lives and works in Vancouver, BC, Canada
Published Wednesday April 4, 2018
still from This Room/Patterns, 2017, HD Video (Nine-channel Video Collage) , 14'42"
Looking back on your older works such as Sound Kitchen (2007), you've had an interest in everyday objects for a long time. When did you recognize that everyday objects were becoming a personal and conceptual exploration?
My fascination with the "quotidian" began through experimenting with ideas and process, and how my art practice could encompass everyday experiences such as brushing my teeth or making a cup of tea. I began to recognize that these types of objects and mechanisms were making a regular appearance in my work when I was in art school. In some ways, I rejected the idea that artwork had to be heavily conceptual and theory-based to be interesting or provocative. Not that this was a rule or anything, it was probably a combination of seeing a lot of intellectual work and my own rebellious nature. Obviously, there are many ways to making work, and for me especially, I lean on intuition and what is around me to create art.
Sound Kitchen, 2007, Single-Channel SD Video, 17'43"
Do filming everyday experiences and objects change how you perceive and value them?
There is something to be said for the small or the minuscule- part of me supports what is sometimes overlooked or "forgotten", and part of me is truly enamoured by the complexity of everyday objects. For example, when I use a macro lens to document the skin of a piece of fruit, viewers may take note of little details that may have been unnoticed before, such as the pores of the skin, or small scars on the surface. At this moment, I think the object is transformed. It's not necessarily to put on a pedestal but its context has shifted away from being a piece of fruit; it has turned into something else, a body or a being. My aim is for people to have a corporeal response to my artwork. I want viewers to be able to feel the fruit, to smell it, and to evoke a memory of taste, or something of the like. In short, I think that the objects themselves already hold a place of value for me before I film them, what changes is hopefully the way my audience perceives them.
It also becomes a neutralized and harmonized form in order to bring viewers to the realm of curiosity. Why is it important to feel a sense of the body?
Creating a corporeal response in my viewers has always been an intention of mine. It's difficult to contextualize the reasons why I aim to evoke this sense in others. Off the top of my head, I think about how we can often feel a bodily response within us when we listen to music. We feel rhythm and emotion and we can't really put our finger on why. This is along the lines of what I am going for. If I can provoke a response in my audience that is beyond what is visually in front of them, I will feel like the artwork is doing its job. Really, it's a desire to move people in unconventional ways.
The evocation of sense is intended for spectator's experience of looking, but do you think that it's also intended for you ?
There is a lot of satisfaction that I get as an artist when I am making work that I find is capable of evoking my other senses. I grew up in a musical family, and also studied music for many years. Additionally, I love working with my hands. My artistic explorations have also involved painting, sculpture, ceramics and bookbinding, so I think in some way, I am trying to satisfy a desire for these elements in my video work.
This Room/Patterns, 2017, HD Video (Nine-channel Video Collage), 14'42", performed by Anne Hansen
This Room/Patterns is based on the concept of a barnacle, is the elderly woman attached to the space and objects, or is it the other way around?
The character in This Room/Patterns is meant to reference a barnacle. The story was created with the idea that the elderly woman was like a barnacle herself, feeding off of her surroundings, and anchored to her apartment, like a barnacle on a rock. I occasionally find inspiration from animals, and relate some of my characters to different species. Another example is the woman featured in Sedimenting. Her role was based on a bower bird, as she collects items of interest and "nests" with these objects.
In terms of spatiality and temporality, what is the role of the grid?
There is a cubist aspect to the grids and the split-screen videos that I make, it is because I am attempting to assemble a narrative from several different viewpoints; to show various angles of an object, character or event. For example, having a close-up image of the character's face, while also displaying what their feet are doing, and what is going on in the space around them, etc. My works very rarely use a traditional narrative arc. Often there is no beginning, middle, or end to the videos. Using the grids and the split-screens allow me to play with time in a more detailed way. I can show different aspects of the story at the same time and shape the narrative in a sculptural way, rather than a linear way.
still from The Stony Light Break, 2012, Hand-drawn rotoscoping, traditional hand-drawn animation & found footage, 1'25"
When you were still a graduate student at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, you had an interview about your practice, you said that "The act of repairing the fruit prompted me to start thinking about the concept of grafting, a very corporeal translation of ‘collage’." Has the concept of grafting influenced your practice?
Part of my art practice involves what I sometimes call, "brooding". Working with my hands, I perform mundane and repetitive tasks in an attempt to keep my hands busy and allow my brain to work through creative ideas. One of these "brooding" processes is repairing fruit. I eat a lot of fruit, and I love sewing. So one day, years ago, I decided to repair an orange and sew the peel back together. I felt like I was healing the skin, and had a desire to return it to its closest original form possible. This is something that I still do.
The process of grafting actually implies growth, which is a lovely concept in itself. I also like the idea that a living being can be moved and take root somewhere else. I don't think that "grafting" has influenced my video work in a technical way necessarily, but the poetics of it all certainly inspires me.
Besides making video, you also make hand-drawn animation. Is hand drawing purely a personal preference?
Yes, it's a personal preference. I enjoy feeling connected to the drawing in that way. I talked about the process of "brooding" in my practice, and hand-drawing animation frames is a long, receptive process. I find it relaxing, and it puts my mind in a creative space.
still from Pith & Nails, 2010, Three-Channel HD Video and Stereo Sound, 14'55"
People, objects, settings and events are like a palette of colours to you, they are emblematic of life and reality. Do you think all arts come from life?
