This month, we’re pleased to feature Kyler Zeleny and his recent photography project, Out West. In Kyler’s own words: “Kyler Zeleny is a Canadian visual sociologist. He is interested in found photography, family albums and the politics of archives. His personal interests in photography, which is reflective of his rural upbringing, relates to open space, landscape portraiture, and the archaeology of rural decay.”
Kyler Zeleny, Untitled. 2012
Can you tell us about yourself and what you’re currently working on?
I’m a local to the region, I grew up on a farm an hour outside of Edmonton, so rural Alberta is really in my blood. I now cherish the duality and stark differences between farm living and city living. I’m currently interested in Western Canada and found Polaroids.
I’m currently working on a project titled Georgia Georgia, a collaborative project with the Russian photographer Yanina Shevchenko. The concept is simple and is really an exercise in collaboration between two image makers who are not inhabiting the same physical space. Yanina will photograph in Georgia (the country) and I will use her photos as a starting point to photograph in Georgia (USA). The project plays on the visual conceptions of different places and how using references can help undermine common perceptions and create new narratives. Yanina has already photographed her portion and I will be photographing mine in October. I’m also working on another project launching in a couple of weeks that deals with Found Polaroids, and am looking for people to make written submissions based on the photographs (see www.foundpolaroids.com for more information).
Kyler Zeleny, Untitled. 2013
You recently launched your first monograph, Out West. Why did you choose scenes from rural Canadian towns as your subject matter?
The concept for this project developed while I was living in London. I found there was a lot of focus on urbanity and nothing looking at the rural, which I felt was made redundant by the continuous push for greater urbanization. A good number of individuals were interested in urban themes, but there was a lack of focus on the rural (particularly in Western Canada), and getting these projects the proper exposure.
Out West is also a very personal project - I wanted to revisit these areas as much for myself as for others. In the end I found something new and refreshing in these communities, a beauty I would wager couldn’t have been found any other way than by leaving.
Kyler Zeleny, Untitled. 2012
Do you think it’s possible for these communities to retain some amount of relevancy with increasing urbanization?
My answer to that question would be yes and no. Rural spaces will always play an important part and will always impact urban spaces in ever-subtle ways. These spaces will not die, they will modify and persist - how this will happen (in what form and in what capacity) will be an interesting question to address. I sometimes believe that as urbanization increases, these spaces become even more relevant. It now becomes a issue of branding - how are rural spaces branded and how can they be branded? The life and death of many rural communities will be based as much on marketing as anything else. The question for the survival of small communities is: what can we offer and how can we offer it better than urban spaces? And there are some interesting examples of how Western Canadian communities are tackling this issue. The communities that either can’t or won’t tackle this issue will likely wither away. But of course, with all death there is regeneration in some form.
What do you want us to know about your feature images? Why did you choose them?
The feature images were selected from the book Out West. I believe they appropriately reflect the theme of the project and I hope they tantalize the viewer to want to search out more.
Kyler Zeleny, Untitled. 2012
What cameras do you typically shoot with and why?
I use a variety of cameras depending on location, weather and project. For Out West I used a medium format Yashica 124G, which is a lovely camera and at a good price point. I was interested in square format because it can be a difficult way to photograph landscape, especially for notoriously flat places like the Canadian Prairies.
I am also fond of using my Polaroid 680SE, but my original Polaroid film stock is running low. My upcoming Georgia Georgia project will utilize a Pentax 67 camera, which is a beast and considered by some to be more of a weapon than a camera. I also started to use a digital Fuji X-E2 for its size and convenience; it’s good for the everyday.
You have a background in Political Science from the University of Alberta. Has this discipline informed your current interests in photography and visual sociology and if so, how?
I think it has to some degree, perhaps not my ‘visual approach’, but it has made me aware and interested in understanding the part that government plays in constructing space and place. It wasn’t until I was studying in London that I really began to develop my interest in photography and visual sociology, which was a result of my cohort and the program I attended.
Kyler Zeleny, Untitled. 2013
What do you have planned for the future?
I will be moving to Toronto at the end of the summer to continue my studies as a doctoral student at a joint York/Ryerson programme in Communication and Culture. While attending, I hope to explore some questions that arose from the Out West project.
Find more about Kyler online here.
