Rope

Rope began at work. One morning last week the window cleaners were working on our building. It’s a fourteen story place and they clean the windows quite regularly. They don’t use a scaffold or platform, they simply repel down the side of the place of with buckets and squeegees. It’s quite disconcerting when they show up behind you when your working away at your desk inside.

After parking my bike I walked by a pile of their ropes. I walked back again and found myself sort of mesmerized by he way they had so haphazardly fallen into a pile. I’m not quite sure why. I took some photographs with my phone.

I thought about those ropes all week. I’ve been fascinated with ropes for climbing and for sailing for a long time. I think it’s just something about the feeling of good rope in your hands. It’s also how they relate to fabric arts. There’s also a neat memory of a project that a friend worked on over twenty years ago — one in which they where hand weaving rope and then taking that rope and making into a blanket like piece, at least that’s how I remember it.

This weekend I went to MEC and bought a fairly expensive length of static climbing rope. I got 20 meters of the stuff. It even felt good to buy it. I think I have a lot of experimenting to do.

I’ve started by simply hanging or piling the rope and I like where it’s going.

 

I’ll keep going like this. I imagine in the next week or so I’ll start to suspend the rope, tie it in knots or include other elements with it. I’ll also try to take it out of the studio and see if I can do some interesting things or placements of the rope that might actually lead to a bit of a narrative.

Stay tuned.

 

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Pictures of Pictures

Pictures of Pictures is a concept that’s probably done by many people in many different ways. It’s like playing broken telephone with a camera.

I took a picture of a camera with my phone. I then waited for it to upload to my tablet via the cloud and took a picture of that picture on the tablet with the original phone I took the original picture with. I then repeated the process sixteen times. This gallery shows the deterioration of the image over the process of that “copying”.

There’s an artist I like who did a series of recordings post 9/11 called the Disintegration Loops. This work by William Basinski is haunting and beautiful.

At some point I’d like to try this with analog, but right now that would be a very painstaking process. I can also see this involving other mediums in another iteration.

To me this exercise is an illustrative reminder of the possibility of having multiple ways to create photographic images for future use. Maybe I’ll get smarter and figure out a cool way to employ this process but right now it speaks to me of limits, repetition, perpetual motion, infinity, and some incomprehensible stuff I haven’t figured out. It’s the dragon eating it’s own tail.

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Self Portraits

I’ve always been interested in other people’s self portraits but never really into doing them myself. It just seems odd. Despite the reservations I had to shoot an image of myself for TIAF this year. I’m a little yellowish, but I think that’s my natural colour. Slightly pinkish with yellow highlights and a good dose of mottled beige-orange bits.

This is a bit passportish (thanks Elias), but it’s also a bit Chuck Close-like at the same time. I think it would make a good large print simply because of the detail captured by my camera. You can click on the image to see it a bit larger and get the idea. Chuck Close scale is what I’m thinking, but who wants a huge picture of me? Creepy.

The great discovery with this image was that my studio space in the basement can work with ambient lighting. There’s very little light down there right now and it doesn’t seem to matter. Four compact fluorescent bulbs do the trick for now, although I do want to get a soft box, and maybe two half decent strobe lights and stands.

I used Photoshop to; even-out the background and remove some weird shadows, do some colour adjusting and add bit of contrast. The only other thing I did was remove an annoying dot in between my eyes that must be a residual chicken pox scar. I have crazy old man eyebrows if you look close enough and–believe it or not–this is me smiling. If I consciously try to smile for the camera I get it all lopsided. This image was the result of about forty attempts. Now that I read this through that last bit gives me an idea.

I could learn to smile for the camera. I can shoot photographs of myself until I get the smile right. I think there might be hundreds of attempts, but hopefully I can learn how to manipulate my face into something that looks genuine and warm. This in itself is funny to me. I can work hard to create the illusion that I’m genuine and warm.

Just thought of this one below when I was fooling around.

This is the first time I’ve used the large format camera my awesome neighbour gave me. Unfortunately I’ve just used it as a prop in this picture but over the winter I plan to actually use it. I like the idea of using myself as an unwilling model. It’s the closest I’ve come to shooting an actual person.

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British Columbia

While in British Columbia –for the opening of my show at Bau-Xi Gallery on Granville in Vancouver– I wandered around a bit during breaks from sitting around in the gallery and found this place. It was two doors south of Bau-Xi. At first I thought maybe this gallery had gone out of business but now that I’ve looked it up on the all powerful internet I see The Winsor Gallery simply moved to 258 East First Avenue. They left this behind for me at their old location.

Winsor Gallery

Winsor Gallery

The trip to British Columbia was awesome. I loved it. I got a taste of what it’s like to live in a place that has it together –unlike our dysfunctional Toronto– for Public Transit, Bicycle Infrastructure, and Pedestrian traffic. I’m not saying I like the place better, I just got a glimpse of what our city could be like if we had some forward thinking politicians around. It was sweet.I’d go back anytime and maybe need to find a good excuse to do so.

ONe idea I had was to revisit and shoot my next series. I think there are lots of possibilities for subject matter. I could continue Wandering, or revisit any of my current body of work. I could also investigate the possibility of getting access to the container yard that’s visible from the gas Town area of the city. I’ve always been fascinated by shipping containers. My niece suggested shooting from the rooftops of the housing in the Lower East Side as an option as well. I also thought about an essay on the older –1960s– condo buildings. The bottom line is there’s a lot to explore.

 

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Canada Day

Canada Day Monday July 1st. I ventured out this morning to shoot and came back with some surprises. These are surprising to myself, maybe not to you.

The first three are taken in vacant lot along the Dundas West Rail Path. At one time this was going to become a large film studio but the plan is now to develop into residential space.  I’ve passed by this on my bike about 100 times in the past year. At one time the lot was well fenced and had on hand security as they demolished buildings. The whole complex use to be an automobile parts plant. The only structure standing is historic.

What are there now in place of the buildings are grey piles of silt. Interwoven into these piles is a tarp like material that flaps in the breeze. I think the tarps drew me to the place as well as the greyness. Today was particularly quiet, there’s easy access now through several gaps in the fence, and there’s no security. The sound of these tarps blowing in the breeze is super-interesting. I filmed it as well just to remember for some future reference.

The following photos are part of the Colour Theory concept. Friends came over yesterday to visit and left us the remains of a lemon tart. When I cleaned up this morning I washed the cardboard plate that the tart sat on and found myself sticking it in my camera bag, These are images of that plate. I think I’ll figure out some way to support the plate in the air with a wand of some sort that I can then photoshop that support out of the frame. Either that or I’ll leave it in. I’m just not liking the hand so much. I do like the glitter reflective gold plate though.

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Summer of Rain

The Summer of Rain has effected my ability to get out and about taking pictures. Typically I love the rain, but I don’t trust what it will do to my camera. In a typical summer I can usually wander around for what ends up being the equivalent of weeks shooting random things. This year however it seems that there’s been an inordinate amount of rain. I should have probably called this entry –The Year of the Flood– in homage to Margaret Atwood.

The following are the few shots from the last few weeks that Ive taken that I’ve liked. I’ve taken more than this but nothing very compelling. These few images below were taken on my way to work and while I was in Montreal for a work trip.

Construction workers on the facade for the new Thorncliffe Public School. I lied this architecture detail that’s simple, to the point and frugal but effective and sort of fun.

At the end of our street diagonally across from The Farmhouse Tavern. This was once a very poorly organized variety store, and the space –now empty– is quite nice. I’d open a coffee shop/gallery if I had any balls.

In Montreal. Above is some weird little detail I liked amongst a lot of scaffolding. I wasn’t intending this to be anything sinister, I just liked the blue white loop of rope. Below is one of the thousands of beautiful buildings on the edge of Old Montreal getting a bit of a facelift. I could spend a week in Montreal shooting.

Somewhere on Bloor just West of Dundas West. I love the extension cord.

 

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Colour Theory

Colour theory is based on a lot of things. Most notably the work of two twentieth century artist/theorists and their books. I’ve had copies of both Joseph Albers – The Interaction of Color  and Johannes Itten -The Art of Color on our shelves for a long a time. Note: I know how to spell colour, but I guess these are both American publications.

I also love painting, in specific the work of the 50′s and 60′s abstract expressionists that might be considered colourfield artists including; Mark Rothko, Gene Davis, Barnett Newman, Jack Bush, Guido Molinari, Frank Stella, Kenneth Noland, Robert Motherwell, and Clyfford Still. I’m particular as well to the contemporary painters that could be linked –albeit maybe just aesthetically–to that earlier movement like; Elizabeth McIntosh, Yves GaucherClaude Tousignant, and others.

A large part of Colour Theory is about Photoshop and photographic manipulation. These images are all taken “in camera”. I built small colour panels, and I support these on wooden stick in the air in front of the camera and shoot.

There’s a bit of Photoshop work done after the fact to remove the panel supports but I could have created these images within Photoshop with no camera work at all. In this way the work links back to aspects of my durational performance pieces in that I’m consciously finding a more difficult and labour intensive way to create something that could be easily mistaken for simple graphic manipulation.

It’s also about the desire to paint with the camera. I think this is a logical place for my work to move given the nature of the my traditional photographic practice of the last ten years. In a way this work is a transition from me “taking photographs” to me “making photographs” as Lise from Gallery 44 suggested.

Colour Theory is not going to be the title of this body of work. I’ve toyed with the idea of “Alterations” but that seems a bit too wanky. I’ll continue this post when I have more energy.

I’ll keep working this series, and see what happens. I just got a call from TIW and my circular colour panels are ready. Let’s see what happens with those. I’m also toying with the idea of three dimensional geometric shapes. The first of these will probably be an open ended square cube. I figure I can build it out of foam core. This weekend I’m buying a box of foam core.

I still haven’t managed to pick up the colour circular panels, but I did figure out a way to remove the stick in-camera. No more photoshop removal. I’ve also figured out I can do a lot of cool work on a table top without sticks with multiple panels on black and white foamcore backgrounds. Exciting. The following two images were all done in-camera, there’s no stick removal.

 

 

 

 

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Wandering Vancouver

Wandering Vancouver Edition

August 24th – September 5th, 2013

Bau-Xi Gallery

3045 Granville St  Vancouver, BC

Wandering Vancouver Edition short talk at 3:00 p.m. I’ll be there from about noon on.

Wandering is the personification of an ongoing love affair with urbanity in all its glory. With this series of images – shot in downtown Toronto – the artist continues to explore our relationship with the utilitarian by manipulating the context in which we see it and by protracting our interaction with it. Wandering: File under formalism, minimalism, found art, photography, math, OCD, hiking, humour, and colour.

The Wandering Vancouver images and short blurbs explaining what I was thinking when I took each image or what the subject of each means to me.  Club Monaco – Bloor and Avenue Road

I don’t remember when Club Monaco took over this building on the South East corner of Bloor and Avenue Road but I’ve shot it for years never really getting something that resonated until now. This image is very narrative when I compare it to the rest of my work. I’ve never really thought of telling stories with what I shoot or for that matter even insinuating the thread of a possible narrative but this image is different. There’s a subtext of sexual cliche here. The empty post-coital cigarette package, the short-dressed mannequin that viewed from below through outside of the window suggest an element of exhibitionism and voyeurism and the evergreen tree that might act as some sort of blind for the smoker/observer. I imagine I took this this hours after the smoker left but their presence still resonates in discarded cigarette package.

Solo Pole – Don Valley Pathway

This is one of two images taken of decommissioned hydro poles in an area of the Don Valley Pathway. This pole was made obsolete by the metal towers in the distance and the multiple wires above. It has no lines attached to it. It’s just an absurd pole that’s been made redundant as the power grid in the area grew. There are more like this in the vicinity. This photograph shows the progress or maybe more accurately just growth of the city. There’s something steadfast about this pole. Still standing although retired and made obsolete by bigger and better towers.

To me there’s also a real romanticism to the light and colouring in the surrounding greenery. I shot this early in the morning when the shadows were long and dark. It’s pastoral despite the power grid and  the location so close to the traffic sounds of The Don Valley Parkway and Don Mills Road. This small space within the city reminds me of the country that is slowly disappearing around suburbs like Burlington and Oakville.

Yard – Townsley and Old Weston Road

I got quite a shock two seconds after I took this shot. I was concentrating on the composition and how to capture it and right after I pressed the shutter a very large and not-particularly-friendly guard dog hurled himself against the fence, barking and snapping.

It scared the crap out of me despite the fact there was no real danger. It’s funny in hindsight because you can see the sad, squashed ball in the lower portion of the frame which I now assume belonged to to the dog when he was on break.

This image has grown on me. The foreground and background work well together while still competing for the viewers attention. I’ve always been a bit interested in shooting through fences, and I’ve tried it on many outings but nothing that works as well as this composition does for me. Like many of the images I shoot this makes me think of painting. I particularly like the sporadic squares of orange in the concrete retaining wall.

Bentley – Dupont West of Christie

This was taken through the window of a building in the parking lot of Grand Touring Automobiles. Situated between the car dealership and the Faema building at the corner of Dupont and Christie is this beautiful historic building that looks like it may have been a schoolhouse. I’m not sure what it actually was before the dealership co-opted it, but it certainly looks turn of the century. Grand Touring now uses it for storage. There’s nothing in it except for a desk and some advertising posters/paintings of cars. This is a view through the east window looking across through the interior space. You can see the dealership through the far window. The painting of the Bentley on the floor grabs the artificial light from the ceiling above nicely. I like this image, but I am extremely indifferent to cars, and even more suspect of luxury cars and what they say and represent about society. They are definitely useful to get from point A to point B, but they’re so over-used and to me they embody a lot of what’s wrong with the world. Particularly; pollution, war for oil; arrogance, superiority and embarrassing aspects of masculinity; immaturity, status and power.

Sandro Martini and Fan – Grenville at Bay

This was taken on a pivotal day of shooting. I’d been unable to capture anything I liked for a long time. Nothing I took was striking me as interesting or printable until I took this.

This is a space inside a new condo building. The lower floors on the Grenville Street side end of the Murano building make up a glass room to be used at some unspecified date in the future as a restaurant. Inside this space the Italian fresco painter Sandro Martini has installed an ambitious, commissioned, series of abstracts panels. Some are on glass suspended from the ceiling or on a floor level glass partition walls. This shows the solitary traditional wall of the room. At the time I took this the room was bereft of everything except this fan, a table, small fire extinguisher, news paper (on the floor) and Martini’s paintings. My guess is that the fan was used to dry the paint required to join the preprinted wall panels that make up the finished installation piece.

I shot this by resting the lens ring on the exterior of the buildings glass wall/window and shooting through into the expanse of what will be the restaurant. It has a soft focus to it because I used a slow shutter speed and reasonably wide aperture.

The composition conforms to a structure that recurs frequently in my work. Here the picture plane is broken into three relatively equal horizontal strips creating an internal triptych. This compositional style attached itself to me through a series of horizon photographs I shot about six or seven hers ago on the shores of Lake Ontario and Lake Huron. in those photographs the three horizontal strips of composition were typically made up of beach, water and sky.

The colours and complexity of the fresco painting contrast with the monochromatic surroundings and simplicity of the walls and the grey of the concrete floor.

As a critic once remarked it’s a simple expository shot. I like the term expository. A big part of the point here is to simply document what I see and describe why I think it’s interesting. Lately I’ve been thinking my work relates more and more to Bernd & Hilla Becher and their obsessive documentation of the commonplace. My work could be considered fine art, journalism, cataloging or simple straightforward observation. Electrical Panel – Bohemian Embassy Queen Street

Like a few other photographs in this series I was never inside this space. I took the photograph through a window.

Small patches of my life were spent doing construction work; for income, to help build a cottage and to renovate a few homes. I’m still doing this sort of work but sporadically as I get lazier and lazier. I’ve done electrical work, plumbing, framing, flooring, roofing and concrete foundation and footing work. I can’t consider myself very good at any of it, although I can swing a hammer very confidently. It does however give me an appreciation for skilled trades. I’m also interested in the complete foreign nature of this work to lots of people. They’ve never done it and therefore never had any chance to even comprehend it. My brother is the same as me only he has taken it to the next level and is basically capable of any job no matter what the size. He’s also trained himself to be very good at it — and design in general — and all of his skill comes from trial and error. My  father was the catalyst for all this hands on type work. He built and renovated all his life and would have much happier if he’d been a cabinet maker or framer rather than an accountant.

I took this because I think the Bohemian Embassy is hideous and this is one of the only things of aesthetic interest I could salvage out of the architectural mess. Seriously, where have all the architects gone and where are the builders with vision? It’s all so transparently budget! This place is a glorified strip mall. It couldn’t be more ironically named. Maybe I’m too harsh but we seem to be extremely capable of building completely unremarkable buildings in this city. The condo craze is awesome for bringing people into the core, I’m all about density. The sad truth however is that their moving into shitty, boring buildings constructed to save as much money as possible with no regard for actual design or aesthetic. I don’t however think the labourers are to blame for what I feel about these places. This electrical panel’s immaculately organized schematic and the reserved yet capably executed drywall mudding make me smile. By far these are the best type of things about what is a remarkably unimaginative and hideous structure.This Month Only – Perth at DuPont

This is a side view of the scariest bar in my neighborhood. The signage out front reads “This Month Only” and has done for at least 10 years. The sidewalk beside the entrance usually has three or four very sketchy looking people hanging around smoking. It’s the kind of place where the bartender is about 90 without a hint of it being ironic or on purpose  I’ve never been in for a drink, but then again I never liked Labatt’s Blue.

There’s nothing aesthetically interesting about the place, or I should say that there there wasn’t until they did some “renovations” inside and piled the garbage up here beside the wall outside the bar. I couldn’t have arranged the stuff to be more perfect. The colours, textures and lines of this natural tableau still freak me out when I look at this.

Here’s a perfect example of a place I pass by hundreds of times, and on one particular day for perhaps only a few hours it’s transformed by accident into something I find extraordinarily painterly.Log – Don Valley Pathway

Log was discovered while riding my bicycle north on the Don Valley Pathway. That’s the amazing pedestrian/cycle route that follows the path of the DVP up from Lakeshore to well-passed where I took this shot just south of the Brickworks on the east side of the river. If you ever get the time and feel like discovering a very special part of the Toronto, this makes a wonderful outing. I’m so fortunate to travel on this route to work every day during the spring, summer and fall. It’s a long trip but I plan to take it every day I can in 2013 because it’s so spectacular. This route to work on my bicycle takes about 90 minutes and covers approximately 25 km. Most people commute by car within the city on journeys that often take this long.

This photograph is taken of an off ramp that serves as access to the Pathway for city workers. The asphalt  is old but in good shape. You can see this place when traveling on the subway as it moves from Castle Frank to Broadview underneath the Bloor Bridge looking out the north windows of the train.

I assume a few kids found this log, dragged it across the road and left it. It’s not really dangerous, just funny. It was such a pleasure to find. I almost wonder if the perpetrators might have been artists. If they weren’t it’s a great example of unintentional found art. Even if they were a little drunk when they created the scene I love how it works on so many levels.

First it’s a blatantly absurd tableau in a rather idyllic setting in what could be considered the heart of the city. Part of the attraction is the positively perfect sense of danger where there is no danger.

Another intriguing aspect of this is the log itself. It’s possibly the largest and most perfect piece of driftwood I’ve ever seen.Abacus Office – Dundas Street West

“Abandoned Condominium Offices” could be a complete series in itself. I’ve taken pictures for years all over the city’s downtown core and west end that features these forgotten and forlorn marketing structures waiting to be leveled so the foundations of the new structure can be built. It’s hard to imagine these interiors were once the main marketing thrust of these crazy places. In this particular room, left of the frame there’s a hole blasted through the drywall. It looks like someone just simply attacked the wall with a hammer to make a passageway between the rooms once the structure had served it’s usefulness. To me this speaks of the falsity of Condo marketing. They sell lifestyle to those who may not be fully aware of it. They’re are in the business of cool and I sometimes forget who they are trying to attract.

The abacus building is different. It will be really quite modest in size and it does interesting so much better than 90% of the other condo buildings in town. I really like this building’s plans if I’m being honest and I think the people who bought places in here will be well served with them while the building itself adds to the aesthetic of the neighbourhood without being too tall to really detract from it.

In the shot the left and forgotten, Saarinen – Knoll Tulip Table is awesome.

A few weeks after writing this completely uninformed little blurb above about the Abacus Office, The Toronto Standard has published an article on the developer Antonio Azevedo. He sounds very cool. I like the building even more now.RBC – College and Ossington

Like many of the other images I shoot this was years in the making. I’ve lived in the west end of the city now for about ten years. In that time I’ve become an avid walker, and often end up in this neighbourhood. It’s beginning to change and become a little more gentrified but there’s still a large older population here and this bank obviously serves some of them. I’ve stood on this corner to catch the Ossington bus north or the Dundas West streetcar west uncounted times. Every time it seems like it’s one of the longest waits in the city for either. It’s probably my imagination but I also think it’s the city being unaware of their changing demographic and how to service them. Anyway, I’ve stared at this building a lot over the years and when I simplified what interested me and focused on this marble wall and the period lighting fixtures I was rewarded.

StorageMart – Research Road

I wandered this area for weeks in the fall. It’s in the north east end of the city where a freakish amount of construction and development is happening on Laird Drive. There’s a ton of fairly light industrial use buildings, a lot of auto body shops, and now a plethora of new mass retail strip malls. I passed this building a bunch of time before I took some photographs. There’s something distinctly Canadian about this image in a mixed up way. There’s the direct reference to the Canadian flag in the actual structure of the composition, but there’s also something disturbingly nationalistic about self-storage.

When I grew up in the suburbs there were storage facilities like these all over the place. I also see many of these places with their stereo-typically ”notice me” colours” on the outskirts of small towns like Collingwood and Seaforth. It astounds me that so many people have so much stuff that they need to store things to make room in their house. There’s also the aspect of storing things to hide them, hoarding, or transitional space  Often these places are used when renovating, or when moving from place to place. I can’t help but think though that 90% of the stuff sorted in these places is garbage accumulated over years of acquiring. I feel sort of lucky that we save very little. It just isn’t practical with a small home. Even things I’ve got loaded in the basement right now are 90% garbage that I just can’t get rid of easily. It’s amazing how much crap we transport and store over the course of a lifetime. I think it’s sort of the mark of a spoiled society. Hoarding and Tree – West Elm East of Jefferson

In Liberty Village there’s still a lot of conversion happening. Older office and industrial buildings being gutted and reconfigured for condo usage. It’s amazing that I use to frequent this area twenty years ago when it was nothing but artist studios and industrial space. No one would think to live there except artists trying to save a buck and hang in their studios. It still flabbergasts me that a lifestyle that was born out of economic necessity became a contemporary marketing and lifestyle aspiration! This whole area now has thousands of young professionals living in what they feel is a bohemian manner but with all mod cons.

There’s a bunch of things that draw me to this image. The tree itself is desperately out of place amidst the hoarding and scaffolding of the facade renovation.  The triptych-like split of the horizontal lines made up of the turquoise, blue and turquoise strips of the construction. The sadly bent and empty bicycle post. Lastly the area on the blue tarp where some bird or group of bids has left it’s mark from sitting on the tree branch and whiling away the hours despite the construction.

Wandering is the personification of an ongoing love affair with urbanity in all its glory. With this series of images – shot in downtown Toronto – the artist continues to explore our relationship with the utilitarian by manipulating the context in which we see it and by protracting our interaction with it. Wandering: File under formalism, minimalism, found art, photography, math, OCD, hiking, humour, and colour.

The following is an interview I did with myself about the show.

Q. Wandering – what’s the significance of the title?
A. Wandering is what I do. I wander the city endlessly and take pictures. I visit places over and over again to do this, often returning to locations that resonate with me year after year after year. Wandering relaxes me and allows me to familiarize myself with a specific setting. It’s also an amazing way to find things. You can’t do that in a car or on a bicycle. I explore when I walk. Walking also slows things down incredibly and gives me time to think. After a while I see differently and I’m more likely to notice the subtleties of a location and hopefully I’m able to capture them in a way that means something to me. Typically this process takes a few days to happen. It’s why most of my work is focused in Toronto. When I travel anywhere else it’s hard to get into that state of familiarity to achieve the same thing. I consider myself a pedestrian first and foremost. There’s a great French noun that seems relevant– flâneur– it comes from the verb flâner meaning “to stroll”. The wiki definition of that term is fascinating. I also really like the term urban pastoral to describe the images in this series.

