In Depth Post #7: The Creation of the Planets

So, on Monday night, I created Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. I think in the Bible, it took 6 days or so to create the Earth, but I made 4 planets, and it only took me about an hour.Of course, my planets are about the size of large buttons.

In this post, I’ll be talking about how emotions and diversions affect my conversations and progress with my mentor.

jpegEspecially in art, the following statement is particularly true: “When making choices between options that are basically identical we use our feelings to figure out which feels the best.” One example of this is when I was making decisions about how to place the buttons on my “Earth”. I had chosen two buttons; there was one for each side of the planet, as it was a 2D kind of object. I had chosen the colour blue because Earth is mostly covered by water. I think this is a pretty rational decision I made. However, I then had to decide which side of the button, (front or back) would face outwards. I ended up deciding to keep the front faces of the button facing outwards. This decision wasn’t really based on fact, as the buttons both had mostly flat back faces and were unpatterned on that side. However, I decided that I liked the patterns on the outside of the buttons (one was wood, and had lines from the wood it was cut from, and the other was plastic and had ripples) and kept them facing outwards because I thought it looked prettier, more natural and a bit irregular. So that decision was mostly based off of how the arrangement of the buttons made me feel.

Venus
Mercury
Mars
Earth
Earth

 

 

 

 

 

The criteria I use for stating feelings in the beginning of a conversation differs from situation to situation. However, it usually occurs when I already have a strong feeling or idea of how I want the art to turn out. I’m more inclined to state that I really like something rather than I don’t like something, so if I like something the first time around, I’ll state my feelings about it sooner. If I don’t like how something looks, I usually keep it around for a bit and explore other options before stating my feelings, just to give it a chance. For example, when I started creating my learning center display, I told my mentor that I would have a table at about waist height. Since my two main art pieces are hanging, I told my mentor I was struggling with finding a way to display them. I suggested that I had been thinking of hanging them off of a tri-fold display, but I wasn’t entirely sure how to do that. My mentor liked the idea of the tri-fold, because it was easy to transport and added enough height that my pieces wouldn’t be squished on the same level. After a trial and error process, we used bamboo sticks to stabilize the tri-fold and make beams to hang my art off of. In that case, I didn’t have strong feelings/ideas about the tri-fold before we started, so I stated my feelings about it later, after we had discussed the more objective pros and cons of our options. On the other hand, I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted the tri-fold to be coloured, so I stated my feelings right up front. I wanted it to fade from black in one corner to blue in the other, in radial gradient. This way, it related to both space junk and jellyfish habitat, with black for space and the deep ocean, and blue for the atmosphere of Earth and shallower ocean. I also tend to state my feelings up front when I have less time, and I certainly had less time for the painting. My mentor and I only got to the point of mixing our paint (using leftover paints from my mentor, of course) by the time I had to leave. We’re using a lot of multi-coloured scrap paint, which makes a gray base, and adding a dark, green-blue and a lighter purple-blue to get a blue/black colour. We also added silver paint to give it a bit of a shine.

I took a diversion in a conversation yesterday that is almost perfectly described in De Bono’s How to Have a Beautiful Mind. When finished with Mars, I took a moment to survey what I had left to do. Although we were still thinking about a different topic (we had been searching for materials, and came up with some stuff we didn’t think of using but looked really cool), I piped up with a provocative question: What can I do to make this wooden circle look weathered, harsh or old?

