Still Life: Commodifying Erosion

1.1 Abstract.


Displacing a sample of landscape, artists will analyze the effect of elastic, inorganic theatrical space on a living overstory. Four artists will gather stories inspired by the land, puppeteering the specimen to animate the stories. The final thesis is the recognition that a story teller once displaced from their native environment, may never return, is still life death. Contrasting the exhumed specimen to the live streamed grave-shaped excavation plot, may it be theorized; both the excavation site and remaining specimen will erode. The stories we tell of our past romanticize a returning, whilst our native land no longer can support a homecoming. This is the unrecognized aspect of still life representation; or, contrasting foundation of theatrical performance to filmic capture. Arguing, theatricality must concern itself foremostly with vitality, as our environments define ourselves, so to do we shape the ways we interact with storytellers in response of climate’s composition. This is a study of the slow narrative of still life, and the ultimate cost of performance art vitality. STILL LIFE is a gallery of performativity, not a performance.

Project is in progress, please return Fall 2020 for further explorations and details. This project's seeding was generously funded by Ontario Arts Council Recommender Grants for Theatre Creators and Talk is Free Theatre.




Touching A Tree's Narrative

Three felled trees, experiencing some aspect of disease or erosion, are documented using rubbings and transfer. Using citric acid, the patterns of wood are burnt into cardstock. The untouched page is whittled away through incisions and tears to create an organic surface showing a contrast in the cell created by bark, or heart wood. I invert this on one specimen, focusing on what if the bark were a house, or a containment cell with the individual at centre. Little organic explosions and variations emerged across the triptych that could only be uncertain until after baked. This invisible painting as it were, as my COVID confession, looks into isolation and unseen risk, hoping to only use organic materials (save for frisket, and the blade). Each is titled by the location the tree was discovered.

Please view attached files not in this document. The order of the works from L to R: “43.210, -79.771”, “43.209, -79.771”, “43.092, - 79.294

All are 1:1 scale hand drafted from rubbings and photography, inked using lemon juice and various oven temperatures, and carved using a scalpel blade.

“43.210, -79.771”

The small sample was taken just off the Bruce Trail in Stoney Creek (quite close to my home). It required a small climb through the understory to reach. When I got to it, I was overheating and out of breath. The trees shaded me while I contemplated it. Assessing if it suffered enough for this story. And that’s when I shook my head at the outrageous notion of suffer weight, and took the rubbing. The straight edge shows where it was broken off when being cut. The discoloration within its heart wood interested me, focusing on the otherwise healthy, the smaller cell reflected the time we lived within condos in downtown Toronto. All this air space around us, but a very thin cellular wall. And a livability that required us to return to roots in order to access each other. By placing it at centre in the same ratio 1:1 of the others, it made me reflect on the space between us.

“43.209, -79.771”

The dramatic tension and dynamic shattering of the protective rays. This piece of the three explores filling in the negative space with the bark treatment acid wash. The broken quality of it accentuates the cells. As broken things tend to come with a negative connotation, it was my hopes with this one to gleam the potential fracturing might be seen as a lasting effort before its death and subsequent drying at preservation. Not sure the success of this study, but it is a process. Unlike the other’s which were minutely painted, this poured of all the materials and I moved the liquid around using gravity. The organic burn pattern I could get lost in, but it was balanced by making the carving more methodical, tighter and surgical. It made me think more of a cancerous retreat. Or maybe a hardening of emotion to remove its untouched wood.

“43.092, - 79.294”

This is the first rubbing and the last image. This was found in the Short Hills Conservation area near St Catherine’s in an area alongside a dried riverbed since agriculture redirected much of the water flow through the area. This captured me because it clearly showed decay spreading from breaks in its defense. I decide to focus more on this case with the outer bark and burning area of the illness. It was the first piece to be completed. It is 1:1 ratio like the others, but fills nearly to the edges, oddly world like view of the southern hemisphere. The small details in the acid burn and mass cutting on the interior was methodical but also with a bit of wild abandon. A wildly violent act that left my table and workspace covered in little tears of pureed paper. The scale in the frame is unsettling, it asks for more gutter. I am projecting this a tad, it is unsettling because it doesn’t fit aesthetically a rule of space. Such, a tree is to do.