Plug In ICA Summer Institute with MAWA (Mentoring Artists for Women's Art)
Led by Allyson Mitchell and Deirdre Logue and supported jointly by MAWA and Plug In ICA, the 2014 Summer Institute brought a group of artists together to consider the theme of Feminist Description. Together we asked a number of questions about intersectionality, gender, race, privilege, art histories, and so much more. We were interested in finding ways to describe feminism, describe works as feminist, and to use feminism as a form of description. Each artist used the time and resources of the residency to produce studio works and critical writing around these ideas.
During our introductory facilities tour, I became very interested in Dan Graham's pavilion Performance Cafe with Perforated Sides on the roof of Plug In ICA. Situated on an outside terrace on the third floor of the Buhler Centre at the University of Winnipeg, the pavilion raises the international scope of Plug In's collection but remains oddly invisible and inaccessible from the street.
The pavilion materials of glass and steel are cold. In its spacial relationships to the Buhler Centre beneath it, the Winnipeg Art Gallery behind it, and the flagship Hudson's Bay Company store beside it, the pavilion is very literally aligned with institutions. Dan Graham himself cuts a rather imposing male figure on the contemporary art scene. And he casts a pretty long shadow.
At high noon (central cowboy time) on July 7 2014, I measured the shadow cast by the Performance Cafe. This was an act which took 6 minutes to complete, during which time the shadow had shifted significantly. The measurement thus became a durational performance that unintentionally responded to the pavilion's title. After producing a pattern from this measurement, I crocheted panels using stitches to invert the surface of the pavilion itself-- I described Graham's perforated steel with the tactile convolution of popcorn stitch and responded to tempered glass with colourful and variegated yarn. During the lengthy and mediative process of crochet, I produced critical writing that attempted to make links between the cultural relevance of Dan Graham's work and the trajectory of my own studio practice. Dan Graham's Big Fat Shadow offers a feminist description of the Performance Cafe with Perforated Sides through physical resemblance, material weight, and embodiments of time and process-- all aspects of my work that playfully subvert the conceptual and cultural gravity of the original.
I will add, with a smile, that reading several texts about Dan Graham's work and spending so much time with this particular piece gave me an newly educated respect for his ideas.