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The art show that a sleep-deprived new parent can visit at 3 a.m. from their phone

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Shortly after Rea McNamara became a mom, the curator was invited to create a digital exhibition for Regina’s MacKenzie Art Gallery. Like most new parents, McNamara often found herself awake in the middle of the night caring for her newborn while simultaneously scrolling on her phone, searching for answers and support.

Sometimes, it was during these irregular, bleary-eyed office hours that she’d also fit the smaller work tasks of an independent curator and writer.

And it was in these sleepless, overtaxed moments, too, that she found the subject of her show.

Featuring major and emerging talents in digital art from Canada and abroad, Wake Windows: The Witching Hour examines the invisible labour of mothers. The exhibition gives space to the little-talked-about, the overlooked and the unrecorded when it comes to the experience of rearing children.

“We are quite dismissive as a society of the work that goes into taking care of a young child,” the curator says.

Developed alongside the MacKenzie’s Cat Bluemke and Jonathan Carroll, the mobile-friendly interactive exhibition can be accessed freely through an internet browser. The experience has been designed to facilitate both long and short visits, so viewers can enjoy the artwork as their time allows and return later to continue the exhibition.

“I [wanted] to do a show that a sleep-deprived new parent who’s stuck under a sleeping baby at 3 a.m. could check out,” the curator says.

Wake Windows takes the form of a text-based choose-your-own-adventure game. Visitors play the role of a curator’s friend who’s agreed to review an exhibition proposal. You arrive to find your friend is stranded upstairs with their napping newborn, but they’ve left the relevant files open on their laptop for your attention. That’s when you meet the baby’s AI companion, a Clippy-like character named Edgar, who guides you through the exhibition folders with excerpts from the curator’s research as well as reflections on their own upbringing, so to speak.

Mac desktop screen with multiple finder windows. Text box: "THREE FINDER FOLDERS come into focus: REPRODUCTIVE FUTURES, MATERNAL WORLDBUILDING, EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION.
(Screen capture of installation of work from Wake Windows: the Witching Hour, online at MacKenzie.Art, 2024.)

More artifice than autobiography, McNamara says the curator-mom who’s training an AI nanny is intended as a comical caricature of who she was as a brand new mother. “It satirizes the type of parent who’s looking at too many Instagram ads, who’s in the WhatsApp parent groups, who’s telling you, ‘Oh, well, we’re doing this’ or ‘We’ve signed up for that.’ Like that really overeager [person], just so overwhelmed by information that they don’t know which end is up.”

A mobile text message thread. First text, first speaker: "Hey! Thanks for coming. I'm upstairs with the baby. Feel free to let yourself in." Second text, second speaker: "Of course. How are you?" Third text, first speaker: "I'm exhausted. We had another sleepless night, so I appreciate your offering to review the exhibition proposal." Fourth text, first person: "How much time do you have?"
(Screen capture of installation of work from Wake Windows: the Witching Hour, online at MacKenzie.Art, 2024.)

While it may poke fun at the quagmire of data and technology parents trudge through, the exhibition — a digital one, happening on your phone screen — is hardly cynical on the subject. Instead, it largely explores the ways parents and children can creatively engage technology.

The artwork of Wake Windows examines a vast range of experiences, expressions and issues on the topic of mothering. An experimental documentary by the American multimedia artist Lauren Lee McCarthy, for instance, explores surrogacy and bodily autonomy. Wednesday Kim’s 3D animation Sleep Deprived Workers presents a traversable mindscape drawn from the bleakness of postpartum depression. And the Kanien’kehá:ka artist Skawennati — who McNamara calls “the O.G. of doing machinima” — retells the Haudenosaunee creation story of Sky Woman, the first mother, in the virtual world Second Life.

In a 360 VR video, Detroit-based artist Rory Scott has lovingly recreated her grandmother’s living room by stitching together panoramic photographs. With its cut crystal candy dishes, ornate lamps and gilt frames, Scott looks to capture some of the enchantment this particular space — and her memories of the woman who lived there — represent to her.

A digital image of a room with a hand holding a photograph.
(Screen capture of installation of work by Rory Scott from Wake Windows: the Witching Hour, online at MacKenzie.Art, 2024.)

“I adored the magic that she brought into my life,” the artist says. “There are these people that exist who give you something of guidance, they give you something extra — a spark — and it does completely affect your upbringing.”

The work is a tender example, McNamara says, of the powerful impact of “othermothers,” or the women who provide care for children not their own.

In another folder, you’ll find a series of gifs and digital animations by the Toronto-based artist Alejandra Higuera in collaboration with her daughter, Magnolia. Their project began during the pandemic, when the pair were stuck inside their 17th-floor apartment and found a positive outlet in the activities of drawing together and filming one another.

“The work came out of the realization that my kid loves playing; it’s her favourite way of connecting and learning,” Higuera explains. “And I’m learning how to play myself, because it’s something that’s really hard for me as an adult.”

