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  • Abbra Kotlarczyk

Conversations with Rua Minx, Aja Rose Bond and Shaun Dacey at Access Gallery

BRAIDS: Co-residency and Collaborative Installation

Residency: March 4 – 28, 2013

Installation: March 30 – April 27, 2013

Performance and Reception: Friday, March 29, 2013

Installation view of “BRAIDS”. Image courtesy of Aja Rose Bond.

If you’ve ever worked with felt, you’ll be familiar with the counter-intuitive process necessary to separate out the fine fibers. An impulsive tug will simply result in a fraught bond and no division of the material in which to work with. In terms of an artistic collaboration, it feels apparent that a similar gradual teasing out of the strands that comprise the project BRAIDS has had to occur in order for the various elements to be held together.

Demarcated by curtains and a punctuated “knock very loud” door sign, is the temporarily inverted zone of Access Gallery, functioning for a period of three weeks as what curator Shaun Dacey looks upon as being a laboratory for creative experimentation. Through the pairing of two practices that are in themselves such a bricolage of aesthetic metabolisms, it’s hardly a surprise that the tone set during the co-residency between artists Aja Rose Bond and Rua Minx (Donna Huanca) has been one of frenetic and wild exaltation. An eclectic mix of fabrics and party paraphernalia (including the seemingly of-the-moment Martha Stewart glitter which serendipitously features to glimmering effect in the current show at Republic Gallery) have been collected upon various thrift store adventures that the two went on during their first week together. Through the act of positioning a diverse inventory within the gallery slash studio, we find domesticated attire stripped of their pragmatic and sentimental charge. Whether the textiles are returned to some version of their prior place in the world is a matter of asking each artist how they envision the role of garments and frames. In the midst of an inspired hyperactivity and in the lead up to the opening of BRAIDS, I met with Aja, Donna and Shaun to discuss how the project and co-habitation at Access was going.

...Minx came from this debt collector that was calling me all the time. She had this really sexy voice and she was like “you need to come in and pay this fine” and I was like “what!!?” So finally I met her, she was at my university and I went to meet her and I was super curious what she looked like. She was this big fat beast-like blond woman... -Rua Minx

Installation view of “BRAIDS”. Image courtesy of Aja Rose Bond.

Braids Interview: Part I

Conversation with Aja Rose Bond, Rua Minx (Donna Huanca) and Shaun Dacey

–Monday 18th March 2013 @ Access Gallery

Aja Rose Bond: I think Shaun (Dacey) ideally wanted there to be collaboration, but I think he definitely knew that it was risky and that it could happen to any number of varying degrees. Given the fact that we didn’t even know each other, it definitely felt like a risk. Sometimes I feel like I can have a vision of what I want it to be but, as I take one step at a time, I always end up in some kind of a different place. Trying to walk that path alongside someone and where someone else’s path is going is so challenging, for me anyway, to communicate in that moment what’s going on.

Rua Minx: I do tend to work fast, but something about adjusting to this whole situation is taking a little longer than it normally would.

ARB: We spent almost a whole week gathering and shlepping and building and moving just to set up and that took up a third of our time. All of a sudden you’re like, “oh shit, there’s not nearly as much spaciousness as I thought there was”. It all feels a little like quicksand or something.

RM: I don’t know what it is. In the Utopic sense artists don’t want to be told what to do, but if he [Shaun] was more clear about what position he wanted us to take then we could rebel against that [Aja laughs]. It’s like an Andrea Zittel quote [rules in order to break them] and I love her and she’s one of my biggest inspirations, but only because I want to have more control, and she’s all about control and in a way very self-helpy with her work, and I really like that. That’s kind of what I mean by saying, “let’s create these frames so that we can go insane [in them]” because, you know, we have to be total maximalists or keep it reeled in. I kind of like where it’s going.