I was asking to learn about a skill or method, and also describing with both objective and subjective adjectives what message I wanted to convey. Old is a pretty objective adjective, because you can measure how old an object is. Weathered is a bit of both, because we perceive an item as weathered or new, not always depending on something we can measure, like its age. I would say harsh is a subjective adjective, because a situation that may seem harsh to one person may seem normal or pleasant to another. I think the diversion worked really well, because when I asked directly about what I could do to get to my end point, we were able to come up with some options and really quickly decide what we wanted to do. I used pumice gel to form a bumpy, rough surface on the planet, and let it dry with the Mars planet. This led to a conversation about weathered items, and in recycled art, how much you want to show of the original materials. Normally, artists try to hide the origins of their materials as much as possible, so that they can better control the message they convey with their art. However, with recycled art, the point of my project is to make people aware of the origins of my materials, and how junk items become meaningful. Thus, I show a lot more of the origins of my materials – for example, the button holes on Mars’s ice cap could have been covered, but I decided to leave them to let everyone see that yes, they are buttons. So, this diversion made my conversation a lot richer, and introduced me to new things that I otherwise wouldn’t have thought about.

Space Junk…coming soon!

I’m starting to think about writing my Artist’s statement, so keep an an eye out on my blog. I’ll post a draft and a good copy when I’m done.

99 years of Wisdom in 99 seconds

A quote from the times when I still walked the earth. Recent events have left me dizzy – not from the fast-paced changes we are going through, but from constantly rolling in my grave. In this year of the confederation of Canada, I am now 54 years dead. If I still lived, I would be 99 years old – older than most of my audience, save you, Mr. Issac Brock, and perhaps a few others.

If you have never listened to me before, now is the time to change your ways. What I am about to say has no effect on me, in the Spirit World, but every effect on you and the growing nation of Canada. Let us put aside our past disputes for a moment.

Canada is a land of many resources. You have no doubt discovered this. The mining by Trois-Rivieres and the coal deposits show as much. The logging of the eastern forests show as much. The crushed rock and mineral debris leaching into the delta shows as much. If you continue this, the land will not be full of resources forever. This is an early warning. You are at the start of your nation, and have it in your power to build a country that protects not only its people, but its land from being destroyed.

Some would say I have been defeated, now that the Pan-Aboriginal Confederation has been shot down. But I am a warrior, and a warrior is never defeated. I once said, “Prepare a noble death song for the day you go over the Great Divide”. Well, this is my death song, and I hope it echoes for years after I am gone.

I thought only the Aboriginals could take care of this land. Prove me wrong! Mr, MacDonald, I have never wanted to be wrong more than this. I must fulfill my duty to my people, this land…and I suppose, our nation. European Canadians – do not let this new land die in your hands. By forming this nation, you have taken responsibility for the country. You most of all, Mr.MacDonald. Make good on your promises. Provide not just equality but fairness to the Canadian people! Aboriginals were once the majority race here. One day, the English may become a minority as well. We cannot afford to misuse our resources, be it governmental power or precious minerals.

Find alternative ways to develop your technology. Return everything back to the way you found it, instead of leaving tailings in the river. Talk to the Aboriginals, who know this land and all its secrets. Work with them, and follow their advice to look after it. I want to see this country prosper, and become great. Please do what I could not in my lifetime, and protect the land you have.

These are my last words before I leave on the great journey, to the land in the stars. No more will I speak with you, as I do in this temporary spirit state. I go to join my ancestors. Heed my advice, or pay the price – the choice is left to you. Remember me, and learn from the mistakes I suffered. Live to be proud of your deeds even after you have died, and my life will not have been in vain.

New areas to explore – In Depth week 10

So, for most of Spring Break I was in Cuba, with the school music department. The cool thing about Cuba is that, because of the US embargo, they are forced to re-use or maintain a lot of their old technology and materials; for example, the Cuban cars. In Cuba, each family has one car that may have been passed down for generations. The car bodies are from the mid 1900s, but they have newer motors and car parts inside. Going to Cuba let me experience a lot more recycled art, which has led me to find some international concepts about recycled art.