From a different angle Wandering reflects my recent mental state. Lately I’ve been wandering from my art practice and into middle age. Wandering describes the somewhat confounding mental shift I’ve experienced in my photographic practice. I’m constantly thinking of projects but they’re increasingly more photo-based than traditional photographs. I conceptualize but I don’t execute. Wandering is rooted in a weird atmospheric mix of indecision and uncertainty. This exhibition was a journey and was challenging to produce psychologically. In the end I allowed myself to wander away from the rigid conceptualization and overall themes that I’ve fixated on over the past five years to arrive at the body of this work.

Q. Where does this infatuation with pedestrian banality originate?
A. I like terms like banality, boredom, and pedestrian. I don’t associate them with the negative that others tend to instill them with. I’m an observer, and instead of observing the spectacular or the sublime I find interest in the everyday. There are enough people looking at the extraordinary. It took years to write my tiny artistic statement and I think it’s pretty funny that when distilled to the very core that statement becomes my Twitter description; “I enjoy looking at things that other people are not that interested in”. I have to slightly qualify that by saying “I enjoy looking at things that the majority of people don’t find interesting”. Out of the billions of people in the world there’s probably a few million who see the word in a similar way and for whom my work might resonate.

Q. Where are the people?
A. People interest me as a vehicle for my art to be viewed and in direct relation to it and not as a subject matter for it. Besides, I’m not that good at thinking about people in the context of my aesthetic right now. Maybe that will change, but for now I’m drawn to solitude and contemplation. The potential for people. It’s hard to express yourself and your interests honestly with others around. My interest lies in the serenity and the solitude I find in things and places. I’m not anti-social but I love being by myself in the city. People think it’s impossible to find peace here — I would strongly disagree. In the summer I’m often up at 5:00 a.m. on weekends and will have finished a good three hours of walking before a lot of people wake up.

Despite the fact that there are no people in my images, their presence can’t be escaped. I’m more interested in the notion of people and how a place resonates with their presence when no one is around. It’s not about ghost, but impressions. At one point I was working on a theory that –described loosely– postulated that a place only existed in a way that I found interesting because people had visited there and would visit there again. If you look at all my work almost everything I shoot is in a stasis between human interactions. It’s waiting for something to happen either tomorrow or in twenty years time. I’m interested in that potential of place.

Q. About the square — what’s with the uniformity of the presentation and the subject?
A. My first camera was a Hawkeye Brownie that took 2 – 1/2 in square –120– film. It was B&W and I produced abysmally poor images taken on a primary school trip to African Lion Safari, I was probably about nine or ten. After that I grew up shooting 35 mm film. I’d save money and buy the most advanced consumer SLR of the day. My father did the same. As I got interested in producing work I got more advanced cameras but I always wanted to use a medium format. The 6 x 6 Hasselblad was the aspirational goal. After shooting so much 35 mm digital over the past ten years I’ve started to resent the prohibitive nature or of the 2:3 frame ratio and started began to visualize things in a frame aspect ratio of 1:1. Of course my camera shoots 2:3 ratio but as soon as I started thinking square it’s all I shot and composed in. I now constantly look at possible subjects and through the viewfinder with the intention of cropping to a square frame. I don’t think I can escape from the square file and frame thing. Now my dream is a full frame square sensor camera. I guess I could work on a Hasselblad 6×6 with a digital back but I’d prefer the comfort and familiarity of an SLR type rig. Maybe someday. That said I’m completely comfortable with my cropping scenario and my existing camera.

I’m also thinking about circular cropping abut still working this out. I think it has the potential to unlock a new world of image making for me, a world that questions the atypical presentation of art and the nature of the gallery. My theory is that it might transform the photographs into more or less sculptural works. This whole circular thing is based on the work of Kenneth Nowland or what I remember of his work. I remember him as someone who challenged and pushed against the limitations of the traditional frame.

Q. These images seem a little more whimsical than Waiting and Learning. Was that intentional?
A. Completely. I’ve always appreciated humour. I really like the idea of contemporary art with a somewhat sharp sense of humour or the absurd. I think that’s why lately I enjoy work by people like Alex Kisilevich, John Sasaki, and Robyn Cummings –to name a few. I’ve also always liked the work of Tom Friedman for a long time. Hopefully my new work is funny and thoughtful without trying too hard. I’m a relatively melancholy person who loves a good laugh. I’m not really after belly laughs, but I do hope the work elicits a smile here and there. It’s relatively dark humour, but it’s still humour. Hopefully I’ve avoided irony.

Q. What’s your physical process.
A. I carry my camera everywhere but it doesn’t always make it out of my bag. My process is very focused on the image and composition and the work is about developing things in my head after seeing something that resonates with me. I do a lot of bus and streetcar riding but also a tremendous amount of walking and cruising around on a bicycle. I hate driving — not because of the act of driving– but because I can’t concentrate on what I see without being a bad driver. The bus is amazing because while you travel around the city you just see so much. I’ll pass the same place for days or months and then I start to think about it all the time. I’ll then make a conscious effort to revisit that location with the explicit intention of taking pictures. I go back until I’ve got what I feel is a strong piece. For some of the images in Wandering I revisited a location five or six times. Sometimes I don’t get anything I like over multiple visits and it takes years to capture what I’ve imagined is the picture. Again it’s about familiarity.

After I’ve got something I live with it. I put it up on my website and keep going back to look at it and write about it. If I grow tired of something I delete it and tend not to think of the image again. If I’m happy with an idea or image after a few weeks I work to expand on the concept.

I shoot on a Canon 5D Mark II and it’s plenty of camera for me. I use available lighting and tend not to use a tripod anymore. In photoshop I crop, curve, level, sharpen and saturate slightly to get the true colour I remember from the shoot. I find the Canon sensor is a bit understated for colour saturation but at the same time I’m careful not to overstate the colours in processing.

Q. What’s your relationship to the city?
A. I love it. I want to grow old in it and watch it change and expand. It pains me when people so blatantly show their dislike for it like our current mayor. He’s done more to destroy this city than anyone in his position has done in the past. I also think that cities in general –Toronto included– get a bum deal. After all, this city is a safe, vibrant, caring place to be. People outside the city are so ill informed about the actual nature of urbanity. I grew up in the suburbs, and a friend once captured a belief that I still hold. You live in the city or the country but why live in between? Don’t get me wrong, the city can be a drag at times, but I wouldn’t swap it for anything right now. I also mean no disrespect to the suburban, I’m just saying it’s not for me.

Seriously, the city is painted as unfriendly, cold, callous, dangerous and expensive. I’d argue these ideas are simply misconceptions. The city is arguably expensive, but I’m comfortable investing in culture than square footage any day. Our house is too big for us, but we’re also very lucky to even have a house. We couldn’t afford one in today’s market where we are. We have some furniture and we have art. We could get a bigger place in the suburbs but I wasn’t cut out to be “suburban”. I don’t need more space or more stuff.

I could go on an on, but the biggest reason I prefer the city is it’s socialist or humanist nature. Since I’ve lived in the city my sense of community and neighborliness has increased exponentially from my twenty years in the suburbs.

Q. Do you shoot film?
A. I shot film for about twenty years. As soon as digital came along I was in heaven. I’m not a photo purist. I respect technical ability in anyone, but it’s not my interest. I’m more interested in feeling that the image I want when I take it is captured. I dislike the uncertainty of film and the temperamental nature of processing. The time lag is also somewhat separating for me. I hate waiting to work an image. I also dislike darkroom work. I was never good at it and always had an aversion to the chemicals. Add to that the fact that I could never produce a final product that I was happy with when I was a kid and I never bothered to fully invest in the practice to get better. I really do just like shooting and thinking about finished images. Digital works great for me and I’m fairly competent in Photoshop with simple manipulation. I have a 4 x 5 that a friend gave me to use, and so far I’ve been thinking about it and know I’ll shoot 4 x 5 before I’m done, but right now it’s just not top of my list.

I’m also not interested in perfect clarity. I’m fine with a bit a noise, or a slight focus problem. I’ve recently come to appreciate the quote that “sharpness is a bourgeoisie concept”. I can’t claim to take that statement by Henri Cartier-Bresson completely serious though, because I’m middle class and I’m dealing in a cultural commodity. I’m also pretty anal with my images and I do like a degree of clarity.

Q. Is there a spiritual aspect to your work or an underlying philosophy?

A. Hopefully my work is about simplification and purity of vision. I like to associate it with words like; math, Zen, fixation, peace, serenity and compulsiveness. I really do love the mundane, still, image. Minimalism and formalism are definitely at my works core. In particular I’ve always been drawn to what I’ll call minimal and formalist painting like that of of Ellsworth Kelly, Joseph Albers, Agnes Martin, and Sol LeWitt. There are a bunch of others, but those are the names I know the best.

In a way I’m trying to slow things down, I think the cliche “stop and to smell the roses” is great, only my roses tend to be a bit dirty and — more often than not– smell like motor oil or garbage and no one really looks at them.

Q. How do you get access to some of the interior locations?
A. Usually I don’t. For this show’s fifteen images I never accessed anything that anyone couldn’t have by walking by. Even the interior shots are taken from outside those spaces through the glass. Gaining access is a real downer for me and more often than not it disappoints and frustrates me. Given that I’m also uncomfortable taking advantage of a situation or going where I’m not suppose to go it makes it difficult. I hate confrontation and try to avoid it at all costs. My earlier shows based on the subway or school systems relied on legal permissions and I didn’t want that to be an aspect of this body of work. Someday it would be awesome to be successful enough that I could get someone to do the work of getting me access to places. For now though I don’t need it.

Q. What inspires you?
A. Early on it would have been other image makers. The painters, the writers and to some degree photographers. I tend to see less photography now that I’m seriously producing it. I find it difficult to get passed the idea of original thought and there are so many photographers doing such good work the odds of me originating an idea executed by another photographer is rather frustrating. I’m working to realise you can’t work in a vacuum but to help me avoid those feelings of disappointment I prefer to look at painting, sculpture, performance and drawing instead of photography. At one point I would say film and literature inspired me, but lately I’ve almost completely stopped looking at movies and reading. By avoiding a lot of photography, if I do come up with something and execute it then happen to see similar work I’m OK. I’ve executed and who cares that there are similar projects out there.

I do think that the work of some amazing photographers has become part of my subconscious and without ever seeing it again it informs how I see the world. I would never be shooting what I’m shooting if I hadn’t seen or read about these artists. My list of big names would include; Walker Evans, Paul Strand, Jeff Wall, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Lyne Cohen, Edward Burtynsky, Robert Polidori, and Andreas Gursky to name a few.

Currently I’m inspired by almost anything I see.

Q. Do you have a favourite image from the series?
A. No. There are four or five of the fifteen I think about all the time, but that doesn’t mean they’re my favourites. I also think about the images I didn’t include that could possibly have made the cut for January. I got input from the gallery on the final selection because I felt a bit too close to the work. I have no trouble editing down to a certain level but then I like help to figure out what someone –who’s not me– likes or doesn’t like. For this show we didn’t include a few pictures I felt were pretty good, but I agreed somewhat with someone else’s comments and I really needed to cut a few. That doesn’t mean I don’t like the images we didn’t include anymore, but I really appreciate the external opinion. I don’t necessarily get criticism on any honest level. It would be nice to hang out at a show and be a fly on the wall. If people don’t like the work they tend to clam up and not say anything. Sometimes that’s disappointing. I like talking about myself and the work. I kid myself that I’d even like to do that if someone really dislikes the images. Truth is I don’t have the thickest skin yet. I’m self conscious about my work.

Despite this though I really should say that my current favourite image is Club Monaco – Bloor and Avenue Road. This isn’t because I want it hanging in my house any more than the others, but because there’s a bit of a narrative to it. It might be a bit of a new direction.

Q. When was the work for Wandering shot?

A. The earliest image is from the beginning of 2012, but the majority of work here was shot in 2012 and this year. Once I put my head down and decided to book a show I needed work to fill the walls. This forced me back to the street and back to looking. In the past I’ve created the work and then booked a show, but I was dragging my ass so badly that I seriously thought I was going to give it all up. I realized then I love being an artists and really want to continue. I didn’t want to fail because of a mental glitch. Sometimes a goal is a good way to get your ass in gear especially when it’s sort of self-inflicted. I would also never let my gallery down. They’ve been pretty amazing to me. I’m happy with this work, and it never would have happened if I didn’t really look at myself and realize I was in serious danger of fucking up an opportunity that millions of people never get. That quite simply I’m lucky to have the opportunity to be an artist. I really believe that it’s a totally privilege and not a right. I bet I get in trouble for saying that.

Q. What’s next?

A. I have a list of projects that I’ve been compiling on my website. It started out as a notebook on my phone, but I eliminated about 90% of the ideas because I felt they were sort of lame. There are about 100 post on my site that go through a range of ideas and about fifty percent of those are involving photography. There are six or seven photography projects that I’ll definitely pursue, but I need to finish the studio in the basement first. I’m more interested lately in retreating from the streets a bit and focusing on some weirder projects that are photo based.

As for more traditional projects I’m still very interested in expanding on the Learning series of educational architectural picture. for that matter anything I’ve done already I’d like to continue to develop and shoot. That includes the subway. I’d love to get into the London underground for a month or so. I’d also like to expand on the hospital images I’ve shot and maybe get access to any other more institutional places. I’m fascinated with the older architecture somewhat ubiquitous in the public institutional world.

Q. What’s your favourite colour?
A. Orange

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Toronto Spring 2013

The following is an ongoing series of images I’m working. I post to the site so I can get comfortable with things and then edit them.

 

May 19th, 2013. Took the bicycle out to the Bloor and Bay area. On the way I stopped at the school across Bloor from Christie Pits. This is the view from the lower courtyard of the school across Bloor to the trees in Christie Pits.

Deeper inside the school complex is a covered courtyard. It’s pretty decrepit being used mainly by kids and skateboarders and of course being a public school they have no cash to fix it up. It’s dated and slightly dark under the canopy where the next shot is taken, but I’ve always been drawn to this spot. I’ve visited 10 or 12 times in the past 15 years. Both these shots depict the relatively rough but functional aesthetic I associate with Ontario Public Schools.

Just south of Bloor on St Thomas and Charlers is an empty Condo sales office. It’s for the Minto building called the St. Thomas. I think empty it’s probably vastly more exciting than the building they plan to construct.

I’ve been peering in the window of the old Escada retail store on Bloor for weeks. I was rewarded Sunday by the deconstruction below. I love the hanging fluorescent lights that have been left on. It’s like a found Dan Flaven that he put together when he was drunk.

Directly across the street from the abandoned Escada store is the old Louis Vutton store. Hoarding went up this week. I’ll probably ditch this image but it’s interesting in a way. There’s something I definitely don’t like about it though.

I’ve been stopping at the Club Monaco store at Bloor and University every now and then for years. I finally caught something I liked. That’s a bit of an understatement, I really love this shot. The reflections in the windows, pine tree, empty pack of smokes, scantily clad mannequin and the classically inspired conservative architecture all work nicely together.

The neighbouring window isn’t quite as cool but I still like it.

Previously…

The shot above and below were taken May 9th on my ride to work.

It’s taken through a window of what was once a very dodgy variety store on Pape a few blocks north of Danforth. I’m always surprised by the refusal of this entire road to gentrify. I’m not quite sure why this is. In the last 15 years nothing much has happened but I’m sure a whole whack of people with money have moved into the area. I don’t think everything should be subject to crazy gentrification, but this street is just sad for some reason. That said someone has laid a new floor in this place since I last shot it, removed the ceiling and in general cleared the whole thing out. Me thinks something cool will go in here.

This image also gave me another idea. I was thinking I might emulate the leaning plywood in a studio setting and see if I could start to “construct” images like the one above but with echos of famous geometric paintings in the way the panels of plywood are arranged. I may even just simply build constructions against a white studio backdrop like the one above. I simply love the way the plywood works like layers of paint.

I really like the image below, It wasn’t intentionally shot to be funny, but when I think of it in terms of Joshua Jensen Nagle’s wonderful polka dot work it makes me smile. My fascination with concrete, concrete block and emptiness is unbounded. Note the wonderful piece of crumpled material on the floor. I didn’t notice that until I processed the image.

The shot following appeals to my sense of the square geometric space again. Here the picture plane is sweetly dissected into four relatively equal panels, each with their own uniquely simply subject matter. I’m also making a dig at one of my favourite photographic pet peeves, black and white.

Friday the 3rd of May I took my sweet ass time getting to work on the bicycle. It was so amazing out. The first day of t-shirt and shorts riding. One of my stops was Bloor. Thanks goodness there’s a new Tiffany’s going in. The old one was so ghetto. The ring they’re advertising on the hoarding looks like a good buy. I love the fact that even Tiffany’s has to do construction and use hoarding. Hoarding is the great equalizer.

A very obscure self-portrait in an vacant Bloor shop. You can just make out the yellow t-shirt. I find the interlaced corner of this empty window display engaging. There’s something pin-wheel in the overlapping nature that I’d like to explore further.

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Hamilton

Hamilton was not what I expected. I visited the downtown on Sunday morning from about 7:30 till 10:00 a.m. I think it will take me a little while to get use to it again. The last time I spent any serious time there was about 20 years ago. Maybe 25.

I grew up there. In truth I grew up in Burlington, but I spent a lot of time in Hamilton. My grandmother lived there when I was a kid so I’d take the bus in every Saturday morning to visit her and walk the downtown. That was pre Jackson Square time.

When I got older I lived there for about 7 maybe 10 years. I worked on the strip I use to hang out on when I was a kid at a place called Book Villa that sold porn and had a baseball bat for security behind the counter. It was 24 hours. It’s no longer there. I worked at the AGH as a security guard, the McMaster Art Gallery before it was moved into it’s present location, I did construction work and I worked at HMV. I lived in a warehouse in the steel manufacturing area of town and drove my motorcycle into the building’s elevator and down the hallway into my unheated room.

The last time I was living there I had a place in Hess Village and commuted to Toronto. It’s where I started taking pictures.

James Street North is transforming. The artistic community has sort of taken over which is very sweet. It resembles the Parkdale strip of Queen. The streets are clean and there’s weirdly no Graffiti. I find that sort of suspect in itself. Either there are a lot more shelters, and Community Centres than I ever remember and way more people that rely on them, or I remember poorly. I have a sneaking suspicion that as Toronto gets more unaffordable and gentrified the less fortunate get pushed somewhere and Hamilton’s downtown core seems to be where they’ve ended up. Indeed the central area around where all the buses meet is teaming with people on a Sunday morning, but they just seem to be walking around waiting for stuff to open. It’s unsettling.

The Canadian Football Hall of Fame is still there, and I still love the building. It’s on the right hand side of the frame above. It’s got to be 50 years old and it is definitely still a cool mod building. The concrete mass that surrounds it on the two sides above is a court house of some sort. Directly behind me as I take this shot is Hamilton City Hall which is another beautiful building. Below is the wall and vacant lot beside a spectacular block of restoration work called the Lister Block. I’ve thought about this image a lot since I took it. Today I thought it would be cool to revisit this location with a glass end table and vase of finely arranged flowers. I could place them in the middle of the frame and re shoot. That thought got expanded and I found myself elaborate floral arrangements that I could drop into inaccessible and garbage strewn corners of the city and then photographing them. I Could come back to re shoot them as they wilted or became unkempt. If only I was a man of unlimited income. I’d quit the day job and start doing stuff like that.

Just a 1/2 block away from the Lister Block is the side of a building that had a nice reflection on it. I think it’s the glass from a neighboring structure. I’m standing in a very small grass parkette between the two buildings. I like the totemic nature of the reflection and the underlying colour schema of the wall is pretty cool.

Finally the wall below was in the same block as the other images. It really sums a lot of Hamilton up for me. It’s unpretentious and practical with a solid utilitarian charm but a bit rough.

After thinking about it Hamilton was impeccably clean. It seems to be prospering with the exception of around the Bus Terminal area — which is really just part of the John Street strip. I imagine if I was to go to downtown Toronto and hang around the bus terminal on a Sunday morning it would be pretty sketchy too. Hamilton’s core may be actually worse than Toronto’s because this city is completely unaffordable and Burlington and Oakville are just to damn boring. I think I’ll be happy to go back and explore some more. Hopefully I can make it out to Burlington Street and areas of the more industrial sections of town. I bet Stoney Creek is still pretty dodgy.

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Photo Based

Photo Based is a term that I’ve just started thinking about more seriously. For me the term describes something which touches on some element of traditional photography. This can be simply taking a photo, finding a photo or building something completely different that references something involved in the photographic. It’s slightly odd that I’m exposed to so much that’s photo based but I’ve never really ventured too far from the very traditional picture taking exercise. Maybe it’s time for a bit of adventure.

The following image was already the result of some fairly major fooling around. It started as a traditional photo then became something else. For the initial image below I took one, four inch ardox nail and suspended it from a fishing line in front of a white background and took a picture. I then isolated the nail on a blank white canvas in Photoshop. I copied that single nail image, rotated the copy slightly in an arbitrary manner—so that it related to the first nail in an interesting way—and moved it to a suitable location on the canvas. I kept doing this for about fifteen minutes. I also processed it a bit with curves and contrast in CS3.

Then I distorting the image in Photoshop filters to get the image below.

If you didn’t know what it was, you’d never be able to guess. I’ve worked another nail baed image that popped into my head last night. This is a more regimented and structured composition, but it’s still sort of working for me.

This all grew out of a very spontaneous and accidental place described below.

Friends of ours are having their first child soon. The momentous event is about six weeks away. We had planned a few simple gifts. A store bought one, one made by Jill and one made by me. For my piece I intended to take a photograph that the couple sent to us to announce the fact that they were pregnant and simply print it nicely and frame it for them. The photo was of a pregnancy test sticks that indicated a positive result. I thought this would be funny and sort of different for the kid to grow up with in their room. It would serve as a reminder of a time before serious parenting began and to remind everyone of the humorous nature of life in general. It was all well intentioned. The problem was the image sort of sucked as an art piece. Although as a text message it was super compelling to communicate the pregnancy, it wasn’t working as a stand alone image. I thought it would look shitty on a wall, especially a wall that the couple had put so much recent effort into getting ready for the baby.

For some reason I just started screwing around. I took that original image of the pee stick and manipulated it in Photoshop to arrive at the image below. Much like the nails above. The new image depicts the indicator areas of the pregnancy test distorted and pixalize. I did some other simple stuff to it and bumped up the contrast a bit. All in all they are pretty cheesy effects that are simple standard filters in CS5 but used in an extreme way they have cool painterly effects.

I think I’ve gotten to something they can hang on their wall that relates to this crazy time in their lives but that nobody else will understand until they explain it. In that way it’s a very personal image that can be hung in plain sight and appreciated by them for what it means and by others for it’s simple aesthetic intrest.

I like this Photoshopping effect enough to continue a series in this vein. I’ve tried a few other photographs but I’m coming to the conclusion that to get a purley abstract image I need to begin with a somewhat abstract image.

I’m happy with this distorted representation of the photograph because it’s so painterly. So much so that I might go that added step extra and print a series of these “photographs” and use them as a reference for a series of paintings.

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Sketching

Sketching is rough work. Now that the weather has turned I’m making a concerted effort to get out and wander again. It helps to post and look at things for a while on the site before I decide if they’re their crap or if they have potential.

The goal now is to continue this so I’m getting out every day.

After thinking about it for about a month and passing by it about 20 times I went back to shoot Postal Station E Dovercourt and Bloor. The draw is a combination of the flat aluminum framework, the old school 60s modern aesthetic, the porous warmth of the concrete, the tarp obscuring the interior, the reflection of Dovercourt in the glass and that I use to collect stamp. It may seem strange but these 2 pics are loaded images to me in so many ways. I also just like how they look for some reason. I cropped and processed this today on the 20th of April and shot it about a week ago. The earlier image down at the bottom of the post was done about three weeks ago. It’s crazy how the angle and framing is the same. I really do have a weird way of repeating things almost perfectly.

This weekend was definitely spring like. It’s the 7th today and I managed a few shots I like. Nothing too out of my wheelhouse here but some shots that might have some staying power.

 

The following were taken last weekend the 29th of March.

