As I plan for my MFA thesis in Digital Futures, I am reviewing other works related to my research interests. Tara Kreb’s thesis won the 2018 gold medal from OCADU in the IAMD (interdisciplinary master’s, art and design) program. It was also the solo show that spoke to me the most in terms of really nailing how to execute on serious issues with grace, subtlety and humour, which are very important to my own process/practice. Below is my review of that work, not from an evaluative perspective but from a thesis prep point of view with regards to practice-led research.
“You’ll Distract the Boys!”: A Choose-Your-Own Compendium of Female Existence
What: Illustrated gamebook about s body censorship, gender construct, and sexual harassment. Shows issues facing North American women and girls.
Why: Women are often assaulted and harassed in ways males have little comprehension of or often blame/hold women accountable for these experiences. See the paper’s title as an example.” When I was a little girl and a boy pushed me down, I was told it was because he liked me. I was meant to brush it off, or perhaps take it as a compliment that I was the object of male attention. Being too young to realize what this indicated about my role in society, I trusted the wisdom of my elders and settled in to the prescribed notion that this was just the way things were. Over the years this acceptance grew within me like a virus.” - Prologue.
How: Krebs utilized “interactive narrative as a pedagogical tool that evokes a response of compassion and empathy for women.” Used case studies that support the value of interactive storytelling. Draws on Hannah Arendt’s work.
“ ..goal is to positively affect the discourse around female identity by applying literary role-playing as a pedagogical tool.” p.19
Value: de-stigmatizing messages about women’s bodies and other issues by sharing relatable truths (Chrisler 2011, 209). “These perspectives add valuable documentation to the subject of female life, as they leave behind physical records of experience. And without such records of human artifact, people have a tendency to forget (Arendt 1958, 204).”
You can view install shots of her thesis and other artwork here: http://www.tarakrebs.com/artwork/
Kent Monkman Paintings
What: Large-scale oil paintings in a classical style that twist and subvert both historical and current socio-political issues and narratives, specifically around colonialism and the queer, Indigenous experience within it. Monkman calls them “missing narratives” from art history.
Why: The Shame and Prejudice exhibition explores Monkman’s experiences with growing up in Winnipeg and seeing Indigenous people’s “frozen in time” in museums and the cognitive dissonance between that portrayal and the real Indigenous people of his daily life.
Above: Artist and Model, and Scream
How: Monkman works in a large studio with teams of models and a photographer to first shoot photographs he then paints from. This is partially due to the complexity of his tableau’s and impossibility of having 9 people freeze while grappling each other for hours on end. He also has assistants that help with painting certain aspects of his work.
This (and much of Monkman’s work) is important in several ways:
- He is subverting colonialist narratives
- He is representing Indigenous experiences from a lived perspective rather than the all too common anthropological ones.
- This work tells narratives that are grossly underrepresented in this country.
Sarah Sitkin: Bodysuits
What: An exhibition of hyper-realistic moulds of the human form. Made by combining sculpture, photography and SFX.
Why: This work is an exploration of what we look like vs what how we think we appear, and how uncomfortable the act of really looking can make us.
Some of her work outside of Bodysuits thoroughly deconstructs the human body, then reassembles it in ways that render it thoroughly into that of the abject.
Designboom.com says that ” in deconstructing the body itself, Sitkin tests the link between physical anatomy and individual sense of identity. flesh becomes a malleable substance to be moulded and whittled into new and unrecognisable shapes. it becomes a medium of storytelling, of self-interrogation and of technical artistry. the result is often unsettling but also deeply personal and affecting, and offers viewers new perspectives on the bodies they thought they knew so well.”
How:Years of work in photography and SFX. Sitkin grew up working in her parents Hollywood special effects shop. It also doesn’t hurt that she has somehow been able to live and work in an LA warehouse for the last several years, where she does the casting for the bodysuits.
A valid argument can be made just for the shear pleasure in creeping people out via her work, or the way in which it encourages people to think about ourselves as physical beings for a moment. What really sticks out for me though as the most successful part of this work is the high level of production value, time, and technical skill that went into this work. She’s got all the “art” reasons behind it, but it also is just so well done on a technical level, that is not often seen in a lot of non-commercial modern or conceptual art in my opinion.