Art Installation & Exhibit

"Multiple Realities" & "On The Road Again", 1998

Multiple Realities Multiple Realities Multiple Realities Multiple Realities Multiple Realities Multiple Realities Multiple Realities Multiple Realities Multiple Realities Multiple Realities Multiple Realities Multiple Realities On the Road Again On the Road Again On the Road Again On the Road Again On the Road Again On the Road Again On the Road Again On the Road Again On the Road Again

Art Installation & Exhibit Statement

As we begin the twenty-first century, our notions of personal success and economic security are undergoing radical revision. In North America, the age of mechanization and industrialization has given way to automation, computerization, and globalization. Where once there stood the factory of a local manufacturer, now there stands the regional office of a trans-national corporation. Many call this progress and deem it a necessary step in our relentless march toward "the good life". These same voices urge us onward, declaring that, "as our technology changes, so too must the individual." But, to what end?

As our economic base becomes less dependent on manufacturing, and more dependent on highly specialized services (such as computer programming), the need for a smaller and more specialized work force is growing. This shift to a high-tech economy, added to the need to stay competitive within the new global marketplace and the almost manic desire some companies have to satisfy stock holders at any cost, has led to calamity (ENRON, WorldCom). Corporate America's unceasing drive to down-size, right-size and "trim the fat" is now exacting a heavy toll on those who cannot adapt to the sophisticated technologies of our brave new world.As a result, a growing segment of society is feeling disenfranchised, left behind, forgotten.

Many of the securities – a job for life, an old-age pension, a comfortable retirement – that we took for granted in the fifties, sixties, and seventies are becoming unrealistic expectations for more and more people. For the generation that is now coming to age, the security of owning ones own home is quickly becoming an unattainable luxury. I am one of those who cannot afford to own my own home, and who is accustomed to moving regularly to find employment and affordable places to live. Thus, I am well acquainted with the insecurities of those who are marginally employed and who lack equity of any kind.

My performance art addressed some of these issues.Have Lawn, Will Travel was a series of performance pieces, funded by the Canada Council and completed from May to September, 1996. The main component of this project was a fourteen inch high mobile lawn with dimensions that I could adjust from five feet wide by eight feet long to ten feet wide by twelve feet long depending on the size of the performance space. A lush, green lawn is a powerful icon that embodies many of the values that we associate with the "North American way of life". As one of the perks that accompanies home ownership and regular employment, a well-kept lawn signifies economic privilege and a considerable measure of psychological security. From this perspective, a lawn seems an appropriate vehicle through which one might explore some of the issues that arise when traditional values and expectations clash with the reality of our fast-changing world. Moreover, a lawn that is mobile seems well-suited to the nomadic condition of today's worker who must always be ready to relocate her home and family at the whim of a merciless labour market.

For this project, I chose fourteen sites throughout Calgary on which to install my lawn and then enlisted friends and used props to create scenarios that are typically associated with the privilege of owning a lawn. Over the summer, I moved my lawn from one urban setting to another finding metaphorical relationships between these spaces and the experiences that are shared by many in our society. In one of these art performances, titled "Parking It", I placed my lawn in a parking lot and then spent the afternoon at my umbrella table, leisurely perusing the Renter's Guide and plugging coins into the parking meter. The image of an apartment hunter sitting on a mobile lawn parked in a metered area provoked thought among many of the passers-by about the precarious sense of security and transient privileges that accompany the act of renting a home.

As an integral part of the work, I photographed each performance using large format equipment so that at the end of the project I could present large, high quality prints within a gallery. From January to February, 1998 I was part of a three person art exhibition called Multiple Realities at The Muttart Public Art Gallery (renamed The Art Gallery of Calgary). In addition to the prints, I installed the lawn and many of the accessories that I collected over the course of the project including a new patio and flower garden.

Concurrent with the Muttart exhibit I creates a site specific installation called On the Road Again at The Performing Arts Centre in downtown Calgary. Signs in this work – a road map, the employment section of the newspaper with jobs circled in red marker, toiletries, burgers on a portable grill – told the story of a fictional individual who had set out on a job search with his lawn in tow, perhaps to find work as a delivery person so he could always have his lawn nearby. Books with the titles On The Road, The Dispossessed, Care of the Soul, and The Question of Reality, as well as lucky dice and a vanity plate, hint at the tenacious and resourceful character of this job hunter. The work spanned January and February and so I added snow, in the form of laundry detergent, whenever it snowed outside.

In the economically vibrant city of Calgary, Have Lawn, Will Travel and On The Road Again gave a voice to members of the community who do not have access to the resources that others take for granted. In a light-hearted way, these performance artworks and site specific installations provided the means to examine some of the paradoxes, absurdities, and problems of hanging on to unrealistic expectations while trying to adapt to a Darwinian existence.

Have Lawn Logospacer Click here to see those who worked on this project.

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