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Work in progress for Studio Kura artist residency 
Nov 2022


Questions for a prebiotic broth

In the simplest terms, “primordial soup” refers to the reactive, heterogenous mixture that supposedly was the origin of all life on earth. The theory has been largely discredited (life more likely originated from warm oceanic vents rather than a “soup”), however the image of a bubbling pot of materials forming life as we know it feels fruitful in a way separate from the faulty science. The sense of oneness and coziness that comes from distilling our common origin to something as colloquial as a soup is, in my layperson’s opinion, unparalleled by even a robust understanding of DNA and the exchanges of energy that create life. To be a person of the soup is to understand your connection to all living things with a sense of closeness and warmth. At the same time, becoming a soup person opens the door to nightmarish possibilities when considering the confines of the pot, the heat, and how likely it is for a soup without a chef to meld deliciously. To lightly puncture this great unknown, here are a series of questions for a prebiotic broth:

What if we never left the theorized Primordial Soup pot? Better yet, what if we did leave but accidentally returned? How can we leave again? Do we even want to? Perhaps the entropy of the swirling soup pot is our home state? Should we then aspire to live even more soupily? Maybe we already are. What about spillage? Is a soup without a vessel still a soup? Maybe, without our conscious knowledge, we are becoming a whole new kind of soup; our potential and capacity for doing better acting as the imaginal discs that keep things moving as our environment liquifies and thickens…

Or could it be, simply, that as soup people, there is levity to be found in embracing the randomness of our big bowl of inextricable goo?

Is that what this is?

Working in tandem with these questions are a series of sculptures, themselves unanswerable propositions for an unknowable life force. Each piece brings together natural and unnatural materials, with an emphasis on fabricated connectivity and a hardening of something once soft and soupy. My goal is to create evolving recipes using unlikely ingredients. My hope is that they exude their own generative reactions that move towards kinship and convergence against all odds.







I remember the shortlived enchantment I felt when I first learned about mood rings. It was shortlived because a more worldly kid (worldly here meaning “has a big sister”) inevitably had to break the news that mood rings tell your temperature and not your actual emotions. No matter though. I found alternate enchantment in the idea that colour could correspond to a bodily state and colour being used to reveal any data- even if it’s obvious- is undeniably a kind of everyday magic. So magical in fact, that it seems to have obscured the underlying premise of the mood ring, which, upon reflection, is something like: without me, your true emotions are ultimately unknowable.

The mood ring assumes you are a great mystery that only it can solve. Taking this claim at face value, I have to think that surely the omniscience of the mood ring doesn’t end with knowing the wearer’s feelings. In You can tell me more, I choose to believe in the mood rings’ supposed power and flatter it with a series of rituals to honour, cleanse, nurture and adorn.

You see, I think I know how I feel, but what do I really know? Mood ring will tell me. And just maybe, if I play my cards right, it could tell me even more.




Music and spoken word samples from chabad.org and steelyvibe on https://www.looperman.com/acapellas?mid=steelyvibe

Thank you to Ivan Jurakic and Sarah Kernohan from the University of Waterloo Art Gallery for the reflective material.



Going up the down escalator (looking for a neutral path)

in-progress installation







Images and food were always such

desirable

experiences, for one

a feast to catch

for two, how to nourish something

vanishing



a one-way street

a slot machine

goodbye to my dollar

i once gripped



now i need to see how far down it all tumbles

before the bounce back



before the inevitable wretch






















When we speak at the same time we speak the same language is a collaborative performance-based project about exciting conversation, a wave, momentum and the slippery present. Using linguist Deborah Tannen’s term “cooperative overlapping” as a starting point, When we speak aims to capture the feeling of participating in the type high-involvement intoxicating conversation that wraps participants up and buoys them in a shared present. The work takes the stance that these conversations can suspend time, creating a mutual now in a place of easy reaction. Through the convergence of performance, sculpture, video, and text, we’re asking: What happens when we give into the flow of these moments? What happens when we are torn away? How do we express ourselves when we are secure in the knowledge that we’ll be understood? 

