Public Parking
A journal for storytelling, arguments, and discovery through tangential conversations.
The Chaos of Eros: in conversation with the programmers of Erotic Awakenings
Monday, October 4, 2021 | Maria Isabel Martinez
Erotic life is a treasure we hold close until we believe its delight might multiply in the hands, eyes, ears, or mouth of another. One such place for sharing is “Erotic Awakenings,” an archive primarily containing writings hosted on the website of Toronto artist-run gallery Hearth Garage. The project is a collaboration between the gallery’s programmers Benjamin de Boer, Philip Ocampo, Rowan Lynch, and Sameen Mahboubi and writer and facilitator Fan Wu. Each piece of writing is singular in form and content, reflective of our varied erotic experiences.
The making of colonial museums: in conversation with Dan Hicks
Thursday, September 23, 2021 | Olajide Salawu
Dan Hicks has been at the center of conversations on the violent history of colonial museums and on how cultural objects pillaged from the Benin Kingdom can be returned to their original homes. His recent scholarship has focused on the colonial histories of cultural objects, work which has intersected with recent global campaigns against racism, continued imperialism in the Middle East, and ongoing ecological disasters. His two most recent books, The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution (paperback 2021) and A Cultural History of Objects (2020) are both diligent interventions that investigate the underbelly of colonialism and the foundations of Western cultural institutions, with a particular focus on museums where artefacts and valuables that have been expropriated from other regions of the world are displayed for visitors. 
Frontiers of the posthuman natural world: in conversation with Alice Bucknell
Monday, September 13, 2021 | Angel Callander
Alice Bucknell is an artist and writer based in London, UK. Her work uses video game engines and speculative fiction to explore the interconnections between ecology, architecture, and non-human and machinic intelligence. Bucknell’s recent works Swamp City (2021), E-Z Kryptobuild (2020), and Align Properties (2020) are artificial promo videos for imaginary development companies that parody the language and aesthetic conventions of real estate advertising...In this conversation, Alice and I discuss her inspiration for Swamp City, and the associated legal controversy with the Oppenheim Group (of Selling Sunset fame), the difficulties of using non-human characters, Bucknell’s home state of Florida, and how parafiction—a term coined by Carrie Lambert-Beatty to describe the blending of facts and fiction—is a necessary strategy for coming to grips with apocalyptic themes.
Rejection Season
Saturday, September 11, 2021 | Danielle Taschereau Mamers
Rejection season coincides with spring—a small cruelty of cyclical rhythms. Winter lifts and I assess what is revealed from under patches of dirty snow. The salt-stained sidewalk and remnants of grey ice are bleak. My inbox is bleaker. As another day runs out of business hours, I manually refresh my email. “Checking for mail…” appears under my various inboxes, each acquired from a temporary gig and kept active on the off chance that someone may want to reach me.  No new messages, just the same old news that has piled up over the past few weeks. A form letter announces a search committee’s inundation with exquisite applications, offering regrets and warmest regards. That note dredged up drafts and dossiers long buried in the back of my mind during the suspended state of winter. Like the detritus that resurfaces as snowbanks recede, my cover letters look weathered in the cold light of mid-March. I mentally cross off another entry on the list of jobs I’ve applied for.
Seeking Writers : ongoing
Tuesday, August 31, 2021 | Public Parking
Public Parking is currently seeking critical thinkers, attentive cultural observers, and meticulous point-makers to write for the publication. We are also seeking visual artists interested in using the publication as a testing space to write adjacent to, or discursively alongside their own or a peers studio practice.
