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
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
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
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.