back to school

🍂 AUTUMNAL FEELS 🍂

We have a full spread of fall goods sprinkling into the shop the next few weeks.  We’re really feeling these 60s and 70s warm tones and textures – timeless for the season. Wide leg cord trousers, linen paisley button down, faux fur lined and trimmed tapestry parka, and a 40s wool nurse cape are a few of our favourite pieces. So many pieces to layer up to keep you toasty and stylish in the brisk air. Happy Fall!

 

 

 

ART STUDENT, PART II

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I just got back to Toronto after spending two weeks in Nova Scotia. I was thrilled to be invited as a resident artist — or “rabbit” — for the seventh annual White Rabbit Arts Open Air Art Festival in a rural community in Upper Economy along the Bay of Fundy. During this time, 19 of us artists lived, worked, and played communally at Red Clay Farm, where we were invited to take part in workshops, skill sharing, pirate radio programming, site responsive installation and performance, and more! The three ballast artists — Lindsay Dobbin, Helmut Lemke, and Sally Morgan — guided us in creatively enriching workshops such as “Deep Listening,” “Water Drumming,” “Body Mind Centering Movement,” and “Contact Mic Making.” Matthew Whiston, a Halifax-based pirate radio enthusiast, warmly encouraged each of us to develop programming for the pirate radio on Red Clay Farm, which was transmitted to radios across the surrounding area.

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At Red Clay Farm we were served three delicious meals each day, with nourishing alternatives for all of our diverse needs — vegetarian, gluten-free, sugar-free, and so on. It is amazing, the role that healthful and delicious food can play in one’s life. These meals were what sustained all of the other elements of this communal living situation — the art production, the conversation and the collaboration. While I felt quite anxious upon arrival, having had a particularly difficult week in Toronto before I left, I found that my body soon became attuned to the ‘tones’ of Red Clay community and the landscape: I felt at ease in my lack of amenities, capable in my lack of usual routines, strong in my capacity to be socially engaged for sustained periods of time despite my introversion. It’s great to be able to have the opportunity to take part in non-academic spaces of learning, growth, and artistic development. Being a resident artist (rabbit!) at White Rabbit Arts felt a lot like going to art camp. While I am embedded in the Academic Industrial Complex, and have consistently had success within these institutions (receiving grants, scholarships, and so on), I remain ambivalent about its efficacy and ethics as the University system becomes increasingly modeled as a business. Are students consumers? What do we lose if and when students become consumers and professors and teaching assistants become providers of a particular product? We already live in a world in which our agency tends to be seen solely in light of our status as consumers, rather than citizens. Yes, we are all implicated in our capitalist context. And yet it is important for us to find little ways in which we can ‘loosen’ these contexts, create space in which different ways of living, different ways of existing and being in this world, can be realized. Red Clay Farm is one of these spaces.

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The piece that I made for the White Rabbit Festival was entitled “Moon Hut,” a site-specific audio installation work situated in a willow dome structure behind the farm’s two large ponds. I also created a radio play and book work entitled “Mleko the Leaky Goat: A Farm Tale of Abject Feelings.” I installed this book project as loose pages in what had been, up until a year ago, the home of Red Clay Farm’s resident goat. The goat is no longer with Red Clay: the work is installed in the empty pen, existing temporarily in the absence of the goat who once lived here. The text takes up issues of anxiety and what I have loosely termed “abject feelings,” using the metaphor of a leaking goat. Other social and political issues, including psychiatric institutions and experimental anti-psychiatric movements (like Felix Guattari’s La Borde) is referenced alongside different approaches to farming and keeping animals. For all of my institutional embedded-ness — as a PhD student at York University, for example — I remain passionate and interested in learning more about alternative structures of organizing. During my time in Vancouver, many of the people I spent time with were skeptical of Universities, some of them viewing my decision to do a Masters as highly suspect. I feel immensely privileged to be able to have some funding to assist me as I undertake this PhD. It is my hope and goal that I will be able to enact real change in my communities.

