Archive for December, 2021

ROSA BARBA

Tuesday, December 28th, 2021

In the beginning of 1998, during my film studies in Cologne, the Balkan War was in full rage and disturbed many of us deeply. The Yugoslavian community came in waves to Germany, similarly to many of us from Italy, and felt very close to me and others. Even if it had fell apart already as an entity, it belonged still to many of us—as a real idea. One day, a few of us gathered in the auditorium of our art school in order to debate what we could do with our art and in our films. What contribution could we make with our tools to alleviate the suffering? Different pledges where made to each other. Mine was that no one should die in our films ever.

Right after I started to work, in 1998, on my first longer film, Panzano (2000). It is named after the Tuscan village where I spent over six months as a student. This film initiated many methodologies and established tools that I would continue to use for later films. It uses the camera as a drawing instrument that follows and dialogues with the erratic decisions and expressions of the non-actors who play the film’s protagonists. The non-actors came to the stage with their desires, which were released during these sort of collective performances. Panzano also uses sound recordings that include the accidental sounds that occurred while constantly recording the whole set. The fire crackling in the fireplace turned into a carrying “hum” for the whole film.

The residents of Panzano included a handful of people who lived together in a kind of day home, having been released from mental care homes in the 1970s as part of the “mental care revolution” across the whole of Europe at that time. I developed relationships with some of these residents, and my wider interest in psychiatry and the Italian health care system became rooted in their individual experiences of “a significant change in [Italy’s] mental health sector, with a radical shift from old mental institutions to new community based psychiatric services.” These experiences also had resonance outside of Italy, as “the Italian experience attracted international attention and, in some instances, led to similar changes occurring abroad.”

While in Panzano, I worked from a cafe on my script. There I met an elderly woman named Valeria, who visited the café several times a day and would always drink an espresso, smoke a cigarette, leave, and return again. Each time she returned she was wearing a new ensemble, always with heavy makeup. I was intrigued by this ritual and I eventually discovered that Valeria was a resident of the local psychiatric clinic, where she had been sent decades earlier by her family for becoming too attached in her romantic encounters—in other words, for falling dangerously in love. I invited Valeria, along with Claudio and Dino, two other long-term wards of the day home in Panzano, to be part of the film shoot, where they would be able to choose their own roles—the type of roles they were not able to play in their present life.

I returned a few months later with Ulrike Molsen, a classmate of mine, to shoot the film together. Although the film was devised with a loose plot framework, we allowed the three to improvise their roles and collectively they chose to play parts they had been denied in real life: to be members of a family unit with all the different constructions around the idea of belonging to a family or other similar formation.

In the eighteen years since this film was made, the strategies and motifs I employed in it have become defining features of my artistic practice. From the technical: shooting on analogue film and composing an abstract soundtrack with existing surrounding sounds; to the methodological: the use of nonprofessional actors who enfold their inscribed stories and desires, filming unscripted performances with dialogue, and the conflation of fact and fiction; to the thematic: focusing in particular on instability, both geographical and emotional.

Panzano also explores how each character inhabits the home given to them by the premise of the film through the idea of embarking into another space where they can act in a suspended mode.


Rosa Barba currently lives and works in Berlin, Germany. As an artist and filmmaker she merges films, sculptures, installations, live-performances, text pieces, and publications that are grounded in the material and conceptual qualities of cinema. She also creates installations and site-specific interventions to analyze the ways film articulates space, placing the work and the viewer in a new relationship. Questions of composition, physicality of form and plasticity play an important role in the perception of her work. She interrogates the industry of cinema with respect to various forms of staging by inviting the viewers to participate in her cultural observations. This happens through shifting of gesture, genre, information and documents, that she takes often out of the context in which they are normally seen and reshapes and represents them anew. Her film works are situated between experimental documentary and fictional narrative, and are indeterminately situated in time. They often focus on natural landscapes and human-made interventions into the environment and probe into the relationship of historical record, personal anecdote, and filmic representation, creating spaces of memory and uncertainty, more legible as reassuring myth than the unstable reality they represent.

