Starting over can often be a most perplexing exercise. Meeting people, discovering who the “players” are within the new art sphere, finding the places and spaces you would most like to align yourself with, its never easy. I do feel a bit out of sorts establishing exactly what I will be executing within this Vancouver - London maneuver. I have been very proactive at building a new foundation here, setting the scene, scouring the Vancouver’s various art spaces, profiting from the magnificent two weeks of sunny weather that is called summer here.
Yet romance, melancholia and London-sickness has come dripping through my skin like a slow boat leak and, slowly, ever so slowly, it has begun filling my heart.
And I am loving the longing…
It is hard to explain what is happening, but the serendipitous nature of events that occurred yesterday may shed some light on how one can come to find their own sea legs in a new port. At least this pirate hopes she will…
On my weekly art jaunt, I discovered an exhibition titled The Voyage or Three Years at Sea Part II. This exhibition featured, amongst others, the work of Dutch artist Bas Jan Ader; an artist whose work I have often found inspiring.
Fall II, Amsterdam 1970 © Bas Jan Ader Estate and Patrick Painter Editions
Ader’s In Search of the Miraculous final artwork always prompts my memory to recall the artist who first introduced me to his work. Her endless passion for knowledge, art and people I find as inspiring as the poetic nature of Ader’s disappearing epilogue to his life and career. Ader’s In Search of the Miraculous is infused with nostalgia, longing and passion, and the unknown for he disappeared at sea whilst attempting to complete his one man transatlantic art voyage. The energy and power involved in these two contexts cannot be contained, or properly explained, only felt.
The exhibition at the Charles H. Scott Gallery featured a work titled The Strange Voyage of Bas Jan Ader by an Australian collective Slave Pianos. The gallery displays the text of this radio play; it combines the ramblings of Crowhurst, statements by Ader, and an interview with Ader’s wife (post disappearance), the three streams of consciousness are melded into one document that is at once full of seriousness, depression, de rigueur and a touch of insanity. His widow speaks of the facts of his disappearance, Crowhurst talks of his fears but also his prowess at sea, and Ader poetically makes romantic statements on his work. There is barely enough room for your head to process the thoughts as they jump from one person to the next. I found this state of confusion relating directly to my current personal stream of consciousness whilst settling into this new city.
Wandering around Granville Island I was prompted again back into barnacle bliss. I discovered a beautiful card created by the Regional Assembly of Text. Remembering my long lost friends birthday was coming up, I thought it was the perfect fit, and scooped it up.
One of the final stops I made was to the Catriona Jeffries Gallery. Thanks to a series of paintings titled Jack by Ron Terada, which was a body of work based on the self-titled book written by artist Jack Goldstein. My current state of being and belonging was again perforated and the leaks started. This work really spoke to me. The paintings feature the writing of six chapters from Goldstein’s book cataloging his formative years as a young artist in the CalArts scene during the 70’s, and as a practicing artist in the 80’s. Reading the paintings brought me full circle to the first exhibition I visited as the text spoke briefly about Bas Jan Ader. Goldstein spoke of his insecurity around Ader and his crew at CalArts, and of course about his disappearance. Reading through the artist’s observations, incidents, fears, successes and failures of his youth does reaffirmed for me how threatening new environments and the unknown can be to anyone and everyone.
Initially I found it strange for the Slave Pianos and Ron Terada to re-appropriate to such an extreme, copying chapters of text word for word. I struggled to find where the meaning is positioned in both of the works. There is empathy and self-identity found in the the texts, something, I imagine, the artists felt was strong enough to reproduce as is, but there is also the unique choice of mediation involved. The disjunctive presentation of a three voice radio-play, and a series of paintings that may not necessarily carry the same impact if they were not all shown in the same space together and chronologically. Where the Slave Pianos sought to recreate a fiction through presenting old work in a new medium, Terada sought to recreate a reality, that shifted once it was presented in painting format and mediated through another artist. Both artists selected deeply poetic and personal subjects to work with, yet they presented the work in such a manner that its context could completely shift depending on how it would be displayed and how much knowledge the interpreter has of the history that preceded but is directly related to the work. In addition to the complex weave of history and present there is also the fact that both original artists who inspired these secondary interpretative artists have shocking ends to their lives, Ader disappearing at sea and Goldstein committing suicide, one must consider ramifications of these unfortunate outcomes on the interpretation of their works postmortem.
What I deemed most interesting in this lachrymose triad of lost at sea sentiment its very own mediation. A dialogue that ran from Bas Jan Ader, through his wife, the Slave Pianos, Crowhurst, Ron Terada, Jack Goldstein and myself. I often have the impression that I do not exist in the context of the reality that I wish I existed. Finding myself in a new city surrounded by strangers has only heightened this sentiment.
There is art, there is life, and then there is the undulating ocean and its stochastic stream of ebb and flow, sometimes art is life, and sometimes life imitates art, and sometimes we are simply lost at Sea… here’s to enjoying the recursive celestial mechanics of the world.