  1.  Conservation
    1.  The item is made with something used or destined for the trash. The item can be used for the same purpose as before, or a new purpose. For example, the car bodies were still cars, but I also saw hats made out of old pop cans. The concept is to give the object/material a second life.
  2.  Art/aesthetic
    1. The driving idea being recycled art: trash for one person can be beauty to another. Finding aesthetic value in trash requires imagination and a willingness to try new things.
  3. Awareness
    1. Recycled art is often used to raise awareness for the “throw-away” mindset we have in more fortunate countries, or the damage caused by the objects we throw away.
  4.  Value
    1. Recycled art is meant to be of equal or greater value than it originally was, whether as an art piece or something practical, like a bag or candlestick.
  5. The technical skill concept
    1. There is a lot of technical skill required for this! Multi-media art requires a lot of broad knowledge about materials and their properties, and delicacy in putting them together.
DSCF2833
My desk + some materials for my jellyfish!

Some more specific things I learned was that recycled art is mostly about technical things, such as shaping and holding objects. It is very important to find objects with the right physical properties – or, create your project around your materials if you don’t have time to search for the perfect material. Wire is very useful, because it holds it shape and can be bent into whatever you need. Flimsy plastics, like plastic wrap and plastic bags, are also useful because they are easy to drape over things and are usually transparent or translucent. An alternative I explored with my mentor was crushing and balling up soft plastics to use the fluffy, layered look they have. Though I didn’t have many other options, I think my mentor has been a really good fit for me. Her background in painting, multi-media art, and practically anything art-related makes it a really good relationship between her and I, because she has a ton of knowledge and experience about a wide range of things – from how to cut plastic to building up paper-mache. Another mentor may have been able to help me go more in-depth in a specific area, like working with paper or metal, but I think that the rag-tag assortment of materials I have fits best with my current mentor.

Other than coming up with alternatives and suggesting them, I ask my mentor for alternatives.For example, when attaching my ribbons to my jellyfish, I discussed many different alternatives with my mentor. I brought up the issue of keeping the tentacles to the outside of the jellyfish, and together, we generated these options:

  1. Placing a balled-up plastic bag in the center of the jelly (similar to crinoline on a skirt)
  2. Attaching tentacles from the top of the jelly to the outer edges (like a tent)
  3. Placing a small plastic cone inside the jelly (wouldn’t be as messy as the bag, but less puffy)
  4. Using a little glue on the inside of the jelly to hold the tentacles in place
DSCF2840
Hole-punches for tentacles.
DSCF2842
Tentacles (made w/ wrapping paper)

The great thing about generating so many alternatives is that you can pick the best parts of each option and incorporate them. For instance, I’m attaching the tentacles to the outer edges to make it more decorative, but I’m putting a little cone (top of a water bottle) inside the jelly to hold the tentacles to the sides of the jelly. This leaves the inside of the jelly still relatively uncluttered, so it won’t get tangled in transport. It also makes it easier to arrange the tentacles, because they don’t have to be glued down.

DSCF2851Now that we’re about halfway through the project, I need to look at my progress. Looking back, I realize that finding a mentor so late into my project has slowed me down a bit. DSCF2856To make up for it, I’m dedicating an hour on Wednesdays to working on In-Depth each week. I’m 3/4 done my jellyfish, and a little over halfway done my space junk mobile. I had two other projects I wanted to do before May. One was in accordance with my Environmental issue project, and represented BC’s power system – A sculpture using plugs and a light bulb attached to a fish. DSCF2858Often, people don’t realize that although hydro-power is renewable, it still has environmental effects that need to be mitigated. The other was a hot air balloon candle-holder. My idea was to make a candle-holder out of the metal cans and wire I have in the shape of a hot air balloon, but I would need help cutting and shaping the metal from my mentor. I definitely want to make the first one, but the second one I think I will leave out of my plans until I’ve finished everything else. From seeing the little trinkets in the Cuban tourist shops, I realized I could also easily make with my strange collection of materials was a wind chime, if I have time. But I already have enough to work on.

For the new few sessions, I’m going to focus on my jellyfish to get it done, and begin work on the hydro-power sculpture in my own time. Looking back, I realize that finding a mentor so late into my project has slowed me down a bit. To make up for it, I’m dedicating an extra hour on Wednesdays to working on In-Depth each week.

