UBC | Digital Visions
Digital Visions
Kirsten Forkert
Writer: Jaynus O'Donnell       Edited by: Sylvia Borda
Misplace: park zones in a mobile society

In order to fully rationalize the art activities of the artist, teacher and activist Kirsten Forkert, an awareness of her ideologies and the context she works and reacts to within her home city must be first understood.

Forkert's position as a resident of Vancouver, British Columbia has had a very specific effect on her work; Vancouver's condition as first an urban environment secondly, its condition ad delivery of certain art canon of the city have both had a substantial impact on her art practice. The breadth of Forkert's art practice addresses topics that are vital to the everyday experience of socialized spaces such as urban and public planning within the context of human interactions as well as the city's economic and transportation systems; but her processes and contextual frames, as well as where and how she chooses to perform or present her work are largely tied to her locale and/or residence. In many ways, Forkert chooses to react to the Vancouver art with particular imbedded tenets of the civic scene also reappearing in her work. Given that Vancouver is celebrated for artists such as Jeff Wall, Roy Arden, Rodney Graham and other photo-conceptualists; alternate art forms that deviate from this frame may not often be associated, recorded, or realized when speaking about the arts in Vancouver. Forkert attempts to broaden this through her teaching, practice, and involvement with collectives and other activities, but maintains there is a limitation of acceptance and acknowledgement often other certain practices and artists within the city.

These limits have in part has prompted Forkert to consider and execute many of Given Forkert's temporal activities she staged outside of Vancouver, she often finds she becomes and is seen as an outsider to the communities she chooses visits and works. This status offers, the artist believes, a unique perspective which is unavailable when working within one's own locale. Forkert is challenged to explore and present her work in new areas beyond given that the residents of her visiting locales are often wary of her endeavors. But on the other hand, in this process, this new audience becomes incorporated into the piece by knowing of her presence. Forkert's balance of these positive and negative aspects to her working strategy are layered and often well incorporated to motifs from the Vancouver art scene.

The following interview contextualizes Forkert's practice and discusses her most recent project "Misplace: park zones in a mobile society", which took placefrom September 7 to October 10 2004 during a residency at the Oakville Gallery in Ontario. The results of her project and residency are available as a website. The entire content produced from this endeavour is the final medium and format of how Forkert envisioned her work. The website currently functions as an archive for the activities performed during Forkert's stay in Oakville. The site also presents supplementary information about the project including descriptions of places, a travel/time log and a glossary of terms that further contextualize the explorations conducted in Oakville.

"Misplace" serves as a study of Oakville in geographical terms, both social and physical, working to break down preconceived notions of suburban spaces. Forkert deals with these stereotypes in subjective ways highlighting and juxtaposing her own experiences of living in cities and small towns relationship to Oakville. This project links together many of the artist's concerns regarding economic and social function as it pertains to urban and suburban living spaces: the way these spaces are used to who uses them to how these constructions are figuratively built on conflicting ideologies. For Forkert, web media can reach an infinite number of possible viewers. Thus, "Misplace" can also become an educational model expressing subjective experience of the artist while also informing the viewer's of conventions used in deconstructing and public and private spaces. The following Q & A's address these concerns and others while espousing a further understanding of "Misplace" and additional aspects of Forkert's art practice.

Jaynus O'Donnell: Why was the community of Oakville chosen for this project?

Kirsten Forkert: It was a community that was unlikely for someone like me to live in or be involved with (I am from a small town, but have lived my entire adult life in cities). I was interested in challenging the stereotype of artist as urban bohemian (something which fuels the sales of many loft condos!).

But I was also coming out of a concern around the compartmentalization of neighbourhoods into lifestyle demographics, and looking at what it would be like to experience Oakville as someone from the 'wrong demographic', at least in the immediate neighbourhood of the gallery, which was very, very wealthy and very white; the president of Microsoft among other people lives there.

But I was also interested in the aspects of Oakville that didn't fit its self-image or stereotype (as well off, respectable, safe, etc.). For example, there are poor people in Oakville. There are neighbourhoods which are not so racially homogenous (which predictably are the poor neighbourhoods). But all this is invisible; it's a question of who gets to represent or speak for Oakville, or to get included in official representations. And it's often, predictably, the most privileged.

In some ways, I was reacting to one of the previous residencies by John Bentley Mays; he just dismissed Oakville as a group of suburbanites with the wrong taste, and posited himself as the urban hipster. I felt that binary was problematic, predictable and way too easy. I wanted to look at it more from the point of view of class/economics rather than taste. So that was my starting point.

And in fact, Oakville is more complex than we would think at first. For example, I met a woman who wrote a text called "Growing up Black in Oakville". And there are some progressive attitudes there. For example, Francine Perinet, the gallery director, lived in a housing co-op where some of the units were social housing, but were so integrated that you really couldn't tell if people were living in the social housing units or not, which goes against the tendency we generally see in suburbia of separating social classes from each other.

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Site: Misplace: park zones in a mobile society