We asked the artists in our current exhibitions the Top Five things that pique their curiosity right now. Interested? Read on!
RON BENNER'S TOP FIVE
This book gives a historical perspective by a Palestinian writer and lawyer who is also a founder of the pioneering, non-partisan human rights organization, "Al-Haq," based in Ramallah. Shehadeh is also the author of the book Palestinian Walks, which won the Orwell Prize in 2008. I read this book as I prepared to attend a conference, Art & Resistance, in Bethlehem at Dar Al-Kalima University College of Arts & Culture. I also visited Ramallah and attend the opening of the new Palestine Museum there on May 18, 2016.
While visiting Doha, Qatar in November 2015, I had the opportunity to meet the author of this book who is a professor of history at Georgetown School of Foreign Service, Qatar. This is a timely and well-researched book on the history of the United States and the Islamic world from 1821 to 1921.
This book, which I read in the 1980s, remains an important influence on my thinking and continues to be an inspiration for me. In 1995, I had the opportunity to meet Mooney in London, who delivered a lecture at Western University as part of the public program for my solo exhibition, All That Has Value, curated by Peter White for the McIntosh Gallery. He also contributed an essay to the publication for the exhibition.
This television series presents a spy thriller based on the true story of sleeper cells in the USA in 1950's and 1960's who were spying for the Soviet Union. The 1950s is the period of my childhood and the cold-war era mentality was so pervasive. The 1960s, my teen years, was a time when the peace movement and various protest and social justice issues came to the fore.
Over the last year I began to play Sudoku. This numbers puzzle has now become a morning habit which I enjoy solving with my partner, Jamelie.
Ron Benner was born in London, Ontario, where he lives and works. He studied agricultural engineering for one year at the University of Guelph (1969-70) before beginning a multi-faceted career in the visual arts in 1970. Since that time, Benner has contributed to the development of artist-run initiatives in London and beyond. He has participated in numerous residencies, symposia, and outreach initiatives which aim to extend the discourse on legacies of imperialism on our land usage. Benner has exhibited his work both nationally and internationally, most notably at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Art Gallery of Windsor, Museum London, and Oakville Galleries. In 2011 he was appointed Adjunct Research Professor in the Department of Visual Arts, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, The University of Western Ontario.
ROBERT ACHTEMICHUK'S TOP FIVE
Our Mutual Friend: A Conversation with the Collection
This is a travel log documenting the environments and lives of indigenous people in four different parts of the world - from the Amazon to the Canadian Artic, Indonesia and Australia. It's a very inspiring book bringing forth wild spaces and non-western wisdom as knowledge for our future understanding of possibilities.
"... Phoenix wind and fire...black earth, green shoot... in the nest of turmeric and cloves equals the ground... we too like fire: destroy, create, change, transform..." (256)
"...no art comes from congeniality, tepid, lukewarm heart... Fire is the UR*--energy of art." (258)
I have read the first two books, Genesis and Faces and Masks, which are a history of Latin America from 1497 to 1700. This is followed by one other book that brings us to a more contemporary date. Written in a form similar to the bible, short stories but following a format of years. I spent two years in Mexico City going to art school so have a fondness for the Latin American people and their politics. These books cover their historical struggles with Europeans and remind me of present corporate values, of let's make money (sometimes in God's name), the rest be dammed.
In Faces and Masks, Galeano tells the stories of José Julián Martí Pérez (1853 - 1895), a Cuban national hero and an important figure in Latin American literature. In his short life, he was a poet, an essayist, a journalist, a revolutionary. Marti meets with many workers from different unions, including teachers, who are striking for "workers of the idea." I found this description appropriate for artists and is so poetic.
3. Collected Ideas
I collect sayings and look at images to help me survive:
"Reasoning without experience"
- Roger Fry
"Always be a beginner"
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Tower of Babel, c. 1563
I have a reproduction of this painting as an evocation for this project.
I recently looked at John Singer Sargent watercolours, O'Keefe and Emily Carr paintings. Over the last year I particularly love seeing the watercolours of seascapes by Nolde when he was hiding from the Germans. I like Stanley Lewis, Martha Eileen, and John Berger.
4. Collected Listenings
I have enjoyed music all my life, I once sang in a boy's acapella band in the 60's. I took singing lessons a few years back to improve my breath, and find some grounding and to enjoy myself. I listen to Transpacific Sound Paradise program on WMFU web radio. I love music from other cultures and have listened to this program for many years.
Mokoomba and Bombino guitar players from Africa are current favourites along with Oliver Mtukdzi.
I also like Indian and Chinese folk music, and Dakha Barkha, a contemporary Ukrainian band.