ARB: To me, I see your works as more of a triptych because you’re working with a similar palette and similar fabric – you have that camo in all three of them. It’s really tied together whereas the first thing that I did when I came in was that I took mounds and mounds of fabric and I divided them into these discreet piles that were cohesive, like aesthetic bundles. They’re very distinct to me. It’s the idea of taking these three distinctive pieces and pushing them all into one space. I actually am excited about maximalism and excited to overwhelm Vancouver because Vancouver is so clean and so minimal and so conceptual and it’s something that I feel myself really riling against. I’m excited as a member of this community to make a very distinct and different statement.

RM: I’m trying to see how your work could look best. Of course, I care about how the work looks in the room, for both of us. It’s not like I want to reduce your maximalism because I feel like I work the same way. I don’t think my work is very minimal. I know Shaun tries to say that but it’s a total mess. I am reeling it in with trying to kind of create edges in the work. Like when I’ve made room-sized installations that I’ve been doing for years, I end up documenting specific chunks of it and with that documentation that’s where I kind of edit. Whereas now I want to do it live so that the whole thing looks like it’s finished and not just little areas that are more successful than others. When I think about maximalism I think of Thomas Hirschhorn or Jason Rhoades, who to me are super successful with a way of going fucking insane and having it look like a whole, like it’s one piece.

ARB: I‘m really open to all kinds of feedback, as a person who’s self-taught and didn’t have a dedicated group of people who would pay attention to my work and give me feedback every month. I really appreciate people who are willing to actually say what they think rather than walk away.

RM: But you went to fashion school right?

ARB: Yeah but that’s a totally different kind of scene and so I appreciate the opportunity to get feedback, for sure.

RM: I wish that I went to fashion school more than art school [everyone laughs]. I didn’t learn anything in art school; I learned more working at a Museum. I saw how ridiculous art can be and what artists can work for and how there are no limits and you can make a total mess so I kind of appreciate that, in a lot of ways. I feel self-taught even though there’s the degree that’s in the name.

Installation view of “BRAIDS”. Image courtesy of Rua Minx.

ARB: I think that’s another thing that’s interesting for me. When we had this meeting, Shaun kept asking about the canvases, and what they mean. As a curator, he needs to care about how the public sees the work, that’s his job but we don’t need to think about that as much. Thinking art and viewing art are totally different job descriptions. I don’t give a fuck that they’re canvases, they don’t mean anything to me, to me they’re just frames to drape things on and I’m not a painter and I have no investment in painting. I feel really liberated that I don’t have to work from this long historical lineage, I have my own histories that I bring in. It’s kind of like a chosen family versus a blood family. I choose the histories that I work with. But I can see that it is a big concern for him and it’s not a concern for me and so there’s a tension around that. They’re not canvases to me, they’re just structures, just like a body is a structure.

RM: When they’re against the wall…

ARB: Yeah I mean the one you’re making really looks like painting, there’s paint on them or they feel like they’re referencing painting a lot more and there’s a lot going on in them, but the one behind that has no paint.

RM: They look more like theatre…

ARB: Like a stage or a set…

RM: I just think he’s trying to find the language to describe what’s happening…I feel like he’s definitely acting or making a Frankenstein [Aja laughs], putting two things together and so to me, he’s also a collaborator, he is the third element…Aja said something the other week when we had a group meeting here, you never know what someone else needs, you might have exactly what someone else needs. So in this exchange, there could be a lot of helping each other out and I just feel like we’ve been positioned in a way where we’re working on our own ego points, like this is me as an artist I’m declaring this, you’re declaring this but in the end I just want our resources and our collaborating to be an exchange. Besides, of course, getting to know Vancouver through you, which is awesome because you’re super amazing; you have this library at home and you take all these other kinds of approaches to art whereas I’m strictly doing residencies and exhibitions which is a more nomadic experience of being an artist. So it’s really great to see how you’re anchored and have this community-building practice where I’m always kind of touring different communities and figuring it out through the clothing and looking for new materials. For example, I don’t know how to make patterns and I would love to learn [Aja laughs]. You know how to do these basic things. I’m always so impatient. I was in Germany interning with a shoemaker and I really tried to learn how to make shoes in three weeks [laughs]. I was beaten down to the core, so disappointed.