Wallace Emerson Community Centre – Taken through one of the widows in the gymnasium complex which is the north building. The paper cut outs caught the light of spring nicely. I also like the awkward positioning of the coat rack and interior widows. You can see a slight reflection in the bottom left hand corner created by the exterior widow I rest the camera lens on to take the photograph.

Grand Touring Automobiles on Dupont Outbuilding – Situated between the car dealership and the Faema building at the corner of Dupont and Christie is a beautiful old school building. I’m not sure what it was before the dealership was there, but it looks turn of the century. It looks like the dealership now uses it for special events. It’s empty inside except for a desk and some advertising posters for the cars. This is a view form outside through an east window looking across through the interior space with the dealership proper shown outside the window. A painting of a Bentley on the floor captures the artificial light from the ceiling above nicely. I like this image, but I am extremely indifferent to cars. They are definitely useful sometimes to get from point A to point B, but other than that I find them to embody a lot of what’s wrong with the world. Particularly; pollution, war for oil; arrogance, superiority and other extremely embarrassing aspects of masculinity.

Postal Station E Dovercourt and Bloor – Now Closed. Can the postage stamp be that far off from following in the steps of the penny? I can’t remember the last time I posted a letter or retrieved an important one from the mailbox. The Canadian Postal Service can’t survive for much longer can they?

 

 

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Lost

Lost. I like getting lost in these Google Street View images. More than that I think I would really like to drive the car around and take the pictures in obscure, outback places. It might be a bit frightening but it also would be very cool. Every now and again I could stop and take my own shots with the camera.

I’ll be more diligent as I collect these, however I’ve forgotten where this one is. The coolest thing about it was the fact that this is where the Google Car stopped and stopped taking pictures. I wonder if the driver just got freaked out?

 

The shot below is taken from  a Google Camera that I’m pretty sure is on snowmobile. If you do the traditional Street View on this portion of the map in Norway you can see the Snowmobiles in front and behind of the camera vehicle. This is a shot off to the side of a very desolate but very “highway like” 20 or 30 lane snowmobile track. Very cool.

I’ve seen a lot of internet/web based art projects. I’ve seen a lot where they just troll around and take Google Maps Street View images and relate them together. There’s something about it that’s attracting me now. It’s weird but I think I’d enjoy this type of work. Simply documenting for documentations sake. Mapping the world in a whole new way.

It makes me think that I could create a project that reverses the scope of these current Google projects. I could simply pick a square metre of land and map that out in macro. You could zoom into the crazy detail of soil and ground like you do in street view, but I’m not quite sure how to create “roads”. Maybe I could create my own.

This is in Japan on the tip of an Island called Ishigaki. I can make the photos actually look pretty good. I’ll keep exploring and posting. I think this one is another of Japan. As I mentioned, I was getting lost.

I love the composition in the following shot from Alaska. It’s not the easiest thing to find a compelling vantage point and a suitably interesting subject that fits with my general aesthetic. This is my favourite to date. Although the little dirt pile from Japan is pretty well arranged.

I have a system for finding these. Basically I look at the Google map of the world then drag the Streetview icon onto the page which then shows in which countries and areas Streetview has been done. In general you have to stay away from mainland U.S.A.  This would have been the first market to get shot by Google and the quality of the images reflects this. A favourite area is Finland. I’ve always been curious about Finnish culture so it seems natural to explore. For this image I just looked for costal areas and for the distinctive blue network of lines that is Streetview. Then I dropped the little man icon as far to the north as I can go, usually at the end of a particular photographic route. That’s how I found this rather desolate wind farm at lands end Norway.

Taiwan is a more recent interest. I was staying away from cities but now find it very similar to exploring on foot here in Toronto. This opens a world of possibilities. The image below I found on a series of roads that run along the path pof various rivers in the city. This is a break wall between the river and the street, I’m not sure who the little house is for, but my guess is it might just be a rain shed for local fishermen who worked the river. It could also be some sort of observation booth for when the water levels rise.

Kunagami District in Japan looks beautiful. The roads that traverse the coast are beautiful and seem relatively quite and almost rural. There are tons of tunnels through mountains in this region as well. I love this incursion of road into nature and that the engineers actually figured out it would look amazing if they left the rocky outcropping at the side of the highway.

This is on Cape Collinson on Hong Kong Island. This road actually ends at the entrance to a barbed wired high fenced correctional facility. I liked this image because of the two forks of the pathway climbing the side of the mountain and the rocky outcropping in the background. This in combination with the knowledge of the prison just a short way off adds to the interest for me.

I spent a while exploring Singapore. The following shots are what I think of as digital signatures from the Google Car drivers of Singapore. The only way you can find these Google Streetview images is to zoom in on the Singapore section and when you pull the Streetview icon across onto the map you look for single dots of blue Streetview legend. Each of these dots seems to be labeled with a photographers name and when you take a look at each spot it shows a different single photo view rather than the traveling camera views from the top of cars. I think these are the Google photographers fooling around and leaving their marks on the maps. Whatever they are I find them fascinating. The image below captures my imagination because the women are strangely dissected by the camera’s capture methods. These ghostly images are very cool.

The couple on the beach had the signature for Charles Momeny and I particularly liked this composition and the vouyeristic nature of the shot itself. 

More recently I’ve been traveling through Bulgaria. Here’s a nice sort of Holiday Inn Art Sale sort of image.

and someplace in Russia

 

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Google Map of My Brain

Google Map of My Brain is just some weird idea I got the other day that resonated and I decided on this crazy snow day in February to try and execute it. I’m pretty happy with the results but I haven’t lived with them yet.

I started with the image below. I just grabbed a pin image from the internet and then cut it out of the background.

Then I replicated it about 3000 times and placed each replicated image around my canvas in Photoshop. It was sort of like painting, but all the time I was doing it I was feeling sort of uneasy about the process. It seemed rather obsessive and perhaps even a little unbalanced to spend hours doing this, but then again I like the results. To get a better idea you can see a bigger image if you click on it.

For some reason I was going to call it “You Are Here” or something humorous like that, but then I started imagining it as a three dimensional image and it began to take shape as a hypothetical map of brain. So it becomes Google Map of my Brain. I’m sure they’ll be doing this some day. The strange thing is I wanted to do something way back when with an actual picture of my brain. The image below is an MRI of my cranium. When I first saw the image it looked so strange that I wanted to covert it into a series of giant interlocking pillows and make a floor standing sculpture.

I think I’ll do more shit like this. I’ll also try and print this multiple pin image. The actual piece is huge. It’s 66 x 66 inches, and you can see the imperfections in my process more.

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Squared

Squared is based on one of the ideas for Made. Made is a planned exhibition for January 2014.

This started with the ideas for another project called Tarps and then just sort of morphed into a project that becomes more math than I ever thought I’d be interested again. I like to think of Squared as based in the photographic but tied to painting, colour theory, and sculpture.

Squared Squares or Squaring the Square is a mathematical problem. Basically the premis is to create a square made of different squares, none of which can be the same size. I discovered this—not because I knew about the problem but—because I simply wanted to achieve the Squared Squares thing and I didn’t know how to do it.  I stumbled upon the Global Constraint Catalogue simply by searching for squared squares. I’m very happy I did. I haven’t read through the details on that site but I did come across a diagram that visualized what I was thinking about.

The above image from the Global Constraints Catalogue depicts the simplest proof for Squaring the Square where 21 different size squares are used to create a perfect larger square. Below I’ve converted the diagram above into a Sketch Up digram just because I’m feeling guilty for stealing someone else’s work.

The first part of my plan is to figure out how this math proof works so I can create the simple Square of Squares without just copying it.

My Square of Squares is 3D, because I started seeing it this way as more of a sculpture. I’ve since discovered that a Cube of Cubes is actually impossible. This became clear to me when I understood the simple idea of a proof by infinite decent. It will be cool to see if I can understand why, but I digress. The above structure is the premis for Squared.

I’d like to create a larger work like the 3D rendering above and below. It will end up two dimensional more like the first illustration, made of 21 different pieces that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. I’ve been mulling the idea of making these pieces out of stretcher frames with wood panel facings to paint on. I was going to make them out of stretched canvas but the added material of the canvas stretched around the frame would no doubt through my measurements off and make the Squared Square more difficult to achieve accurately.

Picture twenty one panels fitted together to make the larger square. Each of these stretcher panels would either be 1″,  1.5″, 2″ or 3″ thick.  I would paint each of the panels either a different grey shade or a different colour. More likely it will be colour based as I’m more interested in colour photography than in black and white. I’d then take photos of each of the panels, so twenty one pictures. Maybe 22 if I take an image of the assembled Square of Squares.

I see it clearly. In a gallery space—perhaps even Bau-Xi Photo if they agree—I would assemble the larger Squared Square on a wall. It would be 112″ x 112″ or roughly 9 feet x 9 feet square. It should be pretty cool. Meanwhile I’ve taken the different twenty two photographs and printed them on the same size square paper, maybe they get printed 24″ x 24″. The goal is to simply frame and hang these side by side around the gallery or on a single wall of the space. Each would like identical except for the actual tone or colour of the image and each would relate back to the larger wall sculpture/panel painting.

This fascination started with the last show Wandering. In that show I shot with the square in my head and cropped down all my images from the typical in camera frame ratio of 2:3 to be square 1:1 ratios. This allowed me to see differently and now I’m really liking the square frame. That’s the impetuous for this project but I’m now thinking more about other aspects of photography or at least other aspects of photography and how it pertains to my practice.

The squares loosely represent pixels to me. I think this is because I’ve been more and more preoccupied with the debate and discussion about digital photography vs analog photography. The colour is another thing I’ve been thinking about and again relates to various conversations I’ve been involved, overheard or read about the nature of photography and the value of colour or black & white printing. There’s also a real nod to my favourite painters Joseph Albers, Ellsworth Kelly, Claude Tousignant and others. Add to that a general attraction for the work of Johannes Itten. Then there’s the aspect of painting, taking pictures of paintings and the blurred lines between the two that I love.  Finally there’s a real sense fo creating something to be photographed here that I think is a natural direction to take based on the work in Wandering. Wandering was found art, Squared will be made art.

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Conveyor

Conveyor would see me set up a dry cleaners conveyor belt in a gallery setting and populate it with something. I could rig it somehow to move automatically but with that typical start-stop action it would normally have. I’ll set it on automatic to deliver 1 piece of “clothing” for a 1 minute period then onto the next piece. Or even better I could rig it to be random so that it would sometimes methodically move through the sequence of images or objects, at others it would act as if an attendant was searching for a specific something.
The something is yet to be determined. A cool idea might be to take single images in a semi-stop motion way but produce high quality results and print them large to hang on the “rack” By large, I ‘m suggesting torso size or suit jacket size. The movement of the conveyor will therefore emulate a film projector and be showing an actual movie but not a “motion picture” Actually, Motion Picture might be a better title though conveyor is pretty cool.

Another idea might be to actually work with a dry cleaners and approach patrons as they leave with their clothing to get their photographs taken, then use those photographs of people as the “something” that would replace clothing on the conveyor.

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Wordplay

Wordplay is an appropriation of street art. It’s about fonts, text, language, semiotics, symbol and communication.

In large white letters—four to six feet tall—paint the exposed sides of buildings or walls with text. I could either solicit approval from business and building owners or even petition the city for locations to execute. The city route would take years, the building owner route makes sense.

The idea would be to explore different ideas through font. It’s sort of a play on graphic design, but I think it relates more to other text based work, semiotics and philosophy. That’s not to suggest these are completely serious works. I hope there’s a chance that many people could decode these simple messages and that some of the work would elicit thought in a straightforward manner.

The trick will be to utilize language and symbol and not just revert to the cheap parlour tricks

Helvetica in Arial or Arial in Helvetica

White, Grey, Black

English in French, French in English

SUBTRAC      T

DISTANCE in both perspective and aerial perspective done in sky blue

UNFINISHE

- uppercase, LOWERCASE

straight

Sans Serif in Serif

Serif in Sans Serif

Semaphore in Semaphore

GRAFFITI  in some lettering the city uses

VERTIGO from above looking down the letters

pruh-nouns (Pronounce)

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Made

Made - One of the coolest things about having a show is talking to people and getting new ideas.

I think it was Sunday, the day after the opening that I came up with the idea for my next show at Bau-Xi, which I hope to mount and open in January of 2014.

The present show Wandering consists of images of discovered subjects. The plan for Made will be to subtly create temporal works that couldn’t really be mistaken for found subjects like the subjects in Wandering. I’ll build or create the scenes and then photograph them to preserve and display, the actual pieces would be left to survive or disappear, or be dismantled.

The work in Made will be part street art, sculpture, performance and photography. I think the following list will adapt and change until I have about seventeen concepts that are relatively different from each other. Each will have to stand on it’s own as an exploration that I could build on over time. The other goal will be to make everything work together as a group of photographs that’s dynamic  and visual compelling. To get to that final list in the next month or so I’ll expand, add, and remove things from the following inventory over the next few months.  Hopefully I’ll also get a chance to try and execute a few of these in the near future as well. I imagine some just will not work well and I wont be able to tell until I try to execute.

1. Tarps –  I have a fascination with tarps. In particular the woven plastic variety. I’ve thought about doing various projects with them but the most resonant and the one I think has the most staying power is pretty simple. I’ll purchase as many basic colour tarps as possible. I imagine I’ll end up with; blue, orange, white, silver and green tarps. I”d prefer eight foot squares but I don’t want to incur the cost of having them custom made so I might have to get them a little larger and possibly rectangular rather than square. I plan to either hang these tarps after a particularly serious snowfall, or lie them on the fresh snow in a vacant lot somewhere. The goal is simply to get the colorful tarp square isolated within a framed, vibrant white background. This particular piece has an added dimension for me. I could easily just draw this, or create it in illustrator or Photoshop  but I want to create the composition with tarps and snow for some reason. In a way with Tarps I’ll be creating a very simple, minimal, abstract image in a fairly complicated and involved manner. I see these as physical sculptures that represent very minimal paintings.

So it’s Monday a few weeks after I originally wrote this part of the post on Tarps and I have yet to find the perfect tarpaulins. I’ve also realized a more practical way of executing these pieces. I’ll simply build a whack of square stretched canvas frames. I could make them in a myriad of sizes, but all square. The goal would be to create two pieces. One would be the photographs. No matter what size the square stretched canvases are, each of the image will easy translate to a 36 x 36 square print. The actual painted pieces could easily be planned and created to interlock into one big square wall piece of painting.

The following is an image I found today that represents the square of squares idea I was thinking about. This is from an amazing math site called the Global Constraint Catalogue I’m going to do my best to understand how they figured this out, but this is what the larger “square” piece from the Monday revelation would look like although I’ll be working with twenty one different colour panels. I’d like to see if I could make the twenty one colours represent something other than just the minimum number of squares for squaring the square. So now I look for a colour system in history that relied upon 21 colours. I may just create my own colour wheel with 21 blocks on it if I can’t find anything relating to 21 in Josef Albers theory of colour.

There’s a derivative of Tarps I’ve recently thought about that I’ll probably try to do as well. It could be an easier lift. For this derivative shoot I would ask the guy who has moved into the industrial spot on our street if I can use the exterior of his building. He’s place is called Factory and he has the occasional party.  Anyway I’ll just simply ask him if I could use the front widows of the building. it’s a nice brick facade with five largish industrial widows. I’d simply take the tarps of different colours and configure them to cover those windows to varying degrees. Some might be covered completely, some might be organically and naturally draped so some of the underlying widow could be seen. I’d then fame the windows in the viewfinder in various manners to create pieces that would represent diptychs, or triptychs of the tarped windows.

2. Boxes – I hope to use the tarps from the first concept in this piece but I’m not trying to  connect the two pieces. I’d shoot Boxes in the spring or summer. While exploring for Wandering I happened upon a series of utility boxes in the green space wedged between the Lakeshore and the Gardiner Expressway. These probably hold switching devices, light controls or something utility related. Whatever their purpose they aren’t high voltage or anything and don’t appear to be touchy or they wouldn’t be fully accessible to pedestrians. The plan is to cover the various boxes with tarps in such a way that they simple become colorful geometric shapes surrounded by landscaped natural stuff. I’m hoping they’ll look bizarre enough to be engaging and and that they will retain measure of aesthetic attraction for me. If this doesn’t work I’ll simply opt for a self portrait in a field of me wrapped in one of the tarps. I may need to get assistance for these “self portraits”. I’m not entirely sure I could manage wrapping myself up the way I want to while maintains safety level that’s comfortable. I’ll also have to get a remote control shutter release for the camera so I can take a true self portrait in this manner.

3. White – is a result of some images I found on line. While trying to explain Tarps above I came across a bunch of sites that described creating shelter structures in the woods. Specifically there was one site that showed how to create a simple protective draping out of a white tarp hung over a taught line and then stretched via the corners to various trees where it was tied down. It immediately struck me that the white tarp became a shape in the photographic frame that appeared alien to the scene and therefore more resembled a Photoshopped subtraction of colour in the photo than an actual physical structure within the setting of the photo. The image I create will hopefully amplify this effectively  Again I’m using a physical manipulation of space to appear like a digital manipulation of the space. If I’m trying to say anything I’m working on early themes and suggesting that there’s something of value in the effort even if the results are attainable by some other easier method. IN a way this embraces my ideas on inconvenience being more attractive to me than comfort or convenience.

4. Leaves - This plan is for next fall when I would be to head to my neighborhood Campbell Park and rake leaves. Not for the sake of actually bagging them up but just to take pictures of the resultant shapes. In my head I picture raking a big pile into an elliptical shape that when viewed from a bit of distance appears as a complete and well shaped circle that hovers within a field of deep green grass. I figure if I get up early enough om some nice and cold fall day when it’s dark and rake until sunlight nobody would be awake to bother me. The idea of someone coming along and seeing the weirdly eccentric and anally arranged leaf pile also interests me. Hopefully it will make someone smile, or at least scratch their head.

5. Paths – This is another one of those ideas that’s been percolating with me for four or five years. I once took an unassuming photograph of a small worn path in a patch of grass. The image has stayed with me and I often think about it and that path. For this proposed piece I’d find a vacant field. It might be worth my while to locate something like a clearing in a forest or a clearing or meadow of tall grass. I’d then figure out what sort of line might enhance the composition and create that line in the field by walking back and forth over a predetermined path for hours and hours. This piece would also have an inherent meditative aspect to it. I think I’d really like the repetitive route and the slow trampling of the path. I see this as a meandering route through the heart of a meadow, but I’ve also thought about more absurd paths. A circular route that by it’s nature is endless. A circle around a tree would also be interesting yet harder to capture with the camera. In writing this it might be interests to create such a circular path around a tree, but have it actually branch off “behind” the tree out of the frame or view of the camera. there’s an absurdity here I like that correlates to The Task that I performed for Nuit Blanche.

6. Cone – With an average size bag or bags of gravel I’d create a conical pile. I think I’d have to experiment with it to figure out how to create the structure, but I’d want to make something a bit stretched so it would fighting against gravity to be built. Maybe I’d have to build some sort of retaining cage, plexi-glass housing or at the very least some sort of internal structure to allow the conical mound to be built taller and slimmer than if it was dumped out the back of a truck. I see this on a sidewalk or a paved road somewhere. Maybe it’s on a paved road like that goes nowhere and isn’t used anymore in the country. Those cul de sacs you see from the 401 on the way to Barrie come to mind. Dirt roads that really provide access to houses but are not through routes and end in a circular nothingness. Maybe it’s in the  path of some access way to a now defunct quarry

7. Clearing – These images would be related to Leaves and Paths above. In a large long grass field I’d create different sized clearings. I figure I could do this with a scythe, hedge trimmers or in a more detailed and controlled manner with a pair of scissors. The clearings could be simply small areas of grass cut to different heights, or areas of grass sculpted to create contours of different heights. Rather than cut a chunky circle out of a field, I could cut a well formed half-sphere. I could do this in farmers field. It could be done in corn or some other crop. The ideal would be to select a smaller area of a wheat field and carve out the spheres sculpting the wheat into a topographical sculpture. For this I’d need to get a small plot of land for myself for this purpose. That could be an added dimension that I’ve actually grown the material I use to sculpt.

8. Foliage – This came to me while at my brother’s place on lake Huron. It’s a very idyllic and quiet place.

In dense deciduous overgrowth, carve a path to allow light to travel from one area to another. Take pictures of the sculpted holes. This could be in a single tree’s leaf canopy or the canopy of multiple trees. The goal would be to create a straight pathway to the open air and sunlight. I’m not sure that the foliage could be shaped in such a way that –without being detrimental to the tree– the carved open path in the canopy focuses beams of light onto the floor of the forest in places. It might actually be easier to do with PVC conduit that reaches beyond the canopy and is angled in such a way to allow sunlight at a certain time of day to be focused down it’s length ending in circles on the forest floor. There might be easier ways to do this using tarps with holes cut out of them suspended over the forest floor that I could fool around with and manipulate the natural light.

9. Nails – At one time I was working on a new concept for a performance or installation piece for Hamilton’s annual Supercrawl. I never ended up submitting my proposal but it focused on Stelco or the steel industry. The common Ardox nail was developed there. The Ardox is still the nail of choice in the construction industry. But I digress. The fact is that the image of a three or four inch Ardox nail has stuck with me for over a year. It’s my Twitter account identifying image. It can be seen on my Facebook page.

For this piece I would take a thirty pound box of four inch Ardox spiral nails and dump it in the middle of a concrete floor somewhere to be photographed. I’d sculpt the pile or simply spread the contents out over the floor, spacing each nail in such a way that it didn’t impinge on any neighboring nails space. I could completely cover the floor in this manner or alternately create a pathway that mimics a river bed. I like the geometric idea of covering the whole floor’s surface because it reminds me somewhat of an Agnes Martin painting.

10. Topiary - Construct weird unfamiliar shapes out of wire mesh, or whatever is used in topiary construction and grow the plants in over the course of the year. In writing this I think the idea is unattainable. I’m fairly certain that I’ll need to grow the plants for a few years to get to the point where I can trim them to the realise the shapes I’m thinking about in the type of density I’m imagining.

11. Lights. Take a dark street and a relatively obscured home or building with a solitary front facade window. The idea is to pile interiors lamps into the window and let their light spill out into the darkness and then capture. Hopefully the image will be intensely bright and somewhat blasted at it’s core and then fade off into complete blackness in every direction. This idea might be better served by heading out into the country with a small generator and a bunch of lights. I could then set up the mass of lights in a confined space. I see these as floor lamps of adjustable heights. I’d photograph these from a fair distance away where the light has little to no effect.

12. Cups -  Somewhere to be determined in the city. Spend a few weeks visiting a certain location and then walking around the vicinity and collecting empty coffee or drink cups. It will take a few weeks to get enough to be dramatic and I’ll have to find a place to store the bags of cups prior to executing the shoot.

After I’ve got four or five garbage bags of cups I can take them to a predetermined spot and pile them and arrange in what looks like a haphazard manner in some weird doorway, or beside some lonesome bench somewhere. The idea is to create this unreal pile of trash created by an unidentified and fictitious person. This might be too staged.

13. Packaging – I worked on this for about an hour several months ago and produced a work that was sort of interesting. I took the exterior box from a common tube of toothpaste and sliced into sections like a loaf of bread them rearranges those sections so each was slightly offset from the other and photographed. While writing this it might be more compelling to cut the packing via laser into a series of shapes, maybe circles, then discard any excess packaging and “rebuild” the package like a jigsaw that instead of interlocking joins together with suggested space. This is definitely an interior piece and as such deviates slightly from the other concepts. It also involves a fairly complex technology and by virtue of this is removed from the simpler concepts in this grouping. This one might be better left for a show that focuses on similar projects. I could see developing a series of these studio shots taken on white or black backgrounds.

14. Balloons – This is an idea that just came out of nowhere. I’ll live with it for a bit and see if has merit. It might be too cute to be of any worth. I can see it being relatively humorous but the trick will be to keep it from being too contrived. I imagine the loading dock overhang at the old Outside Music office on Carlaw in the east end of the city. This was  was relatively low-fi when I knew it fifteen years ago.  On the dock I could fill a few hundred helium balloons and let them rise, constrained by the overhang of the dock itself. The bland and industrial location would contrast nicely with the lighthearted and celebratory balloons. Alternately I could completely fill a squash court or build enclosures to contain the spaces behind windows in various buildings and shoot these in such a way that an illusion is created of a house or building  being completely filled with to overflowing with balloons.

