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Eyelevel’s hive of activity

Printed matter artist Andrew McLaren throws the book at Eyelevel’s history for the Re:PRINT Archival Printed Matter Residency.

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Andrew McLaren’s got the archival material game on lock.
  • Andrew McLaren’s got the archival material game on lock.

Andrew McLaren is hoping to find things he's forgotten. The printed matter artist will be getting his hands dirty next over the next six weeks as he delves into the archives of Eyelevel Gallery in the name of commemorating its four decades and near-constant mutations for his Re:PRINT Archival Printed Matter Residency.

McLaren will create two objects made from reproductions of archived material from the gallery and from the Dalhousie archives, which he will laminate, shred and otherwise transfigure. "It's going to be a pretty evolving open studio kind of space," he says. "I'll be using a few techniques to put things together as collages there will be two versions of the two things. Two different perspectives on the same thing, actually."

McLaren has been around for more than a few of Eyelevel's mutations. Growing up in the '70s, while he was in high school McLaren took continuing ed classes from artists like Michael Fernandes. After some time away, McLaren sat on the board of the gallery in the early naughts. "I do have distant memories of Eyelevel Gallery from the late '70s, and sporadically on through the early 2000s," he says. "But like most of us I am mostly familiar with a lot of Eyelevel's history through the documents, old issues of Parallelogramme and the local arts community's recollections."

McLaren's approach to the project itself is playful and lighthearted. Out of the repurposed material, he intends to create an ark and a hive: two distinct, complementary frames of reference from which to imagine the ideas surrounding preservation and the gallery's history. This makes for a world-class pun, but also an elegant demonstration of how good wordplay can cause you to go beyond language to seek out connections between ideas and objects, and in some cases, create your own meaning.

McLaren hopes so. "It's an open studio, so people will be coming and maybe they'll have a different perspective, and I can't respond to that," he says. "I'm also inviting a few people who relate to this project---Noah [Logan] and [Cathy] Busby---I think they're mostly agreeable to this. I'll be making interviews with them, and maybe having some quotes." McLaren intends to use the interviews and quotes in the accompanying 40-page coloured paper booklet. "The book that I make is really ultimately what it's about, 40 pages based on the objects and collages that I make, and some supporting text for sure. Footnotes, if you will, from some of the people who were involved," he says. "It's a pretty open-ended piece of research."

The two objects will serve as broader representations of what the place of the artist-run centre is in the community, and how that has shifted in Eyelevel's 40 years. "I didn't know it in its very first days, when it started as a women's collective, but I've seen it evolve through a few locations," he says.

Eyelevel coming down to ground level, literally, was a big step forward. "It gained a lot of foot traffic that way," says McLaren.

"There's so much that could be said about the history of Canadian artist run centres, all the big cultural issues of four decades, and the legacy of the 1970s here in Halifax," he says. "How cultural communities might be defined, how artist-run centres have survived so long against the odds...but I'm not about to construct a didactic or heroic narrative here."

Andrew McLaren: Re:PRINT Archival Printed Matter Residency , To July 31 at Eyelevel Gallery, 2159 Gottingen Street

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