5. Collected Readings
Tree: A Life Story by David Suzuki and Wayne Grady is a life story of a Douglas fir that started growing in 1300 and is now a spar. Not only does it talk about the tree but also about the lives of birds, animals and fungus in its life. Oh, some humans too.
"Memory is the daughter of Heaven and Earth, and the muse is a daughter of memory and everything. It is traditional for an artist to call on the muse at the beginning of an endeavour. This suggests that the great works of art begin, not in the presence of the muse, but in her absence." - Amanda Jernigan
Night, a literary companion edited by Merilyn Simonds (2009)
- for my past paintings.
Born in Yorkton, Saskatchewan Robert Achtemichuk is an artist and former arts administrator based in Kitchener. Achtemichuk earned a BFA from the University of Manitoba and continued his studies in both France and Mexico. He has exhibited his work across Canada since 1969. In 2015, he was awarded the Machteld Faas Xander Visual Arts Award from Arts Awards Waterloo Region. Most recently, Achtemichuk received a grant from the Waterloo Regional Arts Fund to produce new work for this exhibition.
LAURA DE DECKER'S TOP FIVE
Our Mutual Friend: A Conversation with the Collection
A philosophy of computation, this book tackles questions about the unruly business of sorting out subject versus object and establishes a metaphysical foundation with room for uncertainty. I discovered this book over a decade ago and was delighted that someone had epistemological concerns regarding computer programming, similar to mine.
This timely text helps to clarify the relationship between left and right brain hemispheres and the cultural impact in a global context. I'm interested in this book's descriptions of different brain functions in relation to processing colour and appreciation of aesthetic experience, which are important in my art-making.
3. Quantum Computing
Last year I was extremely fortunate to receive an OAC Chalmers Arts Fellowship research grant to learn about quantum physics. A researcher at the Institute for Quantum Computing, where I was Artist In Residence, recommended a book to me and I only recently read it. In hindsight I wish I had read it early on so I am recommending it to you: A Shortcut Through Time: The Path To The Quantum Computer by George Johnson. When you are finished that you might want to go on to the more technical An Introduction to Quantum Computing by Phillip Kaye, Raymond Laflamme, and Michele Mosca.
4. Quantum Physics
One book that I read during my research year was Quantum Chance: Nonlocality, Teleportation and Other Quantum Marvels by Nicolas Gisin. It's a good complement to Johnson's book because it deals with some of the key experiments that were crucial to the development of quantum computing and explains the limits of quantum physics. Overall it provided me with a better intuition of quantum mechanics.
This paper has been very useful to me to make comparisons between classical and quantum scenarios. I appreciate how this article contains mathematical examples that I can use in my art-making in many different ways.
Waterloo-based Laura De Decker received her BA in Art and Art History (University of Toronto and Sheridan Institute), an MFA in Visual Arts (University of Victoria), post-graduate diploma in Interactive Multi-Media (Sheridan), and taught at Sheridan Institute of Technology and advanced Learning. Her work has been presented nationally and internationally. In 2012, she created interactive 3-D immersive environments as an Artist-in-Residence for Christie Digital/CAFKA (Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener and Area). De Decker received an Ontario Arts Council Chalmers Arts Fellowship grant for 2015 to work with Dr. Raymond Laflamme to learn about quantum phenomena. Her work is in private collections in Canada and Europe.
PATRICK CULL'S TOP FIVE
Our Mutual Friend: A Conversation with the Collection
1. Paul Sellers
Paul's videos are an incredible resource for wood working projects, sharpening, joinery and hand tool techniques. His teaching style is streamlined, easy to understand and comprehensive.
2. Moe Koffman, The Four Seasons (1972)
This album dates very closely to the work I'm responding to from the permanent collection. I exclusively sift through old vinyl in my studio and hence many of the artists I listen to are from the seventies: Steely Dan, Jeff Beck, Chrissie Hynde and Albert Collins. There is a strong connection between music and painting for me, especially within the repetition, rhythm, and variations in my current series.
I read this book as I was beginning this recent chapter in my studio practice, eventually arriving at using woodblocks on canvas. This text is full of amazing ideas and stories, and demonstrates a profound love and respect of Indigenous language and culture. It has been useful to me in furthering my understanding and appreciation of the land of Southern Ontario and my settler relationship to First Nations.
4. G - Bender
Why is it that every time I discover a cool new tool, I think I need one? The lesson I keep telling myself is you can actually have too many guitars, too many hand planes, and too many paint brushes.
