ELISE BOUDREAU GRAHAM
We talked about staying informed and the work of doing so... does this idea carry over to your other projects?
Reading and research are big parts of my studio practice. Sometimes I find it difficult to work intuitively and cracking a book will help spark or move along an idea. I'm currently taking some classes in the History department at Concordia so it's been fun to have access to their library database.
Some of the books piled on my bedside table are For Folk’s Sake: Art and Economy in Twentieth Century Nova Scotia, Reflections, A Fifteenth Anniversary Collection: A Cathy Collection (of Cathy comics), and Pink Glass Swan: Selected Feminist Essays on Art by Lucy Lippard. So that should give you an idea where my brain is at these days.
Tell me a little about your upcoming project that you're working on for your show? How did you arrive at the idea of having people put in the work of going through their bookmark history?
Next month I am presenting a two-day event called Not Content as in Happy at Studio XX in Montreal. It will take place on Saturday, February 16 and Saturday, February 24 from noon to 5pm. The gallery will be set up as a reading room and visitors are invited to bring their laptops and cellphones into the space to read any material they have previously bookmarked for “future reading”. You know, the articles we fully intend to read but never seem to get around to them.
The consumption of, and engagement with online content takes effort. I started thinking about this sort of intellectual labor around 2014 after I left an office job and returned to the service industry. My work was no longer in front of a computer and during this time I felt like I was missing out on so many online conversations.
With this project I wanted to dedicate physical space to this act of reading and insist on its designation as a form of labor in which we all engage.
As I mentioned in the event description, “Open browser tabs become gestures of solidarity while shares and likes make those affinities visible. However such actions become performative as our lists of unviewed content become longer and longer”. Our identities become a compilation of things we choose to post online and the ways in which we share this information is very performative in and of itself, so why not make an art event about
It seems that doing work, labor, work place politics are all threads you're pulling on right now. Can you tell me a little about these threads in relation to a couple of your past project as well as some you're still working on? For instance the "new boss, same as the old one" tshirts and the workplace situation drawings from TV.
One project I would like to finish this summer is called Work Body. It will either end up being a series of GIFs or a video piece exploring the physicality of labor, or more specifically the bodily harm caused by working jobs in the service industry. Work Body is composed of stretches and exercises that help alleviate these job-related injuries.
I've also been playing around with the phrase, Meet the new boss, same as the old boss which is actually a lyric taken from The Who. I like that it sounds like an old union slogan and I want to use it to talk about the working lives of my peers today. I am interested in (and horrified by) the increasing permeation of our work lives into our personal lives. Especially as artists, our identities are so intertwined with our labor. We are told that it is a liberating experience to work for ourselves but actually everyone I know is extremely exhausted and acting out the role of their own tyrannical boss.
You also are part of running a creative space called Friends and Neighbours, tell me a little more about the project. What's it been like using a residential space vs a commercial or official venue? How is collaborating on running a curatorial project and working with people informing what you make in the studio? I think you mentioned you're craving a more social or human engagement in your work…
Yes, I work pretty independently in the studio so it's nice to have a collective project. Friends & Neighbours is myself, Barbara Scheed, and Lee Roth. We all met during our undergrad in Halifax at NSCAD University. Our vernissages generally happen in Barbara and Lee's home and I like the casualness of our apartment gallery. I would like to have a dedicated space for Friends & Neighbours but to be honest we just don't have the money right now. We are at a point where what we need is money to be able to adequately pay artists because that is important to us. Curating isn't necessarily my passion but what I really enjoy is being able to connect people. This past year we ran a monthly Crit Group and recently one of the artists told me about a studio visit he had with another Crit member. That kind of stuff makes me happy! I think any time you engage with new artists it will affect you own work with regards to giving/getting feedback and motivation.
You can find more work by Elise Graham at: