MAKE/SHIFT

Alexis Bulman

Sep 11 - Oct 24, 2020

Curated by Hannah Keating

Alexis Bulman is an emerging artist from Prince Edward Island, currently based in Montreal. Her performance, sculpture, and installation work frequently draws on community and collaboration to explore themes of trust, care, belonging, and access in public space. The artist’s investigations are achieved through deep engagements with materials and process. From lumber to sidewalk salt to discarded household objects, Bulman uses materials as sites for sharp and, at times, playful intervention, relying on the instincts of her own body to inform her conversations with materials and movement. In MAKE/SHIFT, Bulman uses sheets of drywall and the gallery’s physical architecture to bring attention to the barriers, both physical and ideological, that continue to exist in the contemporary art world. Employing a disability framework, the work invites audiences to explore ableism in the gallery setting.

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Exhibition Text and Documentation
A Closer Look: Remodel (sculpture)
A Closer Look: Tending To (video + installation)
Artist Talk + Workshop: Archive of Sensation with Aislinn Thomas
About the artists

 

MAKE/SHIFT

There are two new bodies of work in this exhibition: Remodel and Tending To. The Remodel series is composed of five drywall sculptures of different shapes and sizes and is exhibited in Gallery 1. The artist built these works over many months. The process of bending, breaking, and reassembling whole sheets of drywall was one of exploration and laborious effort. Reflecting on the boundaries of her own body and her experience living with visible and invisible disability, Bulman asks us to find flexibility in the structures and systems that we tend to see as solid or immovable. You might view each work as an invitation to reimagine the possible forms and functions of public space and internal mindsets.

Tending To is a performance for video exhibited in Gallery 2, but visitors’ access to this work is barricaded. From behind a safety belt, viewers can observe a video of the artist using touch to locate imperfections in her studio wall, then carefully adhering a bandage to each crevice, crack, and nail hole. Nearby, a text reads “LOOK PLUNGE PEEL FLUTTER ADHERE PRESS REPEAT” while an audio description provides another layer of translation to the performance. In addition to highlighting the physical limits of Artspace’s second gallery, Bulman offers multiple points of entry for diverse audiences. She also displays the role of tenderness in the act of taking care. The work reminds us that care is essential to an equitable approach to access founded not on cure or universal accommodations, but in love, openness, and intimacy.

MAKE/SHIFT highlights the generative potential of a disability framework and the creativity that produces innovations in access. Its title celebrates the inventive and subversive strategies developed by people with disabilities to thrive in a world that often excludes them. The title also alludes to the provisional nature of the proposals the show brings to the fore. A makeshift is something that serves as a temporary substitute – a sufficient device for now, but one that will be replaced when an improved solution comes along; in this work, Bulman suggests there is somewhere else for her and you to go and invites audiences to participate in reimagining what access should and could look like today.

Image credit: Cameron Noble

 

Remodel

White walls have long been the standard contemporary gallery backdrop because they create supposedly neutral and context-free environments for viewing art. However, the power dynamics that are at play in art institutions are far from impartial. Indeed, many artists have prodded and criticized an art world that alleges to be unaffected by systemic bias in their programming and policies. In her own work, Bulman uses the symbolism of the white wall to address the current limitations to access in the arts. By breaking, crumbling, and stacking sheets of drywall, she demonstrates how ableist systems, often viewed as static or rigid, can be reconfigured and rebuilt through creative action. The work is a call for re-invention, characteristic of Canada’s larger disability arts movement.

Draw your curser across the images below to view the sculptures in 360 degrees.

Image Descriptions for the 360 images:

A drywall sculpture formed by stacking progressively smaller pieces on top of one another to create a stout pile that is narrower at the top and wider at the bottom. It has rough edges along the top that look like torn pieces of paper.

A sculpture composed of pieces of drywall stacked vertically with the pieces becoming larger at the centre and progressively small at either end. Each piece is facing the same direction so that the white side faces one way, while the brown cardboard backing of the drywall faces the other.

A sheet of drywall that has been scored and bent in two places to create a sculpture in the shape of a lightning bolt.

A drywall sculpture that has a hollow centre. Its sides meet at the top to create a pyramid shape. The sides are mostly smooth and are joined by rough edges made from the interior of the drywall, which is crumbly and like dried plaster or cement.