5. Jan Verwoert...
...speaking about painting with regards to adjacency, rhythm and self-reflexivity. (View clip at 11:45)
Patrick Cull received an MFA from York University in 2012. He has exhibited his work nationally, with solo shows at the University of Waterloo Art Gallery, Waterloo; Cambridge Galleries (now Idea Exchange), Cambridge; and group shows at the Art Gallery of Windsor, Windsor and Art Műr, Montreal. His work is in several private collections and he is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including grants from the Ontario Arts Council and the Sarick Purchase Award. Cull lives and works in Kitchener.
LISA BIRKE'S TOP FIVE
Our Mutual Friend: A Conversation with the Collection
This podcast uncovers and questions the mysteries and experience of life on earth and in the Universe through narrative, science, and philosophical quandaries. I love how (usually three) stories are interwoven to both complicate and show the symbiosis of experience; ideas comes together that initially emerged from very different places. This idea, of divergent images merging together to create a deeper significance, is something that I try to accomplish in my own work. (I often have podcasts running in the background to keep me company when I am editing, and this is one of my favourites.)
2. Rom Coms
When I am feeling down or tired, I usually watch the movie "Under the Tuscan Sun," directed by Audrey Wells. The female heroine (Diane Lane) goes through a very slow and painful self-realization and in the process buys and renovates a villa in Tuscany following her divorce (as one would). The movie puts forward the message of "take a leap of faith and take initiative to build something and good things will follow". Although rather simplistic and overly romantic, I think the hopefulness in this sentiment always gives me the energy to presevere. (I won't mention that I am also prone to watching "Dirty Dancing": "now, I ...had...the time of my liiiiifffeeeee, and I never felt this way before......"). Speaking of dancing, one of my favourite movies is "Pina" by Wim Wenders, which always renders me into a puddle of happy tears--this work is visually stunning and deeply moving in its ability to dissect the complexity of the human condition.
3. Nature Documentaries
I LOVE nature programs (Planet Earth, Life, etc) almost as much as I love getting out into the outdoors and travel. I don't have a t.v. but I have a few small projectors and I often project one of these series onto my bedroom wall. The awe and majesty of our planet always seems to remind me both of the interconnectedness and magic of life but also of how relatively insignificant one's daily complaints really are. There is also something really comforting about travelling around the world while safely tucked into one's own bed. Really, is there anything more amazing than a frog that can turn itself into a small rubber ball and bounce down an Amazonian waterfall to escape a giant frog-eating spider? The filmmaking in these series is also so spectacular and I absorb the "behind the scenes" footage like a sponge.
The opening sequence of "West Side Story" in the film adaptation by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins. From the cinematography to the choreography this is one of the most brilliant scenes ever captured on film. The repeating rhythmic finger snaps always triggers fits of hysteric physical mimicry in my living room. The seamlessness of how the staged elements dissolve into the gritty realism is a huge inspiration for my own approach of searching for the liminal space between performance and reality.
5. The Clock
I would love to own Christian Marclay's "The Clock" as my personal time piece. The work throws one into the conundrum of being aware of one's time slipping away whilst watching other people trying to keep up to the ever insistent ticking of clocks: an existential feedback loop of video-art bliss. Other video-art favourites include Shirin Neshat's "Turbulent" and Pipilotti Rist's "Ever is Over All" which was recently payed homage to in Beyonce's visual album "Lemonade".
Lisa Birke is an award winning Canadian video artist based in Kitchener. She received an MFA with distinction from the University of Waterloo in 2013. She has had solo exhibitions across Canada and her short films have been screened at film/video festivals and media centres internationally. Her short film Calendar Girls was awarded a "Jury Award for Creative Achievement" at the Arizona International Film Festival (USA) and the Jury Award at ForadCamp (Barcelona) in 2015. Birke recently produced a new work for CAFKA 16 (Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener and Area) and received an Ontario Arts Council Emerging Media Artist Grant in 2016.
BARBARA HOBOT'S TOP FIVE
Our Mutual Friend: A Conversation with the Collection
A Canadian non-profit charity that stations fog harvesting nets in locations with limited access to clean water. The fine mesh of this specialized netting captures condensation and traps it in containers. The collected water can be used for irrigating crops or providing potable water. Fog nets are one part of a research project I'm working on thanks to the support of a Chalmers Arts Fellowship. The project will allow me to seek out various instances of netting to learn how the tool has been used and referenced across cultures, time, and place.
This online project aims to interpret and translate Isaac Newton's alchemical manuscripts, an aspect of the scientist's research that is scarcely discussed. Symbols, myths and metaphors lace Newton's alchemical texts and this website shares their intricate translations and features images and videos of reconstructed recipes. One such recipe is called "The Net", a copper-antimony alloy that has netlike striations in its surface. There seems to be a mirthful similarity between alchemical and studio experimentation: both are hopeful plunges into the unknown with high expectations of a miracle.
