An Image On An Image: A conversation with Marcus Bowcott [ATA article]

A raw steak must be among the least likely of things you’d expect to find in a cardboard box of papers. But that’s exactly what myself and another volunteer found, to our surprise, during an afternoon of work on grunt’s archive a couple of weeks ago. We discovered that the uncannily realistic-looking steak had formed part of a mid-nineties grunt exhibition called Palimpsest, and when the artist behind it, Marcus Bowcott, happened to stop in a few days later, it seemed only natural to catch up with him to discuss his art, personal philosophy, and what he’s doing now.

I took a rainy-day journey out to visit the artist in his studio in peaceful North Vancouver – a town that Bowcott’s long-time partner, Helene, describes as a “bedroom community, separated from agriculture, industry, entertainment”– an exemplification of the separation in the modern world of the facets of our lives, the way in which we work, eat, play and sleep in locations far removed from one another.

The modernization of the human experience is clearly something of combined terror and fascination to Bowcott. As we sipped on tea provided by Helene, who Bowcott describes as “a partner, in so many ways, in developing my work,” the artist described to me a recent trip down to Seattle, during which he was struck by “just the number of cars on the highway… The automobile is gobbling up energy.”

The automobile, in its used-up state as compacted refuse, has been a recurring theme in Bowcott’s work for some time. The painting exhibited at Bowcott’s grad show from London’s Royal College of Art featured wrecked and compacted cars, and since then, he’s explored the theme in sculpture, notably in a piece, 25 Standard Stoppages, currently being featured at Seattle’s Punch Gallery as part of a show, curated by Rock Hushka, titled Whither the American Dream?. He’s also developing a massively scaled-up version of the sculpture for Vancouver’s upcoming Sculpture Biennale, although, as he wryly comments, “people don’t want to show wrecked cars.”

“The bull doesn’t look that big here [in the photo] but he was 1200 pounds, and the whole gallery became like a manger… There were tons of people packed in there, but all of a sudden you’re honoring this animal, something that is often considered to be below us.”

The wrecked cars in question provide Bowcott with a vehicle to examine modern industry and its often unexamined aftermath. He titled a handful of these sculptures Das Kapital, which he explains as “a reference to our surplus capital, our surplus value/goods…which I’m presenting here as wrecked cars”, a leftover of the industrial process upon which most of us will never lay our eyes.

Another, perhaps more tragic, forgotten leftover of the industrial process was featured in Bowcott’s Palimpsest, the show that, years later, would inspire this article. Something amazing was accomplished in addition to the hyper-realistic steak sculptures and paintings of packaged steaks: for one night, the gallery was emptied of breakable artworks, and a live bull was brought in to inhabit the space. Marcus and Helene evocatively described what it was like to experience such a surreal coming-together of incongruities –

“The bull doesn’t look that big here [in the photo] but he was 1200 pounds, and the whole gallery became like a manger… There were tons of people packed in there, but all of a sudden you’re honoring this animal, something that is often considered to be below us. The cave painting [which was projected onto the bull’s body as part of the show] had much to do with feeding people. They were honoring the animal…and today we just shop for meat. We all had to be really quiet to keep it calm; that kind of hush was a really interesting addition to the installation and performance.”

“We live atomized lives,” Helene continues. “With technology, people become more and more isolated from each other. The same thing happens with food production. In many different aspects of our life…we are becoming more and more specialized.”

A critique or exploration of that atomization could be seen to run through Bowcott’s work as a unifying thread, perhaps in a sense of superimposition, of “stacking, or layering,” Helene tells me. “Even Palimpsest, the word, has to do with layering… An image on an image,” she says. A cave painting projected on the side of a bull. Crushed cars on top of cars on top of cars.

Visit Marcus Bowcott’s website.


About Genevieve Michaels:


Genevieve is studying art history and creative writing at the University of British Columbia. She has been volunteering at grunt since last October, writing and assisting with maintenance and digitization of the archives. She also writes about music and city life for local magazine Beatroute BC. Follow her on twitter: @LavenderIndigo0

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“On this day in…” May 9th 1989 – Robin Peck’s “Synthetic…







“On this day in…”

May 9th 1989 - Robin Peck’s “Synthetic Monolith”

The New Brunswick–based Peck has exhibited widely over the last 30 years, during which time he has enacted consummately controlled sculptural procedures with surprisingly ordinary materials.” (Robin Peck: Stacking the Decks, Gary Michael Dault)