15. Books – This would be a bit similar to the secondary premise for Balloons.

In doorways at my house, completely fill up each space where the doorway should be with a wall of books, spine out so all you see are the page edges crammed into the door jams. The whole piece should suggest a feeling of being trapped or confined. Maybe a sense of mystery and intrigue at the reasoning for the walls, or again perhaps it will suggest that the room beyond is complete rammed with books. Again, as I write this I’m now thinking this is a partner image to the balloons concept. It could be expanded with other household articles. Maybe I pile the doorways full of clothes, or maybe the coffee cups can be arranged in openings. I could manage a multitude of articles to convey the same or different things. Books, balloons, clothing, coffee cups, water bottles, newspapers, old electronics, etc.

16. Holes – Simply dig a perfect cylindrical hole in clay or in dirt using water to form the sides and prevent them from caving in like you might build a sand castle. Picture the reverse of a sandcastle carved out of a dirt field before construction begins. It could end up being a concave sculpture that resembles a tiered landscape.

This is one of those ideas that has stayed with me since the creation of The Task for Nuit Blanche. I see this as a performance piece filmed. I start with a near pile of implements and proceeds like I’m creating an archaeological dig. The end goal though is to create the space, not to discover stuff. It might turn out however to be about discovering stuff as well. Urban archaeology.

17. Blind - Another spur of the moment concept. I figured this one out while writing the older ideas above.

Using heavy gauge fishing line or some other reasonably hidden support method I plan to hang window blinds in mid air as if suspended and closing off the light to an invisible building. I think I could rig these on fishing line that’s suspended from the underside of the pedestrian bridge by my house.

18. Falling - I just had a dream that gave me another a idea. In October 2013, after the leaves have dropped from the trees in High Park. Take coloured paper and create paper leaves that will biodegrade. Make these multiple colours, or one very vivid and uncharacteristic fall leaf colour like white, or maybe blue. Whatever the decision, place the “fake” leaves under trees in what would will look like a surreal second fall. This could a two part project. One part could be the leaves photographed in different locations in the park. Go into the location early, Maybe 4 or 5:00 and create the pieces. Shoot them when the sun comes up. The other part could be to wait until people start to populate the park and take pictures of them interacting with the leaves, or maybe even a video. Maybe someone will come along and re-arrange them or rake them up.

A better less “cute” idea might be to make circular leaves, or geometric shaped leaves, so it doesn’t look like I’m trying to “copy” the leaf shape. Maybe 3 dimensional paper sculptures? I series of different sized-sized cubes all in black?

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Wandering Toronto

Wandering – January 12 – 26th, Bau-Xi Photo, 324 Dundas Street West, Toronto. Directly across from the AGO.

Artist in Attendance: January 12, 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. After that I can arrange to be at the gallery by appointment over the 2 week run. If you want to see the work prior to the opening or the exhibition dates please contact Rosie Prata or Julie Piotrowski at Bau-Xi Photo via e-mail at info@bau-xiphoto.com or by calling 416-977-0400.

The Bau-Xi Photo exhibition catalogue can be viewed by clicking here. Prices can be seen online at Bau-Xi Photo.

Descriptions and a brief explanation of how each photo happened can be found here.

Wandering is the personification of an ongoing love affair with urbanity in all its glory. With this series of images – shot in downtown Toronto – the artist continues to explore our relationship with the utilitarian by manipulating the context in which we see it and by protracting our interaction with it. Wandering: File under formalism, minimalism, found art, photography, math, OCD, hiking, humour, and colour.

If you’re interested in attending the opening there’s a Facebook event page with more info.

The following is an interview I did with Chris Shepherd about the show.

Opening – Dundas West Roncesvalles

Q. Wandering – what’s the significance of the title?
A. Wandering is what I do. I wander the city endlessly and take pictures. I visit places over and over again to do this, often returning to locations that resonate with me year after year after year. Wandering relaxes me and allows me to familiarize myself with a specific setting. It’s also an amazing way to find things. You can’t do that in a car or on a bicycle. I explore when I walk. Walking also slows things down incredibly and gives me time to think. After a while I see differently and I’m more likely to notice the subtleties of a location and hopefully I’m able to capture them in a way that means something to me. Typically this process takes a few days to happen. It’s why most of my work is focused in Toronto. When I travel anywhere else it’s hard to get into that state of familiarity to achieve the same thing. I consider myself a pedestrian first and foremost. There’s a great French noun that seems relevant– flâneur– it comes from the verb flâner meaning “to stroll”. The wiki definition of that term is fascinating. I also really like the term urban pastoral to describe the images in this series.

From a different angle Wandering reflects my recent mental state. Lately I’ve been wandering from my art practice and into middle age. Wandering describes the somewhat confounding mental shift I’ve experienced in my photographic practice. I’m constantly thinking of projects but they’re increasingly more photo-based than traditional photographs. I conceptualize but I don’t execute. Wandering is rooted in a weird atmospheric mix of indecision and uncertainty. This exhibition was a journey and was challenging to produce psychologically. In the end I allowed myself to wander away from the rigid conceptualization and overall themes that I’ve fixated on over the past five years to arrive at the body of this work.

Electrical Panel – Bohemian Embassy Queen Street

Q. Where does this infatuation with pedestrian banality originate?
A. I like terms like banality, boredom, and pedestrian. I don’t associate them with the negative that others tend to instill them with. I’m an observer, and instead of observing the spectacular or the sublime I find interest in the everyday. There are enough people looking at the extraordinary. It took years to write my tiny artistic statement and I think it’s pretty funny that when distilled to the very core that statement becomes my Twitter description; “I enjoy looking at things that other people are not that interested in”. I have to slightly qualify that by saying “I enjoy looking at things that the majority of people don’t find interesting”. Out of the billions of people in the world there’s probably a few million who see the word in a similar way and for whom my work might resonate.

Hydro Pole – Don Valley Pathway

Q. Where are the people?
A. People interest me as a vehicle for my art to be viewed and in direct relation to it and not as a subject matter for it. Besides, I’m not that good at thinking about people in the context of my aesthetic right now. Maybe that will change, but for now I’m drawn to solitude and contemplation. The potential for people. It’s hard to express yourself and your interests honestly with others around. My interest lies in the serenity and the solitude I find in things and places. I’m not anti-social but I love being by myself in the city. People think it’s impossible to find peace here — I would strongly disagree. In the summer I’m often up at 5:00 a.m. on weekends and will have finished a good three hours of walking before a lot of people wake up.

Despite the fact that there are no people in my images, their presence can’t be escaped. I’m more interested in the notion of people and how a place resonates with their presence when no one is around. It’s not about ghost, but impressions. At one point I was working on a theory that –described loosely– postulated that a place only existed in a way that I found interesting because people had visited there and would visit there again. If you look at all my work almost everything I shoot is in a stasis between human interactions. It’s waiting for something to happen either tomorrow or in twenty years time. I’m interested in that potential of place.

Sandro Martini and Fan – Grenville at Bay

Q. About the square — what’s with the uniformity of the presentation and the subject?
A. My first camera was a Hawkeye Brownie that took 2 – 1/2 in square –120– film. It was B&W and I produced abysmally poor images taken on a primary school trip to African Lion Safari, I was probably about nine or ten. After that I grew up shooting 35 mm film. I’d save money and buy the most advanced consumer SLR of the day. My father did the same. As I got interested in producing work I got more advanced cameras but I always wanted to use a medium format. The 6 x 6 Hasselblad was the aspirational goal. After shooting so much 35 mm digital over the past ten years I’ve started to resent the prohibitive nature or of the 2:3 frame ratio and started began to visualize things in a frame aspect ratio of 1:1. Of course my camera shoots 2:3 ratio but as soon as I started thinking square it’s all I shot and composed in. I now constantly look at possible subjects and through the viewfinder with the intention of cropping to a square frame. I don’t think I can escape from the square file and frame thing. Now my dream is a full frame square sensor camera. I guess I could work on a Hasselblad 6×6 with a digital back but I’d prefer the comfort and familiarity of an SLR type rig. Maybe someday. That said I’m completely comfortable with my cropping scenario and my existing camera.

I’m also thinking about circular cropping abut still working this out. I think it has the potential to unlock a new world of image making for me, a world that questions the atypical presentation of art and the nature of the gallery. My theory is that it might transform the photographs into more or less sculptural works. This whole circular thing is based on the work of Kenneth Nowland or what I remember of his work. I remember him as someone who challenged and pushed against the limitations of the traditional frame.

Abacus Office – Dundas Street West

Q. These images seem a little more whimsical than Waiting and Learning. Was that intentional?
A. Completely. I’ve always appreciated humour. I really like the idea of contemporary art with a somewhat sharp sense of humour or the absurd. I think that’s why lately I enjoy work by people like Alex Kisilevich, John Sasaki, and Robyn Cummings –to name a few. I’ve also always liked the work of Tom Friedman for a long time. Hopefully my new work is funny and thoughtful without trying too hard. I’m a relatively melancholy person who loves a good laugh. I’m not really after belly laughs, but I do hope the work elicits a smile here and there. It’s relatively dark humour, but it’s still humour. Hopefully I’ve avoided irony.

Brush – Gardiner Expressway

Q. What’s your physical process.
A. I carry my camera everywhere but it doesn’t always make it out of my bag. My process is very focused on the image and composition and the work is about developing things in my head after seeing something that resonates with me. I do a lot of bus and streetcar riding but also a tremendous amount of walking and cruising around on a bicycle. I hate driving — not because of the act of driving– but because I can’t concentrate on what I see without being a bad driver. The bus is amazing because while you travel around the city you just see so much. I’ll pass the same place for days or months and then I start to think about it all the time. I’ll then make a conscious effort to revisit that location with the explicit intention of taking pictures. I go back until I’ve got what I feel is a strong piece. For some of the images in Wandering I revisited a location five or six times. Sometimes I don’t get anything I like over multiple visits and it takes years to capture what I’ve imagined is the picture. Again it’s about familiarity.

After I’ve got something I live with it. I put it up on my website and keep going back to look at it and write about it. If I grow tired of something I delete it and tend not to think of the image again. If I’m happy with an idea or image after a few weeks I work to expand on the concept.

I shoot on a Canon 5D Mark II and it’s plenty of camera for me. I use available lighting and tend not to use a tripod anymore. In photoshop I crop, curve, level, sharpen and saturate slightly to get the true colour I remember from the shoot. I find the Canon sensor is a bit understated for colour saturation but at the same time I’m careful not to overstate the colours in processing.

Shiatsu – Roncesvalles and Grafton

Q. What’s your relationship to the city?
A. I love it. I want to grow old in it and watch it change and expand. It pains me when people so blatantly show their dislike for it like our current mayor. He’s done more to destroy this city than anyone in his position has done in the past. I also think that cities in general –Toronto included– get a bum deal. After all, this city is a safe, vibrant, caring place to be. People outside the city are so ill informed about the actual nature of urbanity. I grew up in the suburbs, and a friend once captured a belief that I still hold. You live in the city or the country but why live in between? Don’t get me wrong, the city can be a drag at times, but I wouldn’t swap it for anything right now. I also mean no disrespect to the suburban, I’m just saying it’s not for me.

Seriously, the city is painted as unfriendly, cold, callous, dangerous and expensive. I’d argue these ideas are simply misconceptions. The city is arguably expensive, but I’m comfortable investing in culture than square footage any day. Our house is too big for us, but we’re also very lucky to even have a house. We couldn’t afford one in today’s market where we are. We have some furniture and we have art. We could get a bigger place in the suburbs but I wasn’t cut out to be “suburban”. I don’t need more space or more stuff.

I could go on an on, but the biggest reason I prefer the city is it’s socialist or humanist nature. Since I’ve lived in the city my sense of community and neighborliness has increased exponentially from my twenty years in the suburbs.

This Month Only – Dupont at Franklin

Q. Do you shoot film?
A. I shot film for about twenty years. As soon as digital came along I was in heaven. I’m not a photo purist. I respect technical ability in anyone, but it’s not my interest. I’m more interested in feeling that the image I want when I take it is captured. I dislike the uncertainty of film and the temperamental nature of processing. The time lag is also somewhat separating for me. I hate waiting to work an image. I also dislike darkroom work. I was never good at it and always had an aversion to the chemicals. Add to that the fact that I could never produce a final product that I was happy with when I was a kid and I never bothered to fully invest in the practice to get better. I really do just like shooting and thinking about finished images. Digital works great for me and I’m fairly competent in Photoshop with simple manipulation. I have a 4 x 5 that a friend gave me to use, and so far I’ve been thinking about it and know I’ll shoot 4 x 5 before I’m done, but right now it’s just not top of my list.

I’m also not interested in perfect clarity. I’m fine with a bit a noise, or a slight focus problem. I’ve recently come to appreciate the quote that “sharpness is a bourgeoisie concept”. I can’t claim to take that statement by Henri Cartier-Bresson completely serious though, because I’m middle class and I’m dealing in a cultural commodity. I’m also pretty anal with my images and I do like a degree of clarity.

Hose and Graffitti – Bay Street

Q. Is there a spiritual aspect to your work or an underlying philosophy?
A. Hopefully my work is about simplification and purity of vision. I like to associate it with words like; math, Zen, fixation, peace, serenity and compulsiveness. I really do love the mundane, still, image. Minimalism and formalism are definitely at my works core. In particular I’ve always been drawn to what I’ll call minimal and formalist painting like that of of Ellsworth Kelly, Joseph Albers, Agnes Martin, and Sol LeWitt. There are a bunch of others, but those are the names I know the best.

In a way I’m trying to slow things down, I think the cliche “stop and to smell the roses” is great, only my roses tend to be a bit dirty and — more often than not– smell like motor oil or garbage and no one really looks at them.

RBC – Ossington and College

Q. How do you get access to some of the interior locations?
A. Usually I don’t. For this show’s fifteen images I never accessed anything that anyone couldn’t have by walking by. Even the interior shots are taken from outside those spaces through the glass. Gaining access is a real downer for me and more often than not it disappoints and frustrates me. Given that I’m also uncomfortable taking advantage of a situation or going where I’m not suppose to go it makes it difficult. I hate confrontation and try to avoid it at all costs. My earlier shows based on the subway or school systems relied on legal permissions and I didn’t want that to be an aspect of this body of work. Someday it would be awesome to be successful enough that I could get someone to do the work of getting me access to places. For now though I don’t need it.

Hoarding and Tree – West Elm East of Jefferson

Q. What inspires you?
A. Early on it would have been other image makers. The painters, the writers and to some degree photographers. I tend to see less photography now that I’m seriously producing it. I find it difficult to get passed the idea of original thought and there are so many photographers doing such good work the odds of me originating an idea executed by another photographer is rather frustrating. I’m working to realise you can’t work in a vacuum but to help me avoid those feelings of disappointment I prefer to look at painting, sculpture, performance and drawing instead of photography. At one point I would say film and literature inspired me, but lately I’ve almost completely stopped looking at movies and reading. By avoiding a lot of photography, if I do come up with something and execute it then happen to see similar work I’m OK. I’ve executed and who cares that there are similar projects out there.

I do think that the work of some amazing photographers has become part of my subconscious and without ever seeing it again it informs how I see the world. I would never be shooting what I’m shooting if I hadn’t seen or read about these artists. My list of big names would include; Walker Evans, Paul Strand, Jeff Wall, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Lyne Cohen, Edward Burtynsky, Robert Polidori, and Andreas Gursky to name a few.

Currently I’m inspired by almost anything I see.

Post Office – Millwood and Malcolm

Q. Do you have a favourite image from the series?
A. No. There are four or five of the fifteen I think about all the time, but that doesn’t mean they’re my favourites. I also think about the images I didn’t include that could possibly have made the cut for January. I got input from the gallery on the final selection because I felt a bit too close to the work. I have no trouble editing down to a certain level but then I like help to figure out what someone –who’s not me– likes or doesn’t like. For this show we didn’t include a few pictures I felt were pretty good, but I agreed somewhat with someone else’s comments and I really needed to cut a few. That doesn’t mean I don’t like the images we didn’t include anymore, but I really appreciate the external opinion. I don’t necessarily get criticism on any honest level. It would be nice to hang out at a show and be a fly on the wall. If people don’t like the work they tend to clam up and not say anything. Sometimes that’s disappointing. I like talking about myself and the work. I kid myself that I’d even like to do that if someone really dislikes the images. Truth is I don’t have the thickest skin yet. I’m self conscious about my work.

Despite this though I really should say that my favourite image is Sandro Martini and Fan – Grenville at Bay. This isn’t because I want it hanging in my house any more than the others, but because there’s a bit of a narrative to it. That photograph helped me break out of a fairly serious slump. It was also the image that took the most work in this series to produce because I had to track down the artist who’s work is prominently featured in the image through his Toronto gallery to get his permission to include it in my show. Sandro Martini ended up being very gracious and approved very quickly. When I look at this image I think of how nice a gesture that was. He could have been a complete dick. He seemed genuinely OK with it. It means a lot to me. If he hadn’t approved I would have never printed the image.

StorageMart – Research Road

Q. When was the work for Wandering shot?
A. The earliest image is from the beginning of 2012, but the majority of work here was shot in the summer and fall of 2012. Once I put my head down and decided to book a show I needed work to fill the walls. This forced me back to the street and back to looking. In the past I’ve created the work and then booked a show, but I was dragging my ass so badly that I seriously thought I was going to give it all up. I realized then I love being an artists and really want to continue. I didn’t want to fail because of a mental glitch. Sometimes a goal is a good way to get your ass in gear especially when it’s sort of self-inflicted. I would also never let my gallery down. They’ve been pretty amazing to me. I’m happy with this work, and it never would have happened if I didn’t really look at myself and realize I was in serious danger of fucking up an opportunity that millions of people never get. That quite simply I’m lucky to have the opportunity to be an artist. I really believe that it’s a totally privilege and not a right. I bet I get in trouble for saying that.

Log – Don Valley Pathway

Q. What’s next?
A. I have a list of projects that I’ve been compiling on my website. It started out as a notebook on my phone, but I eliminated about 90% of the ideas because I felt they were sort of lame. There are about 100 post on my site that go through a range of ideas and about fifty percent of those are involving photography. There are six or seven photography projects that I’ll definitely pursue, but I need to finish the studio in the basement first. I’m more interested lately in retreating from the streets a bit and focusing on some weirder projects that are photo based.

As for more traditional projects I’m still very interested in expanding on the Learning series of educational architectural picture. for that matter anything I’ve done already I’d like to continue to develop and shoot. That includes the subway. I’d love to get into the London underground for a month or so. I’d also like to expand on the hospital images I’ve shot and maybe get access to any other more institutional places. I’m fascinated with the older architecture somewhat ubiquitous in the public institutional world.

Q. What’s your favourite colour?
A. Orange

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Wandering Images

These are the Wandering images and brief descriptions of what each of the photographs represent. Little blurbs about what I was thinking when I took each of the photographs or what the subjects each mean to me.  These are informal snippets of thought.

Opening – Dundas West Roncesvalles

The more I live with this photograph the more it becomes one of my favourites. It’s also took me months to shoot, if you can believe that.  I had initially left this un-cropped in a standard landscape ratio. It was OK in that 2:3 ratio but something bugged me about it. After a while of staring at the shot I figure out that when the frame of the picture was rectangular it battled with the portrait oriented rectangle of the opening. It wasn’t until I made it square like all the other images in this series that the image was a success.

On the east side of Roncesvalle if you’re heading south, just before the lights that separate Roncesvalles proper from Dundas West there’s a driveway that takes you back to the most decrepit auto shop you can imagine. It’s like something out of another century. The gravel in the photo is the driveway back to this shack. The opening itself is the side wall of an apartment and strip mall building. I’m standing in the ramp that just to the left of the frame leads down to the underground parking. I’m not quite sure what this little openings purpose is. It might actually be a thoughtful modification to the building to allow light to pass through and naturally illuminate the area where I’m standing which is shaded by the overhang of the actual building.

It’s the absurdity of the opening,  the colours and shapes of the walls and the yellow post and how they sit within and around the rectangular space of that opening that I love more and more. It just feels good.

Sandro Martini and Fan – Grenville at Bay

This image was  taken on what became a pivotal day of wandering. I’d been unable to capture anything I liked day after day. Nothing I was shooting was striking me as interesting or printable until I came upon this.

The photograph captures the architectural space being constructed inside a new condo building. The lower floors on the Grenville Street side end of the Murano building make up a glass room to be used at some unspecified date in the future as a restaurant. Inside this space the Italian fresco painter Sandro Martini has installed an ambitious, commissioned, public art series of abstract panels on the walls and on floor level glass partition walls. At the time that I took this image the room was bereft of everything except this fan, a table, small fire extinguisher, news paper (on the floor) and Martini’s paintings. My guess is that the fan was used to dry the paint required to join the preprinted wall panels together that make up the finished installation piece.

This photograph was taken by resting the lens ring on the exterior of the buildings glass wall/window and shooting through into the expanse of what will be the restaurant. There are a bunch of things I like about this image.

First the composition conforms to a structure that recurs frequently in my work. Here the picture plane is broken into three relatively equal horizontal strips creating an internal triptych. This compositional style attached itself to me through a series of horizon photographs I shot about six or seven hers ago on the shores of Lake Ontario and Lake Huron. in those photographs the three horizontal strips of composition were typically made up of beach, water and sky.

The colours and complexity of the fresco painting contrast with the monochromatic surroundings and simplicity of the walls and the grey of the concrete floor.

As a critic once remarked it’s a simple expository shot. I like the term expository. A big part of the point here is to simply document what I see and describe why I think it’s interesting. Lately I’ve been thinking my work relates more and more to Bernd & Hilla Becher and their obsessive documentation of the commonplace. my work could be considered fine art, journalism, cataloging or simple straightforward observation.

Electrical Panel – Bohemian Embassy Queen Street

Like a few other photographs in this series I was never inside this space. I took the photograph through the glass facade.

I spent small patches of my life doing construction work. I did this for income, to help my father build a cottage and to renovate my home. I’m still doing this sort of work but sporadically as I get lazier and lazier. I’ve done electrical work, plumbing, framing, flooring, roofing and concrete foundation and footing work. I can’t consider myself very good at any of it, although I can swing a hammer very confidently. It does however give me an appreciation for skilled trades. I’m also interested in the complete foreign nature of this work to lots of people. They’ve never done it and therefore never had any chance to even comprehend it. My brother is the same as me only he has taken it to the next level and is basically capable of any job no matter what the size. He’s also very talented it and design in general and all of his skill comes from trial and error. My father was the catalyst for all this hands on type work. He built and renovated all his life and would have much happier if he’d been a cabinet maker or framer than an accountant.

I took this picture because I think the Bohemian Embassy is hideous and this is one of the only things of aesthetic interest I could salvage out of the architectural mess. Seriously, where have all the architects gone and where are the builders with vision? It’s all so transparently budget! This place is a glorified strip mall. It couldn’t be more ironically named. Maybe I’m too harsh but we seem to be extremely capable of building completely unremarkable buildings in this city. The condo craze is awesome for bringing people into the core of the city, I’m all about density. The sad truth however is that their moving into shitty, boring buildings constructed to save as much money as possible with no regard for actual design or aesthetic. I don’t however think the builders are to blame for all the negative I feel about these places. This electrical panel’s immaculately organized schematic and the reserved yet capably executed drywall mudding make me smile. By far the best thing about a remarkably unimaginative structrure.

Hydro Pole – Don Valley Pathway

For a few days in 2012 I took the 25 km bicycle route to the office. I even took time on these trips to stop and wander around which stretched the trip time well over 2 hours. It was great. This image was taken the same week I shot “Log – Don Valley Pathway” and contains much of the same humour.

There are a series of these hydro poles in an area just off the path north of Todmorden Mills and west of the Don River. I’m sure at one point they served as some sort of support for actual hydro lines but now they stand idle, the odd one festooned by a modest bird house. This composition made me laugh. The hydro pole stands in for the trunk of the tree in the background. This immediately reminded my of my childhood.

