Monday, September 29, 2008

Raymond Boisjoly: Would You Like to Start Again at the Beginning Again?

Raymond Boisjoly asks us if we would like to start again at the beginning. What does the beginning look like? Who lives there and what materials do we have to work with? Can I write using this computer or do I have to write with pencil and paper, or are we going back further still, do I need to write this in rhyming verse so that I can remember it and sing it in person at the gallery opening? Maybe the beginning is before I can even open my mouth, before I have a mouth? What exactly is this beginning and do I really want to be there?

If I could would I toss the lineage, the inherited or received culture, all of the baggage and all of the goods so that I could truly start again and "make it new" as Ezra Pound directs us to do? Except, that there’s the problem right there. I couldn't "make it new" like Ezra Pound's directive tells me to do, if ‘it’ were no longer part of the equation. Ezra is part of the ‘it’ that led up to this moment and we all better recognize. Still, I don't like all of ‘it’. I don't want all of ‘it’. I don't want to recognize all of ‘it’ as mine. Too, there's some stuff that hasn't quite made it into the accepted ‘it’ that I would like to include. We may have the illusion of choice but we in fact, don't get to choose our cultures, at least not entirely. Raymond Boisjoly messes with this distinction and he does so by creating hybrids. Pop culture meets traditional culture and as they face off it is unclear whether the movement between the two precedes a fight or a dance. Beyond titles, this work asks questions, often playful, and some so basic that they beg reconsidering. What are the edges of things and how do they overlap? Where does the artwork begin‐‐can we include the wall? the electricity in the wall? the room? the static in the air? When, how and why do and did a string of lights become "Christmas" and can they begin again as something else or just be lights again minus the modifier?

Your eye runs along the white cord, spotting red, blue, green and yellow lights and begins to recognize letterforms. Your brain begins to thread them together, wanting to spell something, to figure out this puzzle, but here it slips, notices arms, legs, heads, and begins to read a different story. As your eyes follow this path down the wall, noticing the cord, noticing the lights, noticing the staples that fix the cord to the wall, you negotiate the twists and turns. Here edges shift like puzzle pieces: fitting together, then splaying apart, locking, interlocking and unlocking. There's something of the optical illusion here that recalls fat books of bright colors and stacked squares begging to be ‘figured out’. Think of this but think also of the space between and before ‘figuring it out’ and the both-ness of that space. All at once, words grow heads and limbs, become totem figures, say a sentence, tell a story, walk across the wall and shine, shift between human, animal and word form, lay out a labyrinth or maybe two brightly lit paths -‐all at once.

This work wants to know what you think. It was created in part to answer a question but also to ask or spark. It does not need to be monumental or even desire to be, but realizes that it is a step, an intermediary. The first two things that you see might conflict with each other or they might be complimentary; that depends on what two things you notice first and also on you and your brain and the cultures that live inside it. Realize as you look that your brain is host to a culture and it may even be host to multiple cultures; cultures that both exist outside of you and your brain, and that are, in part, created there. Your brain is capable of so much. It can take disparate elements and create hybrids, two-headed monsters, sacred monsters that cross boundaries, straddle them, play double‐dutch with distinctions: new and old, traditional and pop, traditional and avant‐garde, funk and soul, art and poetry, mine and yours; beyond binaries to triplets, quadruplets, stacks and lattice works of possibility—this is what his work does and asks us to do. There are so many possibilities here and our brains are capable of seeing and managing all of them. If we want to "make it new" what better way to start than not from the beginning but in the midst of it all, amidst the various and several ‘it’s with all of their many voices, calls, shouts, murmurs, meanings and abstractions? Maybe we can try, as this work does, to show all sides, even the inside of ‘it’, it being this culture and that one, the lights and the forms they shape, to make tangible/visual the intricacy of our systems and thoughts within and without them.

*From the catalogue by me for "The Sooner the Better Later than Never" UBC MFA Graduate Exhibition at The Belkin Art Gallery in Vancouver B.C.
** Sorry the images are so dang small.

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