Media Space Media Place: Introduction

Troy Ouellette's picture
Troy David Ouellette, PhD (York University) is an artist/researcher specializing in post-anthropocentric Assemblage theory. His practice has developed the concept of ‘particlism’ focusing on the behavior of materials at varying scales by exploring, non-human creativity. His visual work and writings describe how perception, insofar as it is an adaptive state of matter, plays-out in human and non-human creative acts. Ouellette is founding member of LOMAA and the sound art collective Audio Lodge.

 

 

 

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It is an honour to be able to produce what I hope is the first of many LOMAA publications. This catalogue marks a significant milestone for the London Ontario Media Arts Association. Since 2012, LOMAA has fostered collaboration, investigation and innovation by tapping into the talent of artists right here in southwestern Ontario. We continue this work with the support of dedicated volunteers, funders and partners as we expand our programs.

The three sessions, outlined in this text, combine knowledge from participants from London, Sault Saint Marie, Ottawa and Peterborough. We were delighted to have them as our guests and presenters. Media Space / Media Place was designed to foster collaboration between media artists and media arts professionals and to consider media space as something physical and virtual. Place, on the other hand, focused on a sense of communal rootedness. Seven individuals spoke at three events, the first of which was entitled New Strategies for Media Artists and Media Arts Organizations. This session examined the way organizations engage audiences and identified problems for artists who work with technological mediums. In this session, Annie King, Adjunct Professor of Fine Art at Algoma University and member of the 360 Sault Media Arts Collective (SMAC), stressed the importance of providing access and equipment for production, post-production, and exhibition. She also discussed community dynamics and the importance of supporting local cultural production and distribution through volunteerism, events, workshops and fundraising.

As an organization LOMAA echoes these concerns. Since its inception, we have envisioned an organization that was accessible to those residing in a region with high unemployment and student debt. This idea was consistent in the different community representatives, we heard from.

The second speaker, Mary Baxter, editor of Morelmag.ca, explored the urgency of finding relevant journalistic collaborators, conducting proper research, the pitfalls of citizen journalism, plagiarism and finding the best outlets for distributing work. Based in London, Mary continues to have an extensive career as a writer, editor and blogger with a focus on regional issues. I was delighted to have Mary agree to write for this publication.

The second session, Media Now: Theories and Methodologies, honed in on how organizations present different types of media — from interactive performance to kinetic works to the doccumentation of workshop activities, the formula to digitally disseminate and preserve these activities changes dramatically. For educators and curators, the role as a mentor, outside of post- secondary education, is essential to determine the future directions media is received, evaluated, produced and accessed. In this session, an informal discussion centred around themes of media arts education, including organizational structures beyond the university model gave insights into commercial and grassroots-driven initiatives.

Michael Morritt the Creative Director of Whitebulb Animation Studio and Founding Member of ETCH Media Collective in Peterborough, spoke about student-led educational paradigms, foregrounding collaborations between industry and the broader creative community. Michael has, to a large degree, helped his Peterborough creative community survive and thrive by connecting companies with freelance artists, writers and animators. An interesting aspect of the commercial ventures is how creative works are archived and distributed once ad campaigns are concluded. Michael’s company is able to showcase the excellent talent in Peterborough by providing a website that acts as a hub to attract new business. This was instructive for the many LOMAA members who wore many hats in the creative commercial sectors of filmmaking, video and web design.

The second speaker, Thomas Cermak, writer/contributor and (at that time) executive director at London Fuse, shared his experience as an entrepreneur. London Fuse was designed to foster cultural participation and attendance by providing free events listings. Anyone able to fill out a simple web form and post photographs has the ability to attract Londoners looking a specific event to attend, this could include art openings, concerts and theatrical performances among others. London Fuse is also gaining popularity as a go-to place for video content with its Fuse TV offering. Each of the speakers chose very different ways to support media production. Historically, such a mix of publicly and commercially funded organizations, have contributed greatly to lasting cultural frameworks.

In my own presentation, entitled E.A.T., The Archive, I examined the work of Experiments in Art and Technology — active from 1967 until 2001. This entity fostered many of the same types of relationships that we see in the current iteration of LOMAA, and I wanted to reveal how the history and complexity of E.A.T.’s activities during the 1960’s and 1970’s was handled through current technologies — mainly the web. I detailed the different archival holdings that researchers can access, namely the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles and the Daniel Langlois Foundation in Montreal, to emphasize E.A.T.’s large-scale projects, such as the 9 Evenings and Osaka World’s Fair projects, which involved countless participants and was documented through multiple vantage points. The retelling of E.A.T.’s events are given new life through the articulation by those directly connected to the organization and the multitude of researchers whose views are radically transformed by the contents of archives and museums.

This discussion brought up some interesting exchanges with Thomas Cermak, who was also concerned with the tools we use to understand past, present, and future paradigms of creative material practice that involve technologies from a historical period and specific region. With digital technologies, database access without restriction gives researchers and archivists the ability to pool multiple archiving activities together. Of course, digital rights and copyright in general, create some barriers for scholars.  At the same time that they confer the right to content creators to be paid for their work they preclude access to scholars who may not have the means to travel to  access content firsthand or via copyright fees. The persistence of this dichotomy is emblematic of what we are now seeing in so many other industries that rely on digital correspondence to deliver educational accreditation as a less expensive alternative to full-time university courswork. The proliferation of, do-it-yourself, technologies is becoming part of our everyday lives. From banking machines to Uber, ComFree and self-publishing services, - inexpensive ways to transact various types of business and commercial activities are becoming more common.

In Session 3: Production Techniques and the Need for Media Arts Collectives, we shifted our focus back to creative producers by inviting Christine Negus, Independent Video Artist and member of LOMAA and Roger D. Wilson, Windows Collective, to discuss their practice. Both artists create their work using different technologies to respond to social, cultural, political, and economic realities that pervade our everyday lives. What sets them apart is their theoretical and methodological approach.
Roger roots his practice in his ideas about participation, as exemplified by his film projection events and related workshops. In contrast, Christine’s work revolves around her psychoanalytic research practice and its realization in video/narrative that illuminates the problematic assumptions about gender using humour. Each artist had an interesting perspective on how media collectives might function and foregrounded how organizations can more effectively facilitate the production and exhibition of artists’ work. This final session culminated in comparing  media arts organizations in Ontario and raising questions about the long-term viability of creative spaces and strategies for sustainable collaboration and production.

All of the participants stressed the importance of contributing to their communities. Since no other organizations exist to support artists working with media in the various regions we examined, it was crucial to forge future partnerships with those who have similar concerns. What came out of these sessions was the realization that we were not alone. Many of the participants were particularly motivated to address the needs of young and marginalized people in their communities, while allowing space for experimentation while fostering ideas and networks. Many of the collectives and speakers were engaging in subjects that dealt with social/cultural structures, community collaborations, interventionist strategies, interaction design, future technologies, environmental remediation, alternative economies and other emerging areas.

For LOMAA, some groundwork has been laid to provide opportunities for media artists of all stripes, but we still have a long way to go. These sessions solidified a commitment between all participants to share information and devise future partnerships, and I want to thank everyone involved for helping to make these events possible. I also want to express my gratitude to the Ontario Arts Council for its continued support.