When we were small my parents were huge into secular Christmas. We had plywood cutouts for the front lawn, spot lights, Christmas lights and a huge tree with an obscene amount of gifts. Part of the annual preparation was for each kid to take a synthetic tree that consisted of a piece of doweling with angled holes drilled into it and glorified pipe cleaners that were draped with short pieces of tinsel. You built your tree and it sat in your room. Once it was assembled you wrapped the gifts you’d purchased for other family members and put them under the tree in your room until Christmas eve when they would be transported downstairs into the family room and under the tree with everyone else’s gifts.

This is what this tree and pole seemed to be recalling for me.

The incredible swath of darkness around the base of the pole interest me as well. It was early in the morning and the sun was very low.

Shiatsu – Rocesvalles

When I describe my images as Zen, this is an almost perfect example.

On Roncesvalles about a block north of Queen on the east side of the road is a non de script commercial strip mall on the bottom of a low rise apartment building. It’s not overly ambitious and all of the business here is very low key. This suite is for rent and use to be a Shiatsu clinic. The only reason I know that is by going back into the living history of Google Street View. I can take a trip back a few years and find this place.

I was instantly struck by the immaculate cleanliness of the interior and the subtle and calming lilac paint job. I shot this through the window which was also clean. The place is so immaculate that the colour and definition appears incredibly softened in comparison to my other ages shot through widows. It really does become a kind of hard lined abstract painting, and indeed I might try and paint this image or make a 3-D maquette of it and then photograph that construction and really try and make it look lie a painting.

I went back three or four times to the place. At one time I had a run in with the owner who had a bit of a shit fit with me taking pictures of it. I was very pleasant but she was obviously not a happy sort so I quickly went on my way. I’m not sure of the place is still vacant.

This Month Only – Perth at DuPont

This taken at the side of the scariest bar in my neighborhood. The signage actually reads “This Month Only” and the sidewalk in front usually has 3 or 4 very sketchy looking people hanging around smoking. It’s the kind of place where the bartender is about 90 without a hint of it being on purpose. I’ve never been in for a drink, but then again I never liked Labatt’s Blue.

There’s nothing aesthetically interesting about the place, or there wasn’t until they did some “renovations” inside and piled the garbage up here beside the building. I couldn’t have arranged the stuff to be more perfect. The colors, textures and lines of this natural tableau still freak me out when I look at this.

Here’s a perfect example of a place I pass by hundreds of times, and on one particular day for perhaps only a few hours it’s transformed by accident into something I find extraordinary. 

Log – Don Valley Pathway

Log was discovered while riding my bicycle north on the Don Valley Pathway. That’s the amazing pedestrian/cycle route that follows the path of the DVP up from Lakeshore to well passed where I took this shot just south of the Brickworks on the east side of the river. If you ever get the time and feel like discovering a very special part of the city, this is a wonderful outing. I’m so fortunate to be able to travel on this route to work every day during the spring, summer and fall. It’s a long trip but I plan to take it every day I can in 2013 because it’s so spectacular. This route to work on my bicycle takes about 90 minutes and cover approximately 25 km. I consider it a privilege to be able to take this route to work. most people commute by car to and from the city on journeys that often take this long.

This photograph is taken of an off ramp that might serve as access to the Pathway if it wasn’t gated off. You could drive down this if you traveled across the valley floor from West to East. That’s sort of hard to describe without a map. I don’t think the road is ever used for actual vehicles. It may have been at one time but it’s not now. The asphalt  is old but in good shape. You can see this place when traveling on the subway as it moves from Castle Frank to Broadview  looking out the north windows of the train.

I assume a few kids found this log, dragged it across the road and left it. This is not really dangerous, just funny. Taken on a rare beautiful late summer day. It was such a pleasure to find. I almost wonder of the perpetrators might have been artists. If they weren’t it’s a great example of unintentional found art. I’d love to explain to the perpetrators of this why I was so pleasantly freaked out when I stumbled upon it. Even if they were a little drunk when they created the scene I love how it works on so many levels.

First it’s a blatantly absurd tableau in a rather idyllic setting in what could be considered the heart of the city. Part of the attraction is the positively perfect sense of danger where there is no danger.

Another intriguing aspect of this is the log itself. It’s possibly the largest and most perfect piece of driftwood I’ve ever seen.

Abacus Office – Dundas Street West

The abandoned condominium office could be a complete series in itself. I’ve taken pictures for years all over the cities downtown core and west end that features these forgotten and forlorn marketing structures that have served their purpose and wait in limbo to be leveled so the foundations of the new structure can be built. It’s hard to imagine these interiors were once the main marketing thrust of these crazy places. In this particular room, left of the frame there’s a hole blasted through the drywall. It looks like someone just simply attacked the wall with a hammer to make a passageway between the rooms, once the structure had served it’s usefulness. To me this speaks of the falsity of Condo marketing. They sell lifestyle to those who may not be fully aware of it. They’re are in the business of cool and I sometimes forget who they are trying to attract.

The abacus building will be really quite modest in size but it does interesting so much better than things like the Bohemian Embassy. It’s not a comment on the quality of this particular building. I really like this building’s plans if I’m being honest and I think the people who bought places in here will be well served with them while the building itself adds to the aesthetic of the neighbourhood without being too tall to really detract from it.

I particularly like the left and forgotten, knock-off Saarinen – Knoll Tulip Table. Even these knock-offs are probably going to set you back $1000.00, which although much better than the $3500.00 for a real one is pretty expensive for a prop.

A few weeks after writing this completely uninformed little blurb above about the Abacus Office, The Toronto Standard has published an article on the developer Antonio Azevedo. He sounds very cool. I like the building even more now.

Brush – Gardiner Expressway

I’m fascinated by the unused land that surrounds municipal infrastructure. It started by exploring the cloverleaf of green space that is contained within the ramps an access roads that make up the DVP and Eglington interchange which I’ve explored a bunch of times.

On the north side of Lakeshore between Parklawn and Royal York there’s an abundance of this sort of space. It’s unused for the most part. This image was taken of a stretch of incline that rises to the Gardiner Expressway. The guardrail, signage and bush all help to make up this relatively absurd still life of the forgotten greenery of the city. I’m sure there’s a larger project in this subject matter.

Hose and Graffiti – Bay Street

What a prefect little grouping of oddities. I’m a sucker for cinder block and the white splotch of the covered up graffiti, the orange text that’s still vibrant, the green mesh tarps and casually coiled black hose are all balanced nicely by the electrical panels on one side and the column and wall detail contour on the other.

There’s also such a sense of order here. On a typical construction site everything is kept very neatly, I know because I use to be responsible for the cleaning of such places because I was the lowest construction grunt on a site.

Here in lies another fascination that I’ve yet to fully explore. Once again this photograph is taken through glass on a Sunday morning when no construction crews were around to chase me away. Ever since I took pictures of the construction of the Diamond and Schmitt Hudson building at King and Spadina through the glass, and the excavation site where the Tiff building now stands on King, I’ve wanted to explore construction more. In particular I’d like to shoot the excavation sites for large towers. There’s something intriguing about the empty hole with retaining supports that serves as the very beginning of the construction process. It’s such a huge undertaking. I’ve made lame attempts to get access to these type of locations, but I’ve always been so half assed about it that it’s never amounted to anything. I sometimes dream about being a documenter in a huge project like this. Being able to follow it through and gain access to every aspect of the construction along the way. I could serve a useful purpose for the contractors and building owners as well I could get a bunch of images for an exhibition.

I’m also a sucker for cinder block. It’s a very practical construction material. My understanding is that it’s much cheaper than poured concrete. There’s something about the uniformity of the block, the colour and the texture. It’s raw but somewhat refined. I think this interest in construction and block was part of the motivation for my Nuit Blanche project in 2010 where I moved about 16 tonnes of cinder block piece by piece from one spot to another then back again in The task.

RBC – College and Ossington

Like many of the other images I shoot this image was years in the making. I’ve lived in the west end of the city now for about 10 years. Over that time I’ve become an avid walker, and sometimes end up in this neighbourhood  It’s now beginning to change and become a little more gentrified but there’s still a large older population here and this bank obviously serves some of them. I’ve stood on this corner to catch the Ossington bus north or the Dundas West streetcar west uncounted times. Every time it seems like it’s one of the longest waits in the city for either. It’s probably my imagination but I also think it’s the city being unaware of their changing demographic and how to service them. Anyway, I’ve stared at this building a lot over the years.

Brutalist Bench – Charles Street

This is one of those locations where I haven’t actually visited often. I’ve been twice. The area is going through astounding transformation to the east with new high-end condo buildings. This is also pretty close to the now defunct Jarvis bicycle lanes, a sad Rob Ford story if there ever was one.

Brutalist architecture intrigues me. The Robarts Library on the University of Toronto campus, The old Bata Shoe head office on Eglington that has now been torn down, the Manulife Centre at Bay and Bloor to name a few. I don’t really like them but they interest me with their echoes of cold war European style.

The bench, leaves and pigeons are somewhat idyllic in contrast to the functional hydro building behind but even the hard, concrete patterning of the buildings facade is somewhat mellowed by the elements. Everything here is old. They certainly don’t have many benches like that hanging around the city any longer. I could imagine being 20 years older and sitting on this bench for hours.

StorageMart – Research Road

I wandered this area for weeks in the fall. There’s a ton of fairly light industrial use buildings, a lot of auto body shops, and now a plethora of new mass retail strip malls. I passed this building a bunch of time before I took some photographs. There’s something distinctly Canadian about this image in a mixed up way. There’s the direct reference to the Canadian flag in the actual structure of the composition, but there’s also something disturbingly nationalistic about self-storage.

When I grew up in the suburbs there were storage facilities like these all over the place. I also see so many of these places with their stereo-typically ”notice me” colours” on the outskirts of small towns like Collingwood and Seaforth. It astounds me that so many people have so much stuff that they need to store things to make room in their house. There’s also the aspect of storing things to hide them, hoarding, or transitional space  Often these places are used when renovating, or when actually moving from place to place. I can’t help but think though that 90% of the stuff sorted in these places is garbage accumulated over years of acquiring. I feel sort of lucky that we save very little. It just isn’t practical with a small home. Even things I’ve got loaded in the basement right now are 90% garbage that I just can’t get rid of easily. It’s amazing how much garbage we transport and store over the course of a lifetime. I think it’s sort of the mark of a spoiled society.

Post Office – Millwood and Malcolm

There will be a new condo building here in the next five years. Right now the existing post office was closed and stripped down to the metal studs. Another shot through the doorway glass of this building.

Post offices resonate with me on several levels. My father gave me his crazed stamp collection from the 30s and 40s when I was a kid and I collected stamps for a few years when I was in my early teens. I used to buy every new stamp that came out for a few years. I’d buy plate blocks and put them in a 70s style Back’s Photo album.

There’s also the fact that I was the generation that saw the introduction of e-mail and cellular phones. The downward spiral of the post office and it’s roll in day to day life. I’m not sure about anyone else but now I associate the mail with endless junk marketing, some bills and internet product delivery. The day of getting actual correspondence in the mail is long gone.

Finally there’s a distinct construction and contracting element to this image. I still make walls out of 2×4 timber and never really worked with metal stud walls too much except on industrial type sites. It’s still a little foreign and interesting to me.

Hoarding and Tree – West Elm East of Jefferson

In Liberty Village there’s still a lot of conversion happening. Older office and industrial buildings being gutted and reconfigured for condo usage. It’s amazing that I use to hang around here when it was nothing but artist studios and industrial space. No one would think to live here except artists trying to save a buck and hang in their studios. It still flabbergasts me that a lifestyle that was born out of economic necessity became a contemporary marketing and lifestyle aspiration! This whole area now has thousands of young professionals living in what they feel is a bohemian manner but with all mod cons.

There’s a bunch of things I like about this image. The tree itself is desperately out of place amidst the hoarding and scaffolding of the facade renovation.  The triptych-like split of the horizontal lines made up of the turquoise, blue and turquoise strips of the construction. The sadly bent and empty bicycle post. Lastly the area on the blue tarp where some bird or group of bids has left it’s mark from sitting on the tree branch and whiling away the hours despite the construction.

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Deconstruction

Deconstruction was conceived while I cleaned our kitchen to within a inch of its life.

Deconstruction is about waste, technology, built-in obsolesce, transformation, reconstruction and reuse.

I plan to take obsolete items, trash and other stuff and take it apart. I’ll then take the component pieces and arrange them into patterns — spirals, labyrinths, squares, etc. so that they create aesthetically interesting and colourful compositions. I can then take photographs of these parts and blow them up to obscene proportions.

I think my old iphone, ipod, USB stick, and other similarly complex items would work well. I may need a soldering iron. I could also do the same thing with small appliances; toasters, blenders, etc.

Other material that could work are household and personal consumables. Things like twin-blade cartridges for my razor. If I was to get access to a laser cutter I could maybe take a blade and slice it up like a loaf of bread then photograph those slices neatly arranged in a line with my macro lens and print. Some sort of crazy cutting implement would make almost anything fair game.

Both ideas revolve around thoughts of waste and the North American disinterest of big business to be environmentally conscience. It’s also a simple extension of my central thesis simply stated, “looking at things that others aren’t interested to look at.” There’s an added element of my brother Peter who was always interested in taking things apart and rebuildig them. For me though this is not about funtionality. It’s more like sculpture. It’s also found art that existed all the time. I’m just reconfiguring stuff.

The most important piece has solidified in my mind and it’s the razor blade sliced into 5 or 6 pieces then photographed.

More and more I think about sculpture.

Here’s a 15 minute version that illustrates one possible approach.

Deconstruction indirectly comments on the annoying digital vs analog debate in photography and film. Here, instead of using Photoshop to easily and accurately create the Deconstructed then Reconstructed images I desire, the process will be done manually.  Painstaking physical manipulation to create an effect that others could easily do with little or no effort via a digital process. These physically constructed shots will then be captured digitally which further obscures the process creating an ironic tension.

Related to this I’ve been thinking of a statement that reads something like; “Do you dislike digital because it’s the inferior to analog, or because you’re afraid now that with millions of image makers publishing on-line you’re mediocre talents will be discovered and you will be eclipsed?

This stance is not a denial of analog, but an annoyance at those individuals who take the elitist position that digital sucks. I find these folks annoying in their arrogance and denial of a new generation of image makers who will quickly eclipse them.

 

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Math & Science

Math & Science is based on my romantic idea about mystery, problem solving, higher learning, and creative thinking.

Do Mathematicians, Physicists, Chemists and other intellectuals of that ilk still use chalk and blackboard? I have a sneaking suspicion they’ve progressed. I originally thought of this as a project photographing different blackboards with complicated proofs scrawled on them. Specifically, blackboards in the middle of rooms with nobody around. In my head these blackboards are surrounded by utilitarian, institutional 1950s decor as well. As I write this however I figured out a more realistic way to achieve something aesthetically interesting and a but less romantic.

In University graduate faculties across the globe there are some pretty smart people working on some pretty amazingly interesting and groundbreaking things. I’d like to document –in a series a photographs –some of the “figuring” of those people.

There may very well still be someone –or some group of academics– that are still working on blackboards so the original spark of an idea could maybe be realized in an image or two. I imagine now though that more common classroom things are items like; easel and paper, white boards, overhead projections, projections of computer desktops, pencil and paper, and maybe ipad, iphone and other electronic devices.

I’d like to take photographs of people thinking about their work, or actually bent over, and document some part of their work. Maybe these are simple images of a person standing beside an illustration of their work. Sort of showing it off, “look what I’ve done”.

I think it will look interesting, get me into a form of documentation that borders more on journalism and allow me to work with interesting, different thinkers. In a way I want to see if they think like I do, or feel like I do when I get an idea or figure out a way to execute something better. I’m also trying to figure out if others are sort of like me. I’m not comparing myself to very smart people who are actually producing work, but the emotions that go behind it.

I’ve always compared my process and the small moments of epiphany that I have every day with the feeling I had when I understood and could write down a proof in one of my high school math, biology, chemistry or physics classes. It’s the same feeling I have when I figure out a concept, or dream about an image, or take a picture that pleases me. It’s about moment of true understanding, and that moment is where one stage of the process stops and another begins. I realize as I write this that I love that feeling and the actual execution of something after that is difficult because the eureka moment was all I really wanted.

It’s why I like the idea of conceptual art, or at least the conceptualization part of conceptual art. It’s why I wonder sometimes if I’ll ever produce anything ever again, or just spend the rest of my life thinking of things to produce.

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Etching

Etching is about conversation, controversy, parlour games and thinking.

We have one piece of glassware that I never use. It would work nicely for this purpose. It’s a very simple, straight-laced highball glass.

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The plan is to get eight or ten glasess etched in a very plain and functional font –probably Helvetica  I’d use single words to facilitate conversation and thought. Then have a party and as the guests leave give them their glass. It’s kind of like a Martha Stewart Art Project.

This is inspired by a glass I remembered from my parents. When I was a kid we were never suppose to sue these glasses because we could break them. They were etched with ESL. I never really thought about those glasses but I imagine they were a gift to my parents for their wedding. Either that or they were handed down from my Grandmother or Great Aunt on my Father’s side.

I always liked this glass wear when I was a kid but now as an adult I prefer heavy, substantial larger glasses. That could be because I associate nice glassware with a discomfort that comes with being a child around nice things.

Possible Working List;
Truth
Pain
Solitude
Magic
Lost
Art
Imposter
Escape
Dream
Ennui
Original
Average

Alternate list of words relating to each other and my art practice;
Average
Mediocre
Pedestrian
Typical
Normal
Banal
Unassuming

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Coloured Tarps

Coloured Tarps was originally conceived as a winter project.

The coloured tarps I’m talking about are typically blue however I’ve seen black, green, silver, white and orange in use at different times around the city. Lately I discovered you can get them in a few other colours like red and yellow and that I can have them custom made out of different materials. I’d like to get six or seven tarps that cover a spectrum of secondary colours.

The genesis of the idea was to wrap myself up cocoon like in these tarps and to take self-portraits while laying swaddled on the ground, sitting on a rock or in some other such pose. I’d use a remote control with the camera on a tripods or some other support. This might be hard to do without help. Managing the camera in the snow could be tricky as well. The optimal situation would be a new snow some day in a local park, super early in the morning before anyone’s disturbed the snow cover. I think I could shoot looking down from a bridge or some other such structure, but again, I think I need help to do this. Wrapping myself up even would be hard, let alone executing everything else. The camera could be attached to a long pole that could then be hoisted in the air to get a vantage point which would reduce any distortion in the perspective.

Simpler than this would be to shoot 10 ft square tarps stretched over an area of snow or supported in the air to flap in the breeze in a snow field. The resultant image could be obtained by simply creating something in illustrator or Photoshop, but that’s not the point. I see a room with 7 or 8 large square photographs that are taken of coloured tarps on fields of fresh snow from above somehow without shadow. The same could be done with circular tarps.

The closest images on the web to describe what I’m attempting are for camping. These are typically protective set ups. You can see the clean lines of these structures and although these images are taken in typical camping situations, I think you can see what I’m trying to accomplish. These actually describe a derivative of the Coloured Tarp project that I’m now stoked on as well. I can create Photoshop like holes in landscape spaces using various tarp structures.  Again, this image depicts a complex physical manipulation of the visual space to create scenarios that could easily be accomplished in Photoshop.

Each corner of the tarp could be controlled by fishing line, so the snow doesn’t get disturbed. It could also be attached by white string to a white structure of poles and hoisted in the air. Images could be taken of the formalist square or even circular tarps. A derivative of this would be to support the coloured tarps from their upper corners and let them wave in the breeze like flags. The images could be taken either, intentionally out of focus or at slow shutter speeds to blur the final images. I could also do inanimate shapes. I could find existing man-made object/structures and cover them with the coloured tarps. This could create abstract, painterly like compositions. Playing with photography and sculpture to create a homage to minimalist, formalist painting.

This is a further exploration of the painting thing. Humorous in way.  The idea of re-enacted scenarios via awkward and complicated logistics to create simple compositions that the viewer could mistake for paintings rather than photographs . It also has the obvious association with Christo’s work, but I think this is more about photography rather than sculpture.

This could be done anywhere and at anytime of day or night, in any season. The square or round tarps will look very cool wherever I can stretch them to their uniform shapes, let them flap in the breeze, shoot up at them against a white or blue sky, shoot them suspended above the surface of a lake, against a field of snow, against a wall of greenery, etc. The more I think about this the more limitless this project could be. Exciting.

 

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White Pictures

White Pictures is exactly that. Photographs of white objects. I keep imagining these on a white background and then maybe overexposed in processing. These would be printed large and the subjects would be very pedestrian, very commonplace.

There are two objects that have stuck in my head; the white little table that comes in take-out pizza packaging to keep the roof of the box from screwing up the cheesy goodness, and a set of old school 1960s style white metal extendable curtain rods.  Today I was thinking that maybe white Styrofoam take-out food containers could work as well. Thinking about it further, there are tons of other things that would work and are typically white like;  a ream of paper or crumpled up paper, cotton balls, t-shirt, underwear, string or thread, salt, flour, milk, bowls and plates, bar of soap, etc. I could even try –miracle of all miracles–using a different lens. I very, very rarely take the 16-35 off my camera, however I’m thinking I could do some macro stuff out of focus for this series.

As for the exhibition I’d like to cover the floor in white material, use white floating frames and mount the work on Stonehenge gator-board that will be white.

I’m not quite sure what this about but the thought of having these pictures of things you can barely see hung in a room that’s blindingly white would be cool.

I think these are indirectly about Tom Friedman. I’ve always liked his work, but only ever seen it in a book. In the Taschen book about him it explains that one of his very early pieces –for art school I think– involved painting his studio all white and removing perspective and depth in an actual space. I’m probably mangeling the description of his work. I looked at that book about 20 years ago, although in hindsight it has a lot to do with what I’m interested in now.

 

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Reflection

Reflections is an idea that came to me this morning in that limbo between sleep and the day.

The strangest thing about this was the vivid and casual nature of the images. It was as if I was consciously planning it in my sleep and I was aware this was happening. I’m sort of shocked that I remember it. The other strange thing is that when I was relaxing with my coffee at the computer this morning I opened a Tweet link that took me to a project that related to some of my newly realized concept.

Reflections is a studio shoot. The plan is to create a central sculptural piece and shoot it from several different angles. The central form would be an angular construction resembling a flower vase. I would create the piece from chunks of mirrored glass. These would be polygons with different sizes and configurations. I see the final structure as being a drug induced and uncomfortable disco ball where the pieces of the surface are rough and abrupt instead of uniform and organized. In general all the pieces of the sculpture would be apparently haphazard.

This sculpture would be suspended or somehow isolated in the air and small coloured sheets or pieces of material would be positioned so that that each is reflected in one of the facets of the crystallized sculpture. This would create a weird 3 dimensional colour mosaic which I would subsequently shoot.

The colours could be all slightly different shades of one particular colour. Yellow comes to mind first and foremost. White would be good and so would black but there are endless possibilities.

Shoot with a very large aperture and short depth of field with no flash to render the background reflected colours in a visible and more understate light.

Alternate idea is to get a hunk of tree branch chromed and use it and other similar natural substrates as the reflective surface but only use a white background so the shapes can be detected but the effect is the objects would appear “invisible” when photographed. To do this I might have to make a metal cast of a branch then have that cast chromed.

Both concepts seem to be exploring photography and sculpture.

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Braille

Braille is the beginning. It’s the first work in preparation for the series called “Seeing” that I’ve been planning for over a year. I’ve decided to practice writing Uncontracted or Grade One Braille until I get reasonably fluent. Then I’ll start working on the planned large scale series. For now I’m doing a series of Braille gifts that I’m leaving all over the city. By the time I finish these in a few months I should have the ability to write without making too many errors.

For this first piece I decided on a regular 8.5 x 11 sheet of Braille with a spontaneous note on it. I wrote this using a traditional Braille slate and stylus while “Waiting” in a Hospital lounge for some stuff to get done. The text basically does little other than introduce the fact that I’m sighted and studying how to write Braille and that I ultimately plan to turn this skill into an art piece. It took me about an hour. Once I finished the piece I left it on a chair in a hospital waiting room in hopes that someone would pick it up and try and decipher it. Most likely it will end up in the trash, but that’s OK.

