Tell us a little bit about yourself—your background, major program of study, reasons for taking this trip, and anything else interesting you want to share (maybe something people might not know about you).
Hello there! My name’s Celesta and I am a fourth year BFA student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. I like to work in various mediums like paints, ceramics, and mixed media. Many of my influences stream from the rhizome theory by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, my experiences and environment, as well as the materiality of the medium and my process. Much of my work stems from a previous work or an influence of one. This field school was sold on me the moment I realized I could have the rare chance to visit all the works our art historian instructors have been raving about, and then to engage them with other art loving people – definitely not the same as dragging a friend or family member to the gallery on the weekend. This trip is all a first for me. I love a good challenge and a good adventure, and London and Venice sounded like an amazing start to do just that!
What has met or exceeded your expectations or surprised you about London (or Venice) so far?
Europe is a fairly new interest of mine. After having the rare opportunity to see artists such as Claude Monet at the Vancouver Art Gallery, it really brought to my attention how limited and how much I was missing out not seeing all the historical works in person. A vast collection of museums you could visit for free on hand is just another art fantasy. Culturally, I did not notice many differences between Vancouver and London. Think Gastown merged with Granville Island, switch the driving lanes around, expand the city with more people, and add in an accent. However, they are definitely not the same city. The biggest praise I must give Londoners is their easy embrace of creativity. Orchestra music and live theatre are fabulous at an affordable ticket. I went to see BBC concert orchestra: Orange, Playhouse's Theatre's Fiddler on the Roof, and Fortune Theatre's The Woman In Black and I want to go back for more! Historically, Vancouver is a very young city isolated from the Prairies on the west coast and by the Rocky Mountains, with the exception of our city friends across the border to the South. So in London, the first and most obvious difference you will see is that there is rich architecture! It’s like walking through a time capsule embracing both the historical with the modern. One day on the way to the Natural History Museum I noticed a building still being built but it held the same facade of the Victorian era like the buildings around it.
Give us some insight into your assigned artwork from the Tate Modern. After seeing the work in person in London (and any other related art from the same artist or art movement associated with the assigned work), what struck you most about it and/or how did the artwork’s form, content, and context shift for you when seeing it.
At Tate Modern I was assigned to look at Carolee Schneemann's Interior Scroll (1975). This piece is a screen print of two documented photographs from an art performance accompanied with a dialogue text on either side from a film called Kitch's Last Meal (also by Schneemann) and had beet juice, urine, and coffee washed over it. The two images are of Schneemann with painted gestural line on her nude body unraveling a paper scroll from out of her vagina, which she reads aloud. The piece reminded me of the rhizome theory because of the path it took to create it. It originated from the rejection of Kitch's Last Meal by an art critic which was then responded with the art performance of Interior Scroll. My first impressions of it seeing it in person for the first time is that it is significantly larger than I thought it would be. It was presented on its own wall. The size definitely marks an impact over how it is perceived. I am more disturbed by the stains left behind by the coffee, urine, and beet juice. The scale provides a sense that it is more than just a documentation of an art performance but rather an extension of all the previous works, an extension of the documentation and art performance, and an extension of Kitch's last meal. Its framing is minimal and encased with glass considering the urine, coffee, and beet juice. Exhibited in the same room are works from the Guerilla Girls (1987) and photographs of a performance from Valie Export (1969). They were all works composed around female identity and their presence in society.
How did you approach the creative task of responding to your assigned artists in studio? What were your challenges as an artist to be in dialogue with the artwork and artist? Would you do anything differently now that you have seen the work in person?
