“On this day in…”December 12 2012 Mark…

“On this day in…”
December 12 2012

Mark Mizgala’s Remains

“Artist Mark Mizgala presents posters of pop bottles and other containers coated in slip, creating a look of ancient clay vessels in this off-site exhibition entitled, Remains.  Mizgala investigates contemporary food and beverage packaging, represented as mock archaeological findings.  The artwork appears in a form that is intrinsic to advertising: posters printed on commercial-grade paper and displayed in bus shelters across the city of Vancouver.” (grunt)

“Having worked as an art director for most of his professional career, advertising is familiar territory for Mizgala.  He is fascinated by the corporate machine, its by-products, and the manner in which they are presented in popular culture.  Mizgala immortalizes on film that which is already immortal: garbage, enjoying a particularly long life in our landfills, rivers, and ocean floors.  The poster series is a testament to long-term environmental impact - a sharp contrast to the ephemera of advertising and mass media.” (grunt)

Check out Mark Mizgala’s interview here.

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The Book of Jests | Essay by Lorna Brown


The Book of Jests began in an antiquarian bookstore in Vienna where Hyung-Min Yoon found and purchased a 1922 edition of Albrecht Dürer’s illustrations. The book, Marginal Drawings for the Prayer of Emperor Maximilian I, was bound in grey cloth with beveled edges, and contained illustrations created for the margins of a prayer book. Originally created in 1515, Dürer’s illustrations were used in the mass publication and distribution of a single Christian prayer to multiple language groups, leaving blank the centre of the page, onto which the texts of different languages could be printed. For an artist whose work has explored the ‘imperfect path’ of translation, the interpretation of images across cultural contexts, and the history of printed text, this central unmarked ground must have seemed an almost overwhelming space of possibility.

The illustrations, inked in green and orange and sepia, are familiar biblical themes – mass produced extensions of the sacred manuscripts illuminated by hand in Medieval times. Horned devils perched on filigree, winged dragons and architectural flourishes, charging mounted knights and mythological beasts: what might these have meant to the readers of some forty-three languages of the polyglot prayer book?  What universalities were assumed to reside in the scrollwork embellishments, allegorical arrangements and fantastical landscapes? What process of translation transformed the meaning of these renderings placed next to such diverse scripts?

Vilém Flusser’s The Gesture of Writing is a typed work from 1991. It describes in fine, methodical detail the act of writing through its phenomenology. Written in English, it is an example of his practice of translating and retranslating his writing as a way of mining his own thought: seven versions were produced in four languages.  He begins by analyzing handwriting:

“It is a gesture of making holes, of digging, of perforating. A penetrating gesture. To write is to in-scribe, to penetrate a surface, and a written text is an inscription, although as a matter of fact it is in the vast majority of cases an onscription. Therefore to write is not to form, but to in-form, and a text is not a formation, but an in-formation. I believe that we have to start from this fact if we want to understand the gesture of writing: it is a penetrating gesture that informs a surface.”

Flusser traces the movement from writing by hand as a sculptural form, forward to typing, a process that removes irregularities and unwanted incidental marks, in which “we no longer engrave with a stick, but with a series of hammers”. Placing the gesture of writing into an historical context, he notes that the practice of typing ultimately transformed how we define writing, that is, as a conceptual gesture processed through a rigidly formed technology, a template.

The Gesture of Writing contains strikeovers and typos, and moments when the hammers glanced unevenly. Reading it (so odd in PDF form!) thus also requires care and a certain level of translation, of filling in, or working to discern the author’s intent. The text lightly abrades our reading of it, a distant echo of Flusser’s process of translating and re-translating. But his process, while arduous, was not endless:

“Theoretically I could go on translating the re-translating ‘ad nauseam’ or to my exhaustion. But practically I find that the chain of thoughts is exhausted in the process long before I myself am exhausted. Thus the process of translation and re-translation provides a criterion for the wealth of the thought to be written: the sooner the process exhausts the thought (the sooner it falls into repetition), the less worthy the thought is of being written.”