Performerance artists are Megan Arnold, Aashay Dalvi and Tess Martens. Music by Alex Massa and Strange Winds with a cameo by Jonah Prousky (written by Brian Prousky) and remixed by me. Lip video by Ariana Molly. Nature video by Maria Simmons. Costumes by Mackenzie Belfour. Sewing help from Brenda Reid. Videography by David Botros. Editing help from Jordyn Stewart

The video and performance are two separate artworks that follow a similar progression. 

This project was created with Inter Arts Matrix as part of the COVE/COVOX incubator, funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Canada Council for the Arts.




Performance photography by Tyler Matheson
 


 





Zine cover and chatbot background by Paula McLean 


Get a copy here. 



Three people enter a room. Not all at once mind you, but in a way swollen and buzzing with potential where the difference between absence and presence is negligible. In other words, three people enter a room and all three people have not yet entered a room. In other words, a specter of entering and exiting attaches itself to some of the air molecules and the environment adjusts accordingly.

A word reverberates and hangs loosely
midair
for just a second of rest until
it slings back with an inhale
and tumbles forth
exhale
it jiggles on the floor beneath them
on its back it rocks
immobile in one way, zipping through time space
and bodies in another.
rocking and sound-making
like atoms bumping up against whales
plumbed for their positive attitudes and negative outlooks on
what can bump and what should maybe grind.
The sound we made was like that, with extra plinks and
pauses, pregnant with marbles and dried beans.

A word reverberates and hangs loosely
scared to grip too tight in case
another word needs to hang
in fact, it does
and fast
a screen flashes on to reveal
how words might hang together
an outline of a person shows how you pick up one to attach it to the next
and so on
it smiles

Someone is no longer center stage

The best words bounce around
the point
without obscuring it. Like clouds when it’s sunny
and you know its sunny
they have no absolute order but rather an implied structural energy like
“belonging to the emperor, embalmed, tame, sucking pigs, sirens, fabulous, stray dogs and included in the present classification, frenzied—”
And then you chop all that up like an onion
And maybe cry
“-innumerable, drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, et cetera, having just broken the water pitcher, and the most obvious, from a long way off look like flies.”
get real blurry so you can see what’s in the distance
and yell about how you think the things you think.
Someone will slurp it up eventually.

One of the blogs said we need less oxygen not more
a quality over quantity thing, you know
something I’ve never been very good at
quantity is quality if all you want is more

Someone slurps it up.

We’re shallow like our breaths.
These business fundamentals always seemed loose.
Like beads on a string and then you’ve run out beads.
That quality/quantity thing again or a phatic release to ease tightening tension
in the room
knots slip slack from icy grips and
salt crystals wedge whatever makes us
stand in doorways singing
how are you im fine im doing well actually not great
but you know, these things come in threes

A word reverberates and hangs loosely and waits for a mate
well, several mates and they pile on and on and then
cacophony as we know it no longer exists. Its new meaning is the sounds of something that is productive, useful and shiny.
Unity is possible across time and space, contemporaneity is fluid and every moment contains dimensions and facets and they pile on and that all exists at once.
and the words are like hills and we run
flailing and free because the goal is clear
and suddenly every hill is the exact right height like a pile of warm laundry.
All words are mates and windows and charms on the edge of a chain
clinging and clanging and yes, I understand between the noise
an infinite string and infinite shapes and everything is hanging loosely and waiting
for the right lens to illuminate
how to be a mate.

Presence and absence remain interchangeable. It’s something to do with expectations. You expect three so there is three, somewhere. They all exist now, somewhere.

how are you
and I wait to hear the tender hiss of
less oxygen, doing more.

The present is nothing
until we nail it down
attach it to scaffolding that’s also a cell
inside and around
seeping in all directions is more of a procreation
than a failure to contain
you you you you you you you
is all that really matters in the present
I matter too but not in the same way
Just abstract thoughts in a blue room
Reverberating and hanging loosely dangling still
Nominative, genitive, elative
Conducive to
Bouncing from
Vessel to vessel
And yet filling both
No deficit and no limit
Expansiveness is flexibility pushed gently

To live in this now with you is to live in easy reaction
a word reverberates and hangs loosely and

and.


