. Too little like the movies. Non craft based. Too seemingly immaterial. Too technical”[2] laid the foundations of the discipline we now call ‘media art.’
Still image from What Connects Us, Elijah Hasan, 2020, Video Out
Still image from What Connects Us, Elijah Hasan, 2020, Video Out

 

Fragile Propositions: Where Art Belongs makes a full circuit – from a DIY space, through to the top rungs of the contemporary art ladder, and back to community outreach – to explore this weighty thematic. In our time of the pandemic, how we belong, connect, and engage are fundamental questions asked of us with a very real urgency. It is a question that ARCs are in the position to address, now more than ever. As artist, and VIVO-founding member Paul Wong states, “ARCs are valuable and relevant only to the degree that they can stimulate genuinely new dialogues between arts communities and audiences.”[5] This program reflects our current moment in artist-run-culture, as these spaces, whether IRL or virtual, are the site of uncomfortable, messy, and fragile enactments of larger issues in the world.
 

- Casey Wei


Notes:


[1] Chris Kraus, Where Art Belongs (Los Angeles: Semiotexte, 2007), 14.

[2] Donato Mancini, “In the Present as Well: Polytemporality and Archival Anamnesia,” in Anamnesia: Unforgetting–Polytemporality, implacement and possession in the Crista Dahl Media Library and Archive, ed. Amy Kazymerchyk (Vancouver: VIVO Media Arts Centre, 2012), 41-95.

[3] The 2010 Olympics drastically fast-forwarded the gentrification of Mount Pleasant, which developers boast for having a diverse “abundance of character and authenticity” while enjoying “rapidly appreciating rental rates.” In the last few years, this ‘appreciation’ has inched further east, to brand the formerly unbranded streets as Fraserhood, where The Toast Collective is located. See: “Development Opportunity In Heart Of Mount Pleasant,” accessed January 18, 2021, Lee and Associates Commercial Real Estate Services, https://leevancouver.com/property/701-kingsway-vancouver/ 

[4] “Blind Alleys As Ex Ocular Voto,” accessed January 18, 2021, Video Out Distribution, https://videoout.ca/catalog/blind-alleys-ocular-ex-voto 

[5] Elaine Chang et al, eds. Decentre: concerning artist-run culture (Toronto: YYZ Books, 2008), 263.

This program reflects our current moment in artist-run-culture, as these spaces, whether IRL or virtual, are the site of uncomfortable, messy, and fragile enactments of larger issues in the world.

 

ABOUT THE CURATOR


Casey Wei is an interdisciplinary artist, musician, and writer based in Vancouver, BC, on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Her moving image works include Murky Colors (2012), Vater und Sohn/Father and Son /父与子 (2013), Kingsgate Mall Happenings (2014), art rock? The Popular Esoteric (2018), Tuning to Oblivion: Piece for Monsanto Corn (2019), and various others. She holds an MFA from Simon Fraser University. Her current projects include Agonyklub, Kamikaze Nurse, Artworld Software, and ReIssue. She sometimes works as KC Wei or Karen Zolo. Her day job is at VIVO Media Arts Centre, where she works as Video Out Distribution.

VUCAVU thanks Video Out for their collaboration on creating this curated program.

    

 
This curated program is part of the VUCAVU Expanded project.
We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.​