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Sky Glabush
London
October 01, 2009

LOLA (The London Ontario Live Arts Festival) recently returned for its fifth incarnation and stands as one this city’s most successful and important cultural events of the year. The bulk of the festival is made up of a strong roster of indie/alternative performance-based musical groups like A Horse and His Boy, Akron/Family, Final Fantasy, Polar Bear, Khaki King, Nomo, Bruce Peninsula and more. But there were also sound artists or what they referred to as “transmedia” acts like Gordon Monahan, Growing, London’s legendary Nihilist Spasm Band, and Canadian conceptualist icon Michael Snow. Under the artistic direction of Paul Walde, LOLA also staged the work of many prominent visual artists like Robert Youds, Kelly Mark, Wyn Geleynse, and Dave Dyment, among others.



Aganetha Dyck & Richard Dyck, Hive Scan 4, 2001-2003, digital photograph (courtesy of the artists and Michael Gibson Gallery)

Michael Gibson Gallery was one of the visual art venues and they had on display the venerable Aganetha Dyck. I first saw her work back in the 90s when she had a large exhibition at the Mendel Art Gallery. I knew nothing about her and was surprised to encounter someone who looked very much like my grandmother speaking about these wild objects made up of cigarette butts, wax, and lipstick, and these fabulously cute shrunken wool sweaters—regular sized knitted wool sweaters that had been washed in hot water and gasp, put in the dryer. The playful criticism of domesticity, chores and children, the struggling to maintain a career as an artist all seemed condensed and shrunken in these tiny wool vessels. She spoke about her work with bees and the processes of their lives in such exacting detail it was as if she was describing her own children. As a fledgling artist I admired the deep connection she evinced between her life and art.
 
Her current work Collaborating in the Darkness continues to investigate her apiarian dialogue and, considering the current crisis of plummeting bee populations, is both prescient and slightly ominous. Alongside the familiar figurines that have been embedded and absorbed by the honeycombing work of the bees, there is a suite of digital photographs that make up the bulk of the show. According to the gallery statement, the photos were made by placing “a flatbed scanner inside of the beehive.” I think these are exquisitely beautiful images, but somehow they feel different than some of her earlier work; more like art and less like the excruciatingly domestic objects I had first encountered. Maybe this difference comes from her collaboration with her son Richard. But any criticism aside, I continue to marvel at her creativity and willingness to experiment and change.


Robert Youds, Jesus Green Tofino Sunset, 2009 (courtesy of Diaz Contemporary and the artist, photo: Sky Glabush)

ArtLAB, (the gallery connected to the University of Western Ontario’s Department of Visual Arts) became another LOLA venue and hosted a show by Victoria-based Robert Youds. Combining episodic references to the prosaic or at least familiar world of advertising, window display, and signage, with clever and at times brilliantly evocative references to minimalist sculpture, painting and the discursive histories of both, Youds manages to synthesize an increasingly accelerated range of influences, interests and experiences into concise visual form. A superb yet rather modest piece entitled Jesus Green Tofino Sunset could have been culled from Olafur Eliasson’s optically enveloping 360° room for all colours except that whereas Eliasson’s work seems to slip into the spectacular, Youds’s retains a kind of immediate objectness. Made from a chunk of some kind of white, rigid foam, the piece is propped against the wall in a comic inversion of John McCracken’s heavy minimal monoliths. Embedded inside the foam are five vertical LED lights that gently modulate the entire spectrum of colour. The understated sculptural object demonstrates for me the confidence and clarity of Youds practice: it is both playful and inventive, while also managing a certain objective clarity uncommon in the increasingly pluralistic space of contemporary sculpture.



Dave Dyment, Side Reel Time: Mirror Ball, 2009 (courtesy of Paul Walde, LOLA Festival and the artist)

Dave Dyment’s mirror ball installation was fantastic. I walked to Victoria Park where most of the events were happening and could see his piece at a distance. As I approached, I could discern how it was made and I thought that hanging a bunch of disco balls from a crane in front of what would become an outdoor dance floor seemed a bit obvious. I was rolling this sort of evaluation around in my head, thinking of what I might write later, but as I got under the deluge of cascading light I lost my balance and was hit with vertigo. Something about the intensity of the stage lighting bouncing off so many mirrored, reflective surfaces resulted in this complete wash or carpeting of tiny, moving discs of light. The space became wholly immersive and the ground was undulating with a gentle yet disorienting wash of pale yet intensely vibrant speckles. I went away convinced by the work’s elegance and simplicity. Dyment’s piece created an insightful instance of something purely visual riffing on the space of music and the exuberant theatricality of an outdoor concert.



Tim Hecker performing live at LOLA 2009 (courtesy of Paul Walde, LOLA Festival and the artist)

The highlight of the LOLA festival was Montreal’s Tim Hecker. Performing—if you can call staring at a computer screen and occasionally tweaking knobs performing—on a small, round stage that allowed the audience to get within a few feet of him, his set began with that familiar concoction of ambient, glitchy, distorted wall-of sound noise combined with his brilliant sense of composition and deliberate melodic sensibility. The music quickly engulfed and entranced his audience. Many people elected to lie down or adopt yogic-like seating postures, but I was fidgety and kept moving, looking for the acoustic sweet spot. When I settled in, Hecker’s performance soon surrounded me and I was lost in what became the most complete and moving aesthetic experience I have had in a while. I was totally immersed in this wave of cacophonic, structural noise.  But it was over before I knew it. I often listen to Hecker when I am working in the studio and will loop two or three of his albums back to back, so I’m used to experiencing his work in two or three-hour intervals and was disappointed that his set was only about forty minutes long.

I got to chat with him afterwards. I told him that I am a painter and that I often listen to his albums while working in the studio. He replied that he often turns to visual art for inspiration and that the best book he knew about making music is Gerhard Richter’s The Daily Practice of Painting.


Sky Glabush is a writer and artist living in London Ontario. He is an Assistant Professor in Studio Art at the University of Western Ontario.


London Ontario Live Arts Festival (LOLA): http://www.lolafest.com/

 

 

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