I was recently a part of the exhibit Make It Work: Creativity In The Great Recession in the School Of Visual Arts Projects Gallery in the Lebel Building on the University of Windsor Campus. The gallery show was a response to “the great recession” that is currently upon us.
I submitted two pieces for the show. The first is a video work entitled “Reruns” which feature some C-Span footage of Paulson and Bernanke discussing the need for a bailout in 2008. Though I added a laugh track to the banal scene, exposing the “comedy” of this “situation”. The rerun aspect relates back to the idea of “tired” plot lines being played over and over on our television screens. The recent economic decisions, especially made by the federal reserve (a private corporation, not a government branch) seem to take place on a stage far removed from “every day life” yet effect it so greatly.
The second piece is a painting work that I had done earlier entitled “Save”. A text based work modelled after the actual signage of local businesses, mainly gas stations, dollar stores and quick loan businesses. The seemingly discarded signage is placed in a glass case in the Lebel Building’s halls that resembles the many empty and neglected store fronts in Windsor’s downtown.
The exhibit was also in collaboration with the panel discussion INTERSECTIONS: Art + Economies which is described below. The discussions gave a lot of context to the works and framed them around a post-industrial phenomena that is gripping a large portion of Southern Ontario and the American Midwest, while at the same time, emphasizing the need for new creative economies. The talk featured two of my influential professors: Lee Rodney and Justin Langlois.
While the idea of creative economies has become commonplace in large cultural centres, there has been less consideration of the possibilities and challenges of working in economically distressed cities that are at a distance from cultural capitals and the art market. Research into the trend of shrinking cities in recent years has drawn attention to the question of how to consider cities that are losing population and basic infrastructure. Possible answers to the problems raised by shrinking cities have not been coming from economists or politicians, but from artists, designers and architects.
Conventional logic dictates that artists and other creative professionals are drawn toward large established cultural centres to support their careers; however in recent years there has been a small but notable trend emerging in former industrial regions in North America where alternative creative communities have been organizing in places seemingly left behind by globalization. These artists, designers and architects share a concern for questioning the values of market-driven aesthetics and the conventions of artistic practice that are linked to large international centres. In contrast the emphasis in these regions has been toward articulating locality through new audiences. We will seek to trace some of the varied adaptive methods of artistic practice that are linked to smaller and informal economic arrangements that have emerged as big industry ceases to be the defining force within these regions.
In conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the School of Visual Arts we are hosting a panel discussion to address the intersection of art and economy as our region undergoes transition. Speakers will address what role the arts has had in shifting and redefining the culture of industrial cities struggling to survive in an information economy. To this end our two local panelists will be joined by two dynamic curators from other cities that have negotiated similar economic shifts – or are in the process of doing so. We plan to discuss a range of questions such as: What might locality and local production mean when two cities are located on an international border? What role do artists and grassroots organizations have in redefining local realities? How do ethnic, racial, religious, and cultural realities play out in negotiations of place and identity, and how can these negotiations posit new sorts of regional or global identities? And what might local mean in the Detroit-Windsor region, for example, where some creative practices are focused on audiences at the scale of the neighbourhood or even the block, while others seek audiences far beyond?
Reruns: Excerpts/Installation View from Stephen Surlin on Vimeo.