Dürer’s lithographs, inscribed and re-inscribed over centuries, are now subject to a new interpretive maneuver, moving from their 14th century European Christian context to the present day. What sort of profane texts might occupy the space intended for the sacred?

The artist looks to the role of the Jester, an ancient figure found the world over, and found in close proximity to power. Able to speak the unspeakable, the Jester claims an uneasy space of intimacy and exclusion, whether in a monarch’s court or, these days, on late night television. The Jester draws and re-draws the line between insult and adulation, using flourishes, oblique angles and sidelong curves in his speech. Jokes – like prayers – are most often spoken.


Transposing the method of the polyglot prayer book, Yoon sought out political jokes in English, Italian, Hebrew, Hindi, Spanish, Korean, Mandarin, Russian, Japanese, Arabic, German, Greek and Czech from friends and associates. They address classic themes such as hypocrisy, corruption and oppressive bureaucracy yet riff on the culturally specific paradoxes and absurdities of power. Certain formats – light bulb jokes, doctor jokes, and the like – repeat across nations, historical moments and regimes. Using a font developed in Dürer’s times, Yoon letter-pressed these jokes into the Terra nullius at the centre of the illuminated pages. By indexing the landscapes, forms and figures of the illustrations to the content of the jokes, new meanings are constructed. Emil Hácha, the President of Czechoslovakia during Nazi occupation, becomes a hooded monk waiting for dinner; German Chancellor Angela Merkel is seen as the Virgin Mary, no less, and Berlisconi becomes King David.   Bound in deep magenta, the photo-lithographs with their letterpress texts form a new volume of flagrant iconoclasms – and in the case of the Arabic scripts, near-blasphemies. Yoon’s method proposes the artist as editor, as publisher of a trans-historical, multilingual anthology, in a finely crafted limited edition.

In the gallery, in addition to the book, framed prints reproduce several two-page spreads. These particular excerpts are often in a left-page question, right-page answer format, or one printed page weights the blankness of its neighbour. In the archive area behind the exhibition space, a video records the artists’ hands turning the pages of the book. She takes care to time the page-turning correctly: in comedy timing is everything. This video of the silent reading, along with Yoon’s process of photographing and photographing the pages, as well as the framing and reframing of the letterpress jokes remind us of Flusser, translating and translating again.  From one medium to another and back again, Yoon re-works her thinking along Flusser’s chain, to the point when all possible meanings have been extracted, seeking exhaustion.

Lorna Brown
August, 2014

 DOWNLOAD| The Book of Jests, an essay by Lorna Brown.


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Crafting an experience of Art-making: Valerie Salez’ Play, Fall, Rest, Dance

Written by Anastasia Scherders

Valerie Salez’ installation project Play, Fall, Rest, Dance, exhibited at grunt from June 2 to July 5, 2014. Over the course of one month, the gallery space was continuously transformed. You could anticipate that, in visiting grunt, you’d witness Salez’ effort to facilitate art-making that was full of possibilities, and you’d get a glimpse of the experience of artistic exploration and uninhibited creativity of four children with disabilities: Amelie, Deshik, Henry and Isabelle.

Photo by Henri Robideau

Upon meeting Salez, the first thing she told me about Play was there are no rules. This is one of the philosophies that underscored the project; and with those words I was encouraged to let go of my own assumptions surrounding art and art making, and the limitations that we often impose upon creative expression and creator. With Play, she facilitated a kind of freedom in art making, providing the materials, tools, and guidance for children to create within a safe and accessible space.

Salez invited me to sit in on an art-making session with 12-year old Henry, who is autistic. The three of us sat cross-legged on the floor, surrounding a large piece of particleboard where pieces of chalk, charcoal, and a hammer and glue gun lay. Henry, who loves working with the hammer, had broken some of the chalk into fine powder. Valerie pushed the powder around with her fingers, smudging it onto grey cardboard while Henry carved small details into a piece of yellow chalk with a razor blade. “Like any good artist, he will try anything,” says Salez.

