My thesis exhibition for my MFA at the University of Waterloo is coming up VERY SOON- May 5 – 21, 2016, at the University of Waterloo Art Gallery!
About the exhibition:
Jennifer Akkermans / You Can Never Go Home / UWAG – Gallery Two
In the summer of 2014, Jennifer Akkermans packed everything she owned into her car and moved from Calgary to Waterloo. Since then, she has been attempting to build a home for herself in Ontario. You Can Never Go Home is a physical manifestation of this process. Torn between remembering her prairie home and attempting to acclimatize to a new place, Akkermans uses herself as a case study. Like some of the artworks in the exhibition, the process is incomplete. The obsessiveness and anxiety of the installation speaks to the discomfort and sense of discovery at the heart of her transition.
Returned! Very happy to be home and back in the studio!
I returned from Europe one week ago, Friday the 10th. Soon happy to be home, although Europe was wonderful! I visited as many places as I could – Cologne, Barcelona, Vienna, Amsterdam, Venice, Brussels, London and Paris. Phew!
I saw lots of things- the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Manneken Pis, Park Guell, Cologne’s cathedral, etc, etc. and lots of art! Lots of historical art in the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Tate Modern, Mumok, the Albertine, etc, etc, etc. Marianne and I went to the Venice Biennale (which was awesome!) I saw the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, shows of Joseph Cornell and Henry Darger, Tracey Emin, Egon Shiele, and many more interesting exhibitions. I visited my family in the Netherlands, and an old friend in London.
An important part of my MFA program at UWaterloo is the Shantz Internship. I have chosen to work with Alexandra Bircken in Cologne (Koln), Germany. (Actually, if you click through to her site, that is the table I’ve been working at, right on the front page).
It’s been a little overwhelming, coming to Europe for the first time by myself. I flew into Amsterdam on the 16th of May, and took the train to Koln, and Alexandra picked me up from the train station. She has been great, incredibly helpful, generous, and full of useful information. But Europe has been an adjustment. I mean, it’s been good, been interesting, but absolutely EVERYTHING is different than what I’m used to. The language is different, the money is different, the food is different. The LIGHTSWITCHES are different. I can’t read German, so simple things like going to the grocery store or out to eat is a bit of a challenge. The other day I bought a sandwich without knowing what kind it was, because I couldn’t read the label. Turns out it was fried tuna (and delicious, lol).
And the jet lag. Tough to adjust my circadian rhythm. And because of the time difference, calling (skyping) home has been a challenge… missing Waterloo. But I’m slowly settling in.
Here are some pictures from the first few days in Koln. 🙂
We went to New York. It was a whirlwind. I didn’t see anything really touristy (except for a quick ride on the carousel in Central Park), but I saw more art in three days than I have in the rest of my life.
Talking about art while taking a quick break at MOMA.
– Like snow sliding of the roof of the Gushul Studio, I am in transition. –
I haven’t mentioned it here yet for a few reasons, but I am moving to Ontario very soon- Waterloo, actually, to pursue my MFA at the University of Waterloo! I am incredibly excited about it, yet, at the same time, it is very bittersweet. There’s a lot of lasts happening right now, as I am committing to the move. I will miss my wonderful life here, but know deep down inside that this is right, this is the next step. I’ve gotta go, to see what’s in store for me yet.
Now that the initial excitement has worn off, I am getting nervous. Not so much about being there (well, maybe a little), but about the big changes that are happening in my life. I don’t know hardly anyone in Ontario, nevermind Waterloo. I am nervous about getting everything arranged, so that I (hopefully!) don’t run into any big problems. I’m nervous about packing up what I want to keep, take with me, and sell or give away. I’m nervous about how I’m going to get rid of all my stuff. (There’s nothing like moving across the country to realize how much stuff you have that you probably don’t need.) And I’m in a weird place with my work right now- I will be just finishing up the animatronics project for the IMR before I go, and I’ve started on some new work, but at this point, I really don’t know what I’m doing yet. (Which, I keep telling myself, is part of the journey of grad school- my work will change no matter what I’m doing now- I don’t have to have it all figured out. In fact, it’s probably better if I don’t, although it’s really uncomfortable and against my nature for me to feel unprepared.)