💬️ 💬️ 💬️




 
The works in A spill that stays streaming attempt to capture the moment when materials settle into one another, adapting to the often goopy, brittle, destructive or generative processes of matter moving and evolving. Working with the idea of “cooperative materiality”, these sculptures are my experiments with making materials work together to grow with or against their neighbours and surroundings. Using methods of squishing, stretching, spreading or sticking, my goal is to punctuate the life cycles of my materials with a little romance, like how a kid might smush their doll’s heads together to make it look like they’re kissing.

Exhibition photos by Scott Lee from SHOW.21 at Cambridge Art Galleries. 










I’d consider the works in this series acts of research creation, prompted by a desire to explore and interrogate what it is about my favourite materials and textures that make them so appealing to me. To that end, I’ll begin with the following statement: I’ve always been drawn to gloopy, slimy things. Really anything that looks soft, drippy and viscous fills me with joy and doubly so if it’s also brightly coloured and shiny. Aesthetically, slime and goop have always seemed like an honest and visceral way to reference the body without actually depicting a human form. They look “gross” without truly being gross, lightly satisfying my need for an abject openness of the body without really having to get my hands dirty. On a more tangible level, I’ve always found the sensation of soft things slipping through my fingers to be excessively calming to the point where I actively seek out clothes with fringe and sensory experiences that I can pull through my fingers. I’ve long been toying with the idea of “the space between my fingers” as a pleasure zone, both in the tactile ways I described, but also in the metaphorical sense of this space somehow belonging to my loved ones to slip into at will. I think that in this way, there is an intimacy or sensuality when it comes to materials that can seep from our hands. They stand in for substances from the deepest parts of our bodies and the bodies of others.

So naturally, I began to think about the recent slime phenomenon. If you ignore all the examples of slime and slime-like substances in the toy and media landscapes of yesteryear, you could say the trend began around 2016 when I group of Thai teenagers started putting videos of themselves poking and prodding slime on Instagram. Now slime videos infiltrate every platform and garner millions of daily views. If you know anything about the slime of today, it is probably these two facts: 1) it’s made from borax and glue and 2) kids and teens are making bank selling it online. It is interesting to me that something so “pure” (it is, after all, made from ingredients that directly represent untainted childhood creativity and actual cleanliness) and so in pursuit of the simple desire to feel good, has become somewhat of a child-labour-driven capitalist enterprise. Of course, the selling and marketing of slime is a predictable step in a society that has a multibillion-dollar wellness industry, but the utter formlessness of this relaxation tool had me naively believing that it could somehow smooth over the sharp edges of supply and demand. A Garage article from 2018 hypothesizes that it is precisely these material properties of slime that make it a perfect agent of capitalism, tending to the labourer’s frustrations by offering new and imaginative ways to participate in the otherwise unattainable domination of “lesser” forms:

“Perhaps slime is appealing because it reconfigures flexibility as something pleasurable, even delightful, whereas for most people in the labor market, the day-to-day experience of bending to fit capitalism’s needs is nothing short of excruciating. Squishing around fluffy pastel sludge induces a sort of release in the viewer; its status as an alien substance allows it to become an image of another way to move through the world. You can’t hurt slime, and you can handle it with motions that might injure a sensitive being in any other circumstance.”

While I agree that watching or playing with slime has an aggression release factor, I’d say that in terms of the materiality of slime, it goes beyond reframing the painful flexibility that capitalism demands, and actually mirrors the ways we organize and defy oppressive systems in pursuit of moving freely. Whether on the micro or macro level, we are always adjusting to new surroundings, fitting into certain containers, making do, and working together. Slime is somehow both aspirational and pitiful, reminding us of our basest animal selves and what we might be able to become under certain conditions. Slime, like all of us, relaxes into new forms, adapts and continues on with what it has picked up along the way. We are all material in flux, moving and settling, growing and condensing.













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