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12 Mar 2005 – 24 Apr 2005
Anitra Hamilton. Who's Gonna Tell Jesus There's No Santa Claus. 1994-1999. 2 US test bombs, chicken eggshells and glue, each 92 cm x 20.5 cm (diam). Defused WW2 US Air Force bomb, turkey eggshells and glue, 184 cm x 20.5 cm (diam). Courtesy of the artist.
Give people free samples until they’re hooked,
So who doesn’t like free samples? And what’s that got to do with art? Kelly Mark’s new exhibition, Free Sample, can help you figure that out. Mark is a NSCAD graduate and founder of Samplesize.ca, an on-line art gallery, weblog, laboratory, and playground for artists, writers, curators and like-minded creative types who use the internet to promote and distribute their work. Part of the reason I started samplesize.ca was I really felt that most artists — I’ll even go so far as to say most ‘Canadian’ artists — haven’t really taken advantage of the web’s potential for dissemination, says Mark. I’ve had my own personal website for several years now and I can’t even imagine being a working artist without it. Now 16 contributors, all samplesizers or people who should be, move off the web and into the gallery with Free Sample, a show of sculptural objects, new media art, written words and works on paper.
The site costs almost nothing to produce since server space is donated, says Mark. The only cost is my time. Like Samplesize, the idea behind Free Sample ties in with the low-overhead artmaking practices adopted by today’s twenty-something generation of artists. The post-studio artist shamelessly exploits affordable, at-hand resources to create art at home rather than in rented studio space. And while the show’s title alludes to the practice of digital sampling used to create of much of the art that appears in the exhibit, it also refers to the influence of commercial culture on the attitudes and beliefs of today’s young artists and their viewers. Culture jamming — the act of injecting unorthodox content into readymade media formats — creates a visually familiar environment for the flow of ideas among the various works. The result is a mobile mosaic of physical, virtual and textual elements that express ideas in new and evocative ways.
In Free Sample, parts are borrowed, traded, sampled and replicated using digital media as well as techniques typical of obsessive hobbycraft. Anitra Hamilton carefully glues eggshell mosaics to the surfaces of test bombs and bombshells. By applying artisanal techniques that transform military surplus into objects of beauty, Hamilton highlights the weapons’ design rather than their function. The balance between sculptural aesthetics and potential violence raises questions about human attitudes towards creativity and destruction.
Kristan Horton photographs homemade kitchen-table movie sets that mimic frames from the 1964 Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove. Using ordinary household utensils, Horton makes visual puns that create new meaning in the space between old and new. The continued relevance of the cold war satire emerges through a do-it-yourself remake. Like much of the art in the exhibit — for example, Jan Peacock’s video night lights — the manipulation of familiar imagery gives the works a right now feeling deepened by their engagement with the domestic spaces in which they are produced.
Free Sample includes works by artists from all over: Toronto-based Michael Alstad, Anitra Hamilton, Mitch Robertson, Kristan Horton, Dave Dyment & Roula Partheniou, Vancouver’s Andrew Pommier, Montreal’s Adad Hannah and James Prior, Allison Hrabluik, whose work reflects her life in the Yukon, NSCAD alumnae Micah Lexier and Kelly Richardson, Winnipegger Collin Zipp, and NSCAD professor Jan Peacock. The catalogue provides comprehensive, hard-copy documentation of the entire show, with artist interviews by Toronto-based Otino Corsano, full-colour illustrations, artists’ biographies, and writing by Winnipeg blogger Hugh Briss (a.k.a. Glen Johnson). Briss, by his own account, started Persiflage in March of 2001 and has been trying to stop it ever since. He explores public transit as an urban phenomenon that sucks the little neurons (or whatever those little thinking bitsies are called) right out of your melon, then relates the true, if somewhat alarming story of Leopold the Rat, an Incontinent Elf, and a Goat called Elspeth.
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