The Republic of Apology
Thursday, August 12, 2021 | Chigbo Arthur Anyaduba
In the Republic of Apology sorry can buy you anything. Can pay for anything. Those were the opening lines of your book on apology. When your editor Zach first read it, he said that etymologically-speaking “sorry” and “apology” were not neighbours. Apology was a statement of excuse,  something put up in defence against accusations. That was how ancient Greeks understood it. Sorry, on the other hand, came from Middle English and expressed sympathy and a feeling of soreness or sorrowfulness. The operational form of the contemporary regime of apology, said Zach, had returned to the original meaning of the word [...] A few weeks after you sent your manuscript to Zach, he called, sounding excited. Over drinks, Zach said, I couldn’t help myself.Your manuscript inspired me to write a story set in your Republic of Apology. His story is about a man who personifies all the apology paraphernalia celebrated in the Republic. He apologises for everything; he greets apology, jokes apology, weeps apology. Step on his feet while in a bus he apologises with a smile. Yet, as it turns out, this man is a serial killer. Gentle in his approach and always full of apologies to his victims even when killing them. “I am so, so sorry that I have to kill you,” he always says to them, “it’s probably no fault of yours, eh. I can’t help it. I do not hate the fact you’re an aberration of nature, a bloody faggot, eh. But I have to say I am sorry it has to end like this, eh.” His last words to his victims were always: “You do not deserve to die.”  Zach was excited about his story. You asked him what the point was, exactly, about a serial killer who apologised to his victims.  The hollowness of it all, he replied.  You told him about an event you recently attended where the Prime Minister delivered an impassioned apology speech to Indigenous peoples. One man in the audience stood up and screamed at the top of his voice just when the Prime Minister had finished talking: “We got our apology! We got our apology!” The man wasn’t far from where you sat. You could see that he was crying as he screamed, almost losing his voice. You weren’t sure whether he was crying because of the Prime Minister’s apology speech or whether his “We got our apology” was meant as sarcasm. One way or another, you said, there must certainly be something in an apology that is more than hollow. In the Republic of Apology where apology solves injustice, Zach said, it’s all the currency there is.
Bot, Interrupted
Wednesday, August 11, 2021 | Uii Savage
Doomscrolling through my Instagram newsfeed as a habituated ritual of self-sabotage, I surf past public personas seamlessly blending amongst literal fake people. Developing a public persona online is as old as the internet. But what happens when we depart from the highly augmented self and invoke a world of bots? Artificial humyns deployed as virtual influencers, or ‘bots', are on the rise, and the interchangeability of their preferred nouns yield audiences who are just as intrigued as they are confused. Incidentally, when referring to some of these influencers as bots, one is also referring to their process of development. These online apparitions, used as computer-generated fictional characters presented as people, are devoid of agency but perform theatrically as though independent from corporate influence. Vapid in personality yet hyperreal in allure, virtual influencers crystallize "brand as lifestyle" in the metaverse where humyn discretion increasingly eclipses.
Strategies to enflesh the archive: a conversation with Emilio Rojas
Tuesday, August 3, 2021 | Laurel V. McLaughlin
How and why do we tell stories? Whose stories are told by History and whose are erased, forgotten, or deemed “dangerous” to tell? How do we acknowledge and confront the reality that particular histories fall outside of “acceptable”; and, how do we instead, critically shift to address, honor, and care for them? These are just some of the crucial questions that have been posed in academic writing, yelled throughout the streets, and scrawled across public monuments. We’ve seen them on international, national, and local scales over the course of this tumultuous year. Recent efforts—enabled by past advocacy—have challenged individuals, collectives, and institutions to examine fundamentally how people understand time. History writ large, marginalized histories, privilege, subjectivity/objectivity, and institutional methods of communication shift. But perhaps we should also be asking ourselves, what are the non-visible methods of record-keeping that might also erect and maintain barriers; preventing critical reassessments of History?
Methods of Holding Complexity and Community
Tuesday, July 27, 2021 | Jessica Félicité Kasiama
In The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin unravels the belief of the spear as the earliest human tool. She writes: “[S]ixty-five to eighty percent of what human beings ate in [temperate and tropical] regions in Paleolithic, Neolithic, and prehistoric times was gathered; only in the extreme Arctic was meat the staple food.” The overrepresentation of the spear conveys the conflict-driven narrative of the hunter as hero. She de-centers the spear and re-centers that which holds: the carrier bag, the basket, the pouch, the stomach. A modality is expressed, one that better reflects Le Guin as a person and writer. The author writes about the importance of “holding” in a life-affirming way. I read the text’s rejection of hierarchy as a caution against alienating the individual from the community. Our bodies hold our experiences, our experiences shape our perspectives, and our perspectives are useful to those around us. But, humans are messy. How do we hold this complexity with care—and subsequently, each other? It feels contradictory to take this up in writing as it can be a lonely, heart-opening practice. However, I do feel moments of possibility when reading collectively written texts: manifestos; community agreements; zines; anthologies. Inspired by collective writing, I reached out to two friends and artists, Hannah deJonge and Natalie Cito, who both address “holding” in their work. Hannah tenderly contemplates the histories of form through varying practices such as quilting and genre-defying ceramic vessels. And memories of intimate dialogue with Natalie Cito affirm my love of novels. Her artistic practice mirrors her approach to life. Natalie’s visual creations represent journeys into women’s stories and histories.