In one video, a group of abstract figures made from colourful yarn dances against a dark backdrop. Their movements seem to happen magically, until it’s revealed that the mother and daughter are together choreographing the action. The work encapsulates the whole spirit of their project, suggesting that, like artistic collaboration, co-learning and mutual play are crucial to the relationship of children and parents.

[embedded content]

“I’m showing a part of mothering, which is that I’m not just teaching my kid or guiding her in this world, but she’s also a teacher,” Higuera says. “And I believe kids have a lot to teach us.”

While the exhibition focuses on the experiences of mothering, it was never intended for parents alone. Moreover, Wake Windows is about the work of care, which is something everyone will have experience with in their lifetime. It is McNamara’s hope that audiences come away with a better understanding of this particular kind of labour, she says, “and how it totally reshapes people.”

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Home + Away artwork opens in Vancouver’s Hastings Park

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A new art installation now towers over Vancouver’s Hastings Park fields in celebration of the city’s history of spectators and sports.

Home + Away is a sculpture by Seattle artists Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo of Lead Pencil Studio, which opened Monday in the southeast end of the historic park.

It’s a 17-metre-tall structure that resembles a narrow set of bleachers — similar to the stands of the Empire Stadium, which stood on the site of the park from 1954 to 1993 and hosted The Beatles, among many others. It recalls a covered ski jump that stood there in the 1950s and the nearby wooden rollercoaster at the PNE.

The city says the public is invited to walk the stairs and sit on the benches.

“In addition to being visually striking, this artwork is intended to be ascended, sat on and experienced. It offers exciting experiences of height and views and provides 16 rows of seating for up to 49 people, making for a unique spectator experience when watching events at Empire Fields,” the city said in a release Monday.

The idea for the park to include public art was outlined in the Hastings Park “Master Plan,” first adopted by the city in 2010. The city says Han and Mihalyo first presented their design in 2015.

“It’s wonderful to see this piece realized within the context of such a well-used public space,” said Han.

Home + Away was inspired directly by the site history of spectatorship, and we hope it will connect Hastings Park users to that history and the majestic views of the environment for many decades to come,” added Mihalyo.

The artwork features a large light-up sign, in the style of a sports scoreboard, that reads “HOME” and “AWAY.”

 

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Bill Viola, Video Artist Who Established the Medium as an Integral Part of Contemporary Art, Dies at 73

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Bill Viola, whose decades-long engagement with video proved vital in establishing the medium as an integral part of contemporary art, died on July 12 at his home in Long Beach, California. He was at 73 years old. The cause was complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. The news of his passing was confirmed by James Cohan Gallery.

Viola’s works are centered around the idea of human consciousness and such fundamental experiences as birth, death, and spirituality. He delved into mystical traditions from Zen Buddhism to Islamic Sufism, as well as Western devotional art from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in his videos, which often juxtaposed themes of life and death, light and dark, noise and silence. These explorations were achieved by submerging viewers in both image and sound with cutting-edge technologies for their time.

“I first used the camera and lens as a surrogate eye, to bring things closer, or to magnify them, to experiment with perception, to extend vision and make lengthy observations of simple objects,” Viola said in a 2015 interview. “Once you do that, their essence becomes visible. So I suppose I was always interested in the inner life of the world around me.”

Beginning in the 1970s, Viola created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces, and works for television broadcast—all of which expanded the scope of the medium and established Viola as one of its most notable practitioner.

Video still of a man diving into water that has been reversed. The image is mostly black and teal.

In 2003 the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Tate, London; and the Centre Pompidou in Paris jointly acquired Bill Viola’s 2001 three-channel video installation Five Angels for the Millennium.

Photo Kira Perov/©Bill Viola Studio

Bill Viola was born in 1951. He grew up in Queens and Westbury, New York, and attended P.S. 20 in Flushing, before receiving his BFA in experimental studios from Syracuse University in 1973. There, he studied with visual art with the likes of Jack Nelson and electronic music with Franklin Morris.

Following his graduation, between 1973 to 1980, Viola studied and performed with composer David Tudor in the music group Rainforest, which later became known as Composers Inside Electronics. He also worked as technical director at the pioneering video studio Art/tapes/22 in Florence, Italy from 1974 to 1976. During that time he encountered the work of other seminal video artists like Nam June Paik, Bruce Nauman, and Vito Acconci.

Viola was subsequently an artist-in-residence at New York’s WNET Thirteen Television Laboratory between 1976 to 1983, wherein he created a series of works that premiered on television. He traveled to the Solomon Islands, Java, and Indonesia to record traditional performing arts between 1976 and 1977. Later that year, Viola was invited to show work at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, by cultural arts director Kira Perov, with whom he married and began a lifelong collaboration.

He was appointed an instructor in advanced video at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California in 1983. He was the Getty Research Institute scholar-in-residence in Los Angeles in 1998 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000.

In 1985, Viola received with a Guggenheim Fellowship for fine arts, and later that decade, in 1989, he was awarded the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship. His work was also featured in some of the world’s most notable exhibitions, including Documenta VI in 1977, Documenta XI in 1992, the 1987 and 1993 editions of the Whitney Biennial, and the 2001 Venice Biennale.

