i. Artist As Activist Exhibit By Stephen Surlin @ The Lebel Gallery
ii. Killing Us Softly
iii. Artcite’s MAYWORKS Labour Arts Festival 2010
iiii. Street Dreams
Artist As Activist Exhibit By Stephen Surlin @ The Lebel Gallery
The exhibit entitled Artist As Activist is a solo exhibition featuring the recent works of Stephen Surlin, who also curated the show. Because of Surlin’s recent travels to Nigeria, Africa, he was inspired to use his interest in social justice issues, his knowledge of electronics and design and the creative and critical practices learned from his Bachelor of Fine Arts and Women’s Studies degrees from the University of Windsor to produce “products” and ideas for improving the lives of the people he worked with in Nigeria.
Surlin’s focus is mainly on the easily accessible and salvageable products that can be purchased at electronics wholesalers or online, like, LED (lights), rechargeable batteries, and consumer grade solar panels. Along with sewable “e-textiles” like the Lily Pad Arduino.
The other elements of the gallery will hopefully give the viewer an idea of the impact that ideas of “sustainable design”, contemporary technology and critical engagement can have on communities all around the world, including our own.
Below are several excerpts from a book by Stuart Walker , one of the biggest influences on Surlin during the design process.
Sustainable by Design: Explorations in Theory and Practice
By Stuart Walker
Sustainable product design explores reuse of materials, re-manufacturing and product longevity. If we begin to create long-lasting, but repairable and upgradeable products made from reused materials and parts, we will have to reassess our ideas of products and the value and place of the ‘new’, the glossy and the perfect. A product which bears the marks of time and use and its own history could, potentially, have a richness lacking in many of today’s squeaky-clean but rather barren products; but to appreciate this richness we will have to readjust our value system and our expectations of product aesthetics.
Inventiveness Of Necessity
Sustainability demands resourcefulness and restraint. New solutions have to be found which require less.
Improvisation And Spontaneity
The constraints of limited resources at the local level in terms of materials, processes and tools, combined with a realization that most contemporary products are actually a physical manifestation of unsustainable practices, can create a liberating environment in which to reconsider the nature of objects.
Integration Of Scales – Mass-Produced Plus Locally Made Parts
An important but little explored aspect of sustainable product design is a reassessment of our scales of production so that products can be made, repaired and reused within an industrial ecology of cyclic resource use at the local or regional level.
Elegance And Empathy Through Design
When developing products within the limitations imposed by locale, processes, techniques and human skills must be used imaginatively to convert often uninspiring or non-ideal materials into elegant forms that contribute in a positive way to our material culture.
Killing Us Softly
Killing Us Softly was a solo show held by Stephen Surlin in late 2009 at the Lebel Gallery on the University of Windsor campus. The title is inspired by the media criticism and analysis by Jeane Kilbourne, who’s work focuses on the dangerous levels of gendered exploitation in the media, especially magazine ads and billboards, which bombard the viewer with often sexist and violent imagery. Kilbourne states that the average North American views over 3000 ads everyday, a number that was developed before the mass proliferation of the internet.
“Kilbourne’s work links the power of images in the media with current public health problems, such as eating disorders, violence, and drug and alcohol addiction. Through her lectures, films, and articles, many of her original ideas and concepts have become mainstream. These include the concepts of the tyranny of the beauty ideal, the connection between the objectification of women and violence.”
The exhibit features several mediums: Drawing, Painting, Video and Conceptual works. The over-arching theme is a focus on the aesthetics of violence observed through an art historical lens. From assassinations from the time of Francisco Goya to newspaper photos of the 3 great African-American Civil Rights leaders or the 14 women killed in the “Montreal Massacre”.
The assasinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Fred Hampton. The titles are “67″ “68″ “69″, the years they were killed in. Summing up the tumultuous era.
Title: What Good Is A Single Cup? After Goya, is a piece created by gluing the grounds of an entire bag of Fair Trade Coffee from Ten Thousand Villages. The grounds were then scraped off in the form of Goya’s etching What Good Is A Single Cup? which depicts a woman giving a cup of water to a dying person while begin surrounded by the dead or dying.
Self portrait series involving 3 parts.