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During the artist residency, Matthew Whiston, a Halifax-based pirate radio enthusiast, warmly encouraged each of us to develop programming for the pirate radio station at Red Clay Farm, which was transmitted to radios across the surrounding area. I did a great on-air interview with Helmut Lemke, a UK-based German sound artist who creates evocative analog sound performances (for example, one of his performances at the festival involved fishing wire, contact mics, an electrical belt, and large felled tree branches). During our on-air interview, I played tracks by some of my favourite German artists — Can, Holger Czukay, Guru Guru, Xmal Deutschland, Kraftwerk, Einsturzende Neubauten, Malaria! — and Helmut Lemke gave his feedback on the tracks. He is brazenly outspoken (even curmudgeonly), refusing to pander to Canadian politeness, but also has a lot of warmth to him. He provided some interesting critiques of Krautrock, approaching their 1960s psychadelia from the perspective of a sound artist who also identifies as a political activist. He also recommended one of his favourite German bands, a proto-punk powerhouse called Ton Steine Scherben. We had a great time talking about German music, art, and politics.

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The two dresses that I am wearing here were both purchased in Toronto at vintage stores and consignment shops over the past two years. The first is a tight-fitting halter-style dress made of a cotton and spandex blend. This is the dress that I wear on those occasions where I feel sexy and strong: indeed, one of my personal goals is to hone this feeling of strength and confidence on a daily basis, holding myself up in public spaces (urban or rural) even when I’m experiencing anxiety. The other dress was found at Kind Exchange, a Toronto-based chain of consignment stores. This dress is my new ‘witchy dress’. It holds its own shape in a way that makes me feel like I’m wearing a work of wearable sculpture. I feel comfortable and safe when I wear it. Here I am wearing my black beret and my green beret with the dress. There is a sweet story here about when I first moved to Toronto. I had plans to stay with a friend who I had not seen in over five years. I was wearing a leather jacket and a black beret on this rainy day when I arrived in Toronto from Vancouver, a large suitcase stuffed with most of my belongings in tow. When I arrived at the address that my friend had gave me, I noticed there was a piece of paper on the front door with the image of a bird wearing a black beret. It read “WREN.” The beret was sheer coincidence, and the “wren” denoted my nickname to this friend (my name, Lauren, is actually pronounced “lah-wren”). Me and this person have been dating ever since: it’s been 2.5 years now.

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Thanks for tuning in! Until next time.

You can check out more photographs from my time out east here: https://selfcareforskeptics.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/white-rabbit-arts-residency-2015-red-clay-farm-upper-economy-nova-scotia/

You can check out White Rabbit Arts and what they are up to here. If you are an artist, I encourage you to apply to their summer residency! : http://whiterabbitarts.ca/

Lauren Fournier is an artist and writer currently based in Toronto.
She is working on her PhD in feminist theory and performance art at York University.
http://www.laurenfournier.net

Photography credits: Lee Henderson (www.noattainment.com)

ART STUDENT, PART I

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I don’t know if I qualify as having ‘gone to art school’, since I hold a BA and an MA (rather than a BFA and an MFA). I did eventually transfer to the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Regina for my undergraduate degree, after having started in “pre med” and completing all of the science prerequisites for medicine at U of S. I had always felt evenly pulled between arts and science, and had been taking English and Art History electives alongside Organic Chemistry and Biochem. My official move to Fine Arts was prompted by a trip to Europe in 2008 and my experience in Introduction to Intermedia Studio with Rachelle Viader-Knowles (RVK). RVK’s approach to art-making forever changed me. The notion that I could begin with a concept — such as anxiety or ‘getting all existential before bed’ or ‘gathering myself as a 19 year-old after the foundations beneath my feet began to crumble’ — and then choose a medium that best fits the concept to then realize my idea was hugely inspiring to me. I had never seen myself as a painter or a drawer or a sculptor, but after taking intermedia I began to see myself as a video artist, or a performer, or an installation-maker. I did not necessarily need to be skilled at representational drawing to constitute an artist. At the time, this realization meant the difference between life and death for me. I could now see the possibility of my agency — as an artist, as a creator, as a maker of conceptual and artistic experiences! I had experienced so much loss at this time — the loss of all of the things that had constituted my life as a teenager (friends, boyfriend, religion). It was in my studio art classes and my art history classes that the ‘new chapter’ of my life began: the chapter of my life as an adult, finding my own footing, being a bit of a loner, making my own decisions even if they were decisions that seemed foolish or strange to those around me. I felt elated in my newfound recognition of all things art-related, and spend the next few semesters making all sorts of more or less sad (maudlin) video art installations to process my young grief. We all have to start somewhere.