Here’s the piece on my lap, and below as it looked as I left it on the chair “in situ” waiting to be picked up or trashed by the cleaners.The second “Gift” piece was done on a smaller piece of paper. I wrote it while on the bus leg of my journey to work on Tuesday and it says something like, “Stranger, I think everyone suffers from some sort of blindness.” I left this on the seat of the bus.Wednesday’s message was again short. I left this one in a NOW! newspaper box. This one’s a bit weirder and maybe construed as slightly creepy. I hope not, but I think I’ll stay away from semi-poetic works. This ones translates to ” Stranger, I would talk to you for as long as I could about love if you would listen. C.S. I’m pretty proud of the fact that I just read the Braille to recall that’s what I had written. I’m definitely learning.Thursday’s's piece was rather longish but only took about 20 minutes which I’m pretty proud of. I’m getting faster every time I make one of these things and I’m looking at the cheat sheet less and less. I made this one on the subway at rush hour. Rather than deposit it on the seat and get questioned by people as I left I waited for the crowd to get off the train and left it on a bench on the platform at the Dundas West stop. If someone from the train that was arriving when I left it didn’t pick it up it probably blew into the tunnel somewhere. I think I’ll avoid doing that in future. I don’t want the TTC charging me with something, and I could see them doing so. I can leave these in the foyer of certain stations where they wont be subject to such heavy winds caused by the tunnels and trains.

Friday I did two pieces, one for a very nice co-worker who seems genuinely interested in my somewhat self indulgent projects, and another I deposited on a Dundas West station bench on the mezzanine level as shown below.

The plan for the future larger project called “Seeing” is to take existing photographic images and describe them in text. Then take that text and convert it into Braille and hand print the result using a slate I will custom fabricate to be about the size that the work described would be printed. Tehse will most likely be about 24 inches square. I’ll take pictures of these larger text filled Braille sheets and then make them into photographic prints. It sounds a bit confusing but it’s not really.

I see this work as being photography — a visual art– translated and manipulated through a a series of languages and forms then re-generated once again into a photograph. I’m interested in how the meaning will change as the medium fluctuates and the discussions and interactions it might encourage.

I’ve also made some headway and discovered an artist friendly laser cutting place that’s actually pretty convenient. I need them to cut the individual, page-sized slates I have and create the super large custom slate. This place is around College around Dufferin. I’ll stop in next week with my six individual page-size slates and get them to cut them so I can create a giant 24″ x 24″ slate that I can put a big piece of paper into.

Practice is going well and I really enjoy writing Braille. Once I’ve executed 10 or so large scale works I can take a course and learn Contracted, or Grade 2 Braille. It’s a little more common in the published Braille world but a lot more involved to learn and read. I can see Braille being a very large part of my upcoming work. It’s such a wonderful and cool form of communication.

 

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The Tree

The Tree images were taken several months apart. The first image was taken during the summer of 2012, the second in October of the same year and the third one in early February 2013.I think about this tree every day. I like it.

It’s secluded but steadfast.  A big part of the attraction for me is that the evergreen hasn’t changed whatsoever over the two or three months between these images but the landscape has moved from summer through the beginnings of autumn and now we’re fully entrenched in winter. The OCD part of me wants to keep shooting this tree every few months for the rest of my life. It’s pretty easy for me to get to, but I doubt it’s a destination point for anyone else with the possible exception of the tow truck drivers who sit waiting for DVP accidents to happen.

This sort of thing has been done a lot. Shooting the same scene at different times. This particular project however could move more in the direction of performance. I’d like to do several things that involve the tree. I like the idea of walking around it in either the fresh snow, or just in the summer to wear a path in the grass. Maybe some time I could drape the tree in material, or decorate the tree for Christmas. I can also shoot the image at night with some sort of portable light source. There’s an inexhaustible amount  I can do while keeping the frame of the image the same.

The series would be about time and steadfastness. The tree doesn’t change, nor even appear to age over the course of years.

I worry though that I’ll become more attached to the tree and if anything does happen to it there will be some trauma.

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Retail

Retail is often the subject of my work. This store front is a Rogers on the Danforth. It’s super-ghetto but the colour is awesome in amongst all that blahhh.

The side of a Jehovah’s Witness Church attached to a Budget Car Rental north of Bloor on Dundas West. I’ve shot this wall for 10 years. Obsessive might be to casula a word for that.

The Abacus Condo Sales Office. Dundas West around Gladstone. Note the coffee cup in the background on the right side of the image. The coffee cup series is another possible body of work. I’m serious.

 

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Laird

Laird has been a bit of a journey. I’ve now walked the same route for 4 days and I’ve finally got some other shots I like. It took a while. Because of this I’m beginning to think when I don’t get anything I like it’s all just attitude. I think the shots are there always, there’s always an interesting angle or way to look at the same things even if they are everyday. I just have bad days or weeks, or months and can’t capture them well.

I was calling this shot Oh Canada on Facebook. I’m still not 100% on this one and I may go back and revisit the place but by then I imagine all the leaves will have fallen. This is a self-storage place off of Laird behind the Mercedes dealership and the Marshalls store.

Below is a paint booth from one of the many car and truck places along the Laird strip. I really love the weird clinical look of spray booths and this one is awesome. I shot it very quickly and was pleasantly surprised when I got it home and had something I could use.

It’s not straight on which I’m happy about too.

This space below was at one point a post office. I’m guessing it will end up being the sales office for a new condo. The cold horizontal and vertical lines created by the metal stud walls makes me happy. There’s a little lens distortion that I have to fix, but overall it’s pretty clean.

This is the receiving dock of the Brewer’s Retail in the new Longo big box mall.

This one’s just sort of funny. It’s the weirdest place… I guess they make pie or they’re a graphic design place.

These flowers below were found on one of my first trips to Laird. It’s very suburban and in a weird flux between the small industrial/retail stuff that’s always been there and the new big box more “modern” junk. I like this image. I thought about the shot the whole day that I originally took it and when I finally got home and looked at that evening there was something bugging me so I went back to reshoot it today. I wanted to remove a very obvious shadow of myself and a glaring red stoplight from the reflection.

The return visit ended up being later in the morning and the day was sunny. The worker/owner in the dry cleaners had also moved the Visa sign for some strange reason.

These are fake flowers in a window of a modest dry cleaners that’s privately owned. I went inside to ask the person working there if they minded and they actually smiled. They were very pleasant and had no problem with me taking photographs as they toiled away inside. That makes this picture mean more to me. The woman was a bit older than me but seemed way older, she also seemed very happy and at ease with life.

Despite the fact that these are fake there’s something genuine about them. They’re obviously cared for and I think they’re also well arranged. The shop person’s intent was to make people –and perhaps themselves– feel good, not just to market to them and bring them in the shop. At least that’s what I imagine.

The flowers themselves are in an exaggerated full bloom. I don’t think you really see roses like this very often. They will also perpetually be in this state. I think I’d like to return and take more photos as time moves on. There’s a funny optimism I see when I look at this image.

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Eureka!

Eureka! I took some images I like finally! Thanksgiving weekend has been relatively productive. It did take 7 hours of walking around on Saturday and Sunday, but it feels pretty good. I may actually have enough for a show now in January.

I like this image. So much so that I’d like to use it in the January “Wandering” show at Bau-Xi Photo however there’s a problem. The painting in the background isn’t mine. It’s part of the interior design of this future restaurant in the Burano Condo building at Bay and Grosvenor. The painter’s name is Sandro Martini. I’ve asked him via the contact on his website if it’s OK. I legally have to ask because his image is a big part of my image, it takes up about 1/3 of the frame. I’m not sure he’ll reply, if he doesn’t I think I’ll have to scrap the image, sadly. I do really like this image.

Technically the following image was shot on Friday. I’ve started to head out early and walk part of the 17 km to work so I can shoot. Even if I don’t get anything it’s the effort to shoot everyday. This was taken on Dundas a few blocks before you hit Ossington. I like the dark of the alleyway and how it acts as a natural frame for the square patch containing the greenery and the light.

The shot above was also taken on Bay Street after I shot the Burano picture. This is closer to Bloor. I’ve shot this weird stand-alone structure a few times but it’s windows have always been too dirty to get a good shot. Once upon a time it was a very crappy variety store. It took years but someone has finally figured they could utilize the space so it’s been cleaned up impressively and the windows are actually clear enough to shoot through properly now.

On King Street the area just east of Sherbourne has always been a little rough. This butcher has been there for at least 20 years, and more likely about 50. Although the signs in the window are obviously new. They haven’t faded a bit and printing just wasn’t that good that long ago. Maybe it’s not that old and the owners just have a knack of making it look vintage. I love the white contractor’s van as well. This is also a very popular place to take pics just search images for Seaton Butcher Shop

Behind the Eaton Centre there’s a crazy old church. There’s also a literal rat’s warren of pathways and thoroughfares. There’s even a brick labyrinth surrounded by trees which is nice despite the sketchy people hanging around and smoking on a Saturday at around 8:30 a.m. This wall isn’t part of the church. I’m not quite sure what it belongs to. I liked the way the patchwork bricks play with the changing leaves, the greenery and the architectural arches and curves.

This is one of my favourite interior construction shots to date. The combo of the great green tarp, hose, and covered over graffiti is so organized but random.

I meandered back to an old shooting location. This is a Hydro substation of some sort on Charles just east of church. You can see why they called this style brutalist architecture.

On the Esplanade just west of the St Lawrence Market there are a ton of businesses on top of all the stores and each seems to have multiple entrances like this one. I’m pleased with this shot because of the architectural detail, the almost repulsive colours and the weird angle. I’m typically either 45 degrees from subject or looking at it straight on. This 16 degree thing happens very infrequently and so it feels rather novel.

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Finally more Bay Street. Bay was my saviour location this weekend. If I remember correctly this place was a restaurant. It’s a short little building that stands on it’s own and will be torn down to make way for more condominiums. Through the window I shot this structure which was probably the backdrop for their sales desk. I’ll adjust this image so it’s not quite as distorted as it appears in this shot. I like the bizarre nature of this room in general and the weird chunk of extension cord on the fl

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Parking

Parking will start with a call out to friends and family for small scale cars. I may have to buy some as well. Maybe I can get a bulk deal and give them away after.  I’ll accumulate as many as I can gather. I think this wil be relatively easy if I can approach friends with kids. The intention is that no cars will be hurt in the execution of this piece.

I’ll formally receive the cars. This will involve cataloguing and colour coding each to mark who’s collection it comes from. I’ll create a fairly simple excel spreadsheet. The list itself might become a piece*. Hopefully I get a mx of old and new. Scratched and broken as well as shiny and immaculate.  I’ll make it clear that I’m not interested in those annoying “super cars” that Matel use to produce for their Hot Wheels brand.

The cars will be placed within elaborate sets that I’ll make to replicate different parking scenarios. Rock Festival, Shopping Mall. Abandoned in Woods, Stuck in Flood Waters, Crushed in Earthquake, Covered in the Ash from a Fire, Off the Assembly Line, In an Underground Car Park, etc. For each scenario I’ll take a large format photograph.

*A strange obsessive variation would be to go to an actual parking lot and catalogue real cars into a spreadsheet.

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Affection

Affection will recruit actors. These actors will be placed inside a regular TTC subway car on a typical morning commute as well as along the platforms in the direction of the train.

One actor stands in the subway car aisle, mid way between a set of doors. This will put them adjacent to two typical four-seat sections. They will stand; either holding a pole and reading, texting or otherwise normally engaged. A second actor will be seated in one of the  eight seats in the direct vicinity of the “stander” and will be similarly, typically engaged.

At a predetermined subway stop the seated actor will prepare to leave. As they leave they do so in a way that takes them very close to the “stander”. When the two are touching the departing passenger imparts some affection, care or comfort on the standing stranger. The stander should show no reaction other than to take the departing passengers seat. They are in turn replaced by another actor who stands just like the first.

The exchange continues along the entire subway line. Passengers who are riding from one end of the city to the other would see this continuous display of affection or care between strangers until they leave the train themselves.

I think of this as a dance that the rest of the passengers would watch.

Affection could be a hand brushed against the cheek, imparted words of secret love, an embrace.

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Residencies

Residencies look like a possible opportunity. I’ll research these in 2013 and propose the works explained below for a single exhibition somewhere in the world. The thought is to call the actual show Labyrinth.

Why not dream big. I’ll apply for Paris and maybe London. They can only say no.

Each of the following would be created in a few weeks time and all are meant to be exhibited together.

Nails – Photography. Take a photograph of an apparently random pile of nails on a white background. The pile will actually be an entire box of ardox 3” nails that has been meticulously sculpted into its the casual “pile” shape. Maybe empty a box of nails, and then create the same structure by hand beside it to create a photographic diptych.

Letter “a” Cutouts – Collage. I’ll purchase a favourite novel in a used bookstore and cut every single letter “a” out of it and affix to a larger piece of art paper with archival glue. Maybe  40 x 50″ Stonehenge, or perhaps on a blank piece of dibond.  This would then be subsequently mounted on a wall.

Perfect Circles – Film. Film me repetitively trying to draw a near perfect circle for 12 hours or until I succeed.

Hole Digging – Sculpture/Photograph. Dig as perfectly formed a square hole as possible. As I shovel out the hole I’ll place the dirt in a pre-constructed form that replicates the dimension of the square hole when finished. This would be constructed in such a way that I could take it apart easily and, if I can somehow form the dirt this will ultimately form a sculpture of the dirt that is taken from the hole. Negative and Positive space.

Paper Folding – Sculpture. Repetitively fold a large piece of paper until it becomes unstable. Continue folding the pieces until it is no longer paper but a mound of scraps of soft fiber.

Record Grooves – Photograph/Sculpture. Rework the groove of an LP with fine jewelers tools and a magnification light so the grooves become a traceable labyrinth. Remove the label. Photograph, blow up and display.

Newspaper Reading – Audio Recording. Read an entire newspaper but across the columns with a ruler so that several narratives mix together but can be followed concurently if the listener concentrates. See how much content can be read in 12 hours.

Wall Line Drawings – Drawing and Photograph.  On one of the walls of the gallery draw a line at comfortable height with a pencil. Then spend the rest of the day adding more lines above and below until the wall is covered. Make them as close together as possible and mimicking the original without touching.

Standing – Happening/Video. Stand for as long as possible in one place. Film. The odd break for the toilet is allowed, but have people hand me food.

Finger Tapping – Audio/Video. Tap my finger for as long as possible.

Human Clock – Audio. Repeat the time from a clock every minute for 12 hours. Create a sensor so that this runs continuously throughout the day but when a patron steps in the room the volume is kicked in and the clock counts the time audibly. When the patron leaves the room the clock shuts up.

Stitch – make a spiral pattern with small sewing stitches. Make it as big as possible over the course of 12 hours.

The Thought Novel – Audio Recording. Recite a story ad lib from scratch that lasts for hours and hours.

 

 

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Humour

Humour is subjective. Like everything else in the world.

I think these two images are funny. Maybe just to me. I did actually smile when I was taking these and I was aware there was some sort of play associated with these images at the time.

At the very least these images are absurd. Funny or absurd they both touch on a common thematic. The incursion of man into nature and the reciprocal idea of natures incursion into man’s domain, the city.

 

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Smells Like Fall

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Landscaping

Landscaping is the tentative title for new work that explores the nature of the city — literally. This series will hopefully end up being a combination of observations about traditional ideas of beauty and nature but within the context of the metropolis that’s filtered through my perception. At it’s simplest Landscaping is meant to be a celebration of the city and it’s idiosyncrasies. Like my previous work it will be populated by cenes and locations that people don’t typically know, or take part in. These are not secrets, but to me their a big part of the the mystery, and a key element to why I love the city.

I could call this series Commute. All of these images are taken from either my bicycle or  TTC trip  to the day job everyday. There are shots along the Bloor West Bike Path, inside the traffic islands that are created by the 4 entry/exit ramps at Eglington and the DVP, along The Lower Don Path, and from the street at Yonge and Bloor.

Landscaping, like previous work is a bunch of observations of the mundane, and pedestrian: elements of our day to day lives in the city that hold little interest to the mass but capture my imagination and optimism. These are small moments but I love them.

 

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Vogel Napkins

When I visit someone’s house, go to a family function, attend art openings or go anywhere that food is served I utilize the napkins. It’s polite and I was taught that good manners meant being able to dab at the corner of your mouth or have an approved place to wipe your fingers.

Inevitably every time I go out to a function with food I put a napkin in my pocket. Typically I’m saving it for the inevitable second helping of whatever is being served and I hate to waste paper but more often than not the truth is that I dislike putting a crumpled napkin on a plate. It just feels wrong to me and looks so disorderly and dumping it on a plate also makes stacking dirty plates awkward. It makes me uncomfortable. To me plates are designed to fit into each other and be so orderly that to leave them spread out on a counter with stuff all over them is hard to do.

On the rare occasion that a waste basket is readily available and clearly locatable it works out fine and I can deposit the napkin when I no longer require my plate. Part of the problem is I’m also not a fan of nosing around in a strange kitchen trying to locate the unfamiliar garbage, and even if I do suppress the feeling of invading someone’s privacy for long enough to detect the waste can how can I be sure which receptacle in this strange kitchen the paper goes into? Does the house-holder recycle and does the municipality in question consider napkins organic green bin material, paper to be recycled or actual garbage. Finally, it’s never a sure bet you’ll recognize the container for trash, recycling or compost.

I inevitably forget I’ve even put the stupid napkin in my pocket and only remember I’ve done so when I open the dryer at home several days later and see the abstract remains all ripped to shreds and sticking to every other piece of clean laundry in the machine. Sometimes I’ll find the thing if I remember to check my pockets before I put them in the wash sometimes I just discover them hiding out when I wear the article of clothing in question again.

Last night we were invited to a wonderful home to watch an awesome documentary on Herb and Dorothy Vogel. They’re the modest husband and wife collecting team that amassed one of the most important contemporary art collections of the last 50 years. When I finished my awesome pizza and salad I put a napkin in my pocket and mentioned I was doing so to a new friend. I had also had a few glasses of wine and explained in a very matter of fact and casual way that I was thinking I should create a work based on this awkward collecting habit of mine and that some how related –so clearly to me at the time– to the Vogel’s collecting habits and behaviors.

So the idea is to keep doing this obsessive thing with napkins and maybe consciously amp up my attendance at art openings. I’ll begin to seriously collect napkins for a very long period of time until I can amass enough of them to stack them into an impressive assemblage. I could create a paper spike that would somehow be manufactured to screw into a base or the floor somehow. I imagine this to be about 7 feet tall and to be”sculpted” to undulate in width as it grew in height based on the size differential of each napkin. The end result would be a type of shish-kabob structure. this also reminds me of a device from the past that people use to have on their desks and used to keep track of loose notes in pre-computer days. My father had one in the 70s that I use to play with that I’m pretty sure my oldest brother made in shop class in middle school. I could also make a habit of transcribing stuff on each of the napkins making them into the pages of a pseudo art diary. These could contain details of where the napkin was collected, make a short anecdotal comments about the event, review work or offer a derisive remark about some attendee. I imagine the majority of these would be from people’s houses or art functions.

All this was inspired by a group of very nice people and a movie about some seriously sweet and awe-inspiring contemporary art collectors. Weirdly enough that movie contained images of what I think was from a Robert Rauschenberg drawing of a sailboat. I framed a sketch of this work in the 90′s when I worked at AGS on Sorauren Avenue. it was also a time period when I new nothing about contemporary art. This sketch was also done on a cocktail napkin. As I write this I think this piece is about a bunch of stuff as described, but most importantly it’s about; another self-recognized compulsive habit, remembering my father’s desk and my brother’s hand-made completely obsolete office gadget, a desire to document and perhaps somehow comment on the wonderful world of contemporary art, wanting to create a beautiful object that encourages thoughtful discussion on what is art, what it means to make art, and what being involved in the art scene is like, and doing something that involves of bunch of different art disciplines and materials.

Thoughts and images to add this morning 09/17/2012; Missisauga Sunset photograph by Sonja Hidas from Facebook, previous post with the window display in support of the Quebec student rallies of the summer, draw a DNA strand and find a paper Spike picture.

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I Could Never Live in the City

I imagine it’s a common refrain: “I could never live in the city”. It’s a shame if it is because Toronto is just so crazy beautiful.

This is a view of the Rosedale Valley Road at about 7:30 a.m Friday morning, the 7th of September. It’s taken from a bridge just west of the Castle Frank subway station. Underneath all the trees is a steep and winding 2 lane road that links the east end of the city to the core.

I’m elated with this image. It’s definitely a departure from subways and public schools but it still relates to my earlier work. these images are still about noticing things that others might not, celebrating the beauty, and in a way embracing the city.

The other thing I love about this image is that I think it captures the aesthetic of Romantic painters like those of the the Hudson River School. I didn’t set out to do that when I took the picture. I think this is funny and somewhat strange considering my friend Andrew Wright referenced another romatic painter –Caspar David Freidrick– about a year ago in a photo he took that I love.

Thisnis an arial view of the Don River Valley from the Millwood Valley bridge that I shot about 20 minutes later. This one reminds me of the cover for Power Corruption & Lies by New Order which is a reproduction of the painting Basket of Roses by Henri Fantin-Latour.

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Designers

I met designers Antoine Morris and David Long –partners in The Practice of Everyday Design– at Nuit Blanche last year. For the past 5 years I’ve been documenting portions of the event for the CCCA website. They keep a database that contains photos and video of most of the projects since the inception of Nuit Blanche in 2006. Antoine and David had an installation in last year’s Nuit Blanche called the Elephant in the Room.

Despite the photos of their light based installation for Nuit Blanche not working out very well, Antoine asked me to shoot Eden House in hopes the images could be used for publicity to promote The Practice of Everday Design. I can’t say I took the best pictures on this particular day but a bunch of them ended up getting published in Azure magazine’s sister publication, Designlines in the Summer 2012 issue and the Globe and Mail on Wednesday, August 29th.

I’m not trying to be overly critical of my own work. I’m just not usually any good at taking pictures unless I’m very familiar with a subject. It’s a weird truth for me that I need to visit and revisit a scene to get images that I really like. Maybe I just see things differently after a while and that familiarization process is in fact more important than the actual image capture. If that’s true it might negate the photographic practice to a degree. Maybe photography is the excuse or method by which I commit a scene or subject to permanent memory and the actual images I take are just an aside. I wanted to be an architect at one time. I even got as far as an interview and testing for the Waterloo University program but I failed to impress them and I think I came across as somewhat illiterate so my dreams were dashed. Actually, it’s only in hindsight that I’m disappointed. I think I might have been a good architect. At the time I just pushed on into something else which ended up taking me on a very circuitous route to where I am today. I’m happy and I have no regrets.

 

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Stamps

These are Stamps my father gave me. I took these shots with my macro lens and blew them up super huge –that’s 48 inches high. If I had made them any larger I might as well just make billboards. If you click on the image you can see the detail and the weave of the paper.

These photographs are about my Dad, nostalgia, appropriation and the individuality the uniqueness of imperfection.  In an effort to break free from the last eight or ten month creative vacuum I’ll shoot these again and maybe try some others from the 60 year old collection.

20120825-162237.jpgThese particular stamps were issued to commemorate Canada’s role in World War II. The engravings were modeled on photo portraits of George the VI (The King’s Speech King) originally taken by Hugh Cecil and each stamp depicted the monarch in different Canadian military attire. There’s a very cool article that shows a great many of the Canadian War Effort stamps from 42 and 43. It shows how remarkably reliant stamp production was on photography, it also made me realise that I’ve been interested in this series because in a way it’s restoring these beautiful stamps to their photographic roots.

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Photo – Engraving  - Photo

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My Dad.

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Hoarding

Hoarding is about a few things. First off it’s an obsession with plywood. I like working with plywood, I like carrying plywood, I’m geometrically infatuated with structures built of plywood, and I like Paterson Ewen’s work. I also admit to a predilection for construction sites and materials. it must be my misspent youth. There’s a bit about renewal via renovation in my obsession. Finally there’s something about the barrier itself that suggest mystery and the unknowable.

I’m also interested in the shape of road work signs. Today–a day after shooting these images–I’m still thinking about shooting a bunch of other signs like the one in the image from behind and with little interested in the signs actual message. There was a nice side-by-side pairing of square signs on my way to work this morning that I noticed that I’ll try and shoot tomorrow. Something about the combination of hoarding and signs makes me want to paint these images as well. A nice diptych with a photograph and an inspired painting might be interesting. All three of these images were taken on Bloor in the vicinity of Winners.This image on the bottom was a pleasant surprise. I love the hard edge of the planter box and how it looks so unnatural in the bottom corner of the fame. The blast of colour helps too. In the actual image you can read the sad news that unfortunately this Starbucks will not be reopening.