A drywall sculpture formed to resemble a small boulder. Smooth white areas from the exterior of the drywall are punctuated by rough corners and crevices that are formed from the inside of the drywall. They appear like small pebbles.

Thanks to Millimètre Seconde (MM/S) for their help with the 360 photos.

 

Tending To

Whereas in the Remodel series Bulman folds, cracks, stacks sheets of drywall into sculptures, in this video work she undertakes a project of tending to imperfections. Importantly, her performance is not concerned with fixing the wall, but rather thoughtful attention and care. This may seem at odds with the processes of deconstruction and construction in Gallery 1, but both creativity and care are necessary ingredients in reinventing worlds that welcome everyone.

You can watch the full performance below.

 

Archive of Sensation

A workshop inspired by acts of sensory translation, developed by Aislinn Thomas and presented alongside MAKE/SHIFT.

This workshop invites you to describe what you see or feel when experiencing Alexis Bulman’s sculptural series, Remodel or existing descriptions of / responses to Remodel; this can be in text/writing, voice memo, drawing, video, or other format of your choosing. We ask that you share your response for others to experience and join us in watching the archive grow on Artspace’s Instagram account (@artspaceptbo) and on the workshop page.

Visit the full workshop page at this link: https://artspace-arc.org/workshop/archive-of-sensation/.

Thanks to the Trent Centre for Aging and Society for sponsoring this workshop.

 

Artist Bios

Alexis Bulman is a Prince Edward Island-born artist with a studio practice currently based in Montreal, QC. After acquiring her BFA from NSCAD University in 2013, she began developing an artistic practice as a facilitator, collaborator, and builder of sculptures, installations, performances, and video works. Employing methodologies informed by her diagnosis of double curvature Scoliosis, Bulman translates the patterns of her physical movement and bodily occupation of space into visual form. She is particularly curious about the many ways a person’s experiences are shared and communicated versus how they are perceived and “accommodated” by others. Bulman’s work has been exhibited across Eastern Canada, Quebec, and Ontario in site-specific installations and in galleries such as Eyelevel Gallery, The Confederation Centre Art Gallery, and The Robert McLaughlin Gallery. She has completed numerous artist residencies, including at Art City in Winnipeg, MB, Connexion Artist Run Centre in Fredericton, NB, and Centre[3] for Print and Media Arts in Hamilton, ON. In 2019-2020, she was in residence at OBORO and Spectrum Productions in Montréal, QC as a contributor to the Interrogating Access series.

Aislinn Thomas is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice includes video, performance, sculpture, installation, and text.  She culls material from everyday experiences and relationships, creating work that ranges from poignant to absurd (and at times straddles both).  Her recent works explore the generative nature of disability while pushing up against conventional access measures. Recent exhibitions include Draft Systems WRO Media Arts Biennial in Wroclaw, Poland; Holding Patterns with Art Spin and Tangled Art + Disability in Toronto, Ontario; TALK BACK at Flux Factory in Queens, New York; and A distinct aggregation / A dynamic equivalent / A generous ethic of invention:  Six writers respond to six sculptures commissioned by the Walter Phillips Gallery at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Banff, AB.  Aislinn is a settler of Ashkenazi and British descent and so-called Canadian and American nationality.  She gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Hannah Keating was born and raised in Peterborough, ON. After completing an undergraduate degree in art history, she acquired her MA in Art History at Carleton University with the support of a SSHRC Graduate Scholarship. She has held curatorial and programming positions at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the University of Manitoba School of Art Gallery, Artspace (Peterborough, ON), and the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, ON). In 2018, she worked with the Electric City Culture Council (EC3), Peterborough’s municipal arts council, to develop and implement the city’s first arts awards program and was Artistic Producer of Artsweek 2018. Currently, she is the Assistant Curator at Artspace. She is committed to opening cultural spaces to diverse voices and perspectives and is presently engaged in arts and accessibility research to better embrace disability in the arts sector. Keating is also the Artist Residency and Community Gallery Coordinator at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery where she is responsible for curating the annual exhibition program in Gallery A and coordinating the RBC Emerging Artist Residency program.