I like your use of the word 'palette', as I often think of making video work as painterly. Other art forms come into play for me as well. Making moving images can be sculptural and musical for me. I think of the medium as embodying a spectrum of creative processes. To touch on the latter part of your question, I do think that the arts are derived from our experiences in everyday life. Making art is a form of expression, and can convey all kinds of stories and emotions that language cannot. Words can be used as art too, of course, and we see that in creative writing and lyrics all the time. Art can be a means for expressing things that are much more intangible than everyday life as well, such as dreams and complex emotions. For me, using everyday life as a starting point for making art has been integral in creating more elaborate narratives, too. Not only do I utilize the simplicity of the "quotidian", but I weave together stories and create detailed characters from tasks as rudimentary as peeling an orange. You can see an example of this in Pith & Nails (2010). The character sits down to peel an orange and eat it; a simple process. Yet, he piles the orange peels in a specific way, which adds to his story as a compulsive maintenance man.
(A Sense of Place), 2016, HD Video, 3'35", exhibited at Robson St. and Granville St., Vancouver, Canada
You have worked on several projects that are situated in public spaces, how do you deal with this type of setting compared to a gallery setting?
It is a completely different experience to create art that is intended to be in the public realm. My public artworks have been contracted by local municipalities, so just the nature of working on a commission-basis allows me to take into consideration the public aspect while I make the work. Usually with public artworks there is an extensive preliminary process, so I almost have a sense of what the artwork will be before I make it. I also have to take into consideration my audience a little more than I normally would. There are sometimes grotesque subject matters that appear in my work, and that type of stuff I avoid when making public art, as they might not be approved by the cities that I am working for.
A lot of my public artworks have been on large, outdoor jumbotron screens. This scale works well with the images that I create, as I usually make videos using a macro lens. The imagery is often close-up and intimate, and displaying these types of shots works well at a large scale. It's an interesting feeling to be enveloped by the gigantic, especially when the subject matter is something very small, like beach pebbles. When we see something like this blown up at 1000x the original size, we can have a visceral reaction just because it is so epic.
Outside of my public art commissions, the works that I am creating are usually made without thinking too much about how they will be exhibited. The narratives come first, and then I think about display afterwards. I would love to have the opportunity to work site-specifically more often. Making work with space in mind is a different experience than making single-channel videos that are intended to be on monitors or in movie theatres.
Making Circles: The Chilkat Dancing Blanket, 2014, HD Video 2'47"
Can you talk about the experience of filming Making Circles: The Chilkat Dancing Blanket ? What did you learn about Kwakwaka'wakw history and culture? What did you learn from it?
Making Circles: The Chilkat Dancing Blanket began with an interest in restoration and conservation of historical objects. I was in touch with the U'mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay and was interested in creating a video about their Potlatch collection. They had a recent fire outside of the building, and some of the objects and artworks in their collection had been damaged by smoke and water. The video that I proposed involved the concept of repairing and mending the damaged objects, by documenting professional conservators. I wanted to make a gentle reference to reconciliation through the literal healing of important spiritual items. It was an homage to Kwakwaka'wakw history, and a nod to the importance of preserving culture.
What ended up happening was unexpected, as when I arrived in Alert Bay, the director and staff at U'mista had received information about an Anislaga Chilkat Blanket that resurfaced overseas. An important aspect of the U'mista Cultural Centre is repatriating confiscated and stolen objects; many items have unknown whereabouts. It's a significant and emotional experience to witness the return of such an important cultural object. I happened to be present at the centre when the blanket arrived, and was invited to document the unofficial "unpacking" of the weaving. The were descendants of the original weaver there to witness the unveiling, one of them being Master Weaver, Donna Cranmer. Not only did the blanket arrive while I was visiting U'mista, but Donna also happened to be working on a weaving at the same time. The project ended up being a collage of imagery of the antique blanket, and Donna Cranmer's contemporary blanket. These events seemed to take precedent over my original plans because the experience felt relevant and meaningful. I learned a great deal from creating this artwork and am grateful for the opportunity to observe and document the return of the Chilkat blanket to the area, as well as Donna Cranmer's incredible work.
still from Tributaries, 2017, HD Video (Nine-channel Video Collage), 12'28"
With the rapid growth of Canadian cities, what is the impact of urbanization on the sense of community?
Urbanization can often disconnect us. I think that the larger the city is, the more anonymous we become as individuals, which for me, I prefer (anonymity)... I guess that's my naturally introverted way. City growth can destabilize existing communities, which is a challenge in itself, and we see that with the gentrification of neighborhoods. As cities grow, art communities are often dispersed, and it becomes more difficult for artists to feel a sense of place. And I mean to only touch on the effect urbanization has on the arts, when we think beyond that, the effect that urbanity has on people and culture is tremendous.
What do you think about Vancouver?
I moved to Vancouver in 2011 after finishing my MFA in Chicago. I made some wonderful lifelong friends and connections in Chicago, but I never felt like the city would be my home home, and I missed Canada. The west coast was calling my name, as I had never spent much time in the Pacific Northwest, and wanted to be amongst mountains and ocean. That was seven years ago, so I'd say that I'm pretty happy to be settled in Vancouver for now.
(A Sense of Place), 2016, HD Video, 3'35"