Space Between Us Publication Incubator presents production components of the collaborative work of visual / media artists / writers.
Maleea Acker / Renée Poisson / Sophie Wood
H. Pearl Gray / Bran Mackie
Hannah Brown / Cassidy Gehmlich
Meesh QX / Kara Stanton
Spencer Sheehan Kalina
In the early spring of 2020, the Space Between Us Publication project was instigated by CVAG’s curators as a way of supporting creative inquiry, production and collaboration across creative practices.
Since that time artists and writers and have been working together, through conceptual ideation + making, to develop and prepare digital-based productions. The incubator presents material / digital / sound installations, online presentations, and virtual events that point to the creative foundations and thematic content of the final works.
On Saturday, February 27 at 1pm, CVAG will host a webinar event to launch the interactive digital publication Space Between Us. Learn more here.
Maleea Acker / Renée Poisson / Sophie Wood
Ravel is a contronym, a word that is its own opposite–a ‘Janus word,’ referring to the Roman god associated with beginnings, movement, change and thence, time. Ravel signifies the mesh, the networking: what’s holding us together, and what pulls us apart: connectivity and loneliness. Ravel also means to unravel, and speaks to the way beings connect and the way they can’t, particularly now. Our piece speaks to this discontinuity.
Ravel is also an exploration of the knotting and coming part of oneself. It is the hole in ourselves, the whole in the parts. The poem engages “the black crater,” poet Matthew Zapruder’s term for anxiety and depression. This is the “short, dark feeling” that echoes through the writing. This twines with the video work of “Getting Up and Falling Down,” that constant process of being human, experiencing pain, moving forward. In Ravel, these preoccupations are illuminated, illustrated, knotted, broken down and woven together on screens on which the names of women artists are embedded.
Visualizing the poem was integral to our process. The poem moves and breaks as the sails move in the air. The video is the ground for the poem; our work coheres as it disassembles and reassembles beyond our control. The turn of the screens and the angle of the shot help to define and redefine the collaboration’s narrative. In the forest’s darkness, light on the screens is stark. A constant play of opposites allows for a coming together and a coming apart, the beauty of losing control.
Renée Poisson: Over six decades my art practice has evolved from clay sculpture to carving objects from my forest wood to working with the complex terrain around me, making it a visible part of my work. This has involved my body and sometimes puppet performance, filming and projections in forests, mountains and rivers. Taking my steel balances onto mountain and sea edges. Setting clay floats to drift in the Salish sea.
The Ravel project is, for me, a step further into collaboration. It is taking me from a simple involvement of others in performance and meeting the ground to an equal collaboration of three.
It has been an unusual experience working with others right here in my home forest space, mixing some of my most intimate imagery with Maleea’s poetry and words. Sophie has given the overall vision, shape and grounding as well as being the sound person and mixer. During the warm summertime we conceived of a residency on my property together. Covid protocol saw Maleea in the Empress tent, Sophie in the cabin. All cooking was outside on the fire. We shared our first distanced presentation with a few friends and neighbours in the forest.
Other than a brief meeting in Victoria during the warm part of this fall, we have had to continue our collaboration by text and Zoom. I long to spend time together. We are a vital combination, birthing a place of visions and entanglements: hence Sophie’s suggestion of Ravel as the title. This word means both twisting together and teasing apart. It perfectly represents our work.
It feels like we are at the beginning of something that could develop deeply. Getting to know Maleea and the poem chosen, my understanding grows and with that so many possibilities for visual and audio works arise.
Maleea Acker: My practice is as a poet, essayist, environmental journalist and sometime field journaler with watercolours, pen and ink. I have a long history of collaboration with photographers and writers from Mexico, and visual artists in Canada and the USA, which has resulted in the founding of a small press, and in several shows. My work focuses on perception and corporeality as each relates to landscape, place, emotion, ethics and environment.
Ravel is a profound opportunity for me. It has taught me about my own work, and given me the opportunity to see and participate in others’ practice within the context of my home ecosystems–Southern Vancouver Island. As an artist, I often feel I am circling around this landscape but find it too intimate to my history to write about directly. Ravel has given me the chance to create with two artists in the midst of this ‘temple of my familiar.’ Thus, it has re-sparked a connection to place and to childhood and, I believe, has served as a fourth collaborator in our group, providing wind, sound, scent, movement, colour, food, silence, warmth and ground.