www.rosabarba.com

KATRIN KOENNING

Tuesday, December 28th, 2021

> spend the morning learning with my students, then gather my things ~ walk through the cemetery, think of living and the chaos of death, performing mourning and a recent ritual grief ~ go to the big park, loop around, re-photograph like often jackie’s tree and let my left hand touch it ~ missing jackie ~ lie down in the grass to see sky ~ close my eyes to know the moment (this one) ~ eyelids flicker in warm summersun ~ a magpie is an urban lyrebird ~ radically tender, high and low ~ make a magpie thing of love, i note ~ hear a far dog ~ wind is through everything and carries laughs and chitchat ~ what if i could simply stay this way, leaning with earth looking up looking in + my hand touches tree again after i rise, this one small soft silky ~ summer flirts with me from garden beds < walk towards the sea and then turn left, pet archie and his ice pack ~ walking always gives me language ~ make a picture of shadow and light ~ turn a corner ~ try to photograph a butterfly ~ buy an almond ice-cream, sit on the sidewalk to lick it ~ if you practice slow looking, the street may offer a reading for every occasion ~ here is another broken book, the bitsy pages give me this: something about breathing and being a rock * my mind goes to drifting + is it the multi-positional (meandering, non-directional, liquid, open) that lifts the spirit high? ~ i think of words i shared with sean in which we trace a kind of floating-like-a-river with intent, a delicate entanglement of meeting, senses, revelation ~ exchange is magic ~ send a message to john, carry on walking, a man in a delivery car smiles and i smile and together we lift our hands to each other, hello! oh hello to you, too, it’s a beautiful day! ~ when the moment is over it’s not really gone, it stays in lifted corners of my mouth and maybe his, the face is always witness ~ a greet that is meant is a meet ~ walk on and make a picture of a light grey cat sitting in a window high ~ she sees me and I see her too, light begins to fall a little lowly now, while life is life goes away + humdrum of the street, i hear a summerradio ~ pass by the yard that re-appears in pictures through the years and through the seasons ~ the exquisite delight of returning to things ~ to be present may seem like a thing of no motion (resting, stationary, certain, here is this and there is that) but I feel it to be oppositional to this: that presence is liquidity, a perpetual non-arriving, transitory and transitional ~ my eyes see a young woman with a dachshund and a deep yellow skirt, we hold each other with a smile across the street ~ a different dog makes a light bark ~ the air is a caress, i smell faint fire ~ the beauty and the madness of it all ~ a little boy bounces a ball, the ball is green, his right hand does the bouncing and his eyes look soft and happy, i think of privilege and peace ~ one two three four five other smiles with masks that mark our time + a slowly sinking sun ~ to see the sunset is a miracle ~ the act of photograph as love not distance ~ wind is still in everything (hair bird balloon bike soul) ~ trees tremble ~ I see a swans sign in a window, mind goes to lakes and animals, I sit on a bench while cars roll on by, an ant is in a rush ~ ~ today i think that slowness is resistance ~ my fingers smell like grass ~ a banner on a tree says lost cat roy <








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01. notes, september (lockdown), december 2021
02. magpie lark, three steps, 2018
03. three daffodils in spring, 2020
04. conversation with my friend Sean, december 2021
05. double setting sun, 2005
06. portrait of Wendy, 2020