In 1995, he represented the United States at the 46th edition of the Venice Biennale. For the pavilion, Viola produced the series of works “Buried Secrets,” including one of his most known works The Greeting, which offers a contemporary interpretation of Pontormo’s oil painting The Visitation (ca.1528–30). The Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and New York’s Guggenheim Museum commissioned the digital fresco cycle in high-definition video, titled Going Forth By Day, in 2002.

Viola’s work was the subject of a major 25-year survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1997, which subsequently toured internationally. His work has been the subject of major museum retrospectives in the years since, including at the Grand Palais in Paris (in 2014), the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence (2017), the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain (2017), and the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia (2019), as well as an exhibition pairing his work with that of Michelangelo at the Royal Academy of Art in London in 2019.

Viola is survived by his wife Kira Perov, who has been the executive director of his studio since 1978, and their two children.

“One thing that’s very exciting about video that has turned me on since I first saw this glowing image way back in 1970 is that it can be so much,” Viola said in a 1995 with Charlie Rose on the occasion of this US Pavilion at the Biennale. “Furthermore, what’s really exciting is I don’t think it’s been since really the Renaissance where artists have been able to use a medium that one could say is the dominant communication form in society.”

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Couple’s winning art projects adorn overpass

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Annabelle Harvey and Corbin Elliot are partners: in life, love, and art. Thanks to their creative pursuits, now they are also joined in the recognition of their work along the Lakeshore overpass.

The City of North Bay, in collaboration with the Public Art Advisory Committee (PAAC), recently held an event to acknowledge the successful applicants for the Lakeshore Drive overpass banner project. This initiative features 14 artworks created by local artists, highlighting the ongoing commitment to bringing public art to the community and celebrating local talent. The banners were installed early last week.

On behalf of PAAC, Katie Bevan noted that 71 submissions were received for the banner art project. “Selecting just 14 artworks from such outstanding submissions was no small feat. It truly highlights the incredible creativity within our community — and it’s only growing.”

Bevan acknowledged all who submitted their work and congratulated the 14 winners:

  • Caitlin Daniel
  • Corbin Elliot
  • Adam Fielder
  • Ian Gauthier
  • Ruby Grant
  • Annabelle Harvey
  • Penny Heather
  • Robert Johannsen
  • Robyn Jones
  • Gerry McComb
  • Victoria Primeau
  • Tessa Shank
  • Rana Thomas
  • Claudia Torres

“This is the first time I’ve participated in something city-wide, and I’ve been really interested in getting more involved in the art community,” said Harvey, a teacher by vocation when not helping to beautify North Bay. “I’ve worked a lot with the WKP Kennedy Gallery and I’ve been putting in submissions for some of their group shows. So, this is a cool opportunity to try something new. This is the first time I have done digital work. Usually, I like painting and collage. So I was interested just to try something new.”

In September 2023, public art gained more prominence in North Bay as 12 pieces by eight local artists selected by the Public Art Advisory Committee were placed on aluminum panels mounted onto the public buildings in both Champlain and Sunset parks.

Harvey’s partner Elliot is an emerging artist and a Fine Arts graduate from Nipissing University who says his passion for bringing his vision to life has only grown, thanks, in part, to these public art initiatives.

“There is so much opportunity to have a lot of different public art in different spaces,” he says. “So, when I saw that there was a variety of different artists and voices being accepted, of course, I wanted to have my vision out there in the city, to make my mark and be a part of that kind of trajectory of building the art scene within the city.”

The couple share a studio space, often working on separate projects at the same time while collaborating with encouragement and ideas.

“We are working on different mediums, a lot of the time,” Elliot said. “We have our own corners set up in the studio and I’ll usually be on my easel and Annabelle will be doing something…”

Harvey picked up his thought, “I’m usually at my desk doing pottery, jewellery, collage — I do a lot of different things.”

2024-07-12-lakeshore-overpass-banner-art-elliot-harvey-2-campaigne
Couple Annabelle Harvey and Corbin Elliot each earned a spot among the 14 winning banner art projects. Stu Campaigne/BayToday

For Harvey, working so closely together is her “favourite part, especially watching his creative process.”

Elliot added, “I think I’m more non-verbal as I’m creating. I often hear you saying, ‘Oh, I think I like this.'”

Both have active Instagram pages featuring their artwork, Harvey’s can be found here, and Elliot’s here.

Elliot has a show at the WKP Kennedy Gallery, entitled “Upon a Star,” opening Sept. 13. “I’ll have my own solo exhibition. I typically work in painting. I have a big body of work with paintings,” he said.

The City of North Bay and PAAC encourage everyone to take a moment to appreciate these works of art when passing by the overpass.

Harvey and Elliot are thrilled about the banner art project.

“It’s like seeing your vision come to life. We’ve had lots of friends, even before we saw them today say excitedly, ‘I saw your work on the overpass,’ it’s just a proud moment to have so many eyes on our work.”

 

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