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The Pineapple Review: Choking ‘Bout My Education

Posted by art On June - 20 - 2008

The Pineapple Review

My Neck is Thinner Than A Hair

The Atlas Group and Walid Raad
FACT 2005, 226 pgs

By Carolyn Tripp

As unsettling as they are, photographs of devastation and violence are fairly commonplace. Come to think of it, so too are the debates concerning how familiar they’ve become in print and on television. Even so, the page after page of post car bomb photographs taken various media photographers makes for an intriguing non-flipbook of devastation in My Neck is Thinner Than a Hair by the Atlas Group and Walid Raad. This volume contains images exclusively from Lebanon’s civil war, dating between 1976 and 1991.

Like so many attacked hearts bursting from scores of aching chests, the engines have left their intended homes and are the only portions of the wreckages to remain intact when the carnage is over. Many of them are actually found several blocks away from the original explosion sites.

Question marks popped above my desk, however, when I considered the attempt in archiving something of this magnitude, not to mention gravitas. This is mainly due to the fact that attempts at documenting historical events often focus on narrative rather than accuracy. In either case, there is the perennial conundrum of portraying that which we know to have happened, and the point of view we wish our audience to absorb. The exclusivity of the project, i.e. car bombs, presents a problem when considering this dichotomy.

Much to the publication’s credit, the layout is fairly pragmatic, which certainly references what one might consider an “archive proper.” Still, design and layout, with scans of the envelopes in which the images were found, become more of a focus than what may be deemed necessary, at least as it concerns the realm of history. Thus, it introduces the potential for the photographs to overshadow the subjects they contain.

All of these qualms remained floating above my workspace until memory prompted a conversation that I had back in 1997 with a penpal from Buffalo. I chanced asking her which country she believed to have won the war of 1812. She insisted adamantly that it was the United States of America. Before she had even finished her sentence, I responded with the usual Canadian answer. Both of our contentions, lifted from textbooks in our respective countries, were inaccurate. This only serves me now as a mildly interesting anecdote, but is useful nonetheless. The general lack of truth nestled in our education (and in educational print) is at times like some kind of rank, gaseous fog, never entirely lifted from the time it’s set upon us at the age of five.

The debate rages on worse than your sister when you call her thighs tubby. Perhaps the enduring question of historical veracity in print can never be resolved, but the Atlas Group has accomplished a damned stylish task with this volume, even if it does bring forth musings about semantics, accuracies, and General Brock.

Like a catalogue of Twinkies after the apocalypse, these car engines are grim and repetitive objects, but never ad nauseum. They manage, and quite compellingly so, to contribute new dimensions to the already convoluted task of portraying the not-so-civil.

Every week, we highlight the best in art-ish printed matter. Pretty much anything on book or in paper is fine and juicy by us. And difficult to eat. But oh, so tasty.

A Review of Paper Dolls
Hand-Made Publication By Liana Schmidt
Available at: www.hqgalerieboutique.com (Montreal)

By Carolyn Tripp

There’s always some smug kid in the first grade who’ll far exceed their peers in all things art and crafts. Every exhaustive, repetitive assignment thrown at them comes back a masterpiece, especially when it comes to cut and paste and making origami. I remember wanting to slug a girl once when I was six for making the most beautiful paper cranes you had ever seen in her spare time. It’s exceptional how peer aptitude can often inspire violence.

Beatings aside, my favourite activity was always that thing where you fold a paper into several sections and cut out a wee shape of a person. I was better at making snowflakes, but it was marvelous to unravel and have the dolls connect for the first time. They were all holding hands! I also remember having the same reaction at twenty-five years of age to one of those ribbons you collapse into a ready-made bow for the top of a present. That’s right. Old giggling habits die hard.

Enter one of the exceptional kids, Liana Schmidt, (one part of Ariana) who released an immaculately hand-made book Paper Dolls in 2007. The contents yield her friends in static poses, all with different outfits on that you can cut out and arrange in stand-up positions. The girls are in dresses, the boys are in suits, and all them are worthy of a visit to the favourite toy shelf.

There’s a whimsical duality to the layout, having two very familiar types of paper doll making in the same publication. Its accordion shape alludes to the aforementioned cut-outs, but the actual application is much akin to images with scissors lines in your favourite Star Wars magazines from 1985. The images are meant to be cut out and arranged so they can stand alone, with two additional outfits for each person.

Personal favourites remain Erin Fraser (also Ariana) who has about a bucket of blood dripping down her head, and Dylan McKinnon with his broken arm, awkwardly positioning himself around every outfit he tries on.

What tends to bother me about a lot of publications, hand-made or otherwise, is the refusal to let anything slide without an elaborate artist statement or long-winded preface. I realize I shoot myself in the foot when I suggest that some writing is unnecessary in art publications, but it’s true. Paper Dolls exists to be a book of paper dolls and explore the individuality of its characters. There are instructions on the back, resisting the long delve into toy and craft culture. It’s not needed here. The images can exist independent of excessive artist rhetoric.

Thanks to Schmidt, you don’t even need Facebook for a friend collection.

Why Fancy Pants Are The Best Pants

Posted by art On May - 9 - 2008

Every week, we highlight the best in art-ish printed matter. Pretty much anything on book or in paper is fine and juicy by us. And difficult to eat. But oh, so tasty.

