From Toronto to Halifax, six intrepid artists – as agents of the social arts arena Methinks – will promote a portable art show entitled We Made a Deal with the Devil, workshop personal artistic projects, explore creative exchange opportunities, and shoot a documentary video of their experience on the road.
The collective arrives in Ottawa on August 6th, and their work will be displayed at the Avant-Garde Bar.
Ottawa-based artist Tamara Sponder will be presenting a collaborative large-scale print-based installation that depicts children as frightening animals on the playground. The Ottawa Arts Blog recently conducted an interview with Tamara to find out more about her work on this project.
OAB: Tell us a little bit about this Methinks tour and how you got involved.
TS: My professor at Queen’s e-mailed us a link to the We Made a Deal with the Devil call for submissions, and I totally loved the idea of a traveling art show. I submitted the drawings right away because I knew they were a sure thing and then I submitted Genna Kusch’s and my work for the portable installation. Thematically, it was perfect, ’embark on a wild hunt for inspiration through the deep woods of urban and rural folklore, collective memory, mythmaking, adventure and risk’ (taken from the Methinks website). Given that we’re transforming social networks into something more mythological and woodland-ish, how could we resist?
OAB: What makes your contribution unique?
TS: I’m not so sure that it is so unique. I gave up on trying to make different and new art a few years ago. It was too stressful coming across other artists who were working in a similar style or with similar concepts. I was totally revolutionized by the discovery of collaborative art groups such as Team Macho and The Royal Art Lodge. I feel like it is way less stressful to succeed and/or fail as a group. It also made it easier for Genna and me to accept that we were totally in love with each other’s work. Now we work together openly. I guess maybe that’s how the contribution is unique.
OAB: I have no recollection of turning into a wild animal on the playground. Was your childhood vastly different than mine?
TS: My dad was in the military while I was growing up, so I moved around quite a bit, an experience that I think strongly influences my work. I was always the new kid, always observing other social networks on the playground, but never quite being involved. Also, I was an only child, another experience that I feel was vital in the development of my work.
I came from a family of many aunts and uncles who all had at least three children. I had many cousins that I was close to, and although I was never personally involved in the sibling rivalry, I saw a lot of it. I always felt growing up that I understood a lot about social networks and ‘playground politics’, something that I’ve somehow lost in my adulthood.
As an adult, many things that govern our decisions have so much less to do with the intimate social relationships and so much more about the greater social context. It’s not worth crying and screaming over some minor injustice because there are so many other things to worry about that are serious and necessary. Maintaining a happy work place environment, for example, has a lot of people biting their tongues, and acquiescing to minor irritants simply to keep the peace and ‘not make a mountain out of a mole hill’. Being easy going and ‘uncomplex’ is valued in adulthood. Being emotional and reactive is not.
Children are like adults without the greater social conformities. They cry when they want something. They fight when someone makes them mad. They hump things because it feels good (even in public). They can be cute and they can be devastating. They are driven by basic desires and react the only way they instinctually know how, that is, emotionally and bodily. They haven’t learned all the social restrictions that would have them act civilized. That is where the animal transformation happens.
Only adult humans are so restricted with their behaviours, everything else is simplified to instinct and emotion and body.
That’s not to say that I think we should all start acting like children. I’m simply aiming to evoke some curiosity on the subject. I don’t really have a solution, because I’m not really convinced that there is any problem. I’m just interested in their emotional freedom, and wish to share my twisted nostalgia with others.
OAB: How do you think that living in Ottawa has inspired or affected your art, or your artistic process?
TS: I’ve been working at the National Gallery of Canada as an Interpreter running children’s educational programs where I’ve a had a ton of exposure to contemporary Canadian art, where my co-workings are mostly artists, studying artists or art enthusiasts , and where I get exposure to working with children on a regular basis. Living in Ottawa has kept me informed and enthusiastic about my own practice and others.
OAB: Any future projects of yours that Ottawa Art Enthusiasts should be checking out?
TS: Unfortunately not at the moment. I’m moving to London in September to do a Master’s Degree at The University of Western Ontario.
Methinks presents We Made a Deal with the Devil: A Collective Action Expedition in Ottawa on August 6 at the Avant-Garde Bar, 135 Besserer Street at 7pm. For more information, check out http://methinkspresents.org