Public Parking: Editorial Residency Project
Tuesday, June 29, 2021 | Public Parking
Public Parking is very delighted to announce our new editorial residency program. For this program, we aim to work with thinkers who are adjacent or outside the realm of the arts as part of Public Parking’s ongoing efforts to broaden the scope of ideas we feature and the communities we reach. This pilot project invites guest editors to be residents at Public Parking over an extended six-month period. They will work with our team to publish a series of either self-written or programmed texts throughout this time. We are delighted to welcome editorial residents Chigbo Arthur Anyaduba and Emily Doucet for the inaugural run of this program.
Other lives
Though the twins came from an environment committed to genetically engineering their own population towards an ideal, an ideal of whiteness, this didn’t save their father from his own murder. The fact of this, and the strive for fairer complexion brought on by the complexities of colourism which continues to plague many communities, not just in the black diaspora, only reinforces the aspiration for racial hierarchy as futile at best. The supposed freedom that comes from aligning with a social cache is by and large a seductive fallacy. But the damaging chokehold of a culture and history that brings on the need for pursuing this very freedom is just as cogent in the mind. The word ‘freedom’ is applied in the form that contains within it, a kind of comforting love, acceptance, and belonging that makes life for the most part, livable. 
The Great Refusal: in conversation with Michelle Nguyen
Tuesday, June 1, 2021 | Yani Kong
Michelle Nguyen’s artwork will enworld you. Monstrous vegetation joins with naked, dripping, feminine bodies who live ferociously without ever doing too much. Figures pour from one orifice into another and commune with anthropomorphic meat. Colours push out towards the viewer. In the world of the painting, bodies, surfaces, paints, and textures party, seeming to want the viewer to become involved. Her work is luxurious, a little foreboding, and streaked with absurdity. Across her many mediums, drawing, print, clay, and largely in paint, Nguyen shows how the abject is cased in potential, still radiating beauty. Nguyen and I have known each other since 2016, and in that time, I’ve grown a deep admiration for both her and her work. Much like her body of work, Michelle is bold, darkly funny, and deeply tender. She has a lovely friendship with my young daughter. The two of them mixing potions of dirt, fallen flowers, and dead bugs, left to cook in a hot sunbeam. 
Cracks and Fissures: Saúl Hernandez-Vargas’ Strategies of Intervention
Thursday, May 20, 2021 | Katie Lawson
In a time of extreme social and political polarization, it is urgent to examine the historical narratives on which these ideological differences rest. In Mexico, colonial nationalist rhetoric takes on a mythic quality, and results in the homogenization of Indigenous identity and material culture. Yet art can introduce cracks and fissures to hegemonic histories and excavate the stories concealed beneath them. For Saúl Hernandez-Vargas, an artist from Taller de Artes Plásticas Rufino Tamayo, Oaxaca, this excavation is literal. I first encountered the artist through the 2017 works Plate #1, #2, and #3 and through documentation of the exhibition No queda nada para nosotros en la espesura (Nothing Left for Us in the Wilderness).
Smartness and Innovation: a dystopian technological vision in democratic governance
Friday, May 14, 2021 | Jake Pitre
In the Nevada desert you may soon be able to log every single thing you do on blockchain, from obtaining a marriage license to paying for your groceries. There, a largely unknown cryptocurrency magnate named Jeffrey Berns is hoping to install a “smart city” that his company, Blockchains, LLC, will control with the same rights as any municipal government. You will follow their laws. You will pay taxes they have designed. And you will use their technology. “For us to be able to take risks and be limber, nimble and figure things out like you do when you’re designing new products, that’s not how government works. So why not let us just create a government that lets us do those things?” Berns has said. 
