Parking Lot is our lax interview series where we get to really know a creative. We get to learn about what they've been up to creatively, some random facts about them, some telling ones, and just about anything else that comes up. Over the last couple months we've been keeping up with multi-displinary artist Kyle Alden Martens as he packs his belongings and transitions to Montreal after years of residing in Halifax. For a while, we though we'd lost touch with him but he would assure us he hadn't. Over the course of roughfully four months of long distance internet communication we felt like we really got know the guy and what makes him want to create. We talked to him among other topics, a bit about his childhood, living in Halifax, being an admin boy, his performative based works and why tokenizing artists of diverse groups is frustrating in contemporary art today.
Luther Konadu: Are you originally from Halifax?
Kyle Alden Martens: I have lived in Halifax for the last five years, but have just moved to Montreal. I am actually from Saskatchewan, which I think is one of my best kept secrets.
LK: What's the art scene in Halifax like from your point of view?
KAM: It is a very small community of people that simultaneously compete with and support each other. There are a number of great artists working there.
LK: What are two things you don't like about Halifax
KAM: I wish there was easier access to the beaches and lakes outside of the city for people without vehicles. I'm not the hugest fan of the public art that is scattered around the city.
LK: Right now, where are you emotionally and existentially?
KAM: I have had a very intense transition to Montreal. As many things as you can think of have gone wrong since moving to Montreal, meanwhile I have been approved for a grant to create a new project and booked a solo show in Calgary in the near future. I think in this past month I have hit my highest highs and lowest lows. I am very positive and level headed, when I think back to this last month and a bit I just have to laugh.
LK: I'm pretty sure making work as an artist was probably a motivator but what about that place [Montreal] you reckon gave you the incentive to relocate in that sense of working as a creative...as oppose to moving to any other city or remaining in Halifax)...
KAM: For me it was really between moving to Toronto or Montreal. I was really interested in taking time out to focus on my art production and it seemed like Montreal would be able to provide that in a number of ways. My rent is cheap enough that I am able to afford a studio space and I am paying about the same as I was when living in Halifax for both. I truly love Halifax but I was feeling burned out of opportunities there. I'm still unsure if I can see myself living in Montreal for the longterm but currently it is suiting me well.
"It just seems that the galleries in Canada check off an annual box of an aboriginal artist, queer artist, woman artist, artist of colour and then fill the rest of the year up with men."
LK: What kind of kid were you in school growing up?
KAM: I was a quiet, soft spoken kid. I had many friends but really only made time for my best friend Emily, who I met on the first day of kindergarten. She has been my closet friend ever since. We were always off doing something weird and arty.
LK: Where you in any clubs?
KAM: I was in chess club for a hot second in grade 9. I still really like chess but the thought of playing it everyday at lunch was just too much for me.
LK: How were your parents like growing up? more hands-off? chill? or hands-on or somewhere in-between...what are their personalities like
KAM: Both of my parents are as close as you can get to being artist without being artists. They are both multi talented and excellent self-learners. My mother is a sewer and my father is wood worker. Between the two of them I was able to gather a lot of skills that have been the base of my art practice. My father is a deep thinker, very giving, and appreciates alone time. My mother is very personable, loyal, loves to laugh, and an amazing problem solver.
LK: Can you remember an early memory of feeling embarrassed? what was the situation? how did you respond?
KAM: When I was 8 I broke my sister's friends prize slinky that she got from somewhere cool. I hid it in the bottom of her lego bin and never talked to her again. When I ran into her when I was 16 I was still so embarrassed, sweaty, and didn't talk.
Photo by Brandon Brookbank
LK: What do you think is generally lacking in the world right now?
KAM: Free public wifi.
LK: Last time you felt like you are getting good at something...
KAM: I just left my job in Halifax as an Arts Administrator. I was starting to kick that job in the butt.
LK: Having been an admin boy back in Halifax, what did some of your day to day tasks entail and what are some things people on the outside take for granted or are oblivious about when it comes to arts administration
KAM: I mean being an Arts Administrator is pretty straight forward. I don't think people realize how far in advance galleries are generally planning and working. Installation week seems to be down to the last possible moment for every gallery that I have worked for. Somehow there always seems to be something that goes wrong or needs attention the opening day or right before the opening. My daily tasks were primarily emails and phone calls - lots and lots of emails.
"I think it is awesome that a diverse group of people is being showcased but this limited or systematic representation sets up a structure where it seems like one is being shown so the other can be showed without contest."
LK: Do you have a morning routine?
KAM: Yes. I eat the same thing for breakfast almost every weekday. Melon and a croissant, or yogurt and granola. I shower, moisturize, put cream in my hair, brush and floss my teeth. Lately I have been exercising in the morning but prefer to in the evening.
LK: One thing that's annoying about contemporary art right now...
KAM: Lack of diversity of artists without those artists being tokenized.
LK: How do you mean?
KAM: When galleries showcase work by POC, queer people, and women their identity is almost more at the forefront then their work. I guess I find this awkward sometimes because it positions artists of diversity in another category from the other work that may be exhibited. It positions the work on a different route and pursuits than the "regular" work shown. It just seems that the galleries in Canada check off an annual box of an aboriginal artist, queer artist, woman artist, artist of colour and then fill the rest of the year up with men. Yes, I think it is awesome that a diverse group of people is being showcased but this limited or systematic representation sets up a structure where it seems like one is being shown so the other can be showed without contest. Like we are showing this queer artist making queer identity focused work so we can later show this group exhibition of minimalist sculpture without criticism of the lack of diverse representation in the show. It just feels like a strategy of defense for the gallery and becomes a type of separation.
EQUIPMENT: Documentation by Jordan Blackburn & Brandon Brookbank
Live performers - Brandon Brookbank - Brent Cleveland - Shaya Ishaq - Maddie McNeely - Lucy Pauker - Camila Salcedo
Video performers Brandon Brookbank - Maddie McNeely - Alyson Samways
Video excerpts from PANTS (9:24 min) & EQUIPMENT (11:11 min)
The Khyber Centre for the Arts, Halifax, NS