Katrin Koenning is a photographer from Bochum, Germany. Today she lives and works in Naarm (Melbourne Australia), on unceded Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Country

www.katrinkoenning.com

BRANDON SHIMODA

Tuesday, December 28th, 2021

The last time I saw Etel Adnan was at a pizzeria in Paris. She and her partner Simone Fattal took me and my partner Lisa (Dot Devota) out for lunch. The pizzeria was around the corner from their apartment. No, that wouldn’t have been the last time, because we left the pizzeria and went somewhere else, maybe back to their apartment? Was the last time I saw Etel on the sidewalk outside her and Simone’s apartment? Did we go inside? We ordered pizza. Etel ordered a salad. We sat at a table by the window. Etel sat against the wall, facing the door. I don’t remember what we talked about. I watched Etel eat her salad. The wall behind her was purple or green. Spring. Etel was wearing a large coat. Afterwards, on the sidewalk, I asked Etel if her best friend was a mountain. I chided myself for the question, but she said Yes. Mount Tamalpais. That was years ago. Etel is dead, has been dead for __ days, but I’m not ready to write about her in the past tense.

I’m not ready to read her books either. I’ve tried. When a writer dies, a writer who means a lot to me (usually a poet), I turn immediately—I turn reflexively—to their writing. It’s as much an attempt to locate and hang onto them where they are—which, I want to feel, is where they will always be—as it is a manifestation of mourning, although what’s the difference? When Etel died, I didn’t do that.

When I say I’ve tried, I mean I started with the book I co-edited with my friend Thom Donovan, To look at the sea is to become what one is, which Nightboat Books published in 2014. I took the two volumes off the shelf thinking I would open them and read something, anything—because you can, with To look at the sea, as you can with all of Etel’s books, open it anywhere, and be immediately transported—but I didn’t. I haven’t. Maybe because—and I’m guessing, because I have no mind, it’s been blown a few heads over—looking at or even thinking about To look at the sea reminds me of making it, which is the memory of seeking out and reading all of Etel’s work and emailing back and forth with Thom and with Nightboat and with Etel, hundreds of pages of emails, about it, but it is even more so—and especially—the memory of becoming friends with Etel, which makes me sad, in both a simple and not entirely straightforward way.

Is sadness ever straightforward? Is sadness the word we use to assuage a less maneuverable feeling? Because I have felt, since To look at the sea, that I am always—that I am still—becoming friends with Etel, that there is so much more for us, that there is so much left for us in becoming friends. Isn’t friendship the process of constantly becoming friends?

I feel like some part of me has gone out, some part of my life, a part that is becoming difficult to retrieve. Looking back, or trying to remember—it’s like being thrown against the back wall of my mind, sliding down the wall to the floor, and falling asleep, yet wanting desperately to stay awake, while the fragments of my life dematerialize beneath me.

I started writing a paragraph here about the origins of To look at the sea, but I stopped. It felt like I was writing something for posterity. For the archive, future study.

Is it inevitable? I remember a night or two before the pizzeria, Etel and Simone invited Lisa and me to their apartment for dinner. Chicken in red wine, I think, but I remember more clearly the bowl of oranges that appeared and seemed to replace everything that was on the table. At the end of the night, Etel, sitting behind the bowl of oranges, talked about her distrust of—maybe her disdain for—the archive, and the tendency or the desire to archive everything, to save everything. It was almost as if she said anything, and that she preferred for it all to disappear in death.

Lisa keeps asking, Where is Etel?

dear Brandon, as usual, I think “where is Brandon,” Etel wrote, on March 11, 2016.

dear, dear Brandon, so many clouds crossed the skies since we heard from each other, where are you? she wrote, on June 10, 2014.

Even though I haven’t been able to open Etel’s books, I have been reading our emails, which begin on July 27, 2009.

I started writing a paragraph here about the first letter I wrote, by hand, to Etel, in July 2009, and about Etel’s response, by email, later that month (July 27), but I stopped. I started writing, in that paragraph, about my and Lisa’s visit to Lebanon that summer, about Lisa meeting Etel and Simone after I had returned to the US, about Lisa and Etel going to a documentary film festival together and seeing Khiam by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, but I stopped.

I started writing a paragraph here about how Etel is an element, i.e. a primary constituent of matter, but I stopped.