In the studio I was challenged with the task to branch Schneemann's Interior Scroll with Peter Doig's Ski Jacket (1994) (from Tate Britain) and respond to them both. Peter Doig uses personal photographs or newspaper clippings to reference and distort the land in either his painting process or even before capturing the photo. Ski Jacket referenced a landscape photo from a newspaper and was painted celebrating the materiality of the paint and the natural mistakes that formed. I took an event that occurred in White Rock earlier in the year, when the wind storm pushed the boats into the pier and broke it in half. I connect better with the land, so I took this landscape and created an installation out of it. Originally I wanted to work in physical layers transparent to opaque and hang them within a space where the audience would walk through it at different layers to interact with the work. As I was preparing materials, painting and organizing them, I realized it was getting too clustered and over worked with materials. The challenge to distinguish what material worked most efficiently for the image and created the attraction and interaction I wanted to achieve. That and I had to still find how to incorporate a response to Schneemann.
Performance art is difficult because intentionally placing myself as a spectacle in front of an audience is too much for me. I would rather be an observer, and I realized that having the audience interact and move within the piece is performative enough for me. I deducted the materials down to just the clear and coloured cellophane and black streamers from the dollar store hung in an archway in the Spruce Atrium at KPU. I manipulated them to drape and move to represent wind and water. On one side of the archway was calmer flowing movements and the opposing side held aggressive and vigorous movements. These opposing sides represent time and the changes in energy, and the black streamers I used to make line work to represent the pier breaking. From that, I titled the piece Choreographed Energy, based on the experience you get from the interactive installation and for the fact the two opposing sides represent a phase/state of energy. This installation is the first time I've worked in this scale and I had the most trouble resolving the overall presence of the piece because parts of it felt messy, but I am glad I changed the original choice of materials and worked in that scale after seeing the original works of Doig and Schneemann.
Today’s activity was a visit to the Venice Biennale. What were your impressions? What will you take away of the experiences of this day? What are the most memorable moments for you?
It's the second day in Venice, Italy, and we're all heading out to the Biennale! The Giardini Biennale is just a short ride on the vaporetto (water taxi). I'm loving the humidity and morning sun, and everyone is learning how to balance on water. It's the first full day in Venice and I'm still trying wrap my head around how small Venice is, and it is definitely smaller than London. Our first stop is the Canadian pavilion. Many of the connecting themes that we all came across outside of the historical influences, looking at now and the future in response to the Biennale theme "May You Live In Interesting Times", were the stereotypes the were unintentionally imbedded into each country. Canada was definitely not immune to this. Canada’s representative artists ISUMA presented a re-enacted story of an Inuit man in his daily lifestyle in the north and heritage. And at the end of the room there was a video of a younger generation at an assembly speaking of the lost heritage and culture speaking of the differences between the two lifestyles. The lack of tools and teachings of their cultural knowledge was so obviously lost. Unfortunately it was more documentation than an artistic application and even if I was watching this video through a Canadian gaze, I found that I was still watching though voyeuristic gaze as I was still removed from the subject even though I have learned of them through schooling.
After the Canadian pavilion we dispersed as a group and ventured off into the national pavilions we were individually assigned. I was excited to see them all. I first followed the outer section of pavilions starting with Germany. I saw all 30 pavilion buildings representing separate countries until mid-afternoon and then headed back for dinner. The best ones that made an impression on me were the Nordic countries for their reference to the land and sea; Australia for their immersion of music - music in conversation with politics mixed with the body and technology. Denmark held a creative narrative film accompanied with a black sphere sculpture that you fell into and was tied into the film. I thought it was so interesting how each country chose to represent their country. The pavilion I was assigned to was Belgium. And although my ancestral background is Belgium through my father, I do not know many things about Belgium other than their neutrality during the war. What I was able to understand through their exhibition was that, I suppose, many feel trapped in the past and not moving forward or feel strongly attached to their history. In the main large room, I found mannequins dressed in old clothing performing crafts and trades while the smaller rooms that surrounded them were jail cells of modern people looking towards the older generation. There were some landscape imagery accompanying the mannequins, but overall I thought it was an interesting direction and choice of materials in representation. Next up: the Arsenale, and a lot more gelato!