Bottled Songs 1-4: in conversation with Kevin B. Lee and Chloé Galibert-Laîné
Friday, May 7, 2021 | Matt Turner
Artist-researchers Chloé Galibert-Laîné and Kevin B. Lee have been instrumental to the development of the contemporary online video-essay, pioneering and developing the form of the desktop documentary through both their individual video projects and the work they have made as collaborators. Combining text, images, and gestures recorded from within their computer screens with verbal or textual narration, using this form they can analyse or criticise a particular form of media in real-time, creatively taking it apart in front of the viewer to show how it functions.
Big, Beautiful, Blue Sky
Tuesday, April 27, 2021 | Luther Konadu
The artist mish-mashes a kind of self-preservation shrine to cozy up to in an apocalyptic scenario not far from the one outside of our windows today. It is a surreal simulation that professes an oasis of sanity. It verges on absurdity, but that’s all we got in a world riddled with endless doubt. There’s an allure to somehow keep believing in the grand seduction of inspirational messaging, self-help literature, strength crystals, a rock that has “Peace” engraved on it, or just keep filling our shopping carts with scented humidifiers until a new sense of sanity emerges. In the face of an ever impending doom, the collection of work in 'Inspirational Stones', intimates with a deadpan wry voice that says: ‘sure, you do you, whatever gets you through the day’. For the artist, unsurprisingly, humour is a central part of this. Most of his new objects and spatial arrangements discursively uses the delirium of tragedy to tease out the many—often seemingly irrational—ways we cope, the new habits we develop, and how the grid of consumer culture makes this all the more complicated. Several of the objects gathered here are often advertised to consumers as “therapeutic” or meant to bring about a semblance of respite, however flaccid. Just like humour itself, they act as a comforting pill for navigating the dystopian reality we find ourselves in. But even as these readymades come with vacant promises, they continue to proliferate in the market giving their sheer ubiquity the power to sway. Although in some sense, the objects in the installation aren’t living the lives they were manufactured for, and as such, are hallowed and dead, he gives them a new critical successive life while reorienting our relationship with them in the real world.
A Slippery Fish: the work of Juan Ortiz-Apuy
Tuesday, April 20, 2021 | Zinnia Naqvi
The objects in Juan Ortiz-Apuy’s work are carefully found, selected, auditioned, polished, and eventually put on immaculate display. Many do not make the cut, but those with particular stage presence and tactile appeal gain the honour of being brought into the limelight. His most recent exhibition, Tropicana was set up and then closed for four long months. The objects were left to dream. Did they eagerly await the day that the doors would open, and the lights would be cast upon them again? Or did they enjoy the peace and quiet of the gallery space, relishing their undisturbed moments on the pedestal?
'What it's like to grow up pour': in conversation with Hazel Meyer
Friday, April 9, 2021 | Lauren Fournier
I first met Hazel Meyer in Toronto back in 2016, on what was my “first official studio visit” as a newbie curator. I was humbled by Hazel’s generosity as she walked me through her work in what is now the Ubisoft building in west Toronto, inviting me into her world. Hazel’s artwork was well-known to me, then, as an iconic queer artist whose work was advancing conversations about queer bodies and queer histories. I was a big fan of her No Theory, No Cry, which I first encountered at Art Metropole, and which encompassed the feelings of painful pleasure and strife of my own experiences reading theory in art school. Nestled in a womb of cheerleading pompoms, pool noodles, archival photographs of now-deceased Toronto lesbian activist Chris Bearchell next to photographs from kink and leather communities, Hazel and I had an easy rapport. We were enrapt in conversation about what it might mean to have a women’s anal erotics as part of the “queer theory” conversation (where's the feminist butt stuff?), as the artist’s jean jacket depicting little buttholes hung above our heads. When we stumbled upon the shared fact of our working-class/poor backgrounds, our bond solidified—we had found a rare kinship, and we weren’t going to let it go. Indeed, finding out this fact about the other led me to find some power humming below the surface of things—below the surface of the city—a humming loud like industry, and a bit hidden, like shame. It was true: being “out” as someone from a low-income family seemed all too rare in a contemporary art world, where the assumption of middle-class-ness and even, at times, upper-middle-class-ness was the norm. This, too, in the institutions that surround contemporary art ones (like the university). 