This is a video of a piece I did, recreating the Samuel Beckett play Catastrophe. Considered one of his most political works, the play has a director mold a player into the perfect subject while using an assistant to physically adjust the player. In this rendition, a generic actor is turned into the “perfect” news anchor, the personification of catastrophe in our society.
The drawn portraits of the 14 women killed in the “Montreal Massacre” an event where the gunman was attempting to “kill all the feminists” in the engineering program at the L’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal.
This is a drawing series based on the Facebook ads that I was being inundated with at the time. The work acts to expose the aesthetics of this contemporary advertising method that is only becoming more popular as many websites look for cheaply made advertising revenue.
Artcite’s MAYWORKS Labour Arts Festival 2010
For Artcite’s annual MAYWORKS Festival 2010 I used the 410 Pelissier storefront to curate a minimal show with my Save paintings and the installation of 3 tables that were found around the space.
The paintings work as a group that resembles the collected detritus of a recently emptied out storefront, a scene that is very common in the Windsor, Ontario region. The ambiguous text takes on several meanings regardless of the context they’re placed in. In this particular setting, they may appear as a forgotten request to save a few dollars or this entire building from being demolished or converted into more parking space.
The tables were inspired by the recent garbage strike that was also happening during the creation of the Street Dreams show for the Fringe Festival. The tables, that are similar to the ones in many municipal government meetings exist perpetually overturned. A symbol of indecision and inefficiency by local bureaucracy.
For the month of May, Windsor Ontario’s labour and arts communities will join with other cities across theCanada to present our firstlabour focused cultural MayWorks festival in Windsor in 2010.
Artists, workers, and students havemet over many months to organize a collection of exhibitions, projects, events,a rally, and parade, to celebrate our creativity as a community, our dedication to the values of workers’ solidariy, social justice and human rights.
Our various activities will highlight our support for our city core, our oldSandwich Towne community, our history of solidarity and labour arts.
The temporary 410 Pelisier gallery space.
Paintings by Jason Deary, garbage bag and other installation elements by Stephen Surlin.
Paintings by Jason Deary.
Detail of Stephen Surlin’s kinetic sculpture made from found material from within and around the gallery space, local construction sites and alleys.
Michelle Souliere’s installation space, including the free stickers and colouring books made from local “tags” and popular tagging spots.
Video work by Stephen Surlin. At the bottom left is a sculpture by Josh Babcock.
This was an exhibit that was curated by Stephen Surlin in the summer of 2009 through Artcite’s International Visual Fringe Festival. A strong and growing festival in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
The exhibit/installation featured the works of: Daniel Bombardier, Michelle Soulliere, Jason Deary, Josh Babcock and Stephen Surlin.
Mediums included: spray paint, sculpture, painting, and performance among others.
For the second year, Artcite, Windsor’s artist-run center for the contemporary arts was proud to host the Visual Arts component of the 2009 Fringe Festival:
Artcite continued its partnership with Windsor’s International Fringe Festival and Actors Theatre of Windsor, to present “Visual Fringe” off-site exhibitions and programs in participating businesses and vacant storefronts /buildings in and around downtown Windsor. 52 artists from Windsor and surrounding areas, including Detroit MI, exhibited their art works in non-traditional venues.
In partnership with downtown merchants and venue sponsors, we installed a wide variety of contemporary works in a wide range of storefront, in-store and available-for-rent retail spaces. Admission was free.
Programs included a storefront exhibits, mini galleries, performances, interventions and a walking tour.
The Visual Fringe provides an excellent opportunity for Fringe Festival visitors and the general public to see new works by numerous emerging and established artists in an accessible, fun (non-gallery) setting.
This is a piece that was done in collaboration with Eric K. Boucher, one of Windsor’s best cinematographers. The film is based on the exhibition I curated for the Windsor International Fringe Festival in the summer of 2009. I was given an empty commercial space and was given the opportunity to fill it with art.
The exhibit was entitled “Street Dreams”, the title was inspired by the artists I had in mind for the show: Jason Deary, Daniel “Denial” Bombardier, Michelle “Citynoise” Soulliere, Josh Babcock and Myself. All of these artists employ aesthetics that are reminiscent of the ideological or imaginary “streets” of Windsor. The concept of dreams comes from the play on words of the popular saying “sweet dreams” and the connection to the imagined, the removed and actual images of what the “streets” mean and look like to each individual artist. It was an amazing experience.