Photo by Valerie Salez

Scattered next to me was a collection of Henry’s drawings that he brought from home – highly detailed pencil-drawn characters crowded each page. Salez explained to me that Henry, whose bold and energetic painting dominated the gallery wall behind us, draws all the time. The white wall seems almost limitless compared to the confining boundaries of a piece of paper. Through Play, Henry has experimented with new forms of artistic expression.

Elisha Burrows, grunt’s Exhibition Manager who was video recording this session with Henry, asked Salez if the art world is pretentious. “It can be,” replied Salez. “It can be a world of criticizing and classifying; I don’t like to see my work in those ways. I want my work to be accessible.”

Play, Fall, Rest, Dance followed Salez’ residency at Open Space Gallery last summer where she worked with children for the first time. “Open Space invited me to do whatever I wanted. At that moment, I wanted to have fun and create art with children without intellectualizing or conceptualizing it,” said Salez. “Kids go to art galleries, see the work of adults, but aren’t allowed to touch anything. Now, they are the artists, able to touch everything.”

And no two sessions were alike. Some days they’d listen to music or spend most of their time talking. Some days they wouldn’t talk at all. Some days the kids got stuck. Salez felt the biggest challenge came from the children’s inhibitions, which she deeply empathizes with. Since childhood, Salez has suffered from severe, sometimes life-threatening, depression and is familiar with the debilitating feeling that comes from a lack of self-esteem and confidence. “It has really been a mirror for me. I am observing them and observing myself – my insecurities and fears, and theirs,” she says.

Photo by Valerie Salez

Photo by Henri Robideau

Throughout the process, Salez talked to the children about failure and would ask them what is the worst that can happen if we fail? “Kids need freedom, but it is hard for children to feel free. They are so worried about making mistakes, about doing right or wrong. They don’t feel comfortable making decisions. I want to empower them to make decisions, I want the kids to feel confident and brave, but I don’t want to influence them too much. It’s a fine balance.”

Salez emphasizes that Play is about her and the children spending time with materials in a space. She spent four sessions with Amelie, Deshik, Henry and Isabelle, allowing time to develop a rapport and build trust to support an experience of teaching and learning, exploration and discovery. Salez feels they came to understand one another through constant learning and negotiation. “I had all sorts of assumptions,” she says. “They’ve all been blown out of the water.”

When asked about curating the space and removing some of the children’s work over the course of the exhibition, Salez says it felt natural and intuitive. “That’s my playtime. The kids are okay when I erase their work. They will just make something else.”

Once the art making part of Henry’s session was over, we worked together to clean up the materials and sweep the floor. While I pushed around a broom, Henry transformed his straw broom into a ninja’s baton, stopping it firmly in midair, then spinning it in every direction. Henry spun around the room in circles, too. Witnessing Henry’s re-imagining of this object, it seemed that the most striking quality of Salez’ work is the way in which it has nurtured beautiful and ephemeral moments of uninhibited imagination, creativity and play.

Photo by Henri Robideau

Photo by Henri Robideau

Photo by Henri Robideau

Photo by Henri Robideau

“The kids are okay with doing something for the sake of doing it,” says Salez. “They are okay to walk away with nothing except the experience.” Unlike the end of a school day, the kids of Play do not take home an object they have crafted. Instead, they take home the most challenging and delightful experience of having worked to create something.

About the Project:

Play, Fall, Rest, Dance occurred at grunt gallery from June 2–July. Artist Valerie Salez blogged the entire process. Read the exhibition press release here.

About the Writer:

Anastasia Scherders, who moved to Vancouver in 2012 from Brantford, Ontario, began volunteering at grunt gallery in November 2013. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Theatre & Film from McMaster University.