They keep me company in the studio when I'm doing repetitive tasks like drawing a lot of ruled lines, or slicing materials in a uniform way. One of my favourites is Planet Money, a journalistic look into economics. The podcast reveals the hidden lives behind everyday objects, like the life of a t-shirt as it journeys from cotton fields to factories to online stores. Or the story behind a class action lawsuit over a small container of ground black pepper. I learn a lot about the complexity of commodities and the effects they have on different lives across the globe--something you couldn't know by just looking at the surface of an object.
An educational project at Columbia University that aims to translate and reconstruct instructions from a 16th century how-to handbook written by an anonymous craftsperson. The manuscript includes directions on how to do things like gilding, taxidermy, or make imitation coral. It's exciting to see history, art, and science taught from a tacit knowledge perspective. So often in my own practice I'm surprised by how materials respond to my actions. I might anticipate a sheet of vinyl to droop a certain way when it's hung on the wall, and am usually surprised by what actually happens. So many of the things I know about materials could only be learned through physical interaction.
5. #FellowFriday @ChemHeritage
Follow the Chemical Heritage Foundation on twitter on the last Friday of every month where a resident fellow takes over the account and tweets about their individual research. It's an opportunity to ask questions and learn facts about chemistry as it relates to culture, history, politics, economics, and the environment. One of the latest installments was hosted by Roksana Filipowska, a PHD candidate in Art History who tweeted about her research into the relationship between art, chemistry, and plastics. It's interesting to see how artists' investment in processes and materials is shared across disciplines.
Barbara Hobot holds an MFA from Western University and a BA in Fine Arts from the University of Waterloo. She has
shown her work most recently at AKA Artist Run, Saskatoon; Elora Centre for the Arts; Art Gallery of Windsor, and DNA Artspace, London. Earlier shows were held at Art Műr, Montreal; Harbourfront Centre, Toronto; Galerie Kurt im Hirsch, Berlin; Chiellerie Gallery, Amsterdam; and Weglowa Art Studios, Bialystok. Hobot has participated in artist residencies in Canada, the United States, and Europe. Exhibitions in 2016 include Strong Bonds at the University of Waterloo Art Gallery, a group show at Idea Exchange, Cambridge, and a solo exhibition at Olga Korper Gallery, Toronto. She is the recipient of awards from the Ontario Arts Council and numerous academic scholarships. Hobot lives and works in Kitchener and is represented by Olga Korper Gallery.
ANNIE DUNNING'S TOP FIVE
Echo / Locations
1. natural mysteries
I think there is vastly more going on in the lives of other species than we can even imagine. My interest in mushrooms has continued to grow over the past few years, so I was fascinated to discover The Fungal Internet! New research suggests that plants are sharing information and resources via an underground network of mycelium.
2. animals taking advantage of human systems
I love online articles and videos of animals making use of human developed tools and systems. Dogs in Moscow commuting on the subway, Pigeons on the Tube, Crows using clothes hangers as nest building materials, and Seagulls taking advantage of convenience stores.
3. scientific research
For the past year I have been Artist in Residence at the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of Guelph. This has allowed me access to facilities and fascinating scientific research underway within the department. I have had the opportunity to see a world-class insect collection, LED lit chambers designed to grow fresh vegetables in space, hear about research into the effects of toxins in our waterways and hear how scientists are mapping the microclimate of the Toronto Sky Dome. I worked with faculty members to create a 3D x-ray of a snail shell I found and to look at mushroom spores under an electron microscope.
4. The Skull with the Seashell Ear
As I prepared for my exhibition at KWAG two books were important to my thinking: Gaston Bachelard's "The Poetics of Space" and Gustaf Sobin's "Luminous Debris". The story of The Skull with the Seashell Ear was particularly intriguing to me as I worked on my own shell sound sculpture called Cochlea.
I really enjoy having the expertise of others inform the process of making my artwork. It was my pleasure to have the help of glass artist Kasia Czarnota who worked with me for a year to cast my first glass sculpture, Cochlea. Musician Ben Grossman was critical in the development of the sound component of this piece. This is the second project I have worked on with Ben. His skill and mentorship have helped shape the way I think about sound.
Annie Dunning maintains a multidisciplinary practice, based in sculpture and installation. Her practice also includes mail art, collaboration, book works, video and sound work. Dunning holds a BFA from Mount Allison University, NB and an MFA from the University of Guelph. With support from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council she has produced and shown work across Canada and abroad. She lives and works in Guelph.