Posts tagged: Instant Coffee
Back in March and April of 2012, Vancouver collective Instant Coffee did a seven week marathon of events under the rubic of an anniversary show at The Western Front. I went to nearly everything and did a closing interview with them. The results of this research are currently in the Fall 2012 issue of C Magazine on “Participation.” You can get copies here.
Below are some transcribed notes and quotes that did not all make it into the final cut.
We give importance to hosting, there is a volatile risk in hosting, unpredictable, no accident to display we invited curators, it’s a concerted effort, a very rewarding experience, can’t deny our own pleasure in it, ambiance, those moments, we host for ourselves, fulfill the agenda, boils down to duration not super prescribed to social sculpture.
A power to do is to do over and over again, we use language of colour formally, aphorisms and marketing advertising, slogans, early on based on FILE/G.I., that vocabulary to carry these messages through, to mimic success is to use the slogans,
we are enticed, how they are sold, making it our own, making it better, have nothing to sell, signs that say nothing in bright colours, we are in love with the language of sales, the fluorescent orange sale sticker, it is fantastic, we are drawn to it and we can’t deny it.
Our name is a particular product, less contrived, feels a sustainable way to make work, not responds to a work, not responding to a trend, it’s a way of being in the world, we wanted to do all of the above
16 Beavers and IC more on the same bill
we have been having discussions like this from the beginning, though more interns in NY were interested in working with social artists, renewed interest or constant stream
there is more workshops and pedagogy from institutions, they don’t trust audiences, education to justify working models of pedagogy into art, says a lot about our time,
Free is personal, Paid is impersonal, though validates it (Ydessa charged $4 or was it free?)
Get a call from a friend complaining how it costs $55 to take her family to go see Paul Klee, (that’s outrageous) that’s NOT outrageous, you know how much it costs to bring that in?! And fuck you for even wanting to go see Paul Klee
I feel like it’s been a while since I did the loop. At least a month. A long month. It’s been a long morning, but gorgeous weather. I don’t know how people get any work done in this town. I start for Main St. I take Robson which I never take. i wanted to walk a straight line and this is as close as it gets. One of the scrolling footer quotes from Solnit’s Wanderlust speaks to how when provoked, you should walk away into the horizon until your anger subsides. Physically marking out the variation of emotions. That’s hard to do in Vancouver. There are no straight lines from the West End. No distance to mark and look back. I hear a cyclist get hit before I see him on the ground. I am glad I walked instead.
I make it to Access in no time. I make some notes about Vessel. They are written in blue ink with blue creases from my jean pockets and say: “I like the floor … Expressive! … Archival? … Imperfect perfections.” I only really remember Carranza’s chairs. They remind me of junior high.
In the alleyway across the street, BEFORE I DIE has been written out on a chalkboard slab against the fence. It’s like graffiti. Or a yearbook, which after all, gets filled with graffiti. It’s a junior high kind of day. Before I die dot dot dot various chalk colours have written “see the world … go to university … eat more pussy … be with my family.” There is no chalk to be seen.
I spend all of 5 minutes inside the Western Front. Sans Song, curated by Jenny Walton. I will have to come back. This is the kind of work that makes you inhale. I was not ready to inhale.
It’s getting really hot outside and I step inside to Catriona Jeffries. Maya is already there and we take a closer look at Judy Radul’s brain.
I haven’t slept in for weeks. This feels awesome. Jeannie is staying over for a few days and is gone when I wake. My mother calls and sees if I am free for lunch. I am, but does she want to eat around 46th and Fraser? I wouldn’t mind checking something out over there. It’s an enthusiastic yes. There are good eats over there.
It’s another gorgeous Saturday. Nothing good can possibly happen in good weather. The glow of the pink and black alleyway courtesy of Instant Coffee is two steps before Ho Yuen Kee. This is all I have ever wanted. These green beans are a knock out. I take a look around before lunch, but I am not really there yet. I come back after lunch and sit and chat for a while. Mary Anne is there and she asks if I am cooking. I am wearing dark denim and a light coat. She is boiling in a summer dress. Jin is wearing denim chaps. Sort of. Michael is wearing desert boots. I don’t think there should be socks with this look. He thinks otherwise. Kelly takes advantage of the sale rack around the corner and dons an orange and white skirt. Creamsicles make summer official.
I head back downtown and walk into 221A with a bag of guava. Fierce! Bitch, please. I missed all the openings and parties last night. Erdem Taşdelen is great. The hand-sewn sequins need to be seen in person. Alison is signing things and picking up beer. There is a porch party later. I have no idea what my plans are. Jericho is too far tonight. I should try to meet up with Jeannie at some point tonight. I make it to the four German curators doing their whirlwind tour of Canada. I realize then I learn more about each city through their Q&A’s than anything else. I also realize then that Oh, Canada was opening at that exact moment. I am thinking about all the Oh, Canadians finally being able to take a sigh of relief. The German curators are keen to go see it. But not sure how this will happen. I would also like to see it, but not sure how this will happen. I run into Hilke later that evening in the doorway of the porch party. We extend the conversation about Canada with her holding a can of PIL and me with a tall boy of Carlsberg and I am delighted that they went to Winnipeg. I am asked why I hold such an affinity to Winnipeg. It must be some form of loyalty and respect for the people I have met there. I know I don’t yet feel an affinity to Vancouver, but I do like being here when I am surrounded by good people.
I didn’t even know Zach was in town, but so he was and I ask him if he wants to come to an art talk at The Western Front. Zach was staying at Gerome’s place, a guy I knew in junior high and hadn’t seen or thought about except as Zach’s friend. Gerome had moved to Vancouver five years ago and was living just a few blocks away from the Front, but neither of them knew where I meant so we meet at Foundation beforehand. Whoever gets there first should order nachos.