Redressing Artistic Labour
Tuesday, March 30, 2021 | Angel Callander
In 1905, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was founded to unionize workers who were on the margins of the capitalist economic system—workers who were highly replaceable because of the transitory nature of their positions, such as lumberjacks and farm workers, as well as those in dangerous, low-paying jobs like miners and longshoremen. With an IWW card, labourers of all kinds were able to realize their workers’ rights and take different jobs seasonally, all under the protection of the same industrial union that operated on collective bargaining. Today the IWW still identifies as “a rank-and-file-run, international union dedicated to the abolition of the wage system,” though its power has been diminished by the gradual decline of a robust labour movement and a public conscience therein. 
Cycles of production and disruption: in conversation with Karen Kraven
Tuesday, March 23, 2021 | Beth Schellenberg
Karen Kraven and I shared a series of scattered connections over the course of several months, with COVID-19 creating setbacks and long pauses that stretched out our dialogue, punctuating a busy yet oppressively still fall. Over a zoom call in November we had an electric conversation about workism and productivity, themes present in Kraven’s work and, of course, in our own lives. Kraven’s work, which revolves around cycles of production and disruption, feels incredibly prescient in this interminable “moment” of isolation, societal disruption and the increasingly obvious malaise created by rampant materialism and capitalist ideology.  Drawing on fashion, sports, and industry, Kraven’s exhibitions delicately undo and recreate mutable impressions of bodies, highlighting their absence and instability. In Razzle Dazzle Sis Boom Bah (2014) a series of fanciful hats fit for the royal pate of Queen Elizabeth II herself rest jauntily on hat stands made of salt licks (the type strewn across pastures for grazing animals, large colourful blocks) and metal pipe. Dust Against Dust’s (2019) fabric sculptures gesture towards garments, and are rendered precisely in jewel-toned taffetas with carefully hemmed edges. Other exhibitions feature nets draped haphazardly and rough denim fraying, textile compositions that maintain a jagged harmony, falling just shy of cacophony. This work is not prescriptive, rather it is open, literally coming apart at the seams. 
What mistranslation makes: in conversation with Anne-Marie Trépanier
Tuesday, March 16, 2021 | Hannah Azar Strauss
Anne-Marie Trépanier is an artist, editor, and cultural worker living in Tiohtiá:ke, with a practice that sprawls between writing, experimental publishing, and new media. She co-creates the bilingual publication Cigale with her collaborator Laure Bourgault, writes on and offline, coordinates events, and is involved in research on productive (mis)uses of Zoom. As part of her MA thesis research she is looking at feminist practices of information activism online. Specifically, she’s using archival web research, digital storytelling, and curation, to explore how Ada X (fka Studio XX) — a feminist artist-run centre dedicated to gender and technology, founded in 1996 — has organized, stored, and provided access to information through their website. As is clear in our conversation, these aren’t just research interests; they are entirely enmeshed with Anne-Marie’s life as a queer feminist who has been “online” since childhood.
Aspic Sculpture IV: Material Poetics
Monday, March 15, 2021 | Miles Rufelds
As a dish, the aspic’s practical development has passed through a dizzying range of material interests—aristocracy to royalty to industry to austerity to a kind of uncanny normalcy. All throughout, though, save a few modifications, the aspic’s function has remained consistent: ensconce, maintain, protect, and preserve. Across its many aesthetic manifestations, its migration across social classes, and its distinct pragmatic functions, the aspic’s very materiality has always been silently undergirded  with a material poetics of its own. Though it’s rarely acknowledged by the able-bodied, collagen, from which gelatin derives, is not a neutral substance to mammalian bodies, standing as one of the most primary and precious connective tissues holding joints, limbs, and appendages together. In gelatin, this material function is distilled, abstracted, transposed to unfamiliar shapes, but a basic nature remains. The aspic’s core preservative function, maintaining serviceable shape, forestalling decay and dissolution, is abetted by the very stuff that holds our animal selves together.
