a project that ran through 2012/13, was a traveling campervan of cosmic proportions. Housing a gallery, printshop, studio, library, reading room, classroom, and community project within a 1988 VW Westfalia, the CARL WAGAN promoted active engagement with book-based cultural activity such as self-publishing, zine-making, screen-printing, and bookbinding. Subtitled “The Spaceship of the Imagination,” CARL was partly a loving homage to the innovation of astronomer Carl Sagan whose passion for dreaming continues to inspire generations of thinkers. The CARL WAGAN was an experiment in radical pedagogy—bringing the strategies, materials, ideas and dialogues of independent publishing to a wide variety of audiences.
Because of the high costs of maintaining the vehicle, I sold it in 2013 but revived the spirit of the project within the more flexible space of The Mountain School Bookhouse.
The Carl Wagan Bookmobile made a trek down to North Adams, Massachusetts on November 1-4, 2012 for a student performance at MASS MoCA. Responding to the exhibition, OH, CANADA and its curatorial enthusiasm for the Great White North, students at OCAD University in Toronto, Ontario created The Justin Beaver Schoolhouse. In this project we played with myths and ideas about Canadian-ness, engaging museum visitors in a variety of activities that gently educated and stimulated discussion around issues of identity.
Classes, which were all under 2 minutes in length, included HOME ROOM (introducing students to the Principles of Carl), LANGUAGE ARTS (testing students’ knowledge of Canadian idioms), FRENCH (Parlez-vous français? Apprendre dans la classe JBS français), HISTORY (quizzing students in general socio-political knowledge and polling their countries of origin), GEOGRAPHY (drawing maps of Canada from memory), MATHEMATICS (converting standard units to metric), ECONOMICS (bartering the early-Canadian way), and NUTRITION (teaching students how to make Kraft Dinner, introducing Ketchup chips, and conducting a blind maple syrup taste test– Quebec vs. New Hampshire).
Under achievers were sent to the Canadian Breakfast Club in DETENTION to write lines and all students had their photos taken for the JBS YEARBOOK.
The Justin Beaver Schoolhouse activity culminated in a Convocation Ceremony in which visitors recited the Oath of Citizenship (see above) while The Maple Leaf Forever played in the background. Merit badges ranging from General Excellence to Remedial Assistance Required were issued based on student achievement in all classes.
A Canadian Tuxedo themed launch party at Melanie Mowinski’s amazing space PRESS turned Carl into a photo-booth for the evening while double denim bad-assery reigned inside. All in all the Justin Beaver Schoolhouse experience exceeded all expectation! About 100-125 people came through while a bluegrass band played just outside in the MASS MoCA Cafeteria and Sol Lewitt wall paintings occupied the adjacent space. Not too shabby!
Many, many thanks to Rachel at the museum for making the whole experience possible. It was a tremendous honour (with a U) to be able to react to OH CANADA and to engage with contemporary art in a much richer way than just looking at it on the walls of the gallery.
a 10’ x 10’ quilted mountain tent with fabricated tree trunk legs, crocheted stump stools, plush logs, and a cardboard campfire, acts as a pop-up, intentional community space.
The Mountain School Bookhouse is a flexible framework that can act as a publications studio, library, classroom, performance space, social context, or a gallery. I have used the structure of the MSBH to teach workshops in screen-printing, book-binding, zine-making, newspaper publishing, and creative writing, to host social engagements such as clothing swaps, photo booths, dance parties, meals, speakers’ series, sing-alongs, and campfires, and to undertake collaborative residencies in which artist publications emerge. The MSBH purposefully blurs the lines between studio practice and pedagogy through relationships, experiment and performance.
The MSBH draws people into hands-on experiments with craft materials (yarn, fabric, mactac, paper), analog equipment (typewriters, rubber stamps, stencils) and general DIY badassery (zines, music, readings, underground newspapers) in order to produce artist-led publications, performances, prints, and writing.
Taking its cues from other politically focused relational artists such as Pablo Helguera and Sister Corita Kent, The Mountain School Bookhouse is a manifestation of my highest ideals—play, imagination, political agency, and poetic literacy. The MSBH has many sources of inspiration, but the name principally refers to both the legendary Black Mountain College (thumpa thumpa) and to the secret vigilante society in Twin Peaks, The Bookhouse Boys
The Mountain School Bookhouse was set up at the 2013 Fall Fair in Port Hope, Ontario as a pop-up newspaper printshop. Working with a group of grades 7-9 students over 3 days, we conceptualized an artist-led newspaper, took on various roles as reporters, photographers, editors and printers, and then created and delivered the paper around the fairgrounds. On Friday night we dreamed up the paper and made swag to identify ourselves. On Saturday, students interviewed fairgoers with paper microphones, reported on their “beats,” and wrote up articles on several analog typewriters. On Sunday we composited the paper with DIY materials like scissors, tape and lettraset, then copied it (without permission!) at the local elementary school. Students decked out their bikes as delivery vehicles, made satchels out of old t-shirts, and rode around the fairgrounds distributing their paper, The Bairly News. This project gave the students real political agency within the public space of the Fair. The Bairly News was co-facilitated by myself, Mary Tremonte, JP King, Charlie Young, Graham Nicholas, and Fiona Roy and was sponsored by Critical Mass Centre for Contemporary Art.
Part of a fledgling Summer Institute at OCAD University, this experimental residency transformed the Student Gallery into a publications studio, with access to a variety of reproduction processes including digital printing, screenprinting, photocopying, and risograph, as well as perfect binding and hand book sewing. Our month long activity included workshops, open studio time, public programs, and social engagements. Artists-in-residence Leila Pourtavaf, Agata Mrozowski, and Paul Kjelland worked on publications and led a series of dinner discussions called Night School. Participants in Public Action considered how the form of the publication, with its emphasis on voice and political strategy, is a unique form of civic and cultural engagement. Public Action was co-facilitated by myself and Mary Tremonte.
What is a book? What can books DO? Where can books take us? And, once we make a book, how does it go out into the world?
I was THRILLED to participate in Stephanie Springgay's incredible research project The Pedagogical Impulse on a project that fostered enormous growth for me as an artist and educator.
# (Insert Awesome Title Here) And Other Fantastic Stories was a book conceived, written, illustrated, designed and published by 13 artists in grades 6 to 8 during an eight week workshop at Story Planet.
Led by myself and Joanna Labriola, the workshop questioned the nature and scope of publication. We focused on three discussions. First, how where we encounter books influences the way we read them. Second, how artists use the form of the book to produce unconventional content or structures. Third, how publication is uniquely situated to give us political agency.
In addition to publishing a book, workshop participants learned to screenprint, made buttons, created small zines, produced tshirts, and launched everything at a closing party with performances and readings.