By Humboldt Magnussen
The Images Festival, which is an international festival of experimental and independent moving images that takes place in Toronto from April 10th to 19th, is currently in full swing. Take a look at the program because there are tones of awesome events, films, and talks still going on. This last Friday at Xpace we had the opening of the spring exhibitions including “Transcending Binaries” curated by Adrienne Crossman, which is presented in conjunction with Images Festival. This exhibition asks “How does an artist explore the idea of a post-binary world within the confines of digital media- a medium that is at its origin built on a binary language?” In the exhibition you see a vast exploration by the six artist, Sarah D’Angelo, Adriana Disman, Nathan Flint, Browen Deubrouck, Peter Rahul and Quinn Robertson. What I think is interesting about this exhibition is how the artist have used digital media to showcase how extremely complicated and complex gender and identity is, using the never ending collage, glitch, and remixing of digital media where the artists have created avatars which also read as self-portraits
Last night I went to the Images Festival International Student Showcase at Jackman Hall, which showed six short films/videos by students from around the globe curated by Faraz Anoushahpour, Colton Bates, and Katrina Orlowski. I thought the evening was well curated with common themes of nature and the interaction between the built environment running through several films. I also enjoyed the use of found and archival footage that was weaved into new material present in several work. Big congratulation goes out to everyone involved in the showcase.
Last night’s screening inspired this current blog, which will be about student art and non student art. During the question period an audience member asked of the curators and two present artists: what was the situation surrounding the creation of the film, since you are students was it for an assignment, and was it under the constraint of a school imposed deadline? Parastoo Anoushahpour, whose film was showcased, mentioned that part of the footage was created over a six month period while finishing the piece was promoted by quick assignment. This is a common way of working for an assignment. What I was surprised by was that the question implied that there is a big difference between student artists and non-student artists.
I think when you are a student you are so immersed in the environment of the institution you don’t realize the limits and benefits of your environment at all times. I know that I sometimes switch to identifying as an artist or a student depending on the situation and what is best in that scenario. I have to be honest, I am not always very aware that I am creating work in a very structured environment, similar to the way that a fish wouldn’t be able to describe what water is like, because they are surrounded by it and it’s the only thing they know. As an undergrad student it took years until I was given free range of what I was making and even then the constrains of tight deadlines and expectations from certain teachers weighed heavy on my shoulders. What I wish I would have known earlier was how to fit the assignment to reflect my current interests, and to not be too influenced by the professor and their concerns. At times a critique often felt like a list of things to improve that I would try to accomplish through the next work.
The main difference I can tell between student work and work made by a non-student artist is expectation. As an audience we expect less from a student artist and their work is approached by the audience with less rigor and potentially valued less. This can be both a negative and a positive. Being in school is a space for experimentation and learning your craft, and if people were extremely critical of all student work it would be a hostile space which would make it difficult to continue making and learning. Being a student has its advantages because you are part of an institution that can support you during your time there, for example artist Mary Tremonte has coined the term “institutional resource extraction,” which is when you use the power of the institution and its facilities to propel your cause or agenda. Since an institution has a huge amount of resources in the form of space, material, funding, scholarships, and even prestige, you can extract those resources and use them yourself (and even share those resources with others). These resources can be used to propel your art career or create change both inside and outside of the institution that you are working within. Being a student is a great space to be making work, even though it does not always feel that way. I think it is important to take every advantage and opportunity you can when you are in school and use the space to truly build your practice.