JENNIFER BASSETT & IAN STUBBS
CAAF Residency st[art]@Art Central, March – May 2010
Since early forms of communication, stories have been used to express individual experiences, beliefs, desires, and important themes; stories have forever been integral to structuring identities. The communication of identities is displayed through a story’s narrative. When an artist utilizes a narrative in their practice, they convey a specific identity to an audience.
In our body of work we examine the construction of a character’s identity through a narrative of our own creation. We are able to manifest our narratives through site-specific installations. Focusing on narrative is where our practice removes itself from the storytelling realm. Our practice works outside of the canon of storytelling, as it does not have the requisite beginning, middle or end. Our viewer is placed within a scenario without being given any evidence of the story’s history or outcome.
A feature of our work is to create an active viewer which is achieved by blocking an audience from reading the work in a linear format; the viewers are allowed to travel from object to object without a set sequence. In our installations the premise can never be directly communicated to an audience due to the arbitrary manner of the work. In our work we are able to define an identity of a character and imply a narrative through their objects, allowing a viewer to take the role of a voyeur intruding into the character’s personal space. The installation format allows us to transform what already exists into an interactive simulated reality.
We are preoccupied with labor-intensive processes and how it constructs or consumes identity in our work. We believe that an artist’s identity is constructed through their process. The very act of creating is an obsession, to constantly be meticulous or absorbed in one’s work. The obsessive quality in our work is shown through hand-sharpening 140 pencils or chewing 400 pieces of gum. Our characters have an obsessive quality that is a reflection and amplification of characteristics found in both of us. By participating in the act it allows us to create a deep connection and important insight that is used to strengthen our characters.
What creates identity? And how does one communicate their identity to an audience? The characters and setting of our installations are constantly changing in order to display different identities. Through different characters we can explore different aspects of the human psyche.
Our intention for the Art Central space is to build an installation during the two month time period and have a show at the completion. A part of our practice involves being influenced by the unique location of our installations; past locations include a motel and a storefront window. The layout of the Art Central space will allow the public and other artists an opportunity to not only witness the final installation, but also the creation process. The room will be more than an area to display art, it will become an integral part of the art work that will influence and shape the progress of the installation.
In this space we plan to create an installation detailing the workspace of a character who is planning a bank burglary. Continuing themes of obsession and meticulous planning from our previous work, this installation will be an important addition to our body of work.
The installation will show the work of a lone, unemployed individual who spends a significant amount of time carefully detailing a plan to burglarize a bank. The bank robbery is popular theme in Hollywood, channeling an enjoyable mental exercise into an entertaining story, but by planning the burglary of a local Calgary bank, we will localize and root the event in reality.
This idea is particularly timely in relation to the financial crisis. Money has been abstracted into an idea, beyond the physical and tangible objects of coins or bills. If the financial system is seen to be flawed then faith is lost in the validity and moral righteousness of banking institutions.
We intend the narrative we create to provoke an uncomfortable reaction in the viewer; to cause them to confront the ethical and moral correctness and definition of theft.