“The synthetic Monolith is Robin Peck’s translation of the structural language  of Architecture and Engineering into the plastic, representational or synthetic language of sculpture.  Peck refers to this work as Anti-Proun, that is, anti- utopian or anti-constructivist.  He uses the materials of Architecture, of the contemporary built environment and the recycled detritus from the culture of consumerism in a different, synthetic, sculptural way.” (Artist’s Statement - Synthetic Monolith, Robin Peck)

Peck’s “Synthetic Monolith” is also featured in the curated sculpture site of Activating the Archives.

http://sculpture.gruntarchives.org/artist-robin-peck-synthetic-monolith.html#lightbox

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“On this day in…”May 5th 1998 – David Ostrem’s “Between…







“On this day in…”
May 5th 1998 - David Ostrem’s “Between Being and Looking”

Since coming to Vancouver in 1969 from his hometown of Portland, Oregon, David Ostrem’s has widely exhibited his work in Vancouver.  His work has had an important influence on contemporary practice in this city as his work can be read on many levels, enabling the viewer to see his works as a “contemplation of life or an exposition on visual meaning.” (Glenn Alteen)

“In these paintings Ostrem attempts to show us how the artists see. They attempt to make connections between art history and popular culture to show their importance in daily life. Seduction is a key in these works. Seduction by popular culture and advertising, art and literature. finally, seduction by the purely visual representations of still life.” (Glenn Alteen)

all images collected from http://davidostrem.com/

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“On this day in…” April 11th 1989 – Bonnie Miller’s…





"On this day in…"

April 11th 1989 - Bonnie Miller’s “Chicken” 

“Chicken n. a young hen or rooster 2. any hen or rooster 3. flesh of chicken used for food 4. a young bird of certain other kinds 5. slang; a young person especially a girl.

adj; 1. young; small 2. slang; afraid or scared, cowardly

verb; chicken out slang; behave in a cowardly manner, especially refuse a dare

“Bonnie Miller’s work explores the chicken as an icon in modern society.  She began working with the bird to “see what kinds of symbolisms would come out of it”.  Her installation of ceramic chickens is humorous and thoughtful.  There is no meaning set in the work and viewers can and do have various responses.  The birds, set among the debris of urban society (read garbage), become food for thought as we question the nature of their relevance in modern life.” - grunt

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When the term First Nations Art, or Aboriginal Art is mentioned,…



When the term First Nations Art, or Aboriginal Art is mentioned, it seems that we have become used to associating them with totem poles, mythical animals and imagery that is very rooted to an imagined past. The archive project goes beyond this limited view of aboriginal artistic practices and highlights First Nations artists that pioneered the way in which art can act as the locus for intersecting media, including theory, digital work and performance. This website focuses on Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskwew’s prolific practice

"This site features a comprehensive look at the work of Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskwew. Ahasiw was a theorist, curator, writer, new media practitioner and performance artist. He worked in artist run centres in Vancouver, Regina and Winnipeg curating and producing new practices in performance and new media. Ahasiw passed away in 2006. Ghostkeeper features writing, images, websites and performance documentation of Maskegon-Iskwew’s work as well as essays by other curators and producers on his work." (From the Ghostkeeper Website)

For any comments or questions regarding the project or any of the websites being launched, please send us a question, follow us on twitter @gruntgallery or use the gruntArchive tag. You can also take a look  at grunt’s history via facebook timeline.

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Activating the Archives- Sculpture

 

The Sculpture website is now up! You can either follow this link or click on the above image. "This Sculpture site that Program Director Glenn Alteen and I have put together shows a vast variety of sculpture: looking through this website, one will notice many approaches and styles, from minimalism to feminism to social commentary on the spaces we live in. Each exhibit archived in this website was created with a unique purpose, but they all have something in common: each is a means of dealing with social and emotional realities that remain unique to the time in which each exhibit was created." (Polina Bachlakova, Curatorial Intern)

Artwork by James Carl.

For any comments or questions regarding the project or any of the websites being launched, please send us a question, follow us on twitter @gruntgallery or use the gruntArchive tag.

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Archives Officially Launched-Performance

As promised, click on the above picture to access grunt gallery’s Performance archive. The website “features a curatorial focus on a variety of performance based works that have been developed at grunt since its inception in 1984." As well as acting as the digital record of the gallery’s own history with the performance art world, the website  concentrates on historically marginalized groups and artists, situating these performances within a larger social, political and artistic discourse. We greatly appreciate your support!

For any comments or questions regarding the project or any of the websites being launched, feel free to send us a question, follow us on twitter @gruntgallery or use the gruntArchive tag.

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