I, too, believe this is but the beginning of a larger collaboration. Renée’s visual art and Sophie’s vision and engineering have allowed me to see this particular poem in a much richer light. This collaboration is informing my current work; I have no doubt it has the potential to continue.
Sophie Wood: My journey as an artist has been varied and intermittent, beginning in clay sculpture at Emily Carr and the Kootenay School of Art and a BFA from the University of Victoria. My interest lies in the tactile, the dimensional, along with the synergistic effects of interdependence – between objects, sounds, narratives, bodies – and the often unexpected ways in which they interact with their environment.
Sculpture evolved into a decade of working with actual bodies in various movement modalities. When an injury led me back to the visual, I picked up a digital pen and have been earning my keep in graphic design and communications ever since.
Running parallel to the visual arts has been an abiding passion for sound: exploring various instruments, training and working as an audio engineer and ultimately focussing on the voice. My studies with the Roy Hart Theatre were particularly influential in opening the possibilities of the human voice.
This project has been a unique opportunity to combine so many creative interests into one piece. Seemingly disparate threads raveled together, as if by magic. The collaboration created a fertile ground that allowed something much greater than the sum of its parts to emerge. I think we were all astonished by what came into being. It has been an honour to work with two such beautifully seasoned artists and am grateful we were able to physically meet for the inception residency. I don’t think the result would have been as inspired without it. During these times that call for us to work in separate locales, the theme of this exhibition has been particularly pertinent – and at times poignant – causing us to cherish the work that we can still do despite ‘the space between us”.
H. Pearl Gray / Bran Mackie
Masterfully made by hand or gathered at gas stations and museum gift shops and adorned with works of art, magnificent vistas, and intriguing histories, postcards eschew privacy in honor of declarations for the world to see.
In the pandemic locked at home there’s still plenty of “Wish you were here” while masked, gloved, and isolating, but the journey is very different, with an as yet undetermined ending. Even with seemingly limitless methods of communication, the locked borders, stacked bodies, and stay at home orders have left us all struggling to connect.
These are messages to each other, ourselves, and nobody, reaching out to communicate and create despite the mounting uncertainties. Each trapped in our own disparate realities as our postcards slowly wind their way to their destinations, these are explorations of body, self, and identity, through objects, landscapes, and histories.
Pearl: Pearl’s campy soft sculptures use symbolic play and hysterical research to interrogate, extrapolate, and vulgarize the public and private histories of our precious, sometimes sacred, objects.
Luridly colored and bedecked in ornate bric-a-brac, tawdry baubles, and kitschy notions, Pearl’s bricolage sculptures recall the knickknacks, gewgaws, and tchotchkes that call to us coyly from crowded thrift store shelves and bulging discount odds-and-ends baggies.
From Fabergé eggs to Dollar Store trinkets, from lovingly handmade gifts to the sacred transitional objects that are simultaneously me and not-me, these objets d’art are integral to our identities, ideologies, and the construction of our mythologies.
Queer, non-binary, and mentally ill, Pearl delights in mucking about in the illusions and allusions that constitute our vastly disparate realities. Originally hailing from Texas, they currently live and work in The Dalles, Oregon. They have a Bachelors degree in Fine Arts from ECUAD in Vancouver, BC, and have been writing, sewing, and making art since childhood. To this day Pearl still uses the same sweet smelling lump of beeswax they received in their first sewing box all those years ago.
Bran: My work largely deals with our relationships to places, our connections to each other and our bodies. My process often grows out of material relationships, intuitively reflecting the ways in which we connect to ourselves and our surroundings. With a practice largely grounded in drawing, I use a variety of media to uncover intersections between landscapes, self-awareness, empathy and memory.
My works are often multimedia and experimental. My drawings are built in layers, and combine traditional media with unconventional materials such as finishing wax and clay. Grounded in a largely representational style, even my works which diverge into abstraction begin with something tangible. Using the language of landscape, the act of peeling away excess visual information intuitively explores the behaviour of memory and the experience of individual perception.
My work explores an awareness that relationships themselves hold, regardless of the knowledge of the participants. Approaching exterior and interior landscapes as a subject is a way for me to distill the essence of a place or experience to its most important elements. Through material relationships, I explore our own relationships to ourselves, each other and the places we inhabit.