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I found this long purple floral nineties dress on a thrifting adventure in Toronto. Here I am wearing the dress with my trippen platforms, which I purchased at a trippen outlet last summer in Berlin. My hair is DIY: I used Manic Panic’s “Electric Lizard,” purchased from Shopper’s Drug Mart at Yonge and College (my neighborhood!) in Toronto. This long purple floral dress is one of my favorites, and I transition the dress from ‘summer wear’ to ‘winter wear’ by adding a sheer long-sleeve black crop top over it. The shorter pink floral dress, which I am wearing here along with two nineties-style ‘tattoo chokers’, was found at Front & Company, a half consignment and half new clothing store on Vancouver’s Main Street. If you want to take the nineties look even further, this dress goes great with a pair of combat boots. I like the kaleidoscopic feel of this pattern. It evokes the “hyper-natural,” a Baudrilladian notion that I’ve been reflecting on lately. I recently had a wonderful conversation with Betty Julian, a brilliant professor at OCADU here in Toronto. She was lamenting the fact that young feminist artists still seem to be turning “back to the Earth, back to nature,” like our ecofeminist predecessors back in the 60s/70s. “Aren’t we past that yet?” she asked. During my open air arts residency, where the desire to turn back to the earth is very much encouraged by the surroundings of forest and sea, I reflected on this tension between nature and culture and where my art practice and personal philosophy fits. For feminist aesthetics, ecofeminism (long critiqued for its essentializing thrust) seems to mark one polarity, and Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto” marks another. We have the desire to turn back to goddess mythology, back to the earth, and yet we do not want to essentialize women as being inherently more ‘natural’ than men. And yet, environmental politics and ecological disaster prompts all of us to cultivate deeper connections to our natural environments. Sally Morgan, a dancer, PhD student, and dear friend of mine, has been encouraging me to read Jane Bennett’s “Vibrant Matter,” which is next one my reading list. But I digress. I’ll leave it here, with the term “hyper-natural,” in light of the cyborg feminism alluded to in Scholar Wave episodes past.

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Turning to the third dress: I’ve had this little beige dress for a long time, so long that I can’t remember where exactly I got it from! It was found at some point during my time in Vancouver, very likely at a Value Village, a consignment store, or a vintage store (the three places where I did my shopping when I lived out west). The pattern of the dress is what some might call “tribal,” though I’m resistant to using this culturally loaded and problematic (re: issues of cultural appropriation, deeming ‘the other’ more ‘primitive’, etc.) term. I love the little drawstring around this dress, which I believe is meant to be tied around the back (to cinch in the waist without the string being visible), but which I like to wear so that it is visible in the front. This ‘making visible that which is supposed to be invisible/hidden’ reminds me of a wonderful project called “Visible Mends” that an artist named Nancy Cole did as part of her residency project at White Rabbit Arts this summer. I recently spent the past two weeks out in Nova Scotia, where I was an artist in residence at White Rabbit Arts in Red Clay Farm, Upper Economy, Nova Scotia. I will speak about that experience at more length in my next T+A post (“Art School, Part II”). One of my favorite dresses — at least my most frequently worn dress — is an ankle-length black rayon sleeveless dress that I found at a Value Village in Vancouver. It has had a large hole near the bottom at the back of the dress, which I have been ignoring and wearing regardless of this ‘defect’. Then, during a workshop with German sound artist Helmut Lemke, in which I was learning to make a contact microphone, Helmut accidentally burned my dress with the soldering iron! (I was lucky that the iron only hit my dress … it just missed my thigh) It was then that I knew the dress should be hemmed: I planned to cut a few feet off of the bottom of the dress, hem the dress, and then use the remaining fabric to make head wraps. Instead, I had Nancy hem the dress for me as part of her “Visible Mends” project, and she created the following hemline which reads “Art is a Verb, 2015.”

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I’m a passionate lifelong learner and an art student. Learning new things and developing my intellect is something that has been fueling me for as long as I can remember. I’m a lover of all things artistic, conceptual, aesthetic, feminist, sonic. I ‘came out of the closet’ as an artist/art freak back in 2008. By queering the spaces that I had been raised in, I found myself losing many of my old friends as we went separate ways. I ‘came out of the closet’ as an artist/art freak back in 2008, even if I wasn’t aware that that was what I was doing. Indeed, it has only been recently, at the age of 26, that I’ve started to have some confidence in identifying as that — an artist. It’s still a complicated thing for me to do. “Are you an artist?” I will be asked, as if on cue, at any given art opening in Toronto. Yes, I suppose I am.

Thanks for tuning in!  Until next time — Lauren ☾

Lauren Fournier is an artist and writer currently based in Toronto.
She is working on her PhD in feminist theory and performance art at York University.
http://www.laurenfournier.net

Photography credits: Lee Henderson (www.noattainment.com)