Elizabeth Forrest: Matrix of Invention
David Hoffos and Catholic Central High School Students: Labyrinth of Dreams
Matrix if Invention
The installation consists in part of twenty 1/4″ plywood constructions, approximately 2 – 4 feet in height. These function both as grouped sculptural elements, and also as woodcut printing surfaces (matrixes). Each suggests an invention or discovery, historic or prehistoric, which continues to be relevant to physical, social and/or psychological survival.
The images on the suspended panels surrounding the constructions have been made from one or more printings of the matrixes. In sequence from left to right, they refer to nine historical periods: Creation, War, Agriculture, Odyssey, Empires, Gothic, Renaissance, Enlightenment, Last One. These can be viewed as both cumulative and repetitive developments in the evolution of a culture.
A floor of paper defines the inner courtyard area. The area is contained by seven artificial rocks. To each of the rocks are attached crayons at the end of a length of string. The table in the centre holds a plaster cast of a pair of scissors (in a container), and a facsimile of an empty cigar box. Viewers are expected to, and generally recognize the space as inviolable, or, if they wish to enter, remove their shoes.
The table elements function as sacraments in the ritual of cutting free the crayons from the rocks. The potential for drawing is the focus of the work because it is generally recognized across all disciplines as the beginning of the materialization of an idea.
One motivation for the making of a print is communication of an idea. The original conception may be a drawing. In woodblock printing the idea is given a form on the wooden matrix, it can then be inked and printed on paper. The block is then normally discarded.
My work focuses upon the metaphorical implications of retaining the woodblock matrix. Multiple matrices assume 3-D form and are called matrix constructions. In this work, a relationship between these and other re-organized elements of the printing process contribute to the essential theme.
The printed images on dyed paper are made from the various matrix fragments. Within specific references, each print represents a season of human culture. Together they form an enclosure containing white paper, crayons attached to “rocks”, and an “altar” table holding the effigies of scissors and a cigar box.
In this gathering of various elements, it is my intention to re-examine limitations and opportunities for creative invention in a way that challenges the linear notion of “progress”, and proposes accountability to the larger matrix: hence the Matrix of Invention.
Labyrinth of Dreams, a multi-media installation involving sound, video projections onto various supports, and a miniature landscape in a magic mirrored box, was first displayed at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery in 1999. This project was the result of a unique collaboration between, local artist David Hoffos, senior level art students from Catholic Central High School, their teacher Annette Nieukerk, eleven B.F.A./B.Ed. students from the University of Lethbridge and their instructor Janice Rahn, and the gallery’s Education Curator, Marilyn Smith.
For the high school students, the focus of the project was to encourage their appreciation of contemporary art while furthering their creativity and skills in areas involving technology. Over the course of a two-week period, Hoffos guided them through the development of a collaborative idea and the technical nuts and bolts of putting together the various elements of the exhibition.
The university art education students observed this process as a case study on how to teach contemporary art in the public school systems. Professor Rahn from the Faculty of Education sets up and participates in these collaborative workshops to illustrate action research about generative curriculum. Many teachers shy away from such methodology mainly because the resources available on teaching art in the schools are still very traditional. Therefore, Professor Rahn is creating a series of “how to” videos called Playing With Installation which document and show how to involve students with a high degree of participation. These videos will show how to frame cooperative art projects around the methods and techniques used by contemporary artists, while drawing the content from the students.
Janice Rahn will be presenting her videos in progress during the Alberta Fine Arts Conference, Sept. 24- 26. Please contact Prof. Rahn at 329-2445 or 327-8895 if you are interested in creating further alliances between artists and schools.
David Hoffos will be presenting slides of his work and other projects with students in the gallery on Sat. Sept. 25. To contact David to teach as an artist in your school, phone 328-3701.
The success of this project was due in part to funding assistance from The Canada Council, the University of Lethbridge Research Fund and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.