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
for just a second of rest until
it slings back with an inhale
and tumbles forth
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
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
Someone is no longer center stage
The best words bounce around
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
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
work in progress
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.
Settling in is not inert and a pause can only stop one clock. All other time keeps going.
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.
Collecting Dust takes the minimalist goal of reducing clutter to the extreme by making the clutter reducers clutter themselves.
"If we can abstract pathogenicity and hygiene from our notion of dirt, we are left with the old definition of dirt as matter out of place. This is a very suggestive approach. It implies two conditions: a set of ordered relations and a contravention of that order. Dirt then, is never a unique, isolated event. Where there is dirt there is system. Dirt is the by-product of a systematic ordering and classification of matter, in so far as ordering involves rejecting inappropriate elements" (Douglas, 1966)
Dirt is what is destructive to existing frameworks, symbolizing both danger and power to alter the status quo. Our rituals of cleaning are recognitions of the potency of that power, as we continually renegotiate how to separate or combine that which is clean and that which is dirty. Collecting Dust plays with this negotiation by using dusters that are “out of place”. They become “dirty” as their purpose is muddled and their functional value diminishes, highlighting the subjective and political nature of what constitutes cleanliness.
5ft x 5ft x approx. 7ft. 30 dusters.
This project was generously supported by
Growing up, we had a family joke about the fairly common experience of opening a cupboard and finding mom’s overflow stash of things like Kleenex, beans or toothpaste that no longer fit in the kitchen or bathroom. We’d darkly refer to it as her Holocaust syndrome, implying that her need to stockpile, to be prepared, was inherited from her mother, a hidden child survivor. The following body of work is situated at the intersection of coming across 10 cans of crushed tomatoes in the bathroom while looking for toilet paper and the impulse to hold close and care deeply for items and people that have been historically taken away.
Using found objects and creating work that uses or depicts an accumulation of materials, I reflect on a particularly Jewish collecting impulse that inspires a culturally specific method of storytelling. Each work is informed by the organized chaos of collections, the aesthetics of tangential narratives, restlessness and layering in order to express my own relationship with various facets of cultural Judaism.
See the exhibition here & here
Photography by Karice Mitchell
I think a lot about what I’ve termed the “Jewish collecting impulse”. Broadly speaking, I’ve noticed a strong disinclination towards making minimalist work, (despite the relentless popularity of the aesthetic), in so much of the post-Holocaust art made by Jewish artists. I’ve observed that the bulk of work that I’ve seen/read/heard made by Jews, especially women, non-binary, and queer folk, in the 20th and 21st centuries, is characterized by the organized chaos of collections, winding narratives, and a general feeling of restlessness. Nowhere better is this energy harnessed than in the charm bracelet.
When I saw Greta Perlman’s charm bracelet at the Jewish Museum in New York, I was immediately enthralled by its delicateness, quirky femininity and its surprising silence (a characteristic jingling usually accompanies a charm bracelet sighting). Little is known about how she acquired the charms while interned at Thereseinstadt. Prisoners were sometimes able to make small art works and hide them away in the walls, though it is likely that Greta traded food for some of the pieces when she worked in the camp’s kitchen. The bracelet itself was probably assembled after the war when Greta immigrated to the United States .
In The Collections of Barbara Bloom, a retrospective tome of the titular artist’s work, art historian Susan Tallman describes Bloom’s interpretation of the charm bracelet as an autobiographical monument. Tallman writes that while charm bracelets might be easily overlooked at first, when they do command your gaze they encourage a deeper sort of looking to understand their significance. In contrast, large monuments beckon only brief glimpses by demanding we take in the whole shebang at once, lest we strain our necks. Tallman then goes on to describe Bloom’s fascination with a friend’s densely packed charm bracelet. She writes, “the [charms on the bracelet] are not words in a sentence, but objects from the real world fallen down the rabbit hole and brought together by a conspiracy of fortune and design .”
