Can Lit Across Media

Un-Archiving the Temporal Literary Event
5 June-6 June, 2015 Concordia University

A conference questioning the act of reading listening and looking at archives through an expanded take on what is literary. Below, an excerpt from the paper I presented on the panel, Archival Blind Spots and Silences. Co-panelists were Joel Deshaye and Katherine McLeod.

Sound as a Visual – Visual as Sound: Documentary Traces of Literary Events at Véhicule Art in the Early 1970s

A visual record of Véhicule’s elusive linguistic space is accessible through incomplete written records and anonymous photographs held in the Concordia University Archives. To my eye, the photographic remnants depicting Véhicule’s “space” mimic the documentary mode of conceptual photography, just as the administrative documents such as meeting minutes mimic conceptual “aesthetics of administration.” Some of the photographs document intermedial events – such as two events occurring in 1973 that I will address in this talk: The exhibition Sound as a Visual / Visual as Sound organized by Suzy Lake and Allan Bealy; and a video/text/sound performance by painter and poet, Roy Kiyooka.

Bealy was a conceptual artist who used Véhicule’s press to publish DaVinci Magazine and a series of poetry chapbooks under the imprint Eldorado Editions. Lake was one of the 13 founders of the gallery and a painter who left the late 1960s civil unrest in Detroit for Montréal. During this period, Montréal was a site where issues of race and class were equally contested, but channeled symbolically through debates over language use and sovereignty. This paper asks how a linguistic space produced through the combination of architectural structures, administrative protocols, conceptual aesthetics and a printing press might have positioned Véhicule Art as an affective space existing beyond the  “grids” imposed by federally legislated official bilingualism, or provincial legislation designating French as the language of public life.

Lake is recognized for her photographic series that systematically document the performance of identity in the activities of everyday life. In One Hour (Zero) Conversation with Allan B. (1973), the gridded structure is reminiscent of a photographic contact sheet. Lake, depersonalized by the white-face make-up worn by mimes, performs affective moments throughout a conversation with Bealy within the “gaps” in the grid. In the same year 1973, Lake invited poet and painter Roy Kiyooka to return from the West Coast to Montreal to perform an intermedial event at Véhicule Art. At this time, Kiyooka likewise produced gridded photographic series documenting everyday moments of his peripatetic life as in, Long Beach BC to Peggy’s Cove, (1971).

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