A few years, maybe five, after the pizzeria in Paris, Lisa and I drove to Etel and Simone’s house in Sausalito. We were staying with my sister in Oakland. The house is a few roads up from the highway. The grass in the yard was shaggy, Easter hay. There was an apple tree, maybe two. All the apples were in the grass. We peered through the windows of the house. Empty. No furniture, nothing. We walked up to the front door and, despite the house being empty, rang the bell. I don’t know if there was a bell, actually, but we put our finger on the house and gently pushed the house. Then we turned around and there, opposite the house, was Mount Tamalpais.

I emailed Etel about our visit, the apples and the mountain, but I can’t find the email, nor her email back. Maybe I didn’t email her about it, maybe she didn’t email back. She started an email to me once by writing, dear Brandon, not writing to you simply means that I think of you all the time (April 17, 2015). I developed the habit, over many years, of telling Etel things that I was seeing without actually telling her, without actually writing. Even then I was already starting to talk to myself. That is the actuality, these days, of my relationships with my closest friends, whom I love and rarely see, and whom I have, more terribly, no absolute guarantee of ever seeing again: that our relationships consist in large part and most presently of me talking to myself.

Brandon Shimoda is a yonsei poet/writer. His recent books include THE GRAVE ON THE WALL (City Lights), which received the PEN Open Book Award, and THE DESERT (The Song Cave). In 2014 he co-edited, with Thom Donovan, TO LOOK AT THE SEA IS TO BECOME WHAT ONE IS: AN ETEL ADNAN READER (Nightboat Books). He has two books forthcoming: HYDRA MEDUSA, poetry and prose, from Nightboat, and a book on the afterlife of Japanese American incarceration, from City Lights. His front door faces a mountain.

SHARON LOCKHART

Tuesday, December 28th, 2021

LOVE IS FLEETING. PASSION IS FOREVER, JEAN-PIERRE BEAUVIALA

When asked to contribute something to this journal, I went back through my projects to see if there was something that might be appropriate to the forum and help me in some way rethink my process. I came across the beginnings of a project I had started with the inventor, Jean-Pierre Beauviala. In a notebook I had started for the project, I found the epigraph to this essay, a quote from JP when I had interviewed him. I was reminded of all the reasons I found him to be a fascinating figure: he was an engineer involved in an extremely structured mechanical device, he was a passionate human being who loved his practice, his friends, co-workers, and lovers, and he was committed to re-envisioning society to make room for these interests. For him, work and love were the same thing. I rethought my own relationship to cameras in general and my Aaton and the films I made with it. I also thought about the theme of love in my films, one that, in retrospect, was the undercurrent of everything I’ve done, but that I rarely spoke about and always submerged beneath a rigorous structural approach.

In 1994 I made my first film, Khalil, Shaun, A Woman Under the Influence, a combination of disfiguring makeup tests and a reworking of the last scene of Cassavetes’ film. Having never made a film before, I hired a camera operator to take care of the technical requirements. I found the physical nature of film provided a very satisfying structure to work with. The size of the magazine provided very distinct and limited time segments based on the repeated opening and closing of the shutter, and the fixed lenses defined the image in a similarly limited and structured way. I also discovered I was much more effective in front of the camera with the subject, moving back and forth between the view behind the camera and in front of it, communicating physically. What I had originally seen as a handicap (my inability to operate the film camera) turned into a positive way of engaging the image for twenty plus years.

My next three films, Goshogaoka, Teatro Amazonas and No, were all defined in part by the technology that produced them (the 400-foot magazines of 16mm cameras, the maximum time you can get out of a 1000-foot 35mm magazine shot on a 3-perf camera, and the optics of a normal lens’ field of view). But, looking back, each of them really was about the people in front of the camera and my relationship to them. Goshogaoka became something of a community project over the three months I spent working with the girls and their families and, after the project was completed, I continued to stay in touch with many of the girls years later when they had their own children. Choreography, meanwhile, worked as a great device to help me negotiate my relationship in front of and behind the camera. It gave a structure to those relationships that mirrored the repetitive, mechanical operations of the camera. One might miss the tender relationship between the husband and wife in NO and the months I spent getting to know them and their land because the rigorously structured optics and choreography of the film are foregrounded.