Similarly, Greta’s charm bracelet is a hodgepodge of objects and pictures that offer otherwise uncharted insight into her life in the labour camp. Assembled as they are—cramped and dangling on top of each other—the charms collapse the distance between the brutality she experienced and the mundane aspects of her day to day. There is a pot and ladle because she worked in the kitchen, as well as a bullet and lice comb to symbolize the routine horrors of life in the camp. There are several charms indicating a possible love interest, and sandwiched between the comb and a camel lays a toilet charm, replete with a tiny, hinged lid. The museum’s website says that the toilet is a subtle joke about the indignities prisoners faced, although perhaps Greta just wanted to convey that life during the Holocaust was absolute shit.
So what does this have to do with a Jewish collecting impulse? Well firstly, the charms are a type of collection. In his book “Alien Phenomenology or What It’s Like to be a Thing”, Ian Bogost explores the value of a list, or a seemingly superficial collection of materials (such is a charm bracelet), in literature and by extension, society at large. He writes:
"Like a medieval bestiary, [the study of experiencing the physical world] can take the form of a compendium, a record of things juxtaposed to demonstrate their overlap and imply interaction through collocation. The simplest approach to such recording is the list, a group of items loosely joined not by logic or power or use but by the gentle knot of the comma. [The study experiencing the physical world] is an aesthetic set theory, in which a particular configuration is celebrated merely on the basis of its existence."
In Greta’s case, the composite grouping of objects and pictures hanging from a cord becomes a profound expression of the courage and ingenuity of a woman aiming to maintain some control over her life within an oppressive and perilous system. In other words, dividing her experience up into tiny symbols, gives a more thorough understanding of the whole.
Secondly, charm bracelets have the circular yet scattered narrative quality that most collections contain. The items in the collection are both tautologically tied to the theme of the collection, while remaining separate entities with their own reference points and histories external to the collection as a whole. In the case of the bracelet, each charm is a stand-in for everything and nothing while the bracelet en masse contains a metonymic quality by being a rough interpretation of an entire life. To quote Bogost again, he describes organization of “the stuff of being” as matter that is “constantly shuffle[ing] and rearrang[ing] itself, reorienting physically and metaphysically as it jostles up against material, relations and concepts.” A similar description can be applied to a charm bracelet: little cacophonous chunks of life, signaling, however superficially, to the events, ideas and life story of the wearer.
Thirdly, Greta’s bracelet indicates that even in the harshest circumstances, her collector’s spirit—her drive to save, create and give meaning to her life—did not perish at the hands of the Nazis. She was able to hold onto essential parts of her humanity by holding on to the tiny charms that represent love, ritual and even comedy.
In truth, the charms in this exhibition lack any sentimental value beyond the fact that I’ve assigned metaphorical significance to them by way of Greta Pearlman and Barbara Bloom. They are mostly from a giant online retailer, sold in a pack of 100, save for the single, tarnished strand draped over a piece of glass that was my actual charm bracelet as a kid. Regardless, I am consistently struck by how these cheaply made tchotchkes are able to express the power of collections, accumulation and, as Bogost puts it, “realism in multitudes” . By immersing myself in the world of the charm bracelet, that is, the world of tiny monuments, I feel more equipped to properly honour what’s been there all along- cans of tuna, toilet paper, crushed, diced and whole tomatoes along with a desire to fill in the cracks of the foundation with more foundation. The more charms we add, the more charming we’ll be.
Points of Contact (mandibles, tarsal claws, and adhesive pads and hair). performance for video. 9:59. 2020
The title and concept of the video are inspired by the way ants form living surfaces on water or in air to get from point A to point B. Ants will create as many points of contact with each other as possible using their mandibles, tarsal claws and adhesive pads in order to float and keep the group travelling forward. With this work, I want to convey that collecting and accumulating materials, that is, creating many physical points of contact with both animate and non-animate histories, can keep communities afloat and moving as well.