SWANA Film Festival: contending with complexities of matrilineal relationships from the SWANA diaspora
Friday, March 12, 2021 | Tara Hakim
Three months ago, I grasped the opportunity and flew back to Jordan from Toronto amidst the global pandemic to be with family. It felt as if I was leaving home to go home; an oxymoron in itself - both literally and viscerally. The first few weeks were filled with an inchoate excitement involving reunions, local food cravings, and late-night catch-up conversations. Then, as time stretched and the pandemic slowness set in, so did my feelings and experience of being back. I found myself feeling more and more disoriented, fragmented, and dis/connected. Disconnected from my true self, my ways of being, and personal culture I have cultivated for myself; a combination of many cultures and lived experiences I belong to. I’m originally Palestinian, born and raised in Jordan with an Austrian grandmother. I was raised with the clear distinction that I am Palestinian, and not Jordanian, and yet I have never set foot in Palestine. Never felt Jordanian, nor Austrian. No identity. Dual identity? Triple? Where do I belong? Sparingly connected to selected moments, people and slices of daily life; mainly among my mother and her parents. In this unhome I sometimes call home, I feel most myself and safest in the confines of my maternal grandparents’ home and sometimes, in my mother’s embrace. I’ve been on a journey of contemplation and reflection since, and the relationship I have with my mother and home has somewhat been at the forefront. 
'My I must know my me': in conversation with Nástio Mosquito
Wednesday, March 10, 2021 | Elizaveta Alexandrovna Shneyderman
Angolan-born artist Nástio Mosquito’s work is prophetic, cacophonous, and a bit slimy. His work is actively engaged in defacing existing linguistic taxonomies, bypassing the art-world tendency towards opaqueness. The artist's multimedia works—which span video, sound, sculpture, architectural intervention, and even several collaborative forays—inculcate a viewer into his personal genome. Underpinning his vast output is an investment in the emancipatory potential of correspondence, as well as the ways it can be wielded to elicit the entire arc of a provocation: shock, surprise, awe, acquiescence, nostalgia. He discusses fatherlessness, selfhood, journalistic integrity, fucking, and Western legacies of colonization in the same breath.
Negotiating beauty in times of grief: in conversation with Emmanuel Osahor
Tuesday, March 9, 2021 | Christina Battle
When I moved back to Edmonton in 2019, I started scouring social media in search of other Black artists working in the city. I knew they were here, but I wasn’t seeing them at any of the public art programming I was attending, and I took note of their absence. Through this online research, I quickly came to know Emmanuel Osahor’s work but, since he was in the process of moving to Guelph, Ontario to start his graduate, we didn’t have a chance to meet IRL. By the winter of 2020 I had the opportunity to experience Emmanuel’s work in person: first in even the birds are walking (an exhibition we both participated in) curated by Noor Bhangu for Latitude 53; and soon after, at his solo exhibition No Place at the McMullen gallery. Both experiences left me thinking deeply about care, beauty, ecology, the (im)/possibilities of utopia, poverty, inclusion, diversity, community, and the complexity of pushing against dominant narratives. Emmanuel’s multidisciplinary work opens up questions around how we might reconcile the blurry lines of overlap and opposition between all of these things at once. Born in Nigeria, Emmanuel has been practicing in Canada since 2010. His artistic work has explored processes of painting, photography and installation.
Aspic Sculpture III : Testbeds of Capitalist Erosion
Monday, March 8, 2021 | Miles Rufelds
If Kevin Beasley’s sculptures from 'A view of a Landscape' were largely concerned with countenancing historical narratives, reframing atavistic patterns from the 18th and 19th centuries to emphasize how they remain in place centuries on, Canadian sculptor Catherine Telford-Keogh’s work in the aspic genre reflects squarely on the perversities of contemporary, late-stage capitalism. And if the last essay explored Beasley’s symbolic suspension of exploitation, erasure, and decay, the works I’ll discuss here approach the crumbling worlds of contemporary capitalism by leaning into the encroachment of precarity or decay. Telford-Keogh’s work is largely defined by a flailing sculptural mode similar to those we’ve seen so far: perplexing, intractable wholes composed from anxious, interminable mixtures of unlike objects. This ethos holds across much of her practice, but the genre is most clearly embodied by a shapeshifting series of floor-mounted cylinders she has been producing for the past several years.