Abbra Kotlarczyk to Shaun Dacey: Can I ask how long it’s been on your mind, the show, and how it came about?

SD: It’s been on the books for a year now but even before that. While working at Access, I’ve been trying to focus on practices that I feel are not represented in the core Artist Run Centres. So there’s a small group of us and I’m taking the job on, for almost three years now. I really wanted Access to be a space that would show what is not being shown, or what might be under-represented and I felt that a practice like Aja’s is not really represented in these galleries but it is really prominent within Vancouver in general. So there’s a whole kind of emerging sound/fashion/textile/alternative community around a few artist-initiated spaces or maybe people that don’t even align themselves as artists in a professional sense. So that was the beginning point. Then, the second side is that I was feeling a kind of an insularity within the Vancouver scene and a lot of really interesting artists, even within Canada and outside of Canada that would’ve been really great to bring in to add to this dialogue and to have some cross-pollination between people. So, I think it came out of getting to know Donna and getting to know her work and feeling that there was an overlap or a connection within practices. Also, conceiving of Access as kind of a laboratory and wanting it to be more of a raw space and not such a slick gallery that I find a lot of the other quote Artist Run Centers are: more slick and everything is completely finished. I think Access should be a space that is there for developing ideas and for experimentation. Experimentation is at the core of the kind of things we want to mentor and nurture so the idea of hosting a residency is something I’ve been doing for the past few years, at least one artist and hopefully one curatorial residency per year. My background and research is in collaboration and social practice so I was really thinking about the thematic of a residency and even discovering now, I think both of them are invested in process and the ritual of process. Even this part here seems to be the kind of interaction that, whether they end up actually collaboratively making pieces together or separately, there is an interesting collaboration happening. Tensions arise and dissipate and it’s interesting in that sense. I’m interested to see how it will unfold and I expect that it may look completely different next time you see it [laughs] just the way these things kind of go. It was funny because then I found out that Aja had already known of Donna’s work and…

ARB: I was a fan!

RM: Aww.

ARB: I followed you from afar on the internet. I feel like all my favorite artists are just out there somewhere.

BRAIDS Interview: Part II

Conversation with Aja Rose Bond, Rua Minx (Donna Huanca) and Shaun Dacey

–Friday 22th March 2013 @ Access Gallery

AK: I wanted to ask both of you how sound plays into your practices. You mentioned it’s something that you’ll be working on for the show. I’ve seen your works online but I haven’t experienced any of the sound components, so I was hoping you could speak a little bit about that.

ARB: In terms of my own sound practice it’s mostly collaborative. With Gabriel (Saloman) and with the Her Jazz Noise Collective which isn’t active any more and with other bands, jamming with people as something to do, as a way of getting to know a person. And I do solo stuff as well that goes under my name and then also under DJ Tapes which is a really adaptable project that sometimes is kind of like a DJ but is often just the fact that I use tapes and sound collages. They’re my own original sound compositions – they’re just on the tapes that I use to collage and play with but sometimes it’s just thrifted tapes. So I’m imagining that that’s going to be my contribution to the sound component that we work on together. Again, I feel like the sound component of this show is a lot like the larger elements of the show in that we are open and that there could be any number of degrees of overlap. We are excited to use tapes, that’s something we both have done in the past.

RM: Yeah, I used to do my own solo work as Rua Minx and there’s stuff online.

AK: You say used to, is that continuing?

RM: Well Rua Minx is like a term, it’s like an alias. This show is under Rua Minx.

AK: Is it ‘are you a minx’?