By forcing these slinkys into a shell-like shape, I am, in some ways, reconfiguring the existing framework of protection and what that says about tradition, progression and creating positive change from within. While there are obvious and applicable symbolisms to shells and barriers in the context of a minority group, my intention is to consider how these charged protective outer shapes and materials function as just one of many layers in the overall assemblage of the work. Not just a protective barrier, the pile or dome has a coziness and familiarity embodied in the very nature of the shape: things strewn on other things that perhaps don’t necessarily fit together like legos, but are perfectly cradled, nonetheless. Safety then, is derived not from encasing yourself in a hard shell, but from the collective carapace that allows for movement and support within the structure. Through layering and accumulating, each stratum is illuminated and reinvented by everything above or below.
Click here for an exhibition inspired reading list compiled by me in collaboration with MJM
Funding for this exhibition was generously provided by the Ontario Arts Council
Process work that no longer exists.
can be easily moved
could hide under your mattress
could probably survive a natural or personal disaster
could survive a flood
could get pushed in the pool
could be stacked
could be rolled
could be painted over
could be recycled
could be run over by a car
can be made in a small house with four roommates and no studio
could lose in the couch cushions
could slip through your fingers
could staple to a lamppost
can be easily replicated
could be drawings.
might have been dead for 25 years.
may have potential
may have never lived up to their potential
might fear the inevitable
can be touched all over
can never really feel
can be made in bed
might make you think about your parents
could be disconnected from all human interaction
can embrace the form
may reject the form
can whisper secrets or fart into
can come pre-wrapped and so make perfect gifts
can be re-gifted quite easily
won’t get dusty
can be sold for thousands for dollars
can hold your belongings
can transport a sandwich.
can be a snack
can’t hear you behind these walls
Indelible Discards at Xpace Cultural Centre
Curated by Bunker 2
Documentation by Polina Teif
bags are 2ft x 2.8ft
paintings are 9x11"
In 2021, this project was re-conceptualized with Maria Simmons for a 2-person exhibition tentatively titled, in/en/case/d
As humans, we have a difficult time putting into perspective the grand scale of things like pollution, waste, and collective histories. These monumental phenomena must be broken down, chewed on, and digested by smaller organisms in order to be truly seen and recognized. In in/en/case/d trash islands, oil painting and plastics explore a similar sense of impossible decomposition and a seemingly unending monumentalism in pursuit of the following questions: what does preservation look like in times of uncertainty? What will the new fossils look like and what might they say about this current moment? Does matter condensed and reorganized remain an ambassador of its former self or become a new hybrid being; an anachronistic relic that resists its own history?
Running through this exhibition is a desire to collect the small pieces that have crumbled off our societal monoliths, and through processes of “unnatural” conservation- that is, removing space, giving too much space, cramming or separating- transform their function by making them into souvenirs of the capitalocene. These small pieces become monuments in themselves, referencing Timothy Morton’s idea of the “hyperobject,” where a sense of “denialism and apocalyptic environmentalism” collide and splinter, allowing us to contemplate our own metastasizing of these determining forces.
In Not for Right Now But Keep Just in Case (BIG BAGS) Prousky is playing with reducing the history of painting into something that can be stored away like a sandwich, while elevating the Ziploc to something that frames a work of art. The BIG BAGS simultaneously do way too much and way too little as vessels for paintings, highlighting a discrepancy in scale that connotes a desperate but misguided attempt at holding on to objects for an ambiguous future use.
A similar collapsing of hierarchies in pursuit of preservation happens in Simmons’ The Urge to Suspend What Isn’t Kept wherein garbage is torn into small pieces and suspended in resin alongside plant matter and small treasures. In Excavation Growth Units silicone casts of the topography of soil from a church basement were relocated and left to allow crystals to reform within the soil. The crystals were then re-placed within the excavated soil. The act of disturbance seems to be a catalyst for growth and reproduction. Without the disruption, the salt crystals would remain stagnant and impotent.