Somewhere during the latter half of this past spring, while perusing through Midwest America, I made my way through the Detroit area and then into bordering Canadian city Windsor, Ontario. For no particular reason, I've always wanted to visit that place. I didn't really have any imagination of the place. In my mind, it was just another place that exists in Canada. When friends relocated there, it became a reason to trip. For the first while there, I had to keep reminding myself I was back in Canada after crossing over. Not because it reminded me of the towns and cities I just journeyed through[maybe it did], but I suppose I thought I had a developed outlook of what the rest of Canada looked like from living and visiting different spots of Ontario and the country. In an unexpected way, Windsor allowed me to reconsider the geography of the country.
I met up with multi-disciplinary artist, Luke Maddaford, while there and he would concur with his assessment of the city having lived there for the last two years. “Windsor is a very strange place to live because of how close it is to the border, it has a really strong American influence. It kind of has its own weird bubble that it’s in; it’s economically strange and so is its climate” Maddaford notes.
Maddaford is still reeling from recently completing his graduate studies in fine arts from the city’s university. The work he has been developing and evaluating over his time there as become –in reduced terms—about his relationship with this place that he currently resides. Our dialogue together traveled further into Maddaford’s rich practice, his disposition on making work post-grad school, and how he came to a sudden realization mid way through our chat that he just might have a bit of an elitist bent.
Luther Konadu: What have you been up to as of late, now that you are done with your studies?
Luke Maddaford: I’ve been trying to get my life together as an adult, so I haven’t been in the studio as much lately. I’ve been looking for a job, that kind of stuff.
LK: What kind of job are you looking for? Are you pretty much willing to take anything at this point?
LM: Yeah. Actually, I just got a job doing custodial work for Dollarama. I’m gonna be working with this company that has a contract with Dollarama so I’ll be waxing and cleaning all of the floors of their locations in Southwestern Ontario.
LK: No way!
LM: I know, it’s like, the most random job ever. But it pays. I get to take the work van and go from town to town for work each day.
LK: I feel like that could be an interesting job.
LM: I’ve worked one shift already in the middle of the night just cleaning the floor by myself. It’s very, very strange. Being in an empty store filled with cheap over-produced things.
"Usually, I have an idea, and then I say to myself; “okay, let’s do that idea” and I have to figure out what I’m doing as I go. Sometimes that’s not the best, sometimes dumb things come out of that."
LK: What’s it like being out of art school?
LM: I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit actually. It hasn’t quite set in yet, I guess. I do notice when I’m working on stuff I have a different attitude, since the past two years have just been me working on my thesis essentially. Now I’m at a point where I can make anything I want. It’s weird to have that freedom. It’s just really setting in. It’s like “oh yeah, I can make really dumb things if I want to.” But yeah, that’s the biggest thing for me, having that freedom and being like “this doesn’t have to be related to this other thing I’m making.” I mean it never did, but it's nice to be out of just having that strict focus on only one body of work.
It’s not like I didn’t have freedom before. I totally did, but I had to justify everything.
A lot of the work I do is a response to the things around me so it’s very instinctual and based a lot on my everyday actions. I start engaging with something, and then I do it again, again, again; all in slightly different ways to get the outcome I want–and I have the freedom to change it however I want to. That all came very naturally, and the only difference now is I can abandon all of it for a few months if I want to. I’m less focused and not nearly as strict.
In school, I had support documents for all my work, I was contextualizing it, I was relating it to theory, I was relating it to other contemporary and historical works–now I can just be in the studio and I don’t have to write about all that stuff anymore.
As much I try not to think about the writing when making work, you do tend to enter a very different mindset when you work knowing you have to write about it and justify it, and contextualize it, and you have to meet a deadline, so you have to do those things quickly as opposed to making something and then leaving it and thinking about it for a year. Without a deadline, there's definitely an opportunity to evolve the idea, to keep working on contextualizing it, to figure it out.
Usually, I have an idea, and then I say to myself; “okay, let’s do that idea” and I have to figure out what I’m doing as I go. Sometimes that’s not the best, sometimes dumb things come out of that. A lot of times I’ll make something and figure out it’s not what I wanted to do, but I’ll take something from what I did and work off of that. The work is coming out of work. It’s never really coming out of this big concept that I have, or this grand narrative that I want to portray for the world–not that there’s anything wrong with making work that way, I know people who do it. It really just comes down to process. My process is very physical; I’ll start making things and I’ll think: “okay this isn't working; This is kind of what This is saying, is That what I want it to say? Maybe I should change it around” etc.