It was in the midst of the NO project that I began researching 16mm cameras to make a film of children in a small rural town in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. If I brought a camera person or a team of the size I had worked with on the previous three films, I knew that it would alter the results. There had to be a level of intimacy in the process and, since the film would be shot amid the landscape, the camera had to be fairly mobile. I was looking for a model that was easy to operate and had a large viewfinder for the kind of precise framing that had been an important part of my practice. I spoke with filmmakers, tried out their cameras and read everything I could about different models. I was discouraged by the complexity of most cameras and how it was impossible to frame an image due to their small viewfinders. Eventually, my research led me to the Aaton camera and then to its inventor, French engineer Jean-Pierre Beauviala.

The Aaton was completely different in its approach. It was designed to be nimble, quiet, easy to use and repair, yet logical and precise in every way. It was designed for filmmakers and not camera technicians. I purchased an Aaton LTR-7 with a 25mm Zeiss lens and two 400-foot magazines, and it was perfect for the project that I had bought it for.

Shot over the course of three years, Pine Flat was different from anything I had done. It took years to make and I got to see many of the children grow up in front of the camera. We formed a strong bond that grew even tighter than the community I formed during Goshogaoka. Although the twelve ten-minute takes again used the maximum footage a 400-foot magazine could produce, each shot was set in a different landscape and planned out with my subjects based on activities they enjoyed. Together with the children I scouted locations, lugging the camera up hills, to waterfalls, down river embankments, in rain, snow, and hot summer days. Over those years I grew to love my Aaton. Its relative mobility allowed us to film in truly beautiful and somewhat remote landscapes. Its quiet mechanics allowed for intimate shots with very simple sound recording. Its large viewfinder and diopter allowed me to precisely frame each shot and show the children what the image was going to look like. They became experts at knowing the frame they were performing in and how the light moved within it. I loved the daily labor of loading and downloading the film and cleaning the camera after each shoot. The camera’s physical attributes—the way it sat on one’s shoulder like a cat, the smooth, hand-carved walnut grip—were unique. For me, the Aaton was a truly remarkable machine.

Through my camera research and in the production Pine Flat, I became more and more interested in, and curious about, the inventor of my camera. In the winter of 2002, I was invited to Harvard University to screen Goshogaoka and begin conversations about an exhibition. My initial proposal was an exhibition engaging Beauviala’s archive. I decided to visit Grenoble for a week, meet Jean-Pierre, interview him, and approach him about developing a project.

He was incredibly welcoming. In my first encounter with the archive, everything was dusty; letters and drawings were rotting, prototypes were haphazardly thrown in boxes. It consisted of boxes and boxes of important but unorganized history. JP was more interested in the invention he was working on in the moment than looking back at his past, but he humored me by going through boxes and introducing me to his team. What struck me about all this material was the very personal nature of it all. I loved the many humorous advertisements he made and the films he shot of his girlfriends, always while testing inventions. In many ways they were like home movies, recording the history of his love life, yet each one was shot in service of his camera and recorded the history of its development and life in the world. For example, I remember a girlfriend, naked in bed, reading a book about philosophy or mathematics. He worked like an artist, engaging the world around him. There was no rigid separation between work and life. I wanted to make a film out of his tests, a film about his love life and his passion for cinema. I imagined an ode to love constructed of bits and pieces gathered from the archive, a history of both camera and passion.

He was resolutely local and thought of his manufacturing site as a response to urbanist critiques of the 1960s. His laboratory/factory was located in the center of the city amongst a set of storefronts on either side of a small street close to shops, cafes, and restaurants. JP prided himself on joining his collaborators daily in the shop windows on both sides of Rue de la Paix. People would always tell him he was wasting his time (and money) going back and forth between the locations. He insisted upon a resistance to a functionalist approach to production, saying, “We will never leave to an industrial zone, the so-called functional, which translates to me as car, work, sleep. At Aaton, a lot of people come by bike or foot.” He liked the glass storefronts and believed that passers-by should be able to look in and see what was being built and that workers should have an engagement with the street and be part of the fabric of the neighborhood.

