Visible Labour…the work that is going on all around us…
Kristin Nelson Deborah Dumka Claire Sanford Connie Michele Morey
Nets / Drink / Projector Screen
I discuss my work through an investigation of the value of labour as seen through a disability studies lens, while focusing on labour’s inherent relationship to the body’s inevitable disintegration in time. By ennobling everyday utilitarian objects through an artistic practice and placing them within the art gallery/commodity context, I question the value of all mass manufactured objects, and situate my work within philosophical and theoretical discourses about labour – Marx’s Theory of Surplus Value and Hannah Arendt’s The Vita Activa: Labor, Work, Action are of particular interest to me. My work is always made with the support of friends and peers within my multiple communities and speaks to our collective labour.
I investigate and ennoble different forms of labour through the re-presentation of mass manufactured objects. Repetition, reproduction and the re-appropriation of technologies are strategies I use to make my work’s various relationships to my body evident. Often, my attempt is to reposition how we value labour beyond a capitalist or Marxist value approach. This repositioning of labour – as seen through a disability studies lens – places value on the body itself, instead of on what the labouring body produces.
The language of manufacture is played out through the creation of multiples. I apply this language of manufacture using multiples to raise questions about social, political and aesthetic boundaries in the interest of artistic, intellectual and manual labour. With this work, my aim is to append a particular value to all objects, despite the objects’ place within or outside of a capitalist construct. Regarding art, the questions, ‘Is art valuable?’ or, ‘Does art matter?’ become irrelevant to me in the production of art and the labour involved in its creation. For me, the value of all objects lies inevitably in each object’s relation to labouring time.
Nets – This work was not obvious at first, and the process began with an idea, a vulnerability, and then became something; something made, something installed, three assemblages. I gave myself permission to be unsettled or to be oblivious of the outcome and meaning of the work throughout its making. This project began with a curiosity about ‘nets’, where I found great metaphor and connection to current and political issues.
Nets are unique in their capacity to both hold in and keep out other objects of varying sizes. They are akin to fences or walls. They have the ability to shapeshift. They have a need to be repaired and cared for. Nets are portable, and have both a usefulness as an object of great value, and also of seemingly very little consequence. These nets were made by cutting out pvc rain-jackets, coats and ponchos, negating their original and manufactured use value, making them non-functional, permeable, and giving them new meaning. Each assemblage of nets loosely represents a place; where the artist is from (Ontario), where I am currently settled (Manitoba) and where the work is on view (British Columbia).
Drink – Disposable cups are woven on a floor loom in cotton, by some of Riding Mountain National Park’s most stunning lakes, in galleries, and in my studio. From 2017-2019, the public was invited to have a drink using these cups at the water cooler, by lakes, and in galleries in the aim of create this art installation. Drink is an overt commentary on our precious natural resources and the effects of our consumer culture on them.
Projector Screen – This projector screen was made to facilitate, and thereby support, the projection of the artists ideas through its use in artist talks and presentations. The woven screen was made with tencel fiber on a Jacquard loom in satin weave. The projector screen stand was designed with a 1970’s era projector screen in mind, and was built by a skilled woodworker whose signature craftsmanship is seen in its structure. Because the physical structure of the screen’s satin weave remains visible through the light of any projection, this work simultaneously and literally references both physical and intellectual labour.
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Born in Ajax Ontario, Kristin Nelson received her BFA in Visual Arts at Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (2003) and MFA at Concordia University (2014). Through a process of examination and re-contextualisation, she transforms mundane subjects into larger social concerns. Kristin is a settler Canadian of Irish descent, and identifies as a queer person with a disability. She completed a Riding Mountain Artist Residency (2017), a Canada Council International Residency in Sydney Australia (2015) and a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts (2008). Kristin has exhibited work across Canada at Musée Régional de Rimouski, Parisian Laundry and Skol (Québec); Art Toronto, Art + Design IDEA/EXCHANGE and Edition Toronto 2 (Ontario); Neutral Ground (Saskatchewan); and at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, La maison des artistes visuels francophone, Plug In ICA, Actual and RAW Gallery (Manitoba). Her work has shown internationally at Museo Textil de Oaxaca in Oaxaca, México and in Austin, Texas. Kristin has been a mentor for women identified artists at MAWA. She previously served on the board of directors for Arts AccessAbility Network Manitoba, the Manitoba Craft Council, Plug In ICA, the Winnipeg Arts Council and Martha Street Studio. Her work is in private and public collections including those of Boralex, BMO, the Province of Manitoba and the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
An associated net making workshop has been organized by artist Kristin Nelson, of the current exhibition Visible Labour at the Comox Valley Art Gallery. This workshop came out of a desire to collectively make, and of a continued curiosity around nets as an object rich in meaning and use value. A video recording of the workshop can be viewed here.
Saturday, April 17, 10:00am PST
Instructor: Aidan Smith
Moderator / Assistant: artist Kristin Nelson
Our Young Girls / Bookends / Fade to White / Power Play / Secondary Colours: Bad Girls Circle / Addendum / Violet
As an artist with a craft-based practice, I focus on the materials, techniques and traditions of hand felting. Using a variety of wools, silk, dyes and blending tools, I create materials with textural and colour properties that become important elements in the development of my projects. The felting process transforms loose fibre into a substantial textile with an ancient history of utilitarian function and artistic expression that sits embedded within my work. Having lived most of my life close to nature in rural communities, I draw inspiration from the landscape to explore belonging and connection. The work at CVAG in the exhibition Visible Labour is from Resistor, an ongoing series based on my experiences, exploring issues faced by women studying and working as engineers.