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“On this day in…”March 16, 2012 –  François…

“On this day in…”
March 16, 2012 - 

François Roux’s H20 Cycle

Video work by Francois Roux.  Short around English Bay, presented as a loop in grunt’s media lab for the duration of the exhibition.

The three videos are characterized by their relationship to water; what Roux describes as “a way of working”.  Water in its various forms and resonant meanings shapes the nature of these videos.  This can be understood in contrast to another group of his videos, RGB Cycle, for example, where colour, rather than water, forms the basis of his working methodology.  Roux’s process can be characterized by a constant back and forth between complexity and simplicity, experiment and analysis.  Gradually, his work finds its place between what he has in mind and what he encounters while wandering through the landscape.


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“On this day in…” March 5th 1996 –  Juicy,…

“On this day in…”

March 5th 1996 - 

Juicy, Cultivating Queer Culture: Emily Carr Group Show

“Juicy, Cultivating Queer Culture pulled a mini-coup by escaping the tiny orbit of ECIAD into the mega-universe of the Vancouver parallel gallery scene. i.e. a week at the grunt.  But this upscale venue only exacerbates the nagging and oft-asked question, why a queer show - or why a show of work by queers - or why a show of queer work?  To stick to the theme, what’s the value of a show on, around, about dykes, fags, bithings, trannies, and loser straights?

Well plenty, fuck face. ‘Cause it is interesting to ask, over and over, what defines this queer thing.  I go to queer shows, and participate in them, because I want to see what a bunch of sexual miscreants can get up to , or down for, or on about.  I’m interested for the same reason that I’m interested in what’s happening with the whole I-P scam.  Basically, Juicy tempts you to  believe that there may be something to queer (self) identity that actually links it up across individual expression.  The short answer is, of course, that queerness is just as varied (and just as voluntary) in art as in life.  So the value of the show, to belabour the point, is its unintentional detooling of the assumed inevitability of explicitly ‘sexual’ and/or victim imagery in so-called queer work.  For some the revelation came off a bit flat.  I heard more than one practiced scenester bemoan the loss of queerness as evidenced by the absence of sex.  If the lesson of Juicy is, finally, that there ain’t much of a diff between breeders and their betters (at least in terms of art making), then what we’re left with is something of a minor crisis in identity politics - that institutionalized difference is maybe more like institutionalized privilege.  A dangerous argument in the wrong hands.” (Andrew Power, Planet of the Arts, Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design,Volume HI, issue 3+1= May/June 1996)

Artists who contributed: Diane Barbarash, Carla St. Pierre, Michael Bell, Carmen Schwartz, Damon Crain, Christopher Sheldon, Jacques Gaudet, Constanza Silva, Kine Gullberg, Teri Snelgrove, Chris Hamilton, Penny Treen, Krista Lee Hanson, Jonathan Wells, Robert Harper Jones, Robert H. Lawrence, Brain Langlands, Selena Liss, Karla Martinez, Allison MacFarlane, Allana Murray, Chris Nash, Andrew Powers

For more articles on this subject check out our (queer)intersections: vancouver performance in the 1990s site!

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“On this day in…”February 22nd 2008 – Rolande…

“On this day in…”
February 22nd 2008 - Rolande Souliere's Materiality and Otherness

“Basic values and traditions of the Anishinaabe people continue to fuel my thinking and behaviour and this comes through visually in my artistic practice; through the material selection, through the various processes such as binding, weaving, knotting, threading, felting, etc. and lastly through the aesthetic.  For example, aesthetically the traditional teaching of the Heyokah is made visual through the play of the inside outside relationship of the objects and reflects through the processes enlightened states of understanding.” (Rolande Souliere)

Upon closer inspection of Materiality, we see on two walls Souliere’s installation of feathered cones. A cluster of pieces on the left and a couple to the right, they are intricately fashioned to display like horny peacocks, those elaborate feathers in perfect rows. Inside are deeply colorful weavings of seemingly seamless proportions. They draw you in to see them closer and examine the pieces. However, a need to stand further back registers as if they would curiously retract if advanced upon. When confronted with her pieces, it’s as though you are forced to participate in a meditative chant. It pushes and pulls and breathes, finding your rhythm until you lose track of your breath. Perhaps the language she is using requires more context. (Skeena Reece - Brunt 2008)

Check out the full Skeena Reece article, page 29 here

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Thoughts on Hannah Claus’s ‘Interface’, cultural identity, and colonization

While sorting, through, organizing, and attempting to make sense of grunt’s massive archive today, a particular exhibition captured my interest. 

