Conceptual Nationalisms

The abstract for my doctoral thesis! Successfully defended the 29th of September.

Conceptual Nationalisms: Conceptual Book-Works, Countercultural Imaginaries and the Neo-Avant-Garde in Canada and Québec, 1967-1974

Felicity Tayler, Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Humanities
Concordia University, 2016

Recent exhibitions have redefined conceptualism as a global movement that emerged alongside locally situated experiences of national liberation movements, New Left social activism and countercultural world-making. This thesis proposes an art historical term, “conceptual nationalisms,” as a contribution to the historicisation of conceptualism as the movement emerged in Canada and Québec. The term retrospectively describes book-works and magazines produced by an overlapping artistic and literary neo-avant garde, which evince the symbolic value of print media forms during the post-Centennial period (1967-1974). As funding for the arts increased and converged with labour policy in this period, the relationship between state ideology and a conceptualist critique of the art object as a commodity became intrinsically intertwined. Many conceptual book-works and artists’ magazines were produced alongside publications issued by literary small presses, as such, this thesis also recognizes parallels taking place between the linguistic turn in conceptual art and literary movements such as concrete, visual and sound poetry that emphasize the materiality of the signifier in language.

This thesis introduces three primary case studies: Roy Kenzie Kiyooka’s Transcanada Letters (Talonbooks, 1975); the Image Bank International Image Exchange Directory (Talonbooks, 1972), which parallels the publication of the first three issues of General Idea’s File magazine (1972-1989); and a utopian “linguistic space” produced in the early days of Véhicule Art gallery, with reference to several publications including the magazine, Médiart (1971-1973), Quebec underground, 1962-1972 (Éditions Médiart, 1973), and Bill Vazan’s Contacts (Véhicule Press, 1973). Continue reading

A continuous feeling of intense longing

Tayler-Glitch

As I was documenting a work that is presently on display as part of La Nouvelle Biennale, this image emerged from a fortuitous glitch in timing and technique.

La Nouvelle Biennale • From April 23rd to June 4th 2016 • Opening on April 23rd at 3pm
Galerie Thomas Henry Ross Art Contemporain and Galerie Margot Eleanor Ross art actuel

Connexions

An excerpt from an exhibition review published in C Magazine 129 (2016), which reflects upon the metaphorical play with the concept of archiving in Hank Bull: Connexion, Galerie de l’UQAM, Montreal, Oct. 23 — Dec. 5, 2015, curators: Joni Low and Pan Wendt.

Hank Bull: Connexion begins with a cactus. It is a smallscale,
brightly painted variety assembled from interlocking
MDF pieces. Behind the cactus, a landscape
unfurls in a palette of many hues with a gestural
brushstroke suggestive of the mind-altering experience
of desert light. A few feet away in the gallery, a
television monitor plays Duster (1991), a video work
that parasitically rearranges the narrative structure,
pictorial conventions and racial stereotypes of televised
Hollywood Westerns. This episode, collectively
authored and performed, features Warren Arcan,
Rebecca Belmore and other artists, like Hank Bull,
associated with the Vancouver artist-run centre the
Western Front.

The encounter with a cactus thriving in the subterranean
environment of Galerie de l’UQAM works
as a visual and spatial metaphor for the exhibition
as a whole. Viewers’ successive discovery of the social
context that produced the TV-studio species of
cactus and its artificial environment stands in for the
way that mediated images influence our unconscious
formation of identity and social groups…

…Ultimately, the exhibition shows that it is more
useful to think about archiving as a series of “events,”
as suspended moments; not simply an institutionally
imposed protocol, but a form of mediation that occurs
at many stages in the circulation of cultural objects.
In this sense, Hank Bull: Connexion is a self-archiving
project with a reflexive relationship to the
public gallery that hosts it, the discursive effects of
art history and curatorial practice.