The new MFA’s are ‘strongly encouraged’ to take advantage of the school studios when they become available in August, which I plan to do. So I will have some time to get settled, and even make some work before the semester even begins. I will be staying in a residence building just for graduate students, which I have already lined up for the beginning of August. The time feels like too short and too fast all at once – this is actually happening!
I’ve been awarded a production grant from the Alberta Foundation of the Arts, to develop some of the Morphoids into ‘living’ creatures over the next few months. To do this, I am using Arduinos, electronic circuitry, servo motors, sensors, and developing the mechanics for the inside of the Morphoids to make them move and interact with their environment. As you can imagine, this is a little complicated, so I’ve been starting with a lot of reading, and a few experiments.
I’ve been playing with the Arduino, and servos, and using sensors to control them. It’s quite the learning curve (but I can handle it). The mechanical part is going to be a challenge too, especially since the Morphoids are soft. I ran into an unexpected roadblock when I was trying this stuff before, in that the stuffing provided enough resistance inside to interfere with the motor. I will need to be aware of that, and figure out ways to get around it. I’m up for the challenge.
This is a project I’ve wanted to do for some time, but haven’t been able to find the time or money for materials, so the grant is much appreciated, especially in that sense. The other nice thing about this project is that I see these skills being useful in future work- it’s a great time to focus on this and expand my skills.
You might remember this animatronic Morphoid from the opening of The New Alberta Contemporaries.
And this shows the internal circuitry.
I’ll be posting updates as I go, but I don’t know how interesting it will be until I’ve got something more concrete to show. The goal is 3-5 animatronic Morphoids by the end of July. Stay tuned.
A colleague had pointed out the workshop to me, but by the time I had found out about it, it was full. I applied for the waitlist anyway, and earlier this month found out that there would be a spot available for me, if I could get everything lined up. I was lucky enough to receive funding from CADA (specifically the Artist Opportunity Grant) to be able to go. What originally seemed like something resigned to the “it would have been nice” pile, the pieces happened to align properly, and I am able to go. (I am also currently working as a temp, which means that it’s not a problem to be able to get time off when I need it – I would recommend that to other artists, if you think it might fit what you need.)
Since becoming aware of the Banff Centre during my undergrad, I have wanted to go. I have known a few other artists who have gone (such as Meagan Boisvert), and it always seems to be such a rich experience for them. The centre offers themed residencies, as well as self directed residencies, and work studies, in different areas of visual arts as well as other disciplines, such as music, dance, theatre, literary arts, film, sound, photography, and even opera. This particular residency does not seem like the typical structure at the Banff Centre, although there are some similarities. We will be living, eating and working together rather intensely it sounds like, exploring, building sets and puppets, scripting, directing and manipulating puppets, putting together something of a show.
I am not only excited for the project and experience in general, meeting new people, spending some time in such a wonderful place, and working on what I’m sure will be an interesting project, but also how it might affect my future work. I see definite ties with how this might relate to the IMR and the Morphoids, in animating them, giving them more of a sense of life. Actually, you could maybe say that I have used puppetry with them before- one of the most common methods I used in the documentary to make them move was to use fishing line to pull on their limbs. Sorry to take the magic out of it (ha ha), but that’s exactly what I used here: (I might be letting some secrets out here, but I also ran the video backwards, did some stop motion animation, and played with the speed to get the effects that I wanted.)
I’m sure the puppet workshop will also give me some new ways of looking at narrative and storytelling. I am interested in the construction techniques as well, and think that that might also translate into some of the new work I’m playing with, using automata mechanisms. (Have I told you much about that? It might be too soon….)
As usual, I will be blogging about the experience to some degree, although I can’t say how much, because I’m sure we will be very busy! Stay tuned!