The center of the solar system…. In-depth #6

Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats

White hat = information

Red hat = feelings and intuition

Black hat = critical thinking

Yellow hat = values and benefits

Green hat = new ideas/alternatives

Blue hat = organizes other hats; moderator

In the last two weeks of in-depth, I’ve had the chance to further develop my two main art pieces: the jellyfish and the space junk mobile. I’ve had a lot of conversations with my mentor exploring different possibilities for each one, and deciding when to come back to a problem later. For example, we were having  a discussion about how to represent the sun (arguable one of the most important parts) in my solar system. The conversation went a little like this:

Me: “So, my biggest problem so far has been trying to figure out what the sun is going to look like. It can’t be the proper size in relation to the other planets, obviously, but I’d like to make it stand out in some way that obviously designates it as ‘The Sun’. “

Ms. Kirkwood: “Yes. Well, we can definitely make the sun a bit larger than the other planets. To give it a round shape, I could use some of my circles and cross them over each other, to give it more depth. I also think it would be good to show some movement for the sun.”

Me: “That sounds good. I definitely think movement is a good thing, because the sun is always burning and giving off solar flares and radiation, right? It would be nice to have a little globe or sphere for the sun, because most of the other planets are 2D. That would set it apart for sure. What were you thinking of with the circles?

Ms. Kirkwood: “I have some old guitar strings that are really nice, they have this bouncy-ness to them that makes them really fun to work with. (Gets them out and arranges them like so) What if we wrapped a shiny clear material, like this cellophane, around it to reflect light?

guitar string sun, courtesy of me

Me: “Oh, yes I really like the guitar strings like that. Especially how the rings that make it look like the skeleton of a globe aren’t entirely lined up, so they make these great little crescents. The cellophane….I’m not sure. I like how it reflects the light, and it’s plastic, so it’s reusing garbage material, but it’s a little bit too green and pink. It doesn’t remind me of the sun that much. I almost feel like we would want something fluffier and lighter, because the sun is full of gas, and it’s always burning and releasing energy. It would be cool if we found a way to make the material be releasing, or expanding. Hmmm…..I’m not sure about the cellophane, but I really love the guitar strings. How can I attach them to make them stay in that shape?

Ms. Kirkwood: “I usually just tape them together using strong crafting tape. It works well because you can easily take it off if you don’t like it or need to make changes, and because it’s easy to put on and holds very well. If you tape it like this, crossing over one way and then the opposite direction, it makes it more difficult for the tape to get pulled apart.

Me: “Oh yeah, because now it is held together in a way that by trying to undo one piece of tape, the other piece will stop it from moving. Cool! It’s just coincidence that the tape is bright yellow, but I really like how that colour contrasts with the more copper-y guitar strings. (puts pieces together with tape) The two overlapping points are at the top and bottom of the sun if you hold it this way. It’s kind of cool, because it looks like two “poles” on the top and bottom of the sun.”

Ms. Kirkwood: “Yes, it does. Do you have any more ideas about the fabric we could use for the sun? If you want plastic, or garbage-y material, I could give you some kind of plastic-y wrapping paper I had…just let me go look for it…(15 minutes and a messy storage room later) Huh, I thought I had something, but I guess not. None of those more napkin-y tissue papers stood out to you?”

Me: “No, not really…. I don’t know, I can’t really think of anything that seems to fit with the mobile.The rest of it is coppery wire, wood and red plastic.

Ms. Kirkwood: “Do you want to come back on it? We can always work on something else, and come back to it with new ideas later.

Me: “Sure…maybe let’s work on the jellyfish for a bit.

(We make our way back to the space where we do most of our work. After about 30 minutes working on the jellyfish, my leg brushes a piece of cellophane and causes it to shift and expand, falling a little more flat).

Me: ” Wait, what if we crumpled up a material and put it inside the sun, instead of overtop of the guitar string fame?

Ms. Kirkwood: “Why don’t you show me?

