HannahSpeltBackwards

Content Writer Hannah Miller

Month: March, 2012

Feculant Crucifeast

My first stop in getting my bearings within Vancouver’s art scene was naturally the Vancouver Art Gallery. There is currently a pretty rad exhibition on art, hip hop and Aboriginal culture which features skateboards carved to resemble snow shoes and Nikes stitched into first nation inspired masks. What really grabbed me, however, was art from the museum’s general collection; a wall of framed words hung slightly higher than eye level, by local artist Steven Shearer.

I was instantly drawn to Shearer’s Poems, repeating select phrases aloud. Each one was so delightfully grotesque it made my memories of morose teenage headbanging bubble to the surface with uncharacteristic joy. I like the effect the words have on me, they are evocative and shocking – and yet this very effect is made so by the literary ingredients of verse, such as assonance and alliteration. Thus composed, I enjoy the way such vulgarities roll of my tongue. Visually, the text is displayed for the perfect impact; bold white capitals screaming from a black background. Individual words jump out at you, SCATOPHAGUS, DISCHARGE, ROT MUNCHING, PUTRID, CADAVERIC from within the overwhelming message.

I wanted to list for you some of the truly great lines, but each one is as good as than the next. Singled out they are awesome, but together they are epic.

“His mural, billboard, and poster poems inspired by scatological and blasphemous Heavy Metal lyrics and song titles present visions of the nihilistic sublime that would be disturbing if they weren’t so entertainingly hyperbolic.” Lupe Nunez-Fernandez. “Steven Shearer at Ikon, Birmingham.” Saatchi Gallery. Spring 2007.

As poems they are aleatoric, using the cut-up technique popularised in literature by beatnik William S. Burroughs, and used in music by Bowie and Radiohead, to add the element of chance to the final creation. I love the concept of taking an existing text and extracting and rearranging words to create a new meaning. Burroughs said, “When you cut into the present the future leaks out.” Yet here in glorious irony, it is being used  to find the divine meaning in the ‘obscenities’ of Heavy Metal.

Idea 29

Idea #29: Use embroidery to make a stop motion animation. – Would be so much work! I’d have to set up a studio space with exact, unchanging lighting conditions, so I could work at it like a jigsaw puzzle on the kitchen table. Or make a super amateur one using an iPhone.

View vs View

Although I always had a fondness for the sun setting behind the Pelaco sign, Richmond, Melbourne…

I’m pretty impressed with the view of snowcapped peaks from my balcony in Kitsilano, Vancouver.

In February I was on my way to a zine fair at Melbourne Town Hall and I got the tram that meant I’d have some extra walking to do once I got to Swanston St. I was bummed that I’d missed the 48, until my tram pulled up next to Fed Square and I caught a glimpse of something that was so familiar it made me lurch with excitement. Yet I couldn’t quite believe I could actually be looking at what I was seeing. I think I even made an audible squeak of glee.

I raced across the road and yes, there were two of Theo Jansen’s kinetic sculptures! I recognised their structures from the TED talk I had seen where he demonstrated the way these creatures – his “Strandbeests” – move. At Fed Square there was even one open to the public to walk with and see its plastic joints in operation. You can see a little girl pushing it along.

The structures are built from plastic tubes and bottles. The large Strandbeest that was on display was one of the new generation that can move independently. It’s powered by wind captured in the wings that you can see below, and pumped into old lemonade bottles, that in turn pipe air into the legs. With the intricate mechanics of the pipes, I never imagined that I would see one of these sculptures in Melbourne! I can’t help but wonder how on earth they are transported, or reconstructed, if they are broken down for packing.

Or perhaps Jansen has found a way for them to float across the oceans! As he says in his TED talk below, the creatures are designed not only to move, but even to survive on their own.