Among the founding principles of Aaton was that labor should not be invisible. On my visit, he introduced me to everyone who worked for him. He was not interested in the normal hierarchies of the workplace. He claimed, “decisions here are the responsibility of everyone.” At Aaton, the organization of the workplace and the products they created were political. The simplicity of the Aaton cameras allowed a more flexible, mobile kind of filmmaking and revolutionized documentary film. Not surprisingly, there was a humanism present in everything they did. For example, in Jean-Pierre’s office, and where possible in the rest of the site, there was no artificial lighting. He told me, “when the light leaves us, that is the end of the day.” Although, at the time, he was working on groundbreaking digital cameras and sound recorders, he had an appreciation of the analog. He asked me not to use a recording device when interviewing him, saying the words had go straight through my hand.

As we poured through the boxes of materials, we encountered a virtual history of the last half-century of French cinema. For instance, I found a wonderful original negative reel of Godard with a color chart on the banks of a river. The film was a product of a lengthy collaboration between him and JP. Godard’s wish was that the camera would fit in his glove compartment. JP was so pleased that I liked the footage, he casually ripped off a foot of the film and handed it to me. I had to refuse his offer and admonish him for not giving these materials their due. On another occasion he showed me the first synch-sound test that worked. My memory of the test is that it was shot in a mirror, reflecting the camera, his little son, Julien, sitting on a table, and the scene of cars going by outside the window.

His collaborators included many of the figures I saw as role models and they would visit him in Grenoble to test new equipment and repair their trusted cameras. On a later visit to Grenoble, Raymond Depardon was there because his camera had fallen in water while he was filming. That same visit I photographed a copy of the LTR made of tin soda cans by participants in one of Jean Rouch’s African films. JP had never really thought of these bits and pieces of his life and research as interesting to those outside his close circle of friends, but I knew that this history needed to be preserved. I was introduced to someone at the French Cinematheque, and eventually the institution was able to purchase the archive in its entirety.

In the end, the interview never took a form one could read, and I never got to make the film I envisioned. After the Cinematheque had purchased everything, my experience with the material was different. There were rules in place limiting interaction. A great deal of the archive had been moved to Paris and JP had a different sense of his and the archive’s importance. It was clear, at this point, that there was no way to move forward with my project.

Yet many of the ideas that my encounter with JP inspired became part of my later work. My next project was about labor and I thought a lot about Aaton’s windows onto the street as I researched and filmed Lunchbreak. Exit, a document of workers leaving the Bath Iron Works shipyard, was filmed with my Aaton, as was Double Tide, a document of a woman clam digger on a rare occasion of two high tides in one day. In all of those three films I was hoping to address the invisibility of labor. Double Tide had a particularly satisfying rhythm of shooting, downloading and reloading the magazines, sleeping three or four hours and then repeating the whole process each day for a week. For each 45-minute shot we had four magazines. The film would not have been possible without the ease of replacing those magazines quickly.

Jean-Pierre’s ideas about the vibrancy of city life were present, as well, when I filmed Podworka in the Polish city of Lodz in the summer of 2009, again on an Aaton LTR. The last time I used my Aaton was for a short film I made in the summer of 2014 with one of the children I met in Lodz and kept in touch with, Milena. Milena had lost both her parents and was living in an institution when we discussed making a film about her life. We ended up recreating the final sequence of Truffaut’s 400 Blows on the Polish Baltic coast. If this was the last time I ever used my Aaton, it would be a fitting end because it really was a work of love.