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Perfection

Perfection is a little bit about luck, a bit about practice, and a whole lot about things I don’t really completely understand yet. For some reason this feels like a Paul Auster inspired concept that also borrows from previous themes in The Task, my one and only really successful performance piece. The basis for Perfection has stuck with me for several days so I think it has some merit.

Perfection involves filming myself from behind, looking over my shoulder while I work with a simple piece of paper, pencil and eraser. I will endeavor to draw a perfect circle freehand. I can see this taking a long time. I can see it happening more by luck than by practice. I can imagine never being able to do it.

Part of this idea is about the impossible. Nothing is perfect. The goal is really to be able to draw a relatively accurate circle freehand. one that appears to be perfect but that would only be a pretty good try. I will actually consider the task compete when I get to something that’s pretty close to perfect. In the back of my head I’m thinking optimistically. I may be ale to actually teach myself how to draw circles though. If I can I’ll repeat the process with multiple circles. I’ll try and draw 2 perfect circles.

There are several ways I can execute this. At one point I thought I’d try on a single clean, brand new piece of paper, with each failure I’d start gain on another piece of paper. Maybe the film set contains a pile of 2-3000 sheets of 8.5 x 11 that sits beside me. this has the added effect of foreshadowing or quantitatively measuring the scope of the endeavor. I could also use a single sheet of paper and a pencil and eraser, this would might provide a more interesting aesthetic result. I could simply work on the same sheet attempting then erasing and attempting again. I could also fill a page with attempts then move to a new sheet and fill that with attempts. If I succeed, I could erase all the failed attempts on the specific page. Remove everything that doesn’t work after the fact. This would waste less paper and also be a bit more interesting to watch as the paper fills will circles, and then when the sheet is full of failed attempts I could just grab a new sheet from the pile. Film until I get the perfect circle. I also like the possibility of having thousands of sheets of paper filled with circles, maybe the stack of them becomes a final sculptural piece.

I’d start with a small circle. If I succeeded I could then repeat the process with a larger circle. the smaller circle having been complete. This might change the meaning slightly, as I could actually succeed with a relatively small circle and then the larger circle attempts would clearly take longer to have success and might even be impossible. In this iteration I’m thinking the exercise is about trying to improve on perfection and the absurdity of that idea.

Final thought for now is to start with a circle drawn from a template and then try to copy it.

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Drugs

Drugs is an idea that’s been percolating in my head for about three years that I’m finally getting around to planning.

I’m on drugs. I’ve been taking one thing or another for about 25 years. Sometimes I’m taking less and sometimes I’m taking more than prescribed but what I take is rather pedestrian.

NSAIDs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. You can buy these over the counter in any drug store with brand names like Aleve, Advil, Motrin and Bayer. My drug of choice is a bit stronger than any of these but it’s basically the same thing. Over the years I’ve tried a whack of NSAIDs with brand names like; Celebrex, Indocin, and Naprosyn. I’m now pretty much taking only Indomethacin (seen below). But I digress.

Aesthetically I like the shape of drugs and the colours. I particularly have a soft spot for the look of capsules that contain smaller little pills. Contact C from the old days comes to mind. It had a distinct candy like appearance and looked delicious when I was a kid. I have one of those giant medical dictionaries of drugs that doctors use to look up drugs to prescribe. There are several projects on this subject that I’m interested in.

One idea is to take pictures with a macro lens of the more dangerous psychiatric drugs that are often over-prescribed. These would be blown up to very large proportions, maybe as big as 30 x 40, or more likely 36 x 36. I’m also thinking anti-depressants and pain medication fit into this category. The simple part would be taking pictures of the drugs. The companion part of this piece would be to shoot portraits of people who’s lives have been effected (positively or negatively) by taking them. Each work would be a diptych of the drug and the patient images.

Another project would involve making drugs. Not real ones, but symbolic ones. Using gelatin capsules I’d find ingredients that are non-medicinal that carry some sort of positive, negative or interesting baggage. Maybe for specific people. I’d mix stuff up and make batches of pills then take pictures of them. I could actually fool with the look of the pills as well -making them fancy or designer like in some way- to make people want to take them. For some reason I was thinking I could make one such pill with a long strand of hair delicately inserted in circular loops inside a gelatin capsule. Imagine an extension cord being wound up and placed in a cylindrical container.  An offshoot of this idea could be to use existing over-the-counter drugs to create new and possibly dangerous amalgams. Again the idea would be to photograph them with the macro, blow them up huge and then include a written description of what the viewer is looking at. I would not take these drugs.

I’d also like to create a room made of entirely of pill containers. The old school amber/yellow ones. I imagine this as a relatively small vestibule or a hallway that leads to an exhibition of the aforementioned work. I would purchase 3-5000 various sized pill containers then glue them to the surfaces of the room by their top rims. This would create something that looks like the surface of the basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway. I would cover every surface of the hall/room including the floors and ceiling. I think the containers should be strong enough if they are oriented correctly to suport the weight of people passing through.

I’m currently inquiring with a Canadian company how much it would cost for 2 million gelatin capsules that were custom made and printed for me. They have this very cool tool for designing your drug capsule, but you have to buy a minimum of 2 million.

My premise with the manufactured drugs is to make beautiful pictures out of constructed pharmaceuticals that serve an aspirational purpose. The underlying hypothesis is that we’re already far to reliant on drugs and the desire to even think of such aspirational drugs is in essence a sickness. Like our endless search for youth or longevity. Even if we could construct such drugs, the idea of taking a pill to achieve the “desired” results is only acceptable to our twisted, spoiled, and lazy first world mentalities.

I don’t want my cynicism towards drugs to be misconstrued as a total disbelief in them. They very often serve a purpose and are very useful and can be very helpful. But think of the addiction and the economy of supply and demand. With all the problems they cause and the freedom with which they are prescribed it’s hard not to tink of the pharmaceutical companies are the new Big Tobacco.

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Evans

Evans Ford Lincoln was on Dundas West just east of the 427. Technically I guess this part of the city is Etobicoke. This whole area is a crazy wasteland. I can see why people in Etobicoke think and value different things than people in the city core. I also realise this is not what the majority of Etobicoke looks like, but this strip is really depressing and at the same time intriguing.

Having said that the building has been impeccably cleaned out. The interior of the showroom and sales floor is as neat as a pin. The exterior is obviously going to seed, but it still has all it’s windows and their relatively clean. There’s also little to no graffiti. Why bother tagging this place, no one’s going to see it. The exterior signage has all been removed but you can read “Evans” all over the building where the exterior surface has weathered around where the signage use to be.

 

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Maquette

Maquette is a concept I’ve been thinking about since August 2nd. I’ve been obsessed with it. I find when I fixate on things it’s a good sign, usually it means the idea has some potential. In short the more something sticks in my head and it adapts and expands, the more valid it seems.

I’ve been shooting interior spaces through the glass of their front windows for years. Lately the work feels a bit underwhelming. I rarely find compelling new locations anymore. I get less and less exited about what I’ve shot or have been shooting. Typically in the last few months I head out and shoot and shoot for hours and then come home and delete everything.

As an alternative to this I could build what I want to take pictures of. Below is a perfect example. I like this image but I’d rather see it as a series of lines and planes than actual structural, representational elements. I’d like to distill this into a geometric sculpture by removing the reference point of the room. I think I could build a maquette that would be less narrative and more compelling than the interior spaces I’ve been shooting for Vacancy.


I think this has awesome potential. The first project could be painted foamcore. I’ll build a structure like the diagram below, only using subtle shades of grey gradation. Maybe my first attempt will be based on the lines of a hallway. The furthest surface inside the hallway will be white, the closer I get to the top our outer edge will be black. In between hand-mixed shades linking the two. I can do a series of these constructions using different primary colours. I better get the studio finished. I think I’ll make this really small and shoot with the macro lens. If I think I’m insane I might as well start acting the part.

Further to this idea I went out today on Simcoe Day for the last chance I”l have in a while to shoot. I found 2 places and a new idea close to home. Below are the early stages of the new idea. I’ve taken my standard shot and then closed down the aperture as small as possible to increase the exposure time and used the zoom on my lens to distort the image. I like this effect and it sort of makes the interiors unreal and somewhat x-rayish. I like the technique and was also surprised with the simplicity and line of the subject.

I think this is a nice step in the right direction. Now the plan could be to revisit the favorite boring locals and reshoot with this technique. I’ll experiment with underexposing to even further increase the exposure times and hopefully allow me to get some more solid ghosting. I could possibly do this with multiple exposures as well or even layer specific individual images in Photoshop to act like multiple in-camera exposures. There’s also the possibility of combining this multiple shot technique with the aforementioned maquette versions of the interiors and experiment in a studio setting with flash, other lighting and the macro lens.

For me the image below is just a nice surprise. like this interior as a possibility for the Vacancy series… just when I was close to giving up. This is a sweet ending to a pretty laid back vacation. New inspiration and new ideas make me happy.

Finally I think this is a project I could execute over the course of a month or 2 in an artist residence somewhere. I was further thinking maybe I could research one in Paris or London where I could also work on a new subway series as well. I might even be able to take a month or 2 leave from work.

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Horizontal

Horizontal is the one picture I like from several outings over my vacation week. Not very productive, but I hope to improve on my record this final vacation weekend. This image was taken on the shore of Lake Huron about a half an hour from Godrich at my wonderful brother and sister’s place. They were nice enough to offer and let Jill, Stella and I use it for part of our vacation. The horizon line between water and sky on Huron is spectacular.

This is a particularly strange picture to me. I’m so accustom to the water being fairly rough and very green here. At this point in the day the sky was so intensely blue that the water lost that greenish tinge for a bit and viola. I’ve never actually seen this colour of blue in a sky before.

This is the same place at night, just after the sun has disappeared on the horizon line one evening last week. I think sunset is around 9:00 at this time of year. Yes, I took a sunset picture. I haven’t really done that for a very long time. This one looks airbrushed. I don’t really like this image, but it does illustrate why Huron is often ranked in the top ten of the world for sunsets. The colour is pretty crazy.

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Constructions

I came upon the idea for Constructions as I rode my bike to work and thought about an image I had taken on Monday of this week (previous post) . As soon as I arrived at work and locked my bike up I started thinking about it more seriously. I’d originally thought I’d call it Found, Constructions is a much more engaging and applicable term. I’ve been thinking about it all week now. It’s morphed into thought and imaginings revolving around Nuit Blanche 2013.

I’d like to suggest a Chris Shepherdly-simple curatorial thematic for the all night extravaganza next year. “Constructions” would incorporate ideas of discovery, luck, happenstance, searching, loss, misplacing, inspiration, building, representation, illusion, labour, etc. In a perfect world I could submit the theme, curate a zone, and research and perform a piece.

I’ll work on creating a curatorial statement.

The piece itself would bring together the majority of my focused concepts. A combination of Vacancy, The Task, The Clock, Waiting, Transitions, etc. It would be performance, sculpture and photography based.

For “Constructions” I would seek out existing building sites in several Nuit Blanche zones, get access to them and then rearrange / move elements of those locations. In the same way I moved the cinder block in The Task

Each site would have an imaginary Visual Frame of reference attached to some specific location on the periphery of the site. The optimal vantage point from where the piece is intended to be viewed. I would build a sculpture with pipes, blocks, pallets, etc. so that when viewed from that reference point — at a certain angle and dimension– the composition would be optimally represented. I’ve also toyed with the idea of making the “new ” compositions reference famous painting.

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Effort – This is an adaptation of the above. In this variation of Constructions I would remove the complicated and somewhat overused reference to painting history and concentrate on more on the nature of effort and the dynamics of “appearance”. In a construction site with various piles of material I’d take a photograph. Then manually I would move the material until a mirror image of it’s original location and layout was achieved. It would then be physically flipped. At this point I take another photo. In Photoshop flip the original photograph. The two “twin” photographs would hang side by side as a diptych. The result should be two identical or at least very similar images but each would have a completely different meaning.

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Early for the Dentists

I was way early for the dentists this morning so I took more studies for the Vacancy exhibition. Our amazing teeth doctor is on Bay just above Bloor.  On the walk around Yorkville and was excited about what I saw.

First is the place that use to be Sable Castelli Gallery. It’s been years since I was in here for a Canadian Art / Print Making Competition. In fact I think this is where I saw my first Andrew Wright in 2001 when he won with his Embossed Soldiers work. This image makes me think of that opening night party but the more I look at it Giorgo De Chirico comes to mind. It’s the archways.

Then there was this cool and very organized construction site for the new Four Seasons condo / hotel development on Bay at Scollard. Warning the website for the Four Seasons is annoying… why does everyone assume rich people like lounge jazz? I like the self portrait of me holding the camera above the fence line to get the shot reflected in the glass. The next best thing is the rope that reminds me of a Jeff Wall ingredient from Untangling, finally the weird little pallet and the reflection of the larger building behind me.

 

 

 

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Islands, Holes and Paths

Islands, Holes and Paths is a result of changing my route to work. I now take a path that takes me intentionally out of my way, but for the majority of the trip, off the city streets. I’ve increased the distance of the one way journey to the office by about 7km. my trip has gone from about a 17km to somewhere around 25km. This takes me on bike path’s for 80% of my journey and I find it a much more civilized start to the day. It’s a bit more of an effort but I’m hoping my body will grow accustom to the extra time and distance.

My first sight of Lake Ontario is at the bottom of Jamison Avenue. A man made harbour –created by a rock breakwall– protects the shore line from the big part of the lake and within it’s protective shadow people are out sculling at this time of the morning. There’s a canoe club not far away. Of course I’m not too interested in the people. I’ve always been interested in the lines that split lake and sky, lake and shore, and the photographic rendering of these lines.

After making my way across the Lakeshore in front of Queen’s Quay I begin the climb North up the Valley beside the river and the Parkway, heading towards Eglington and the Science Centre shadowing the Don River. There are a ton of well-worn pathways carved into the underbrush all over the place that I think have been created by vagrants and kids.I’d like to do a series of photographs called Islands, Holes and Paths. I’ll seek out the elements for it on my daily trips. href=”http://chrisshepherd.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/IMG_8071.jpg”>

The trip is about 90 minutes of amazing. One spectacular part of the journey is being completely immersed in a world that’s so not-like-the-city in the heart of the city. I bet these open fields and meadows are unknown to about 98% of the population. There’s a lot of traffic heading south down toward the core, but not much going up with me which suits me just fine. I can pass by joggers, walkers, bikers, not to mention streams, rabbits, the Bloor Viaduct, and tons of other stuff. I love this trip. The Tree. Later in the trip when I was only a few km from the science centre I found the tree. This image works for me on a number of levels. Most simplistically it depicts nature in an obviously unnatural setting. I think this is a common theme for me, there’s a bit of humor and a bit of sadness.
The other neat thing about this series of images is the similarity in colors and lighting. Although each is taken in a totally different location they all have the same feel.


Finally this image brings it all home. I’ve passed these buildings when riding on the road for years. seeing them from here is rather disorienting. Again like the awkwardness of the tree by the off ramp, these buildings seem strangely natural and unnatural at the same time.

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Photo Ideas 07142012

1. Take my obsession for lake front photography out at night and see if with long exposures I can capture something interesting that can be shown in conjunction with the Horizons work

2. Paths, Holes and Islands could be an essay on alternate foot and bike routes in the city. This was generated on the Don Path while looking at detritus islands at the foot of bridge supports in the river, holes cut in fences and subsequent paths created by vagrants and kids, paths made by lazy pedestrians to avoid curves in the asphalt path, holes in the forest canopy where the sky could be seen, islands in a more broad sense of the term could include rocks in the stream, concrete pads in parks for BBQs, etc., finally the whole trio of words, Paths, Holes and Islands seems resonate with important life issues. Metaphor of the photographs to decisions, escapes, sanctuaries, emptiness in people’s lives.

3. Out of focus apartment and condo towers. Do really soft focus with places like I found on the path on the way to work. Vaguely reminiscent of other photographers. Play with focus as a tool for obscuring the subject matter and making it mean something else. Do it with architecture.

 

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Transitions Redux

Transitions-Redux or simply subway photographs from back in 2008. These images were part of the shoot that made up the body of my first organized solo show Transitions. It was at Centennial College at the campus near Pape Avenue in the east end. I found this subsection of images in my archives and realised I had never looked at them as square crops. So I’ve re-worked them here. I’m sort of liking these all over again. A nice surprise.

Included above are images of St Claire, Ossington, Bay, Spadina, Bathurst, Islington, Lawrence, and St George stations.

Transitions was a big deal for me. It didn’t draw a lot of people, and nothing sold but if I hadn’t produced the work I would never have gone anywhere, never had a gallery. I can actually thanks David Mclyment for the kick-start. He was the one who offered and organized the show. He’s also a very nice man as well. I always meant to give him one of the images but I never got around to it. Despite my disappointment at the time that show was the beginning of everything. It’s nice to have the benefit of hindsight.

Someday maybe I’ll print some of this Transitions-Redux stuff. I’ve often thought about creating a book. If I could get it together and organize access to the Paris and London subways, I’m sure I could compile a book. I’ve even thought about doing a book of short stories by Toronto writers that at some point reference a subway station and the images would be like illustrations. Or a tourist guide based on subway travel. Maybe I should just self-publish. Although I will always hope to get to London, Paris and maybe Moscow to shoot their subways. What I really need is someone who can organize that sort of shit for me and then they take a cut of any sales or money I make. I wonder if artist do that sort of shit?

 

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Beauty

I was thinking about beauty or the idea of beauty on the weekend and about the statement that I’m interested in stuff that other people are not that interested in. In one sense this is a crock. Other people do like the same things but they are definitely a small contingency of the whole population. In a way the statement is wrong. The more accurate wording would be that I find things that are pedestrian, or banal to be interesting and most would find these boring not beautiful. I have a different aesthetic.

Lately I think about about beauty, time and perception in ways that are slightly annoying. I lose intrest in movies, books, and music because I find them so homogeneous. They all borrow from the same rule book of aesthetics and narrative. Sure there are exceptions, but those exceptions seem to be few and far between.

That’s not to say I don’t like a good sunset, the majestic mountains, a well written mystery, a really nice sweater or a well designed and attractive coffee table.

1. Buy a cheap white three-piece suit. Set a camera up to film a portion of the Don River in the early morning sun. On one side of the frame will be one shoreline or embankment. Walk into the frame from the left wearing my suit. Without pause slowly enter the water and wade across the Don to the other side and walk off the frame.

2. In the same white suit caress the reachable portion of a well worn and dirty tanker truck.

3. lie down in a newly created dirt hole

4. record the sound of traffic

These are the beginnings of ideas. What I really want to do is plan and execute acts that “experience” the ugly, or what some people feel would be ugly sensations. This is in direct relation to the photographs I take. You could say at some point I’m trying to make people realize that beauty is relative.

Maybe each of these acts is done as a diptych of film, photography, or sound collage. Take an image of someone caressing satin or silk or other material in a fabric store and juxtapose this with the sensory exploration of rusted steel surfaces or the like.

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Vacancy 4

The photographs that make up Vacancy 4 were shot this amazing Sunday, morning in the King and Spadina area.

Sometimes I like to revisit old ghosts. Three of the following Vacancy images where shot at a building that I’ve visited 5 or 6 times over the last 10 years. It’s been a presentation centre for condos, ticket office for Tiff before the Lightbox existed and a very long time ago -when I worked on Peter Street- it had been an auto garage. Today it’s in the process of being reconfigured as a presentation centre for the abysmally named “Tux” condos. The photo above was taken through the glass of the north side entrance doors to the building, looking south through the main entrance hall at the presentation desk.

This photograph shows an empty area on the east side of the building facing Peter Street. I’m sure in time it will be filled with designer furniture, pictures of models in expensive formal attire and maybe even a realistic architectural model of the building. I like this image with the 8:00 a.m. Sunday July 8th light pouring in and the paper airplane inspired ceiling decoration. This paper airplane motif is repeated in all the design elements of the architectural renderings for Tux.

Here’s another view of the same interior vacancy from the east side looking directly at the presentation desk. You can see me taking the picture in the reflection of the building’s exterior behind the desk. I’m standing with the camera pressed against the glass window .

This is the last incarnation of this particular building. Strangely enough Tux is going to be situated on the very spot where this building presently sits.

The room below is an older vacant building on Charlotte Street. I was talking to a resident in the neighbouring building and he mentioned this place is slated to be demolished. No doubt more condo towers will replace it. I should have actually gone inside here and taken pictures but I hate confrontation so I opted for through-the-window shots like always despite there being a set of doors that were propped open with a shoe.

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Public 45

Public 45 (Art / Culture / Ideas) the summer issue is on sale now. The subject this issue is Civic Spectacle and it’s about an inch thick. The first piece is called Sleepless Nights: Contemporary Art and the Culture of Performance by Heather Diack. My Nuit Blanche 2010 piece The Task is discussed in that article alongside one of my all-time favourite artists John Sasaki and others. Sweet!

I found it rather shocking that The Task was so positively received. I mean there were people throwing shit at me and yelling stuff, but the majority of viewers found it somewhat engaging. The thing that really worked for me was that it was a simple idea. I believed in it, but it wasn’t bathed in rhetoric. Partly because I don’t have the vocabulary to do that, pertly because that’s not what it was about. It was what it was and I liked it. If I could produce more work like this I’d be happy. That’s sort of what this whole site is about. I want to use it as a sketchbook for ideas. I fond it useful to write things down, think about them, adjust and then either keep thinking about them or trash them. So far in the past it’s worked well. If I continue to think about an idea for months or longer it’s usually got some merit.

Now if I could only drag my ass out of this art lethargy I seem to be mired in and do some of the shit I constantly think about!

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Vacancy 3

I made it down to Queen Street West on Saturday for another Vacancy shoot. I took the bike down for about 6:30 in the morning. It was so nice and quiet and I had the chance to stop in front of Convenience Gallery to check out Roula Partheniou’s show “five o’clock shadow”. I’m very glad I did. Despite the fact that it was way closer to 5:00 a.m. I’ve wanted to see this show since I saw the amazing picture that Tony Hafkenscheid took of the gallery from the street. If I can find a copy of that not taken from Facebook I’ll gladly post it. Anywho, her piece is awesome. It’s slightly scientific, but slightly whimsical. I really like it a lot. If you get a chance to check it out do so. You can walk by the gallery anytime because it’s basically an old convenience store window = accessible all the time. Lansdowne Avenue & Seaforth a block or two up from Queen.

I ended up locking the bike up in front of the crappy looking Bohemian Embassy building which is just across the street and in between The Drake and The Gladstone. I walked over to University then turned around and got half way back before hopping on a streetcar.

If there’s one thing I like about the Bohemian Embassy it’s the vacant stores. They’ve been trying to rent stuff for months, if not close to a year. It’s perfect subject matter for me. Empty, nondescript rooms in a modern boring building. I’ve shot them a couple time now.

Drywall Bohemian Embassy 2012

I love the floor of drywall dust and the straightforward lines and crosses of the mudding in the drywall shot. The following were taken in the same strip of retail attached to The Bohemian Embassy.

These 3 images are basically black & white, without being black and white. Colour images that become ostensibly black and white just because of the nature of the material being shot. I have a thing against contemporary B&W. There are a ton of photographers who use it well, but there are thousands of photographers that just think for some reason it makes their work more artistic. I’m probably being a jerk, but I figure we progressed to colour over time, why shoot in B&W? The real problem I have is that the technique and style is overused. You could tie this conversation back to Roula’s show at Convenience, although I’m sure it wasn’t her intention, five o’clock shadow could thematically touch on that colourization vs black and white film discussion and how it pertains to contemporary photography.

The following images are from King Street, east of Jarvis taken June 5th on the way to work. Again these could easily be B&W. At the very least if Vacancy becomes a show there could be a series of monochromatic shots as one element of the whole. The complete show may simply be a series of high colour shots, monochromatic shots, and drastic contrast lighting shots. It’s not rocket science.

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Vacancy 2

I’m working on the Vacancy photo series. Saturday was pretty successful for me. I got up at 5:30 and went exploring on the bike to St Clair Avenue. I found some stuff I liked so I’m calling this Vacancy 2. I’ll continue to shoot in batches and name them in sequence. I wonder if it’s just me and this series. It’s not very accesible.