Générations et régénérations du livre / The Generation and Regeneration of Books

SHARP 2015: The 23rd annual conference of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing, Longueuil/Montreal (Canada)
Tuesday, 7 July, to Friday, 10 July 2015

Pictured here, a tweet responding to my paper, Imagining the book as counter-environment: Roy K. Kiyooka’s Transcanada Letters (1975),
an excerpt of which can be found below…

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The front and back covers of Transcanda Letters show a multi-coloured illustrated map of Canada, overlaid by black and white snapshots of the east and west coast that are clasped in the left and right hands of the artist. The two snapshots are autobiographical and documentary in style – they confirm Kiyooka’s presence on both edges of the continent at specific times and locations. These images cause the reader to wonder where he is, and what his body is experiencing? The national boundaries of Canada are recognizable in this cover illustration; nonetheless, the map’s swirling amorphous shapes hold out the promise of an expansive psychedelic geography, as if the reader might “trip” through altered states of consciousness into another sense of place. Also note the grid indicating of longitude and latitude. These cartographic measurements typically help to define national boundaries and exploitable national resources contained within. But Kiyooka has placed this grid between his own hands, thereby turning the national territory into a material form that he could use to construct an imaginary space. Is the space that this book produces a national imaginary that Benedict Anderson associates with the hegemony of print culture? – Or is it a post-national space anticipating other media forms?

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).

This is Paradise

Art and Artists in Toronto May 28-31, 2015 | Justina M. Barnicke Gallery & University of Toronto

An incredible 3 days of Toronto looking and thinking about the city. I thought about it through the perspective of a visitor from a different place. Below is the video for the panel Artists, Networks, Cities. Adam Welch and E.C. Woodley were co-panelists. I start around 50:00min.

Artists, Networks, Cities from Justina M. Barnicke Gallery/UTAC on Vimeo.

This paper responds to the conference call for:

  • “art-historical accounts of art in Toronto — including accounts of individual artists; artist communities (artists’ scenes and social networks).”
  • “Strategies that focus on local artistic practice within a broader regional, national and international framework.”

Toronto via Vancouver: Image Banks and Filing Systems for Networked Bodies

Existing scholarship acknowledges the connection between Vancouver’s Image Bank and Toronto’s General Idea in the early 1970s; however, their shared publishing activities and exchange of correspondence remains to be explored as it complicates the relationship of reading publics to a notion of “place.” Continue reading

Data Visualization for Art Historical Research

Constellations, Clusters, Networks
2015 AHGSA (Art History Graduate Student Association) Annual Conference
March 6 – 7, 2015, Concordia University, Montreal

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Metadata as a Complex Network: A Case Study of Data Visualization for Art Historical Research. Our slides can be accessed through Spectrum, Concordia’s open-access research repository.  This paper, co-presented with with Tomasz Neugebauer and Corina MacDonald, reported our progress on a research project. There is a lot of complex network theory and algorithyms involved, but relevance to art historical research methods may lie in the portrait it draws of AA Bronson (and General Idea’s) centrality to publishing on contemporary art in Canada.

Abstract

Metadata as a Complex Network: A Case Study of Data Visualization for Art Historical Research.

This paper responds to the crossover in conference topics between network science and art historical research methods. We ask how the visualization of complex networks can be used to generate art historical questions? Our data set is derived from the bibliographic database created by Artexte, an organization with the mandate to comprehensively collect Canadian exhibition catalogues and related international materials. The nodes of this network include the documents in the Artexte collections, connected to each other through edges representing subject cataloguing (keywords), and contributors, such as: artists, writers, editors, translators, critics, publishers, art organizations, etc. The resulting network of 40,000 e-artexte catalogue records contains over 135,000 nodes and more than 320,000 edges. The emerging research questions for this exploratory study include: (1) does the bibliographic metadata network exhibit the properties of complex networks (properties associated with small-world and scale-free networks) found in previous studies? (2) can the visualization of bibliographic metadata as a network contribute to art historical research? (3) is the measure of betweenness-centrality in the complex network derived from the e-artexte dataset useful to art historical research? We used measures of centrality to determine how important a particular node is to the entire structure. Although we initially thought these measures might reflect canonization processes, they seem to point to something else. Rather than mapping who has the most power in the art world because they are exhibited, published or written about most frequently, it seems to map which publications, writers, artists, curators are most important in holding the whole net together. What meaning does this outcome have for art historical methods?