The Incubator Part 2

On Friday, I introduced the Cube, an experimental art space in Campbell River, as a model for a new type of art mentorship. If you missed it, here’s the discussion. For almost a year, it has worked towards a vision of social sculpture and urban renewal. Today, I’d like to give you some background and to show how what has happened in that space connects with what is going on out in the natural world, largely out of sight of social culture. It began with an attempt to take the power away from a technology that found its greatest expression in the trenches of World War 1.


Barbed Wire, Lavington, B.C.

The enemy of humans everywhere.

The above image was not the initial image of Ken Blackburn’s project to find the parameters of personal sculpture within the context of his many years immersed in social sculptural activity in Campbell River. That was a ten food long, battleship grey barbed wire barb that dominated a third of a wall at the Cube and refused all attempts to be modified into something accepting human life and energy. The above image was one I sent Ken as a suggestion of a way forward. As with most successful artistic explorations, Ken found his own way …


Talking in a Language Barbed Wire Understands


Ken found that once he had blown his barbed wire apart into separate panels, each fragment of disembodied barbed wire could be the anchor, or internal frame, if you like, of a separate image, each of them an alternate universe, in a language that blended the aesthetic balance, deliberate incompleteness, the physical practice of art, and a separate, self aware language derived from the aestheticization of the natural world.


Three Barbs in Their Natural Environment

These are landscape paintings. That’s the beauty of it. At the closing talk of the show, sixty humans came to sit in no man’s land between them, in their own form of the Occupy movement, while Ken led them through the story.

There is, of course, a long tradition of landscape painting in both amateur and official art circles, and it looks, of course, a lot different than that. Some of it looks like this…

land6Landscape, by the German Dictator of 1933-1944

He was living in a homeless shelter in Vienna and selling things like this image of latent psychological breakdown by pushing his way in among the street side tables of fashionable Viennese coffee houses and refusing to leave until one of the diners bought one of his paintings.

When reconstituted in a social sphere, landscape art can at times look like this…


The German Attack on Russia

Landscape with Human Figures and their Delivery Mechanisms, August, 1941

Art critics, of course, have their work cut out for them deconstructing this kind of landscape. The work is not yet complete, but early criticisms, which set the standard, looked like this…


The Russian Counteroffensive

The Outskirts of Moscow, December, 1941. In this battle of artistic visions, 30,000,000 Russians died.

Ken’s approach to the social contexts of landscape is more playful. It began with a show he called iPop, which he set up in a photography gallery five years ago, and which took the foundation of the modern landscape not as a sequence of mountains, ocean views with herons, and waves lapping against shorelines of ancient logs broken out of log booms in storm and rolling around on the coastal beaches ever since, but the modern doormat, mass-produced out of recycled industrial garbage in China and available for sale, for a few bucks, in any hardware store between Maine and Vancouver Island. Here’s one of the images from Ken’s iPop show…


Door Mat! iPopped!

With a Dancing Electrification Warning Dude and His Shadow Worshipping a Neon Red Sun! 

The image (dragged out of Ken’s garage and propped up on an easel in the Cube) is Ken’s altar ego, staring out over Ken’s shoulder at the humans the barbed wire lured into their landscape snare…


The Audience, and Talking Ken are Gone Now

but the Warning Dude Continues His Vigil (and catches a few rays of light while he’s at it.)

The background is that landscape is sculpture, a kind of intersection between the physical (which is unknowable) and the social (which looks physical, sometimes, and sometimes like a piece of communication.) What Ken has done is to set up an intersection at which this…


B.C. Hydro Electrical Sculpture Control Node

Complete with iDancer

… and this …

coastmountains2 copy

Looking Across the Extreme Northern Few Metres of the Salish Sea Towards the Coast Mountains and North America

In Western art tradition, the image above is considered a nature photograph, or a landscape.

It isn’t.  It’s more like this:


Ancestor at Extreme Low Tide

Watching across Discovery Passage to the ancient We Wai Kai village at Cape Mudge. Even at a normal low tide, this ancestor, and its companions, are beneath the waves.

Freed of pictorial landscape, landscapes can be seen as the social spaces they are. For instance, this…


Landscape of a Road in a Hayfield

Vernon, B.C.

… is really this …


Military Ruts in an Aboriginal Grassland Gone to Weeds

Vernon Army Base, Vernon B.C.

… and Ken’s Cube social sculptural installation in Campbell River …


iPainting Framed by Its Practice…

… with language as an echo of the visual world.

… besides being all the earth contemporary Western humans know is also my new writing classroom …


A Writer Lays Out His Tools …

… for a week of writing about foods and spices.

After all, all you will find on Google is material filtered by Google’s computers, which obey the instructions of their robot code and their industrial programmers, to manipulate an industrial technology, like barbed wire, to give you the results the programmers have statistically determined you should receive. It is no accident. Much of literature is self-referential and triaged in the same way. It is a self-referential, closed loop, that eliminates virtually all information, including this…


Artificially Framed Electronic View of the Writer’s Intent …

… designed to look like an image of the earth.

It isn’t. It is a story. The writing space and teaching space of the future is full not of books alone, but books, art, leaves, spices, eggplants, door mats, paintings, and humans moving too and fro and out into the earth and back with pieces of it in their pockets, which they practice by smelling and showing to each other and tasting and recombining into stories their bodies and minds can tell to each other. It is sculptural. It is a place where humans can be freed of their mirrors and start rebuilding the earth before it vanishes due to the neglect that barbed wire has placed it in. It is a gate, sometimes, and sometimes a set of bolt cutters. The whole world’s a book. We don’t have to be in a library. We can be here …


Two Horses Leave the Herd at the Sugar Cane Indian Reserve

Williams Lake B.C.

After all, we are on a journey towards re-finding and somehow saving the earth — a journey that entails rehumanizing, or, rather, re-eearthing or re-environmentalizing, social space. The journey goes, I think, here…


Our Two Horses Greeting the Pelicans at the Shore

An old photo with an early electronic camera, but maybe that’s more honest than the 15 megapixel version. Definitely worth a walk on the earth.

As usual, the horses were there first. But, of course. It should be like that, because the primary rule of life on the earth is: It’s not about us. Until we realize that, humans are as endangered a species as is the contemporary industrialized earth.

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