Monday, October 10, 2011

My Drive to Work

The view from the Mothership, on the road to work,
at 8:15am on any given weekday.

It's Thanksgiving Monday. After lunch. I'm still in my jammies. What bliss!

I have been working all morning on my entry for the lastest Community Arts Initiative, which is a film-based project that will be shown in the Mezzanine of the Thames Art Gallery. The opening is October 21st at 7pm.

Our group, about 12 of us, chose the topic of 'fear'. After much deliberation, I decided to film my drive to work. At first, I taped my camera to the dashboard of the Mothership (our Honda Odyssey van) and filmed my drive to work. Not only did the film capture me constantly changing radio stations, it also managed to record the sound of the tape I put on the camera unsticking and resticking to the dash as I drove over bumps in the road. While Boston is harmoniously wailing "Don't Look Back", you can also hear "shtick, shtickity, tick, tickkk, shtick" as an irritating backbeat. It wasn't the effect I was initially planning, but I decided that it mimicked the general sound assault that my ears undergo on my ride to work during a time when I am still, really, waking up.

The next day, I wedged the camera between the top of the passenger seat and the headrest. No "shtick, tick, tickity'. Instead, because I couldn't see exactly what I was filming because the display screen was facing the back seat, I managed to film most of the Mothership dashboard and only a sliver of my drive to work.

The next day, I got it just about right. But then I forgot that my memory card only holds 1MB and my camera stopped filming about 2 minutes from my destination.

I filmed my drive to work a total of 5 times, and none of the clips were smooth, or complete, from start to finish.

I was not amused. I felt challenged but way out of my element. I thought about the project for a few more days. I haven't done any film-based work before. And my son, who was also in the Community Arts Initiative group, was able to 'throw' his film together in about a day and it was really good. Clearly, my idea sucked.

Things in life aren't ever as complicated as you think they are. I decided that I refused to be intimidated by my less-than-perfect foray into film-making. I knew one thing- I didn't want to film anymore. So what exactly did I have to work with? A collection of film bits that needed to be stitched together! Suddenly, it all made sense. I am a found object and collage artist. If there's one thing I know, it's how to put things together! Thanks to the wizardry of film editing software (and some pointers from my son), I was able to splice, dice, 'glue', and layer all the films together into an interesting 3-minute short.

I ended up with a very raw visual and auditory record of my drive to work, along the same route, at roughly the same time of day, in the same vehicle. I worked the footage from 5 days into one (somewhat) continuous stream, representing one morning drive to work. The drive to Tim Hortons, for example, is composed of the clips from Day 1 and Day 4. The turn into the drive-thru is from Day 3. The stretch down St. Clair is from Day 2, when it rained and I was playing the Ramones tune, "I Wanna Be Sedated". The film shows that the sounds are different every day. The cars ahead of me are different every day. The light is different every day. But I end up at the same place every day. Each minute of the drive, every day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, is stored in my memory, but I do not remember it. Sometimes I seem to drive on auto-pilot.

This was an interesting exercise for me on so many levels. I noticed the little things that I overlook on my drive to work. There is lots of trash in the alley. The line-up at Tim Horton's is never more than 5 minutes. I like accelerating down St. Clair Street. I always get stopped at the light at St. Clair and Grand Avenue. There's no graffiti on the Third Street Bridge. The mall blocks the morning sun, making King & Third look dreary at 8:25am. It is a short distance to work and yet I drive. I'm relaxed when I'm driving. A lot of people in Chatham wear sweatpants out in public.

Most importantly, I also learned that my approach to art can be translated to any medium. I know it sounds simple, but I never would have thought this before. If, as an artist, you think in 'pieces', then film/paint/(insert medium here) in 'pieces'.

I have reached acceptance. My name is Laurie, and I am a Deconstructionist.

What does a 3-minute film about a drive to work have to do with fear?

Well, it illustrates one of my biggest fears. I have a lot, but this is a fear that I DO remember on my drive to work. From time to time.

I am afraid that, someday, I will just keep on driving.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Off to North Bay

this is not North Bay, but a photo of THE cool intersection in Grand Rapids, Michigan
(that's a statue of Rosa Parks on the left)

I have been offered a joint show (with fellow shadowbox artist Betty Sager) at the Thames Art Gallery in the Mezzanine Gallery in 2012. Then it's off to the Kennedy Gallery in North Bay.

This exhibition requires an entirely new body of work. And it would seem that Betty and I have to produce this thought-provoking show before the end of March. The glue on my shadowboxes, The Saints Series, is barely dry and those boxes were just hung for The Exhibitchin' at ARTspace a few weeks ago. Now I need to bust out my A Game!
Although I was originally a little freaked out (as this is my first show outside of Chatham!), I know this opportunity is the next step in my art practice. A show of this magnitude gives me the impetus to take a step backward and figure out what I really want to say with my art. I need to start thinking about a simple, solid concept. One of my biggest downfalls, I think, is that I tend to overthink my projects. (And eat too many gummy bears in the process.)

I recently took a weekend video workshop taught by Toronto artist Grahame Lynch (who is exhibiting at the Thames Art Gallery later this month, with his show The Logic of Subduction) and it got me thinking in an entirely different way. I am a found object artist who is suddenly interested in movement and sound and memory. Whether this ends up becoming the basis for my upcoming show, I do not know.

But this is all exciting! Movement, sound, memory, found objects, shadowboxes..... stay tuned. I am going to search the dark recesses of my brain and create something very interesting.