Me: (crumples the cellophane and holds inside of frame) “It would be cool if I could suspend the material in the center of the frame…but I still don’t really like the cellophane. It just doesn’t seem to go with the rest of the project. (…) Could I use those yellow bags you get from No Frill’s instead? They’re a bit fluffier and match with the yellow tape really well.

Ms. Kirkwood: “Sure! That might work out well, because its always good to make objects kind of relate to each other. Then they look more like they fit together.

After that conversation, we didn’t actually get around to suspending the bag in midair. But I, for one, kind of like the way the bag flip and curls on itself like solar flares are protruding in plastic strips, and the reflective, somewhat luminous nature if plastic. I can see that in this conversation, we had a lot of ideas being tossed around. Since art is pretty subjective, most of our decisions about what to do were based off of emotions and intuition, the red hat, or the resources we had available (the white hat). Blue and black hats occured the least, but we often talked about what looked or felt good (yellow hat) when trying out new ideas. Now, off to Cuba, where I’m sure I’ll see some sun that isn’t made out of plastics and guitar strings!

wow... do those sun spots spell out No Frills, or is it just me?
wow… do those sun spots spell out No Frills, or is it just me?

Mapping Out (British North) America

I really like historical maps. Especially the one that Fiona added to the resource library, where you can click on different dates to see the changes in state or country boundary lines.

Courtesy of Canadian Historical Maps
Courtesy of Canadian Historical Maps

 “After the war of 1812, immigration to British North America led to a more diversified economy, with lumbering, farming and shipbuilding growing in both the Maritimes and in the Canadas. But by the 1830s there was a great deal of unrest, partly because of economic distress, partly because of the cultural prejudice against the French-speaking Canadiens in Lower Canada, and partly due to the system of government, which gave relatively little power to the elected assembly. In November 1837, Louis-Joseph Papineau and his radical Parti Patriote led a rebellion against this unfair government structure, but the rebels were not well organized and were readily defeated by British forces. Similarly, in Upper Canada, William Lyon Mackenzie, a newspaper editor and member of the elected assembly, led a rebellion that was also quashed. But two uprisings made British officials realize they had to reform the government system.”

– Canadian Geographic: Historical Maps

I chose this map/timeline to blog about because it gives a great visual representation of what exactly is going in Canada from 1700 – 1999. We can see how our country changed from being basically two European colonies in the east to the structured provinces we have now. When viewing the Canadian geographical map/timeline, it’s amazing to see how young our country really is. Canada is still evolving and “growing up” so to speak. Our last edit to our geography was making Nunavut a territory, and happened in 1999. That’s sixteen years ago! Not long at all, compared to other places. For example, the United Kingdom’s last change in borders was in 1922, when Southern Ireland gained independence.

To me, it seems that as Europeans explored westward, they discovered all the different resources Canada had to offer. Growing, harvesting, and exporting wheat from the prairies gave Canada’s economy a boost, enabling people to explore further. When the government encouraged Canadians to explore further, offering “…free land to anyone who would clear and work it.” (Canadian Geographic: Historical Maps). In Alberta, BC, and the Yukon they  found precious minerals and oil. Remember the Klondike gold rush? Caused by the exploration of European settlers. The Aboriginals didn’t really need the gold for any reason other than decoration or ceremony – but I think they should have gotten a say in what happened (remember, it was their land) before a bunch of people bring up their pickaxes and gold pans to set up roads, supply routes, and buildings. Once the gold is gone, the deserted remains of the town make the land unsuitable for farming or animal life, so the land has to be left to be reclaimed by nature, which can take many years. Worse yet, mines that are no longer operating can still pollute the surrounding environment.

There are several differences in how Europeans mapped out this country in comparison to the indigenous people, the First Nations. The First Nations people had many different groups spread throughout Canada, with not much visual or text records of their land. Other than knowing where different language groups generally lived, most knowledge about the land was passed down through oral tradition. The whole idea of “your land” and “my land” didn’t really exist with the First Nations, which lead to problems when Europeans colonized Canada.