In 2009 I also started a project that would allow me to work with an archive as a kind of portraiture. The project involved working with the archive of Noa Eshkol, a choreographer in Tel Aviv. Together with her collaborators I was able to honor her life and activities in a project that included archival materials, two film installations, and a suite of photographs. In many ways Eshkol’s activities mirrored Jean-Pierre’s. She was a maverick who insisted on her own way of doing things and was surrounded by a group of devoted collaborators. As I met the women of the Eshkol foundation a year after her death, they lived a fairly communal lifestyle in their workdays. Eshkol was also an inventor, having invented the only system of movement notation able to account for all animal locomotion, and she kept her process close to her daily life. It was only fitting, then, that the sound recordist for the films I made with Eshkol was a huge fan of Aaton’s Cantar digital audio recorder.

As I reflect back on the connection between the work I had envisioned with the Beauviala archive and what I was able to do with Eshkol, it strikes me that film is a medium of love. When I encounter compelling objects, landscapes or people, I use film to share them. As a way of avoiding the sentimental or nostalgic, I often submerge these relationships under a structure that might allow a viewer to experience them anew. There were seven dusty wire spheres hanging in the corner of Noa Eshkol’s dance studio. I asked the dancers what those sculptures were, and they replied that they were just diagrams Noa had used and had been there as long as anyone could remember, so the dancers had stopped noticing their presence. Each sphere was a model for describing the movement of a limb on the axis of a joint. We took them down, polished them, and photographed them in a studio rotating like a spinning dancer. Jean-Pierre and his archive were lost subjects for me. Perhaps it would be better to think of it as a lost love.

[First published in Les Saisons Cinema Journal]




Sharon Lockhart
cat-on-the-shoulder, for Jean-Pierre Beauviala, 2011
20×25 inches
chromogenic print

Sharon Lockhart was born in 1964, in Norwood, MA. She lives and works in Los Angeles. Educated at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA and the San Francisco Art Institute, Lockhart teaches at CalArts in Southern California. Working with communities to make films, photographs, and installations that are both visually compelling and socially engaged, Lockhart’s practice involves collaborations that unfold over extended periods of time. Her practice often involves architectural elements, extensive periods of research, and longterm relationships with her subjects and collaborators.

www.lockhartstudio.com

LAURIE KANG

Tuesday, December 28th, 2021

Inheritance

I recently learned that seeds inherit memories from their mother seed. This inheritance is a genetic imprint of the environment’s temperature at the time of the mother seed’s germination, so the offspring seed now remains dormant and latent until this same optimal temperature is reached. This inherited record of the environment and the eventual sprouting of the kin seed conveys embodied knowledge, while also enfolding a part of the past or mother seed, into the future, or offspring seed. This imprint is transmitted by an epigenetic mechanism – epigenetics being the study of how our genes are affected, expressed or repressed, by internal and external environments. The mechanism influences the expression of certain genes without altering their sequence; the paternal gene is silenced by biochemical methylations, while the maternal gene is expressed, encoding the seed with memories of sprouting.


Seed Woman

My paternal grandmother fled North Korea mostly on foot with her 6 children and her husband. There may have been more children, it’s been suggested that some of them were lost or died along the way. They eventually settled in Seoul where she opened up a modest shop selling grains and beans. Her husband passed early on, and she became the sole provider, mostly sleeping and living at her shop to keep mouths fed – there were now 7 of them, my father being the last born. Marketplaces in Seoul at the time were strewn with many floor bound straw-woven vessels, and bags filled with seeds, beans, rice, dried fish, fruits and numerous other foods. The last time I visited Seoul in 2018 I found the site of where her shop once was, now a luxury department store. Just adjacent to this building were a handful of older women sitting on the street, selling vegetables and foods out of plastic and straw bags and vessels. The city is still full of stark contrasts like this, with South Korea transforming from a poor nation to a hyper capitalist economy within just few a generations. I was grateful to see them there, selling their foods, selfishly to better imagine my own grandmother some time ago, but also to recognize that the past is full of stories of labour, hardship and love, and isn’t easily swept away. I wonder what will happen once this older generation fades out, but I know Koreans make powerful ghosts.


