A Model for Exploring Anyville: Using Dialogical Collaboration to Create Art about Place

By Jennifer Eiserman, Gerald Hushlak and Mary Ann Hushlak.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Transnational art trends bring diverse compass points into dialogue through international exhibitions and the internet; some artists are examining the aesthetic norms and values of their own locales to identify questions of global significance. At the University of Calgary, Canada, two art professors, with a writer from London, UK, are examining what defines regional place as a catalyst for contemporary art making. Our model derives from Western Canadian landscape, experienced through Hollywood movies such as “Superman,” “The Assassination of Jesse James,” and “Doctor Zhivago” but identified as other than its actual location. The Canadian prairies are an enormous stage-set on which Hollywood tells its stories. Western Canadian identity is buried under celluloid; our work is to uncover what is authentic.

The purpose of this paper is to build a model for the analysis of place that can be applied by artists from “anyville” searching for authentic regional identity. Our model is dialogical and collaborative; we work with twelve other visual artists to create thematic artworks led by questions about place and landscape. These include: What forces separate/connect us to place? How do we recreate place to meet our needs? What are the cyclical patterns that shape the region? Who are we, beyond Hollywood’s image? What forms our boundaries; how do they affect us? and What role does our unique geography play? The work will be published in an artist book, “ArtBook,” and exhibited in a touring exhibition, creating a lexicon for the Western Canadian landscape genre.

This model can be applied to artist collectives addressing landscape in far-flung locations across the globe. Just as with “ArtBook,” the dialogue that builds the work is enriched by the diversity of the artists’ contexts. Through telematics, artists from anywhere in the world can collaborate, allowing a regional investigation to become a global inquiry.

Keywords: Collaborative Practice, Landscape, Place, Identity

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp.211-228. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.344MB).

Dr. Jennifer Eiserman

Associate Professor, Art, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

I am an associate professor at the University of Calgary. Prior to entering academe, I worked in museums across Canada as a curator and educator. My work, both in museums and at the University has centred around notions of diversity in art. My current research takes two parallel tracks, both centred on identity. The first is an examination of the Western Canadian landscape as it defines and is defined by the identities of those who live there. The second examines the nature of contemporary art made by Canadians of Chinese decent. Both streams of work have caused me to explore alternative forms of dissemination; forms that are authentic to the content of the work, including artist books, online databases, Facebook, etc.

Prof. Gerald Hushlak

Professor, Art, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

I exhibit mural-size paintings in museums, build rapid prototype sculpture defined in a three dimensional modeling package, Cinema 4-D, and plot 36”x 50” Giclee printed drawings derived from our own evolutionary computing software. In collaboration with Drs.Jacob Boyd, professors in Medicine and Computing Science respectively, we have created audience driven interactive computer installations using evolutionary computing. Over my art career I have participated in 40+ one-person exhibitions in public museums and art galleries. In the last five years we have presented installations, or hardcopy deriving from the installations, in more than a dozen exhibitions in different public galleries around the world. SwarmArt, the name we have given to this interactive visualization process, has been screened on Discovery Channel many times and is featured in “Leonardo”.

Mary Ann Hushlak

Freelance Writer, London, UK

I am a writer. I write short stories, novellas, scripts and critical texts. My short stories have been included in the ‘Tales of the Decongested’ series and the Off-Centre Writers’ series at Foyles gallery and bookshop in London. I am presently on the final draft of “A Disease of Mine Before Human Beings,” a companion novella to my “A Suspect Background.” My own films, including “The Boy Who Wore His Shoes to Bed,” “June Smith” and “The Lion’s Roar.” “Design and Carve You Own Gravestone,” is in development. In 2005, I worked as the dramaturge on David Su Lu-Qun’s version of “Zhuang Zi Tests His Wife,” a Chinese play written and performed in English in Beijing and touring. I wrote the text for an artist’s book of photographs, “Losing Ground by Judith Katz” (2007) and an extract of mine was in “Reading the River: A Traveller’s Companion to the North Saskatchewan River” by Myrna Kostash with Duane Burton. Increasingly, over the last two years, I have been working as a dramaturge/writer for choreographers. For twelve years, I worked solely as a freelance script analyst and story editor for independent film and television companies in the UK and continental Europe.


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