Map of First Nations populations and languages. Data used for this map is from 1996. Image taken from “Canada’s First Peoples” website.

The current 50 languages of Canada’s indigenous peoples belong to 11 major language families – ten First Nations and Inuktitut. Canada’s Aboriginal languages are many and diverse, and their importance to indigenous people immense. This map shows the major aboriginal language families by community in Canada for the year 1996.”

Canada’s First Peoples

My personal interests lie in First Nations rights and fairness, so it is eye-opening to see how the land originally inhabited by the First Nations people was signed away (or just outright taken, as is the case in the majority of BC) to the European settlers. “Because the Royal Proclamation of 1763 stated that the Crown must negotiate and sign treaties with the indigenous people before land could be ceded to a colony, the Numbered Treaties were negotiated in most parts of the Prairie Provinces. The Government of the Colony of British Columbia, however, failed to negotiate many treaties and as a result, most of the province’s land is not covered by treaties.” (Wikipedia, British Columbia Treaty Process). In BC, we currently have a six-step plan that First Nations groups can take to try to settle the issue of land rights.

  1. Statement of Intent to Negotiate: A First Nation submits a Statement Of Intent (SOI) stating among other things who is claiming, proof that the negotiating party is supported by the community and where the claim will be made.
  2. Readiness To Negotiate: Within 45 days of submitting the SOI the parties must sit down and show that all parties have the will and resources to negotiate a treaty.
  3. Negotiation Of a Framework Agreement: The “table of contents” of a comprehensive treaty. The three parties agree on the subjects to be negotiated and an estimated time frame for stage four agreement-in-principle negotiations.
  4. Negotiation Of An Agreement In Principle: The negotiating parties examine in detail the elements outlined in their framework agreement with the goal of solving the all problems and creating a working treaty.
  5. Negotiation to Finalize a Treaty: The treaty for all intents and purposes is finished at this stage the treaty has to be approved by all parties of the negotiating team.
  6. Implementation of the Treaty: Applying and running the First Nation as set out by the treaty.

However, I’m not entirely sure if this is fair to the First Nations peoples. For example, in July 2007, the Tsawwassen First Nation members voted in favour of their treaty. The treaty more than doubles the size of the Tsawwassen reserve, and has several financial compensations:  a one-time capital transfer of $13.9 million, $2 million for relinquishing mineral rights under English bluff, $13.5 million for startup and transition costs, $7.3 million for resource management and economic development, and $2.6 annually for ongoing programs and services. It also reserves a portion of the Fraser River salmon catch to the Tsawwassen. In return, the Tsawwassen will abandon other land claims and will eventually pay taxes. (Wikipedia, British Columbia Treaty Process)But can we really translate the First Nations way of thinking, where the people belong to the land, not the other way around, into numbers like area and money? It’s like comparing apples to oranges.

Whichever way our treaty system works, the First nations will never end up being able to fully reclaim their land, because then the other 96% of Canadians would have nowhere else to live. In fact, when negotiating, only crown-owned land is even on the table for the First Nations to regain. Any land that is owned by private companies is unavailable unless the owners are willing to sell it. Instead, it’s a very tricky process of trying to re-compensate the First Nations for something we will never be able to give back to them. It makes it worse that in the past, signing a treaty was analogous to signing away the rest of your rights as an Aboriginal, and losing rights to your culture, land, and traditions except for what was explicitly stated in the treaty. Although now treaties try to modify and define Aboriginal rights instead of “cede, release, and surrender” your rights, some people think it still limits the rights of Aboriginals even more than not having a treaty. For more information, check out: http://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/home/land-rights/aboriginal-rights.html

Some of the prescribed learning outcomes this covers are:

  • Interactions between Aboriginal peoples and Europeans
  • Canada’s physiographic regions
  • Geographical factors in the development of Canada
  • Resource development in BC and Canada
  • Western Expansion
  • Technological development and settlement
  • Contributions to the development of Canada

On a brighter note, Happy 1st of March!