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In The Soil: Porcelain Cows and the End of the World

By Bart Gazzola

The time has come to speak again of the elaborate and exciting In The Soil Arts Festival in downtown St. Catharines: the web site has been up for a while, and some performers will be familiar to you, and others will be new. Some events, like RHIZOMES, are happening again in a new way, but the multi day festival offers a variety of events and venues you must make time to experience. Several theatrical teasers, and the fine line up of bands for the Band On A Couch festivities on James Street, were personal favourites last year.

However, your intrepid #artcriticfromhell dares to offer some suggestions for whom you should prioritize, in the 2017 extravaganza.

Katie Mazi’s Spent Cows of the 20th & 21st Century is something that you must track down, if for no other reason than the evocative title (you may remember Mazi’s works from NAC and Rodman Hall. She’s a fine interdisciplinary artist). The Niagara Falls based artist will be doing installations that are “putting the “cow” back into “cow creamer”!” Venue is TBD, but check the site for further details (http://www.inthesoil.on.ca/2017-festival/artists-events/).

Her brief blurb: “Mazi creates installation work to immerse viewers into subversive domestic environments and uses photography to illustrate vivid and deceptive scenes. She is most interested in using everyday objects [like cow creamers and oddly precious domestic detritus] to represent the absurdity of human behaviour, especially in relationship to non-human animals and the natural world.”

How can you not investigate Rose McCormick’s Children’s Toys For The Apocalypse? This will happen in the MIWSFPA, as part of RHIZOMES. Her words: I have concerned myself with children’s lives and spaces. My main interest is exploring how their means of learning and play are shaped by militarism and patriarchy.” She further describes herself as a visual artist AND a scrap collector (is there a difference, as we live amid #cargocultmodernsim?)

More? Here, then: This “will be a completely immersive experience – stimulating both visually and aurally, and will leave viewers with big questions regarding issues of the neuroplasticity of children, and what is to be done about the state of our planet.The idea of creating a children’s room instillation has been in my mind for over a year, and I have long found myself interested in the impacts that our adult decisions and adult-centred culture have on today’s children.”

Be warned: potentially disturbing content (I must cite David Byrne: “mom & pop / they will f**k you up / for sure / love so deep / kills you in your sleep”).

Another artist whose work will be within the structure of RHIZOMES is Tracey Van Oosten: I’ll mention her in conjunction with Barsin Aghajan, a photographer and filmmaker in St. Catharines, who’ll be presenting an experimental short film projected on a public wall in an open space installation, which will re-enact multiple breakup stories. I mention these two together because that aspect of communication, the space between and the gaps and foreignness of another, informs both. Van Oosten’s Digital Divination intends to “contemplate the slippery concepts and questions regarding metaphysical uncertainties, fragmentations of knowledge and the phenomenological boomerang of narrative projection within a collaborative and interactive context.” Her process to do this will include familiar tools for prognosticating (predicting another, or one’s own future), with more serious ones such as the Tarot, and other more amusing, like fortune cookes, “as a means of game, and perceptual pathology tests (Rorschach test) as narrative association, I am exploring how narrative voids are filled by cueing the natural potential/desire to find logic within the obscure.” Perhaps I see Van Oosten (see some of her works here: https://vimeo.com/tvanoosten) as overlapping with Aghajan (http://www.barsin.ca/) as Van Oosten describes her work as researching “the affective relationship between bodies and mediums, both as conduits and networks, embodied and entangled, hosting the currents and maelstroms of feeling.” It’s not you, it’s me. Or I’m projecting, it’s really you. Both of these, again, come with disclaimers of adult content and language, or perhaps I should say “age appropriate” instead, as communication is hard and messy.

This is just a slice of what’s happening with In The Soil Arts Festival: Amber Lee Williams, Eric Schmaltz, Genevieve Jones, Jamie G, Lacie Williamson, Marinko Jareb, Krista Peterson, Pizza Sharks, Sandy Middleton, Supernatural Buffalo – and the beat goes on, the beat goes on. A festival pass is $20.00: support local artists and cultural creators, and experience some amazing performers and artworks.

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