Love letters and the color red: in conversation with artist Mohamad Kanaan
Tuesday, March 2, 2021 | Clementine Butler-Gallie
Autumn 2019 in Beirut felt like summer. I had been in the city for one month already, staying as a resident at the cultural space Mansion where I was working on a curatorial research project. The formally abandoned villa sits on a hill in the city’s Zuqaq al-Blat district, the immense creativity within its walls unidentifiable from the street below. It was through the artistic community of Mansion that I first met the artist Mohamad Kanaan. 
Aspic Sculpture II : Exploitation, Erasure, and Decay
Monday, March 1, 2021 | Miles Rufelds
The first patent for gelatin production was issued in 1754, but gelatin’s industrial production began with the Napoleonic wars at the beginning of the 19th century. With their ports blocked by English fleets, unable to receive properly varied food shipments, French scientists experimented with gelatin as a protein substitute. As we’ll see, this predilection to compensate for austere material conditions repeats as a pattern throughout the aspic’s history. Gelatin plants at this time were a second-order industry, often reliant on the scraps from other factories and processors that worked with animal bones, as well as butchers. While elaborate, molded aspics and jellied deserts were still only accessible to the upper classes, a consolidated research program inaugurated the first industrial-scale manufacture of gelatin, which, paired with the presiding circular economy, opened gelatin consumption to people of any economic class.
Somatic Sorcery: in conversation with Francesca Mariano
Monday, February 22, 2021 | Adina Glickstein
Francesca Mariano is an exemplar of balance in unbalanced times. Spanning media (and maybe even multiple dimensions), her creative practice carves out space for connection that encourages pause and pleasure, contrary to the Internet’s default setting of disembodied drift and information overload. To me, the most salient dimension of Francesca’s work is that it affords generous space for nuance and contradiction. She approaches online life with a rigorously critical gaze, yet the Web is a frequent subject in her work and her visual output drenched in digital aesthetics. From Instagram dance documentation to movement seminars in “Archaeo-Choreology” and “Water Info Transmissions” (with dance therapist Sophie Mars), Francesca probes the somatic-political pools of perception. Her projects range from experimental music à la Intuitive Gestures to leading residencies at Nuova Atlantide fusing exploration of language, movement, and landscape. She draws on the language and history of the New Age movement but works strenuously to avoid appropriation, criticizing the commercialized “wellness” industry as vociferously as she critiques the Enlightenment idea of a mind-body divide. A further testament to this nuance is the deliciously ironic fact that Francesca and I first connected via Instagram. I can’t remember exactly how I found her, but I recall the moment of being moved to tears by a video of her dancing to Burial. For a platform that essentially generates revenue by making us feel inadequate so that we compensate by compulsively buying the products that pop up in our feeds, I have to hand it to the algorithm for doing right by me on this one...
Aspic Sculpture I : an introduction to the "aspic genre"
Saturday, February 20, 2021 | Miles Rufelds
Rising to prominence at wide intervals, serving unusual niches across temporal and geographic expanses, aspics appear again and again as a strange kind of aesthetic sentinel. Their formal and material compositions have remained largely consistent throughout their long history, yet with each new period, the aspic’s cultural role is reinvested with new significance, representing novel cross-sections of the era’s fantasies and fears. To be sure, at first glance my opening examples may seem erratic, verging on incoherent, framing a single culinary object as a cypher for continental philosophy, contemporary art, and historical class tensions. I contend that a careful reading of the aspic’s twisting material and cultural histories can offer us a unique (if eccentric) interpretive lens through which to contemplate the ways aesthetic objects filter and reflect their era’s political-economic antagonisms. I pursue such an interpretive lens in this way, at this time, because in a number of ways aspics have begun to proliferate once again.