I wasn’t inside most of these rooms. I simply take these shots through the glass of the front window or door. I have this complicated and awkward set up with an old tea towel that I have to wrap around the lens where it hits the glass. If I don’t do that I get a reflection of the lens barrel and parts of the street because of the sunlight and the typical construction of double pane glass. One day I’ll get a proper hood built that can attach to the lens and makes things efficient but this works for now.

I’d like to do more black work. A favourite from the work above is the piece that shows a set of partially obstructed windows surrounded by the darkness of the interior space. This uber-contrast is interesting me.

There’s also an image with a checkered floor. I’m a sucker for abandoned chairs in empty rooms, especially when they have checkered floors. I’m off again this first of June to find other forlorn strip of Toronto retail and some new Vacancy subjects. I imagine it will even be more deserted today. I might as well try Queen. It’s been a while since I shot down there. Usually when I venture to a place I haven’t been to for a while there are a ton of new Vacancies. I’m sure Queen street will be no different, however it’s more successful than St.Clair so there tend to be fewer empty places.

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Convenience

These are a little darker feeling than I thought they would be. I like them, but I can see why someone might not. It’s an ancient space. I think of Cuba, or at least images I’ve seen of Cuba. A real sense of this place has seen better times. The ceiling looks tin and the back wall is a testament to how old the place is. Lathe and plaster construction was predominantly pre 1930s in Toronto after that plaster board came into widespread use.

I happened upon this on my way to work the other day. It’s on the lower portion of Pape just a few blocks above Bloor. Curiously the whole strip of retail and residential that is Pape has changed very, very little in the 15 years that I’ve frequented it. This is truly the land that gentrification forgot.

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Vacancy

I keep coming back to these images. I’ve just decided these will make up the new Bau-Xi Photo show. I’ll shoot over the next few months and hopefully have 15 to 20 solid images for a show. I’m thinking of getting up very early tomorrow and trying to catch a new Scotia Bank on Bloor around Ossington before it opens and is completely finished. the colour of the redish orange ATMs and the blank empty walls should look pretty spectacular.

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Cheek to Cheek

Select a portion of the cheek and take a macro photograph. Shoot a self portrait then shoot different people I know creating 20 or so images that show the individual pores of everyone’s skin, the hair/beard detail, skin tone and colour.

If displayed together these would be abstract portraits that should –if hung correctly– create a unified series of abstractions.

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Quadrilateral

The first real “walkabout” in 8 months. Not much to show for it but aching feet and proof that I’m obsessed with geometry. Although I do really love this image. It’s strange but I’ve been shooting this same “scene” for about 10 years. I think I finally captured why it interests me. Or I might be totally insane.

The following image is another reference to squares, but also a neat little homage to the student demonstrations in Quebec. I sat on the fence for the longest time about these demonstrations, now I’m fully on board. Education should be affordable, and governments should listen to the people that put them in power. To all the naysayers out there…just because we don’t have inexpensive post secondary education doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea.

Finally orange. A nice added little reflection of a bicycle in a picture that really does show a lot of why I like this city.

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Healing

I shot this series of images at a small rural hospital in Seaforth, Ontario. I have a very nice relative who is a Dr. there and she was nice enough to get me access. I loved it and would really like to continue this series someday but I think getting into other hospitals is going to be mind-numbingly difficult. That’s my problem in general -getting access to photograph places. The subway was super hard to negotiate. It took me years. Schools were difficult as well. Hospitals will be very hard to get into. Sometimes I think I should just grow some balls and shoot without permission, but I find I’m uncomfortable doing that and when I’m uncomfortable I don’t shoot well.

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Late

This is an older thought, but one that has stayed with me.

Arrange to meet people I know in secluded architecturally interesting locations at times when the possibility of other people being there is minimal. Arrive early and somehow setup the camera so that I’m not readily observable from the meeting place and wait. As my arranged meeting time approaches and passes take pictures. Continue taking pictures until the subject of interest gives up in exasperation and leaves. Maybe text the person along the way and take pictures as they read my texts.

The prime location might involve a clock. If the subject waits by the clock or some other time based measuring device the images will show the passage of time.

Voyeurism, disappointment, frustration, waiting.

June 1st 2012
Talk to, and enlist an ensemble cast of participants to work with me through a series of photography/film/performance pieces. One of these could be Late. Another would involve playing a weird soundtrack and recording their reactions. Still another could involve some sort of mystery created by graffiti or a scrap of paper.

June 2nd 2012
For one event get 4 or 8 maybe 12 people. Explain to 4 groups to meet at a predetermined location, maybe in the area at thenTD bank towers–tell them something is going to happen in the sky to the east, tell another group the west and so on. Photograph or film the ensuing observation and realization that other people are doing the same thing.

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Banking

I’ve loved this bank for about 10 years. I’ve taken pictures of it every so often for at least that period of time. I’ve also been drawn to banks in the past.

My compulsion started with an empty Bank of Montreal on Bay just above College. I was in a cab and went by this closed BOM at night. The fluorescent lights were all on and it looked other worldly. I went back the next day on the subway, or I may have taken my bicycle. The lights were still all on. The images from the series below are still favourites.

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I continued the exploration with another closed BOM. This one at Rocesvalles and Dundas West. The image below was shot after it was bought by Starbucks. It’s still a Starbucks.

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Closing banks seems a bit strange. Like any other business I imagine they study traffic and usage and close anything that’s not busy enough or profitable enough.

I imagine a time when there won’t be so many old people going into branches. When that happens I it makes sense that many spaces could be better utilized. I can see the industry closing more branches as the internet becomes more and more the destination for typical Canadians to do their finances.

I’m also fascinated by TD Canada Trust’s incursion into the U.S. market. I saw a great pic that William Huffman took in Massachusetts of a parking lot sporting Mass MOCA banners on lamposts and in the background there was a TD Canada Trust branch. i’m also remembering the last time I was in Manhattan. I saw more TDs than any other bank, with the possible exception of Chase Manhattan. Is the Canadian identity personified south of the border by banks? Are we now prouder of our banks than our hockey teams? I think we probably should be.

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Street Art

The first thought was about basketball nets. I saw an advert on the sides of several Rocesvalles shops that depicted a person playing basketball.

Create hyper realist paintings or maybe stickers. Maybe actual photographs done to scale of things from learning; basketball backboards, water fountains, doorways, fire alarms, clocks, bell, blackboards, etc. print these out to size and then apply in odd locations, altering the reality of the world via illusion.

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Labour Day

A simplified, final installment of The Task. The title speaks about commitment and work ethic.

Take one skid of standard 8″ concrete block and move the contents to an opposing skid a short distance away. Continue back and forth at a comfortable rate until exhaustion sets in. Breaks will be taken to eat and drink and for the washroom but the simple, repetitive, pointless journey back and forth will continue for as long as possible and at a steady a rate while recording the scene on continuous video/audio. The work should be done neatly if not compulsively. If it can be done for 12 hours, do that. if I can manage 24 so be it.

Perform the piece in the Mercer back gallery space taking care to place the opposing skids in an aesthetically calculated way. The camera set up should work so that the video fits into the final gallery set up in kind. Meaning I want to think about how the process is filmed and how to play it back in such a way that it looks good but the video will display the action like the viewer is looking through a window at it. The work could finish with some block on both pallets. It could finish with one uniform full skid and one empty skid. Once it is complete mount a video screen on the wall of the gallery to play back the real time performance… However long it ends up being. No edits or treatments. One single shot over however long it takes. On the opposite wall there should be a printed label that tabulates all the statistics involved including how many block, how much time it took, weight, etc.

The exhibition will be the static skid that people can touch to gauge the block weight, the other skid – either partially or empty, the video playing on a loop on the wall and the statistics.

The more I think about it the more the skids should be left in mid “job” so that the emphasis is taken off the “goal”. I would like the piece to be viewed as a monument to work itself, not a specific job, task or purpose.

When shooting the video record the sound in super high quality to be played back at a level that mimics the actual sound of the 12 hours of work.

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Instructions

Learning to Smile

Look for instructions on line on how to get models to look natural for portraiture…teach myself to do it and keep a running photogrpahic record of the process. Self portraits and a commentary of the new knowledge base and disintegration of personal contact in learning.

Do the same process for other things…keeping a record of the process for each;

tying a bow tie

making a complicated sailors knot

obtaining a check mate

performing an exorcism

solving a complicated math proof

etc.

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Gallery

Two Thoughts

1. When the AGO is turning over, or –dream of all dreams– Tate Modern, get access to film. Spend 8 hours repeatedly walking a preconceived route through the transitioning space and film a continuos journey showing tear down and install. This might have to be a 3 or 4 day x 8 hours a day commitment. Simulcast this on a web channel as a minimalist documentary –with or perhaps without sound.

2. Chose an existing exhibition and walk a preconceived route after gallery hours with whatever available lighting there is. Execute from gallery shut down to gallery opening. Start with the last patron and end with the first patron.

If I had an unlimited budget I would set up a track to mark the routes and very slowly track the installation. Forward through the route then backward –over and over again. With a good budget I could steadycam it. With a limited budget I could set up in a prime location and stop motion photograph it.

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Jewelry

Create high quality, very costly, hand made jewelry based on TTC tiles. Make one set for each traditional old school tile colour and utilize the standard subway tile proportions. maybe do some one offs, a ring here, a necklace there in the incidental yet associated colors of the TTC.

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The bracelets could be sterling silver. I picture each link to be a chunky high gloss silver rectangular brick with one open side, into which is sunk a ceramic mini-tile in the same proportion and colour as a actual subway tile.

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Now I can picture a pretty huge ring as well, portrait style in a heavy silver setting. You could easily do more pieces as well including a necklace and pendant/obelisk earrings. Make it very chunky rather than elegant and petite. Maybe each element is the same size.

Green, grey, yellow, orange, flesh, white, doorway red, safety strip yellow, turnstile stainless, etc ad
naseum.

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Outside

This is another ongoing series. I think I started shooting this stuff about 8 years ago.

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The image above was taken quite a while ago. Since that time this little gallery on Queen near Symington has had the blinds drawn and I’ve never been able to capture it again. i’ve probably gone back a few times every year to check. I still really like this image, it’s about art, my aspirations, and the beauty and potential of emptiness.

The pictures in Outside are predominantly taken through window glass. I rest the lens directly on the window and it works as an ad hoc tripod or stabilization tool. This in turn allows me to shoot in low light for long exposures while still hand holding the camera. it gives me a nice depth of field which emphasizes the expository nature of my work. Expository is a word that David Balzer used to describe my Waiting series and I use it all the time now. It’s perfect.

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This above piece was part of the Art Gallery of Mississauga’s Eat, Drink, Man, Woman show held last year. Tara Marshall was nice enough to select 3 pieces of mine for this thematic that focused on our relationships to food. This is taken in Little Korea. It’s a shot when the property was up for rent. Now it’s a fully functioning BBQ place. No more pink.

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A vacant garage on Dundas West, west of Jane.

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A decommissioned small police station on Davenport.

I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of this series.

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Geyser

Using pressure and pneumatic principles create a participatory kinetic sculpture based on the principles use in an air gun or nerf water pistol.

Stationary Bike
Fountain System
Adjustable Water Aperture

The public gets on the bike, pedals to compress air which is then stored until a certain PSI is attained. This in turn sets off the trigger which the propels the water straight up like Ole Faithful. The aperture device would allow for different effects
1. Multiple stream shower like burst
2. Sustained single thin stream
3. Wider single powerful burst
4. Slow bubbling for a sustained time

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Skulls

Ahhh the ubiquitous skull. Symbol of otherness and individuality appropriated by Pirates, Damien Hirst, Keith Richards, Misfits, bikers, Hans Holbein, Cyprus Hill, and 100s other proponents of evil.

It’s a sad overused and cliched symbol of the alternative.

Take all these images pilfered from the web and collage them into a big piece that pokes fun of the serious intentions of those who sport them on t-shirts as symbols of outsiderness and show them for what they are… The boring normalcy of marketing.

Maybe I can use the skulls to created lines then execute contour drawings of things like kittens, smily faces, flowers, text or anything that exemplifies the idea if kitsch.

Could also employ wings, German Gothic style text, guns and any other “evil” symbol exploited by a few brandished by many and so far away from most of the mainstream people that do wear these sort of images personality it’s funny. Like the weekend biker that by day is merely a yes man on Wall Street. everyone sees through your disguise.

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Holi

It seems that 2012 is the year that Holi makes it to the masses. the Festival of colour. I’ve seen some spectacular images in the past few months.

Take businessmen on their way to work in full suit and tie in a Bay Street area Spontaneous break out into celebration. In the celebrations of Holi as I rudely understand the strictness of social norms is lowered. So business guys in suits become childlike and joyful as they cover each other in colored powder.

The piece would play on several themes but center around the stereotypical dropping of the serious conservative business facade as well as making an obvious nod to the increasing economic power of India

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Ghetto Christo

Buy five or six tarps of various primary colors. After a heavy snow fall venture out into the wintery freshness and wrap objects with the tarps and take pictures. With the preponderance of white background the created colour sculptures should contrast in a spectacular way

Colours:
Orange
Blue
Brown
White
Red
Yellow

Things to wrap
Telephone boxes
Benches
Fire hydrants
Hydro poles
Fences
Cars

A variation on this theme would be to do self portraits after wrapping myself in the tarps. I imagine this could be slightly sinister. Either simply log roll myself up in a tarp in front of a camera that’s positioned for the purpose, or get someone to help me wrap myself in a way that facilitates using a remote.

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Vancouver

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I made it to Vancouver!

My incredible gallery has some of my work up in the summer show in Vancouver. I don’t know about other people, but I really like my gallery and the people who work hard to sell my photographs. It can’t be easy and I feel privileged to be represented by such great people. Gush, gush.

I recently had some respected artist and educator suggesting I stop worrying about my gallery and get off my ass. I would have enjoyed the time to actually explain to him my relationship with the gallery but I don’t think he has the time for that.

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In Translation

I read a lot of books. nothing serious, but none the less I read a lot. Right now I’m reading yet another Swedish crime novel. Yes I’m one of those people that has trouble with non-fiction.

It strikes me that translating from Swedish into English –like anything other translation for that matter–would be hard to do well. Asa Larsson might be a gifted writer in Swedish but her books in English must owe a great debt to the translator. one of her older books was translated by Marlaine Delargy, I wonder if she did the one I’m reading now?

Thinking about this led me to an idea that a simple Swedish sentence must have several different English translations and that the translator must understand the tone, and writing style of the author so well that they can personify that in their work. Maybe this is one of the reason that Nordic crime fiction is becoming so popular in the English speaking world. There’s a sparseness to the pros that feels like how I think. Maybe I should read some other Nordic fiction and see if it retains the same attraction.

Take simple sentences from the Swedish and translate them. Rewrite them about 20 times in different ways. accompany the text with a photograph of a coffee pan. I have this image of people making coffee in Sweden like cowboys.

Do it for Swedish, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Finland

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Pain

Portraits

I was going to start taking some crazy injectable drugs they call Biologicals at one point to treat my Arthritis. I’d been pre approved by my health insurance provider and had been in several times for preliminary tests. The University medical centre where I’m treated wanted me to help with some related research on pain before and after the treatment so I went in and had some cool tests done. While I was there I started thinking more about the nature of pain.

It’s all psychological. In a way pain doesn’t even exist, just the mind processing information and warning the body, at the same time it’s very real and can be debilitating.

I thought it would be cool to work with the Dr. Who I met and was heading up the study.

My plan is to to ask chronic pain patients if I could take their picture. Do some simple expository portraits and see of the pain is successfully masked in their sitting or if on the face of each subject you can see the pain their suffering from. It might be a neat adjunct to the actual research itself. I think it’s a compelling subject.

Id prefer to seek out chronic pain sufferers who are happy and well adjusted. I wouldn’t want the show to be negative, just informative. Maybe proceeds could go to to the researcher.

It might also be interesting to take the portraits and then take huge macro photographs of their medication used to treat the pain. These would be blown up very large so the pills are as big as the subjects heads in the portraits. For these I can visualize a gallery full of diptychs. 24 inch square photographic diptychs. Each pairing would depict the suffering and the relief.

I never went on the injectable medication, it was just way to serious a drug for me. I’d rather live with the pain than shut down my whole immune system.

05/25/2012 Wear my blue Benetton golf shirt for an artists proof. It’s the same colour blue as my medication. Do the same for the other drugs. Match the colour of the clothing or an accent to the clothing with the drug colour.

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Silence

Silent Rock Band

This was a direct offshoot of the Seeing concept. In this proposal I’d like to make something for the hearing impaired community and by researching, learn about that specific demographic and figure out more art to be tailored towards that segment of society.

Take a video of a rock band and removed the actual soundtrack completely, substituting in its place a series of vibrations, air currents, and other feelings or perhaps kinetic sculptures. This would in effect remove the audio, replacing it with visual, or sensory representation.

I picture fans blowing, things swinging, and other non audio mechanics, some of which would utilize vibration to simulate artificially the way that someone who was hearing impaired might experience the actual band if they experienced it.

Is there a way to have a live band perform in a glass sound proof room that I could have hooked up to sensors that could detect the amplitude of the “playing” and translate into visual, other non- aural
stimulae.

Maybe it’s a completely visual representation of the 24 track recording of a song…mike by mike by mike. It would be less like Janet Cardiff’s Forty Voice Motet, and more like a very complicated screen saver or animation.

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Commute

A dance performance filmed in TTC Subway cars or buses in which the dancers represent commuters personalities action and thought. This could be linear and narrative based…so she might not be super interested.

100 years ago I saw a dance piece on television that featured men in a pub drinking, fighting and getting drunk. I’ve never forgotten it and think of it in relationship to this piece. After some searching I found tan excerpt from that piece called Enter Achilles by DV8.

Poles, seats doorways sound, laptops, coffee, newspapers, sleeping, chatting, makeup, pan handling, entry, exit, dynamic. it could also be broken into acts that are based on different parts of a commuting day; rush hour to work, rush hour home from work, journey to the club, journey home from the club….repeat.

Although conceived as a filmed piece from different angles within the train, this could become a performance piece for Nuit Blanche where the train is parked in lower Bay and the dancers perform in and on the platform amongst the audience. The doors could actually close and the performers could act as if the train was moving. It could also be done in such a way that the audience participates and becomes part of the event.

I could also devise a way for the wall side windows to act as screens on which video is shown to emulate motion and give the illusion that the train is moving when the doors are closed. I could arrange with Nuit and the. It’s to take 6 video cameras on board a train that traveled after hours and film the windows as the train moves from empty station to empty station.

Work with a contemporary composer to write the music that informs the dancers.

To me this seems more like traditional dance than avant guard. Based on Ballet and Tango?

Specific ideas.
- dancers at one pint might all sit and rise in unison representing the ritualistic commonality of the commute
- music could be based upon the tone that signals the doors closing and could be per-recorded to play over te subway car speakers.
- moves that simulate the stop, start, and drastic jolts of a typical subway ride.
- romance could be an internal theme. Either young lovers or actual flirtation.
- the vagrant drunk, the mental patient, the surely traveler, the children, the iPod listener, the computer user, the kindle reader… etc.
- flickering lights
- delayed train
- rush for seats

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Plates

I think the practice of taking average everyday kitchen items and making them into commemorative decoration and objects de art is crazy. I’m talking about plates, spoons, tea towels, tea pots, salt and pepper shakers, etc.

The plan is to make decorative plates, tea towels, and other ephemera– all of which might be considered quintessentially British or American — that would recognize dark periods in those countries colonizing or militaristic pasts. in so doing I hope to point out the ludicrous nature of these objects in and of themselves while calling attention to the inherit blindness of nationalism and the successful silencing of history by the propaganda, government and collective patriotic blindness of society.

British
Slavery (Africa)
1876 Deccan Plateau Famine (India)
1954 – Mau Mau Revolt (Kenya)
1830 – 50 Tasmanian Genocide
1957 -1959 Bombing of Oman
1960 Evacuation of Diego Garcia

US
Slavery
Civil Rights
My Lai (Vietnam Nam)
Afghanistan
The Shah of Iran
El Salvador
Guatemala

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Flattening

I had written this up under the title Demolition. I think flattening is better.

This project could be thought of as a form of deconstruction or the act of taking a 3 dimensional building and flattening it out into 2 dimensions. This idea was inspired by years of staring at the Hydro building across the street from us.

Take a photograph of each portion of the elevation around the exterior of a building from straight on and from the same distance, i.e., 6 feet away from each section of wall. Shoot the entire building Starting at a fixed point and ending at the point. These would also represent the building a t a specific height in it’s elevation, at approximately 6 feet off the ground or eye level. In a traditional building this would equate to flattening out an elevation drawing. each of these shots could then be stitched together in Photoshop to “flatten” out or make 2 dimensional the contours of the surface.

Riff on Alan Paiment’s series of building floor plan photographs taken from the bird’s eye perspective.

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24 Hours

24 Hour Conceptualization Marathon

Could I sit and think of worthwhile and compelling new concepts if I did it as a performance piece in and of itself?

Even if I didn’t add to the library it could be a statement on creative blocks.

I’m picturing me sitting at an interrogation desk in what would look like–or actually be–a police station interview room. The performance could be filmed and seen through 2-way mirrors. maybe there’s a camera suspended directly above the table I write on. With this in mind the aesthetic of looking at a bank of 4 video monitors would be cool. Therefore film it from 4 different angles. directly above looking down at the desk, behind my left shoulder and looking down at approximately a 45 degree angle. straight on from directly across from the front of my body showing under the table as well and maybe a close up on he actual book I’m writing in.

Maybe I’m shackled to the chair. Maybe this is an elaborate set that needs to be constructed in a museum that I could actually sit inside and interact with to “perform”. The audience would have access to what I’m doing thought the two-way mirror in the observation room, a a bank of video cameras in that room that would have a joystick attached to change the views slightly or zoom in closer and an intercom button that that could talk to and here me from.

Food and Drink would be brought on occasion. I would also have to be escorted to the washroom every now and then. Maybe I’m handcuffed as I’m led in and out of the room by a uniformed officer.

Upon playback the viewer would have the ability to zoom in on the document I’m writing. All the time this looks like I’m writing a confession, when in truth I’m creating a book of concepts.

As well as being the statement on concepts and thinking, it’s also a direct statement on the way certain societies think about the criminality of the creative mind and have done throughout history. Finally the title is intended as a play on the popular television series “24″

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Viewpoints

When taking the subway I wait until a train arrives that’s not completely rammed with people. I refuse to run or even walk quickly to catch a waiting train.

While waiting I look for ways to change my experience. To depart from the ritual. Sometimes I’ll buy coffee, or I’ll wait for three or four trains to pass. I’ll stand at different parts of the platform, or at different angles than the traditional passenger might. Different angles is so far my favourite

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Reflections

Make these a series of seemingly simple portraits. They could be of Bill, Lorissa, Danny, Dan, Sarah…or better yet professional actors. Take the pics in the G44 studio using the blasted light effect. Ask each actor to imagine a scene and emote to suit. Creat the drama or narrative in their mind and take the picture as they relate. Crying, flinching, laughing, etc.This will provide the underlying layer for reflections. Shoot 2 more layers. 1 is the reflection of the taller lights on the glass of an empty frame. The 2nd would be the narrative scene mentioned that the actors are imagining. In photoshop this layer would be inverted and overplayed with the others to produce the entire composite image. The no 1 layer could be a film.

Create an empty shadow box. Hang it in an empty gallery. Create narrative scenes within the gallery space and film the reflection of the action in the glass of the empty shadowbox frame.

1.Create my next Bau-Xi show the same way I did learning and play back the created narrative movies over top of the regular images.

2.Show the movies in a series of empty shadow boxes

Create a sense of discomfort in the viewer. When the look at the piece the reflection should seem like action actually happening in the present. Create a sense of paranoia.

Formulated when I looked into Simon Rayner’s office and saw the il divo framed award reflecting his office

2nd thoughts.

Variation

Take pictures as if I’m going to simply do another Bau-Xi exhibition. Frame them in shadow boxes like normal but use regular reflective glass. Light the framed pictures in such a way that the room they are in is reflected on the glass. Create tableaus of people, or narrative occurrences in those reflections and reshoot the images or film them now with that “created” reflection in the glass. Print these new pieces with the reflected scene or project the film of these scenes in a framed “screen”.

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