I haven’t had nachos in quite a while since I regularly ate them with Ted and KO. Nutting and Julianna. It’s been a long time. I order nachos, and I have to resist feeling sentimental about it. I think about these people often as I’m walking down the street, but I am glad we don’t live in the same city anymore. Any sense of bittersweet nostalgia vanishes when Zach arrives with five others. To my surprise and mild horror, everyone is connected from yesteryears in Edmonton.
What are you doing here? is a valid enough question. But I couldn’t bare to ask it and I certainly didn’t want to answer it. Strangers would have at least posed the “… and what do you do?” affectation that is only harmful in its unoriginality. The addition of here implies a sense of territory, one that is geographical as much as it is social. There are a lot of Edmontonians in Vancouver. Calgary. Toronto. Anywhere really. There are clusters of Edmontonians across Canada, just as there are clusters of Canadians across Europe. But I don’t want to hang out with Canadians in Berlin just because we come from the same country just as I don’t want to hang out with Edmontonians in Vancouver because we come from the same city.
This much I got from Lise Nellemann’s talk at the Front that night. Invited by Instant Coffee for their parachute marathon of events and lectures, Nellman is the primary organizer behind Sparwasser HQ, an organization that had a heavy rotation of residencies between 2000 - 2008. Nellemann’s presentation of IC at Sparwasser HQ gave the impression that it was a good place for newcomers to Berlin’s international art scene to meet people, especially ex-pats who congregate during fellow ex-pat exhibitions and events. But Nellemann herself has a post-nation attitude, which I wish she had gone into more. I have come from Edmonton and I am from Hong Kong. I don’t feel aligned with either of those places, but the inquisition of place continues to haunt me.
Vancouver has proved to be a city (and art scene) that sees itself as an international centre rather than a Canadian one, but while the city is increasingly feeling and looking more Asian, cultural references are still dominated by European dialogues. It’s as if there is a denial of local internationalism for a more nostalgic sense of the term. I am not alone in thinking this. A wayward comment from the stands that evening mused aloud professing Vancouver as a city sitting at the edge of the world before slowly adding that it was also a gateway into a new other world.
The new infers an old, but no one is consciously saying so yet.
Sitting between the opposing bleachers Instant Coffee have built, I am confident this is as good a function as these risers will ever have. Faces are stacked from floor to ceiling and more keeping creeping in as opinions and distractions are volleyed back and forth.
The topic of rezoning Mount Pleasant has been on the periphery of almost every conversation shared recently. I don’t live in the area, though I did consider it, but when I officially moved here three months ago the area around Broadway and Kingsway had become the most expensive rental zone in the city for what I was looking for. I’m not looking for much; I mainly wished to live within walking distance to fresh produce. I have spent too much of my life getting in and out of cars to buy papaya. However, within this basic priority there lies a number of social prerequisites including an inherent globalized market, a climate to support walking year round, and a density of population who know and support businesses on their street.
If I had to offer a definition for what makes a city livable, one answer would be that it is walkable, and the other is that there are spaces along the way to discover. But what exists in those spaces is just as important as having them there. I may prefer one business over another based on the simplicity of a smile. I apply the same guideline to art spaces when sometimes the level of aloofness is so overt that I wonder why these spaces are public at all. So when these same spaces are under threat in neighborhoods where they have no visibility and have built no connections on the ground, when nearby residents don’t even feel welcome to enter, I am torn as to how I feel about their fate. This may appear antagonistic within my own community, as while I will defend the importance of art with every breath I have, I defend through scrutiny and examination of how art remains vital. Otherwise, we have empty storefronts filled with reified objects and their value as assets take precedence as their primary value.
If we glance back at the rise of contemporary art, we find ourselves at the feet of Duchamp, who blasted art out of the retinal arena only to find it hurried back in with a “Do Not Touch” label next to a didactic panel. The emergence of Artist Run Spaces began as spaces to play, but they too have gone the way of becoming fortresses rather than fields (at least in Canada anyways). So what is there to do? I have no conclusions, but I am interested in rolling back the situation to see how this has come to be. To understand a situation is to look at its roots, because while reactionary responses offer band-aid solutions, it is likely that surgery is actually required.
Back on the bleachers, idioms are being tossed around like a game of hot potato. “Developers” and “City” are held up momentarily but their weights are not considered. An “us vs them” perpetuates the power struggle and comes out as an internalized cultural hegemony. Creating alliances is important, but it’s also important to remember that power is never given. Not even shared. Power is taken, historically, consistently, and effectively by those who really want it. But maybe the hunger for power is the biggest distraction of all, as at the end of the day, people just need to be aware of one another on an interpersonal level. So if the conversation keeps bending towards forging a relationship with the city, then isn’t it natural to create a civic arts council? I was confounded to learn by the end of the night that Vancouver doesn’t have an arts council and that nobody was clear on whether there ever used to be one or not. This posting by Tom Durrie is the closest thing I have found to an explanation, but what needs to be further stressed is that an independent arts council would represent both sides and advises on behalf of the city’s artistic community to government and other agencies while channeling viable city-based opportunities for artists.
All I knew before arriving is that if I had to hear the word “neoliberalism” as an answer one more time I was going to lose it. But Other Sights implied that this was going to be a new type of conversation, one without predetermined agendas in order to open up the discussion rather than offer conclusions. No conclusions were made, though agendas are hard to check at the door. The sugar rush from the root beer float and the lack of oxygen in the room were definite factors, but I did leave that night feeling genuinely buzzed. It was a sensation of being all worked up with no where to go, spinning from an energy with no certain direction. The Future is Floating and that in itself is inspiring and a continuum.