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Deborah Dumka, born in Kitimat, British Columbia, has lived across Canada, mostly on the shores of an ocean. She received a degree in electrical engineering (1978) from Memorial University and a diploma in Textile Studies from Cabot College (the Anna Templeton Centre, 1994, St. John’s, NL). Her education and short career in electrical engineering have bestowed a problem-solving lens that carries into her interactive textile-based craft practice. The physical and emotional landscapes of rural settings are the backdrop to her exploration into belonging, place and connection. She completed a Craft Council of NL residency (2015) at Woody Point, Gros Morne National Park and has been supported through the CVAG residency (2020/21) in her technology explorations at MIZ, Courtenay, BC. She has served on the boards of the Canadian Crafts Federation and the Craft Council of BC. Deborah’s work has been exhibited in solo and group shows nationally and internationally.
Violet Gave Willingly / Textile Studio Labour
Violet Gave Willingly is a video installation and documentary with colour at its heart. Immersing us in the creative world of my mother, textile artist Deborah Dumka, the multi-screen film invites us to witness the unflinchingly intimate details of her artistic process and inner life. Nestled in a colourful textile studio by the sea, we witness an artist at work on a project that delves into a past unspoken. An intimate study of the nature of memory and how it can both harm and protect, the film lays bare the continuum and legacy of gender-based discrimination, sexism, and sexual violence. More than a portrait, the film is a conversation. As mother and daughter struggle to give voice to their experiences, power radiates from speaking uncomfortable truths. Violet Gave Willingly asks viewers to listen deeply and, in doing so, share in carrying the heavy load – the labour – of sexism and the status quo.
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Claire Sanford is a Canadian filmmaker, cinematographer and video artist working in two- and three- dimensional documentary storytelling. Her practice focuses on sensorial stories exploring the natural world, human identity, and how they overlap. Originally from Texada Island, British Columbia, Claire grew up immersed in nature and became versed in the quiet art of observation. She earned her BFA in Film Production from the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver (2009). Her work has been exhibited at film festivals and galleries internationally and she is a fellow of filmmaking initiatives including the Hot Docs Accelerator program (2014), the Points North Fellowship (2016) and the Redford Centre Grant Program for Environmental Storytelling (2016). She is currently creating documentary and virtual reality work that explores and distorts anthropocentric visions of the natural world in partnership with the Canada Council for the Arts, the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and the National Film Board of Canada. Claire lives and works on unceded land in Tiohtiá:ke/Montreal, situated on the traditional territory of the Kanien’kehà:ka, a place which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst many First Nations including the Kanien’kehá:ka of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Huron/Wendat, Abenaki, and Anishinaabeg. She recognizes and respects the Kanien’kehà:ka as the traditional custodians of the lands and waters on which she engages in artistic practice, collaboration and exchange.
Connie Michele Morey
Division of Labour / Writing for the Soil / Release
Division of Labour is a wall installation made of 80-100 pieces of crocheted cotton thread and their cast shadows. The title of work is meant to be both subversive and curious in exploring the layers of collaboration that exist with the labouring of the earth and domestic labouring. This exploration is not only evident in the division of labour between me as an artist and my mother (collaborating from different provinces during the pandemic) to create the installation, but also in intergenerational collaboration through the passing down of textile skills and knowledge of the land. In this way, the work questions how we might redefine labour practices so that they support the interdependence of personal, communal, and ecological healing and growth. My mother first taught me to crochet as a child, a skill passed down in generational succession; she nurtured creative expression, a love of the land and a deep appreciation of all living things. Moss is a pioneer species that holds space for other species to take root and grow. This labour is one that not only sustains distinct species but also sustains larger communities and ecosystems.
Writing for the Soil explores ecological succession as an essential form of labour. The video interweaves close-up footage of a “backyard” Pacific Rim temperate rain forest with the artist’s hands crocheting moss. The audio for the video juxtaposes narratives from two women: my mother Christina Morey and Anishinaabe biologist Robin Wall Kimmerer, conveying stories of my experience learning domestic and land-based practices in succession from my mother as well as stories of the restorative succession of moss as a pioneer species. While making the video, I was reflecting on moss as a model for ‘human’ labour systems in that the work of moss makes whole system healing and sustainability possible. As Robin Wall Kimmerer says, “we think we are learning about nature, but we are actually learning from it.”
Release is a series of ten free-standing mask sculptures that are made of reclaimed wood, repurposed wool blankets, and components of surplus WWII gas masks. The series explores our current strained labour relationship with the land. The sculptures navigate themes of ecological displacement, belonging and resuscitation thereby questioning the human alienation that unfolds when we bestow personhood on human beings above all other natural things. The works are part of an ongoing exploration of the relationship between personhood, exploitative labour-land practices, and variant definitions of sustainability.
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Connie Michele Morey’s studio practice explores the experience of home as ecological interdependence. Through site-specific performance and participatory sculptures documented through photography and video, her work questions the relationships between ecology, displacement and belonging. Connie’s studio practice is influenced by childhood experiences living rurally off the land, while being surrounded by family traditions of masonry, construction, and textiles. Her family history co-mingles settler and Indigenous identities, and her studies in sculpture, ecology, philosophy, post-colonial studies and art education have impacted her interest in displacement and the politics of marginalization. She holds a BFA in Visual Arts from the University of Lethbridge, an M.Ed. in Art Education, and a Studio-Based PhD from the University of Victoria. She currently lives as an uninvited guest on the unceded territories of the Xwepsum (Esquimalt) and Lkwungen (Songhees) Peoples where she also teaches Sculpture, Drawing, Community Art and Cultural Studies at the University of Victoria, Vancouver Island University and Camosun College