Sebald

Sebald refers to the books I’m reading by W.G. (Max) Sebald. I started reading Austerlitz. I haven’t finished that but I’ve moved on to The Rings of Saturn. I’ll go back to Austerlitz at some point. He’s interesting.  I find myself wanting to relate his writing to the work I’ve been doing over the past ten years. Maybe  I just want to be associated with his work, but maybe it’s more than that.

Sebald’s writing is steeped in memory, the loss of memory, Selective memory, decay, change, and the passing of time. His work usually involves travel. In the case of The Rings of Saturn the narrater walks through Suffolk, the English middle eastern seaside.

Both Austerlitz and The Rings of Saturn contain black & white photographs that compliment various segments of the text. They don’t detract form the descriptive pros but add a further element of mystery to what– for me–are already rather nebulous works.

To me my photographic work is memory based. I’ve never been interested in shooting people directly, but I’m very interested in the memory of them or the possibility of them. There seems so much more narrative leeway without burdening a piece with an actual person.

Both the pieces above reverberate with footsteps. In the second image someone took an elevator journey to this floor from what I imagine was a construction area just to deposit something in the garbage can before getting back on the elevator and leaving a distinct path from the dust on their boots.

The empty space in the first image was Gallery Moos at Bathurst and Richmond. It’s now on College Street but I’m not sure who runs it since Walter Moos died in June of this year. I never went in this gallery, thinking it rather old school. I saw inuit sculpture on a plinth as I rode by on my bike once and I think that sealed it’s fate for me.  I gather from his obit in the Globe he was a bit of a mover and shaker in the Toronto Art community. IN fact he really could be considered a bit of a pioneer having started his gallery in Yorkville in the late 50s. This Richmond Street shop was a truly abysmal location, you can see why the gallery moved to College. The interest for me was that this place was a gallery and now all that remains is the tired interior space punctuated by dust and scuff marks.

I think the image below is a physical manifestation of memory. I love construction holes for their invasion of the past. These holes are dug through years of deposit and dirt and history. I constantly look in these spaces and wish I could wander around inside on the floor of the excavation. I’d be immersed in the lives and deaths of so many. The shear volume of people that have passed over, interacted or lived in this space is overwhelming. If only I could get in touch with some company who digs these things out and get access.

My Sebald book is getting a bit dark. I’m in a bit that’s describing Nazi supported atrocities to the Serbian people during the 40s, Naval battles and the exploitation of the Congo by Belgium. So the caveat might be my that my work is more like Sebald light.

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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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The Clock

This was the original thought for the piece I ended up performing last fall in Hamilton.

The Task but using 1 pallet of blocks in a square space that has some access for filming from
directly above.

Place the pallet of block in the in the north center quadrant which will represent 12 o’clock. Move the pallet 12 times over the 12 hour period so that the finished pallets end up in positions representing the hours of a clock.

This task is completed when the pallet is returned to it’s original position at 12 o’clock 12 hours later.

Film onto a computer hard drive so the camera can be suspended and continuously film. Use larger block than Nuit Blanche to manage the hour between hours.

Do this on an actual stage and the audience can sit and observe like the most boring play in the world. Lighting and music included, it would be very cool if there was a trap door I could use as the escape route to washroom and eating. Maybe in the center of the stage?

Only requires 1 full pallet of bricks and an extra pallet to act as the transfer pallet.

Find a theatre that doesn’t have anything going on for Nuit Blanche. Maybe ask the Nuit Folks. The more elaborate the venue the better.

By selling the piece as a wall clock as a large edition. Make the cost of those pieces simply the cost of the drive required to hold/run the film.

I executed a version of this for the 2011 Hamilton Supercrawl. It was weird being in the thick of things, and I would have preferred to be arthritis free, but all in all I think the people enjoyed either discussing the piece or razzing me about it. I think the curatorial staff was pleased as well.

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