Read the Edmonton Journal article about AGA curator Kristy Trinier and her next curatorial project, the 2015 Alberta Biennial
Check out the newest exhibit at the Nina with a preview in the Edmonton Examiner
Learn about how the Visual Communications Design program at the U of A is “Designing a community of learning” on the Work of Arts blog
Listen to CKUA’s Sarah Hoyles discuss a new Latitude 53 project, Our Day Will Come, on ArtBeat
We are hosting our very first Tweetchat this weekend! On Saturday, July 19 from 11 AM-12 PM we want to chat with you about ideas for improving/ innovating art education in Edmonton, riffing off of Stacey Cann’s guest post for us this past Wednesday. Tweet us @prairieseen and use the hashtag #yegarted to get the conversation going.
We are welcoming Stacey Cann to the blog this week, with a piece entitled Should Artists Care About Art Education? Stacey was one of the presenters at the Art and Education Forum we co-hosted at Harcourt House back in November, and a passionate educator in the Edmonton visual arts community.
Image via Creative Commons
Contemporary art is often misunderstood, or even feared by the general public. It is easy to blame cuts in art education and the humanities in the public school system. But what role, if any, do artists have to educate the public about their work and the discourse it is situated in? This is especially relevant given the cuts in most secondary and higher education throughout the province.
One could argue that an artist’s only concern should be in the production of art. However, without art education who is the audience for this work? Creating more artists should not be, and really never was, the goal of art education, but rather creating a visually literate, thinking public. In the same way that the goal of high school math is not to create mathematicians but rather people who understand the basic math concepts in the world around them.
In the public school system visual art is often taught by generalists who have no understanding of contemporary or even modern art theory. Instead of teaching technical or conceptual ideas they create step-by- step craft projects. Artists need to be more involved in art education so that the public has an understanding of what it is like to be an artist. This may take shape as Artist in the Schools programs, or something less formal like community projects where artists work collaboratively with the public. If ever we want a more informed audience we need to expose young people to what artists actually do.
Artists should also be advocating for more governmental support for both secondary and university fine arts and humanities programs. These programs give context to the work artists make and create the research in the humanities that helps to build a foundation for our thoughts about art. Without robust visual and general arts programs in higher education the visual arts community lacks both audience as well as a place for experimentation.
We need to improve arts education at a school and community education level but also find a better, less opaque, way of explaining our work and its context in the gallery setting. Creating spaces for art that are more accessible is also important to maintaining the relevance of contemporary art in society. This means didactics that are not impenetrable art speak or excessively dense. It also means creating galleries where the audience feels safe asking questions and creating their own understanding of the work.
Contemporary art is relevant to peoples’ lives, but artists should be breaking down, not building up, barriers to understanding it. As artists it is our role to create the audience that we desire. This could mean being in the larger community making art, pressuring the Alberta Foundation for the Arts to bring back funding for their Artists in Schools program, to not sit idly by while the government guts university departments that do not suit the oil industry, and to make ourselves seen in the community. There are no easy solutions but cuts to art education impact artists.
While the opening for this exhibition has already taken place yesterday, that’s no reason to not check out A Record of Events this weekend at Harcourt House! Playing with the very idea of a gallery opening, A Record of Events takes an “opening” and transforms it into the exhibition itself.
The exhibition runs until August 8th.
Image by PrairieSeen
As many of know, we are launching a new online arts magazine to serve the visual arts community in Edmonton. In order to get it off the ground, we need to raise a little bit o’ money. One way we are doing so is through a good old-fashioned Indiegogo campaign. If you can financially support our initiative, please consider donating to our campaign. Please also share amongst yourselves! The campaign will run until August 8.
Read about the new public sculpture park at Borden Park in the Edmonton Journal
Learn about how our neighbours to the East have prioritized public art in the Sherwood Park News
Listen to Sarah Hoyles’ weekly discussion on art in Alberta with the CKUA ArtBeat podcast
Love bikes? Love prints? Love blocks? Love parties?
Well, you’re in luck! SNAP is hosting their annual summer fundraiser block party, BLOCK OUT, this Saturday eve, combining all four of your favourite things. Tickets are $15 ($10 if you are a member of SNAP or the Oliver community league) and can be purchased on the SNAP website in advance (aka today) or at the door. Included in your ticket is the chance to make your own bike print, beer service from Yellowhead, snacks from Elm Cafe, and a chance to bid on tons of donated items in the silent auction. For $20 you can also print some sweet swag (in the form of t-shirts and totes) with specially-created work from local artists. At 9 PM the party really starts, with music from some local indie bands.