Possession

I’m curious about stretching the idea of inheritance towards an obsolete definition of it: possession. Then, pulling that further to an alternate definition of possession: to be dominated by something – a spirit, an energy, an idea – and that this state of being possessed is also an inheritance. Possession as ownership, yes, and – possession as one’s self-ownership being tenuous, shared, multiplicitous.

When my grandmother later immigrated to Toronto, her and my father became wormpickers, spending nights and dawns on golf courses and other lawns, crouched low to the ground, digging at the soil and pulling worms out from the earth and into paint cans strapped to their legs. Hers is a story of resilience and making do. It’s also the story of a gatherer, of vessels, of slimy figures, of bags full of dormant sprouts, and her body’s proximity to horizontality and the ground. It’s a story full of holes – each time I ask my parents for information some details seem to change, and my father’s memory is foggy and lacking. I didn’t know her, she died when I was a baby, but I think about her and her gathering, the holes and gaps, her labour and survival. I think about what’s seeped across membranes to me and my porous double helixes.


Keepers and Transmitters

Truth is when it is itself no longer. Diseuse, Thought-Woman, Spider-Woman, griotte, storytalker, fortune-teller, witch. If you have the patience to listen, she will take delight in relating it to you. An entire history, an entire vision of the world, a lifetime story. Mother always has a mother. And Great Mothers are recalled as the goddesses of all waters, the sources of diseases and of healing, the protectresses of women and of childbearing. To listen carefully is to preserve. But to preserve is to burn, for understanding means creating.

Trinh T. Minh-Ha, Grandma’s Story (1989)


Mother (detail)
Stainless steel mixing bowls, pigmented silicone, rubber, polymer clay, power mesh, paint can, cordyceps fungus, steel machinery, peach pit, lotus seed, pewter, cast aluminum ginseng, cast aluminum cabbage, cast aluminum peach pit, cast aluminum lotus root, cast aluminum Asian pears, cast aluminum anchovies, cast aluminum clay forms, aluminum mesh, sand bag, plastic wrap, copper chainmail made by Hanna Hur, reflective foil, plastic bags, copper garden mesh, slippers, dried mung beans, dried fish bladder, dried magnolia flowers, dried hibiscus, ground mung and adzuki beans, cast bronze, hats.
2019 – 2021


Bloom (detail)
Mesh fruit bags, polymer clay, paint cans, reflective sheeting, cordyceps fungus.
2019


Worm (detail)
Flex-C track, sand, powermesh, cast aluminum lotus root and perilla leaf.



Great Shuttle (details)
Flex track, steel studs, airline cable, hardware, unfixed and continually sensitive film, photograms, spherical magnets, silicone, thread; cast aluminum anchovies, lotus root, perilla leaf, and cabbage leaf.
2020 – 2021


Carrier II
Plastic bag, pigmented silicone.
2019


Molt (detail)
Unfixed and unprocessed photographic paper and film (continually sensitive), silicone, construction bags, sand.
2019


Origin Gate (detail)
Bronze, cast aluminum lotus root, thread.
2021

Laurie Kang was born in 1985, she lives and works in Toronto, Canada. Recent solo exhibitions of her work include EARTH SURGE, Helena Anrather, New York (2021); HER OWN DEVICES, Franz Kaka, Toronto (2020); EIDETIC TIDES, Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge, Canada (2019); BEOLLE, Oakville Galleries, Oakville, Canada (2019); and CHANNELLER, Interstate Projects, Brooklyn (2018). Her work has been shown in group exhibitions at SculptureCenter, New York (2020); Remai Modern, Saskatoon, Canada (2019); Cue Art Foundation, New York (2019); Cooper Cole, Toronto (2017); and The Power Plant, Toronto (2015).

www.lauriekang.com