Hannah Claus’s ‘Interface’ explored the rise in popularity of decorative surfaces with the newly expanding middle class during the Victorian era - that period of time which represents the explosion of colonialism and the Industrial Revolution. 

Claus explored this concept by using mud to create a Victorian wallpaper-style design on the wall of the gallery, and creating a small enclosure, comprised of rolls of paper silkscreened with the same design, encircling a pair of moccasins. 

While actual photos of the installation were limited, I found myself fascinated by the installation’s central concept  - how the other cultures, which in fact inspired many of the designs the era is famous for, were essentially decimated by the colonizing culture itself. 

It got me thinking about, and questioning, the hidden histories behind the seemingly innocuous cultural symbols we encounter everywhere. For what, on the surface, could seem more commonplace, more European and bland, than the Victorian style florals and patterns that are so familiar to us? It surprised me in much the same way that the knowledge about where the signature points and curves of the Gothic period came from did; for they came from contact with the East. 

It’s easy, for me at least, to forget just how mutable and fluid the standards, cultural and otherwise, that we take for granted are. It really is only through understanding the past that we can make sense of the world of today, in all its messiness and complexity.

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“On this day in…”February 14th 1989 – Julie…

“On this day in…”
February 14th 1989 - Julie A. Valenti's Drawers of Life

“An avid recycler, her works form narratives that poke and pull fun from popular culture and institutions.  They are insightful, witty and clever.”
“Valenti says of her work ‘I look at my art as a natural outgrowth from my life long interest pattern and design, my almost compulsive sense of order and symmetry and my philosophical belief in recycling.’  This exhibition entitled Drawers of Life, features a series of drawers containing scenes and tableaus of imaginary settings that take jabs, reflect and speculate about our lives and concerns.”

Happy Valentine’s Day from grunt! <3

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“On this day in…” February 9, 2001 On this…

“On this day in…”

February 9, 2001

On this day in 2001, artist Alberto Friggo staged a performance in which the audience interacted with a recording he had previously made, which was in turn recorded, to be exhibited alongside the original at a later date.

As the title, Gnocchi, suggests, Friggo made a video recording of himself preparing a pot of the potato-based Italian specialty. Then, as the audience consumes what he produced, they watch the recording of the pasta being prepared. This reaction is itself recorded, thus forming the work’s final iteration: the two videos being played alongside each other. 

Exploring consumption, spectatorship, and the reaction of the subject to being observed, this work is a continuation of Friggo’s exploration of performance art, video art, and the possible interactions between the two.

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“On this day in…”February 9, 2001 – Tomoyo…

“On this day in…”
February 9, 2001 - Tomoyo Ihaya's Garden of Life/Chart of Animism

“Because of my deep desire to explore the origins and co-existence of all living things,  I have a long lasting interest in such subjects as the philosophy of animism, folklore, mythology, and the natural environment.  Through daily contemplation, fascinating symbols of cosmos, natural objects, and old artifacts occur repeatedly in my mind.  I communicated with them and interpret them visually on paper.  Then, each symbol starts relating to the others through channels that together create a chart of wholeness.” (Tomoya Ihaya)

This exhibition features long patch paper murals combining mixed media techniques of papermaking, painting, staining, printmaking and collage and explores animist imagery from folklore and mythologies.  Ihaya’s work is based in printmaking techniques of etching and chine colle.  Her work evokes the natural world and uses archetypal images in a new and exciting way.

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