RM: No, it’s Rua Minx. Rua is from a Lasar Segall painting, a painting of two girls in an alleyway and Minx came from this debt collector that was calling me all the time. She had this really sexy voice and she was like “you need to come in and pay this fine” and I was like “what!!?” So finally I met her, she was at my university and I went to meet her and I was super curious what she looked like. She was this big fat beast-like blond woman, like crazy. She was super sweet but her visual was nothing like…so those were two things I put together for this name and this project. It started as a website at first in 2002 as a bunch of images that I was collecting, like taking images of televisions. It was an artwork in itself –Rua Minx Dot Com. Then I started playing under that name and recruiting art school students who were not trained in music. I’d been coming from playing drums in bands and wanting to do more improvisation and sound sampling. The last show I played live was in 2008 in San Francisco. Everything’s been digital since, just because of the mobility that I’ve needed to have, not having any equipment. Now I see the sound work that I make as just 40% of the visual, it’s kind of aiding the visual.

Installation view of “BRAIDS”. Image courtesy of Aja Rose Bond.

AK: I was going to ask as well. Is the sound kind of ancillary to the object-based or the textile works or do you see it as an even weighting within your practice?

ARB: For me, if there are visual components in the performance somehow it’s more of an aid to the sound. I’ve never had it be the other way around as far as sound works but I’ve definitely utilised costume as an integral part of things before. Also, with a project I do with Gabriel called Diadem, we often use these kind of aids for transparencies and these kind of divination tools to aid our improvised compositions. Sometimes we’ll randomly pull these symbols and pictures and lay them out on an overhead projector and the audience will be able to see what visual cues it is that we’re working from. So that’s a pretty integrated part of it. We don’t rely on that but we enjoy utilising it. So I’m really excited about this because this is kind of an inversion for me as far as my sound practice goes, where the visual is getting more attention. I also have a lot of confidence in the way in which sound is such an immersive field. You know, it’s invisible, but you can’t shut it out.

SD: We’ve been doing these residencies at Access for quite a few years now and before, there wasn’t presentation involved. I think presentation is a nice aspect but I really don’t consider the works to be finished in certain ways. I think there needs to be some time after production for the things to settle, so I always think of these things as works in progress versus a completed show. I think some of the ideas that they might be working on now, in this kind of frantic one-month period, are things that they are really developing. I think for me it was really important for them to have space, as opposed to me saying “I want you to make this”. Now we’re getting to the time where I have to curate a bit but, back at the beginning just giving the freedom for them to explore that opportunity within the space. Physical space is something that’s kind of out of the reach for a lot of artists, especially with the cost of studio spaces in Vancouver.

AK: Yeah, the laptop, I was just thinking that becomes kind of this condensed interaction with space, in a way.

ARB: It’s like the miniature desktop and I often forget that that’s actually what it represents, a desk.

SD: For someone like Donna who lives out of a suitcase in many ways, the minute you settle down you have to start paying all these sorts of bills and finding a studio space. I think it’s the least the gallery like Access could do once in a while is to offer some space for production…I mean, this work they’re doing is even volunteering in certain ways where we don’t have the resources to pay really nice fees and all that kind of stuff so it’s really a pleasure that they would be willing to do this. Hopefully the more we do it then we can find better funds to make it happen.

AK: I guess the space must be a luxury, particularly for you (Donna) moving around so much to have a fixed space for three weeks?

RM: Yeah, but it’s a negotiation as well. It’s not just me. I don’t have my cuddle zone. Well, behind this painting maybe…

SD: There have been some subtle accusations that this is a social experiment on my part, like curatorial practice, pairing two people that don’t know each other.

RM: It is, sort of.

SD: But I guess all collaboration should have that…I don’t think it’s going well if there’s no tension. I try to insert failure in every project that I do and I think that’s important too. Most shows at Access completely fall apart weeks before and are rebuilt. I think that struggle makes some interesting things happen. And I think this has been great, I mean I haven’t been here every day [laughs], but I’m really excited to see what could happen and I really think a dialogue is developing between the two practices which yet at times seem very different I think they meet in this weird gray area or at least bounce off of each other. I’ve enjoyed the conversations and the dialogue and the arguments.

ARB: It feels dynamic for me, the tension that is there is a really valuable thing.

Thanks to Aja, Donna and Shaun for sharing their time and some of the equally inspired and bureaucratic processes that have given shape to BRAIDS. Be sure to pop into Access Gallery this Friday night March 29th to catch the opening performance and reception.

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