Sunday, I went to a talk about an art exhibit taking place currently at SFU Burnaby. The talk about “expanded literary practices” in Vancouver 1954-1969 was given by Michael Turner, who put the show together and it, to my ears, is the realisation of aspects of a piece he wrote as part of an online exhibit Vancouverartinthesixties.com. It seems to be a time that has been woefully ignored and yet one of vibrant collaboration.
There are particular crevices of the topic that interest me and I explored a couple of them last summer in conversations with artists Judith Copithorne and visited Judy Williams studio on Cortes where she showed me material related to the time and later. I also asked many artists I bumped into that summer about the time.
After those exchanges and other conversations, the quandary occurred to me around the diminishment of peoples contribution and who decides and collates and appoints the significance of work made and how an important contribution can then be overlooked with reductive tag phrases. (People will be quick to say a particular artist was not a major figure, but will not recall much, if any, of the work that could inform on whether this is actually the case. I find the demarcation of “major figure” suspect. Why should that be a deciding factor in considering an individual’s contribution?) One artist said to me “There isn’t room for everybody” or something along those lines, which is perfectly true. However it strikes me that room can be made and needs to be made in the area of acknowledgement. Somehow we are all complicit in what is remembered and what is forgot and history can be rewritten/revised/spotlight budged on any average Monday around 2pm, since I find that a good hour, with the right strength of tea, the best time for reconsidering things.
One of the things I took from those discussions and examination of Judith Copithorne’s work was an admiration for the quiet labouring of continuing to make work amid little fanfare. When I began to look closely at some of her publications I noted an uplifting relevance to now (we see the beginnings of web comics, the doodle, fragments, recording, that’s evolved to blogging for starters in it) that more celebrated artists lack and I noted how the limits she faced through poverty, directed and shaped her work in this way. Handwriting, calligraphy over lettraset (sp?). Also, how her work translates well in an online sphere.
I came across Judith’s work initially at a reading at SFU that related to a UBC poetry conference in the sixties. She read with a number of concrete poets and not so concrete ones and her reading had a shape, inclusiveness, and physicality that nudged me. I was surprised to discover I could find none of her work in print and hence the questions started.
I will look up my notes later and write further on this because I have been wanting to write on it for a while and fermenting away.
(Aha! I have just recalled what took me to that initial reading at SFU it was hearing the audio work of Bob Copping and a desire to learn more about concrete poetry and whether there was any inter-relation between Copping and what took place here in Vancouver. There was I learnt at that reading.)