Aimée Henny Brown is a project-based artist working with printed matter in flat, sculptural, and performative manners. Archives, documents, text-based media, and instructions are often activated through her sustained performances, installations and new media applications. She lives and works in Vancouver, but is currently performing Overland Station: par voie de terre aboard a passenger train travelling between Vancouver and Toronto from May 13 to 26. Correspondence from this project can be read at www.overlandstation.ca or followed on Twitter @OverlandStation
Fascinated by these plate-size flowering trees, I started investigating. Magnolia trees and their massive blooms predate history in that horticulturalists believe magnolias to be so ancient that they existed before bees and were pollinated by roaming beetles. Fossilized specimens of early magnolia species have been dated to twenty million years ago. We're talking dinosaurs AND magnolias! One of the most interesting facts about magnolias that I've found is that they do not actually have individual petals. The flowers grow as a single unit incorporating all the flower anatomy, called a tepal, which is a distinct marker of ancient flowering plants. The state tree of Mississippi, magnolias grace all kinds of pop culture references including The Grateful Dead's song Sugar Magnolia, PT Anderson's movie Magnolia, and, perhaps the most haunting, Billy Holiday and Nina Simone's versions of the song Strange Fruit.
2. Old Chum
A self-professed research hound, I live for online archives. Few moments are as exciting as finding a lovely set of nitrate negatives scanned into a database. Most Canadian archival institutions have websites where you can search online databases of their images; NSARM and The Glenbow Museum are particularly well presented. Lately I’ve been compelled to spend countless hours with Old Chum, an online image blog maintained by the folks of Old Faithful Shop in Vancouver. Without any naming, sorting, or arranging, Old Chum presents historical images of dwellings, craftspeople, typography, and material goods in a manner that feels fresh – a stream of consciousness conceptually associated with archiving - while bypassing the complicated archival action of classifying items and, as a result, often colonizing their content.
3. The Vandercook Universal
I have a relationship with this press. I think about her when we’re apart. I plan projects with her far into the future. This gorgeous flat-bed, rolling drum press is a total dream to work with for moveable type and polymer plate projects – particularly when she has an adjustable bed height. I recently met an elderly gentleman who worked at an assembly plant for these presses in the 1960s. We instantly started talking shop: triple drum inking, lead type, and California Job cases. As his lovely wife slowly backed away, he whispered, “I love it when you talk technical to me,” and winked. I’m still blushing.
4. La Mystere des Voix Bulgares
Hold onto your folk music hats: this is no Mighty Wind. La Mystère is not a new album; in fact the original recordings are the work of Swiss ethnomusicologist Marcel Cellier, who spent more than a decade on the mathematical vocal arrangements for the album. He ultimately recorded the Bulgarian folk songs he was working on with the Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir. They were well recognized for dissonant harmonies and “open” voices. Here’s where the story gets interesting: Cellier’s project was released in 1975 on his own small label Disques Cellier. The project went relatively unnoticed until Peter Murphy (lead singer of Bauhaus) passed along a fourth generation tape to Ivo Watts-Russell, the founder of 4AD record label. In 1986, the project was re-released under 4AD and eventually won a Grammy. Among the most haunting human vocal arrangements, this album is on regular rotation in my studio and is plainly gorgeous.
5. The Possible Past, Aislinn Hunter
Anselm Keefer gave an interesting interview with the Tate Modern a few years ago. The interviewer asked him about his use of text in paintings and why he didn’t write more. Keefer replied that if he could make his artistic practice work in words, he would be a poet. Aislinn Hunter makes the world work in words. The Possible Past is an amazing collection of poetry that asks the reader to consider the subjective and precarious qualities of social history. The four sections of the collection - Errors, Inventions; The Progress of History; Public Records, Local Histories; Field Notes - frame and identify her concerns for a fluid examination of recorded histories. She somehow manages to maintain a romantic AND contemporary voice without distilling the complexity of loving and hating notions of THE PAST. When my brain is foggy about working with historical subject matter her writing is a clarion call.
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