Cassidy Gehmlich / Hannah Brown
Like so many women and femmes, Cassidy and Hannah share a lot of trauma. Both women find solace in artistic expression, as it helps them to come to terms with what is. Before even beginning this project, they agreed they would unapologetically represent their shared trauma, and that they would strive to do so through creating works that make viewers feel there is something “off” (a sense of cognitive dissonance). Through evoking feelings of discomfort, Cassidy and Hannah’s work gives their viewers a taste of what it feels like to be a survivor. These women support one another and communicate their experiences with brutal honesty that is both healing and devastating. They hope their art conveys this.
Hannah: I have always had an expressive personality; this is what people have noticed about me since I was a kid. I’ve been writing music since I was seven. So when I decided to get a BSc in Mathematics, this enhanced my ability to express myself cohesively and see the world through multiple lenses. My work expresses my reality; I try to channel my experiences as deeply as possible through art. Music, poetry, fiction, and nonfiction all offer different outlets.
I believe that art only needs to be honest. It doesn’t need to come from a professionally trained individual with an impressive resume; truly impactful work comes from the most vulnerable places in a person. This is what I strive for.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hannahbrownwriting
Medium profile: https://medium.com/@hebrown
Cassidy: My work can largely be viewed as iconoclastic self-portraiture – presenting the body of the individual in relation to societal bodies. I utilize humor and playfulness, vulgarity and the abject to address the paradoxes that I perceive within social constructs and behavioural expectations. The materials and processes I use are deliberate and central to my work; generally symbolic, and often crude or nostalgic. I am passionate about overthrowing the hierarchy of aesthetic and value in art, and about challenging traditional ideas around class, consumerism, sexuality, and the feminine identity.
Meesh QX / Kara Stanton
You and I are also infrared radiators
We began this collaboration with a theme, “the space between us,” and our shared desire to explore that topic through a combination of text and imagery. Being located in two different communities (Comox and Victoria), our collaboration developed through conversations, images, and writing shared back and forth over email and phone calls. Currently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves isolated in both familiar and unfamiliar ways. During this time, projects such as this one have been a meaningful opportunity for us to explore artistic collaboration in a new way.
In our initial conversations, we were excited to talk about birds, the weather, and light. We talked about analogue photography and ways we could layer poetry and images. Over time, these ideas shifted, as some fell away, and others rose to the surface. Kara’s interest in weather, aided by a 1967 book called Watching for the Wind: The Seen and Unseen Influences on Local Weather (James G. Edinger) offered them abundant ground from which to begin to articulate the textures held in these spaces that surround us.
The images in You and I are also infrared radiators were created by double exposing 35mm film. Working with double exposures introduced elements of chance and relationship since the resulting photos were an offset layering of different times and locations. This approach to photography was well suited to our collaboration and mirrored the openness with which we responded to each other’s creative instincts, building and layering our ideas over time. In this series of images, Meesh was drawn to explore the relationships between the body, architecture, and nature.
This collaboration created the time and space for us to meditate on shared topics in our creative work. Piecing together the text and image over the internet was both a collaborative process of digital collage and of visiting between two friends reaching across time and space to encounter each other’s work.
Meesh QX (they/them): is a person who keeps changing. Based on Vancouver Island, they hold a fine arts diploma from North Island College. Meesh creates interdisciplinary art with a current focus in film and animation. Having a dual background in both science and visual art, Meesh enjoys drawing on both of these fields to inform their creativity.
Kara Stanton: is a poet and cultural worker of Scottish, Irish, and Ukrainian ancestry living on Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ territories. As someone highly attuned to pressure changes, shifts in energy, and the weather, their work often tracks the ways their body entangles with the world around it. In this time when the space between us is so keenly felt and the edges of our bodies particularly bright, this project has offered them the chance to tune in to the transformations happening all around us.
We would like to extend our thanks to Dave Ingram for technical support with the photography; James G. Edinger, for writing Watching for the Wind; and Rebecca, for sharing her copy. Excerpts from Watching for the Wind are included in the text in italics. It is also the source of the title, You and I are also infrared radiators.
Spencer Sheehan Kalina
bought at a YOW
like lures on lines,
Spencer: Spencer’s work explores the human experience and our relationship to the natural world. Most recent art work and writing can be found in the anthology In Our Own Aboriginal Voice 2. Spencer was raised and born in Ottawa, now lives in Courtenay with two cats, and is currently a Fine Arts Diploma student at North Island College. Spencer proudly identifies as being Metis and a member of the LGBTQAI2+.