A Review of Fancy Action Now: The Art of Team Macho

By Carolyn Tripp

Capturing the essence of the Team Macho art collective has always a bit of a conundrum. At least for me, it started to become clearer when I visited their quarters and played with the resident mascot, Punchy the Cat. Commonly referred to as a “Tommy Fat Foot,” she has an excess amount of toes. Still a regular cat in every other sense, only made exponentially better due to this physical attribute.

How might this translate into the fundamental nature of an artist collective? The answer isn’t solely found in how the paw remains active as a functioning unit. In spite of the multiplicity, it indeed works just as well as any other appendage, only this time it’s with increased intrigue and depth of character. Tommy Fat Foots are a damn treat to hang around with as well, with hours spent poking at their feet and wondering at God’s twisted design.

Enter Team Macho with their Fancy Action Now, published in conjunction with the stunning group show of the same title in 2007. In cahoots with Magic Pony, this book documents the entire collection and if it isn’t on your coffee table, like, right now, I feel sorry for you. Apart from the full-on every-page-in-colour explosion, I personally find it difficult to resist the gaze of the Dyke baby or the intricacies of the Spock Cousteau. This book will make any listless viewer focused for hours, content to poke and prod at the pages with no end in sight.

In their 2007 interview with Gary Taxali, the group discusses initially getting together out of not only a need to break convention by functioning as a collective, but to increase the depth of their output. And to maybe piss a few people off in the process.

Breaking the usual conundrum of scholastic convention and creating drawings together, Team Macho started where most collectives don’t: The Abyss of Post-Secondary. The dreaded institution harps, nay insists, upon individual creation. So much so that it becomes ad nauseum, and your once impressionable classmates soon become pompous man-shaped islands, refusing to let anyone touch their work for fear of diluted authorship and lack of proper recognition.

I myself have encountered many an artist who specifically dislikes the idea of a collective operating together. And not just in the same studio, but you know, touching each other’s drawings and stuff. The “collective” term is used so loosely these days, it’s hard to keep track of what it actually entails. Together, not a few feet away not paying attention or close-by in the next room, which happens to be cordoned off with bead strings cause you couldn’t afford to install a proper fucking door. It’s a complete unit, a multi-toed hyper-functioning mega-foot. And you want to get to know it.

If nothing else, this publication demonstrates that Lauchie Reid, Steven Appleby-Bar, Nick Aoki, Jacob Whibley and Chris Buchan are not lost to the (often) aimless confines of experimental endeavours. They clearly and consistently make beautiful artwork together. The idea may take a bit getting used to at first, but once your eyes adjust and the dust settles from all the fancy action, it will become your preferred state of being.

The Pineapple Review

Every week, we highlight the best in art-ish printed matter. Pretty much anything on book or in paper is fine and juicy by us. And difficult to eat. But oh, so tasty.

The Book of Shrigley by David Shrigley

Chronicle Books

By Carolyn Tripp

The sentiment resulting from observing artist neurosis can be more a strange mixture of vexation than the oft-supposed fascination. Beyond any interesting work and existential conundrums, I don’t think I could suffer through the conversation offered by somebody whose presence isn’t half as enthralling as his work.

And what would be the point of inviting him to a dinner party, anyway? He’d just stand around and mope in the corner, eh? Most likely running to the bathroom half-way through the evening to polish off a few lines off the back of your toilet in hopes of having something “deep” to say ten minutes post. On the whole, there are plenty dinner companions and talent, but seldom both. All that baking of bread and the fish was a gigantic waste of time. If this has ever happened to you, it’s okay. You did your best. Everyone makes a blunder or two along the Path of Attempted Culture.

I have no idea about David Shrigley’s level of substance abuse, but between his animation and the Book of Shrigley, and additionally in spite of myself, your best bet for entertaining dinner conversation would probably be on him.

This artist is a thief in the best kind of way, and a keen observer of his friends, pets, family and of course, complete strangers. I understand using possessives may not always mean the artist is talking about themselves, but here I would almost prefer it if he was. One piece entitled, Me Doing This from 2000 sees a crude portrait of the artist doing exactly what surrounds his likeness: drawing a bunch of circles. And that’s all.

In addition to page-upon-page of works on paper, shots of his studio are also featured where work becomes rather (or, even more) accidental in nature. For another reason to invite him over for wine and cheese and biscuits, please refer to his huge five-gallon paint bucket on page 32 marked “Anti-Depressants.” Perhaps it’s the paint itself that makes the artist happy, or maybe there are a bunch of pills therein. I don’t know. I’m not a doctor. Though, the dilemma he presents achieves humour and intrigue, so much so that after laughing out loud, I check myself and immediately feel ashamed for reading too much into it.

Another giggle-inducing facet lies within his blunt cultural distinction. One could definitely insert a thick accent onto every page, at least where British colloquialisms are featured. My personal favourite proclaims, “We went on holiday to Italy/It was shite/The plane crashed/And we all got killed” taken from We Went On Holiday To Italy (pg 80).

So you know, in a way this bundle of goodness is no more confusing than those other good books your parents tried to raise you on. It might be time to give the others a rest and tend to the newest version of the gospel. Whatever you interpret that to be, I’m sure you’ll find some guidance here worthy of a few existential ponderings (and yes, more damn fine discussion over pinot and seasoned halibut).

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MONDO is a non-profit, weekly, Toronto-based, online magazine that focuses on arts, culture, and humour. We’re interested in art of all kinds (music, theatre, visual art, film, comics, and video games) and the pop culture that we inhabit.The copyright on all MONDO magazine content belongs to the author. If you would like to pay them for more content, please do. To contact MONDO please email us at editor@mondomagazine.net

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