Time Telling

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Hibernaculum (ash cabinets)
installation, cabinet,ash, furniture,process,passing of time,container, Hibernaculum,hibernation,repetition, decomposition,Queen Ann-style, culture and nature,fire, cumulative,collecting,manipulation, preservation,work, rest, life, death,Mennonite,time-based, ritual, ash cabinets, glass, wood ash, containers,feminist
description

Hibernaculum (ash cabinets) was displayed in an  installationAn art work specially designed to fit in or to make use of a specific type of space. It usually consists of more than one element and relates to the space in which it is displayed.  exhibition called Hibernaculum at the Mendel Art Gallery, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1994-1995. This installation featured the work shown here (Hibernaculum (ash cabinets)), along with a curving thirty-three-foot wall, seven feet tall, entitled Hibernaculum (wall). This companion wall piece was composed of thousands of broken sticks stacked one on top of the other, like a log pile, and placed within a  frameSomething made to enclose a picture or a mirror; or an enclosure composed of parts and joined together; or to make such things. (Artlex.com)  that had a glass surface on one side. The circular patterns created on the glass side were quite different from the natural, less organized textural  patternRepeating lines, colours or shapes within a design.  on the other side of the wall.

Shantz got the idea for making these works while walking on her forty acres of land after a windstorm, and observing the ground cluttered with many broken poplar twigs. She started with the gesture of breaking the twigs into pieces about the size of her hand. This slow, laborious process of collecting and manipulating took over a year and a half, but the repetition and experimentation gradually informed the artist and the works evolved.
 
Like the wall installation, the ash cabinets are composed of wood, glass and objects that are in some form of natural decomposition. However, in Hibernaculum (ash cabinets) the decomposition is more complete and the wood has been reduced to ashes. All the fires that kept Shantz warm and safe during the winter are honoured. Rather than throw the material away after cleaning her hearth, she saves it and displays it within glass curio-like cabinets, which are typically used to hold objects of distinction,. This unusual  juxtapositionCombining two or more objects that don’t usually go together to cause the viewer to consider both objects differently.  is reminiscent of  surrealistSurrealism is an art movement in the early 20th century based on dreams, and the subconscious, and the distortion of representations.  artist Meret Oppenheim who once covered a teacup with fur.  See this fur-lined teacup.

In Hibernaculum (ash cabinets), she displays four cabinets in a square formation, with each cabinet built to mirror human proportions. The containers are coffin or urn-like in their  shapeAn element of art, it is an enclosed space defined and determined by other art elements such as line, colour, value, and texture. In painting and drawing, shapes may take on the appearance of a solid three-dimensional object even though they are limited to two dimensions — length and width. This two-dimensional character of shape distinguishes it from form, which has depth as well as length and width. Examples of shapes include: circle, oval, and oblong; polygons such as triangle, square, rectangle, rhombus, trapezium, trapezoid, pentagon, hexagon, heptagon, octagon, nonagon, decagon, undecagon, dodecagon, etc.; and such other kinds of shapes as amorphous, biomorphous, and concretion. (Artlex.com)  and function. The legs supporting the glass containers were a lucky find for Shantz and coincidently were made of ash  wood. They suggest femininity in their ‘Queen Anne styleA way of doing something. Use of materials, methods of working, design qualities and choice of subject matter reflect the style of the individual, culture, movement, or time period.  and have humorous and animated qualities suggested by the curving lines.

Barbara Fischer describes Shantz‘s selection process for Hibernaculum: “The materials she chooses for her works, often found on the prairie on which she lives, are nearing the end-point of disintegration - Bark, ash, sand and petals. She chooses to  contrastA large difference between two things. It is a technique often used to create a focal point.  these materials in the final presentation with manufactured and “urban” surfaces, such as; glass, arborite and manufactured wood. In this way she addresses the paradoxical relationships that exist between culture and nature.” (Fischer, 1997)

Each cabinet has a different amount of ash in it and as the viewer walks around the work the levels change from quarter to half to three-quarters and then completely full. The viewer can assume they are gradually being filled or used up like, the ageing human body. Artist and exhibition reviewer Ann Newdigate writes: “Each level of greyish ash differed slightly in  toneA quality of a colour, arising from its saturation (purity and impurity), intensity (brilliance and dimness), luminosity (brightness and dullness), and temperature (warm and cool); or to create such a quality in a colour. To tone down is to make a colour less vivid, harsh, or violent; moderate. To tone up is to make one become brighter or more vigorous. Tonality can refer to the general effect in painting of light, colour, and shade, or the relative range of these qualities in colour schemes. (Artlex.com)  and  textureThe quality of surface in a finished artwork; note that this can apply to painting in describing the way that the paint is applied to the canvas or other support; to sculpture in describing the way that the material used is made smooth or rough; or to video in describing the way that the light-based image is either smooth or visibly broken up into pixels.  from the ones above and below, like the levels of an archeological dig. Notions of cleansing through fire, of endings and beginnings, were evoked by the acrid smell of hearth. Cumulatively, the ash resembled sand, suggesting the measurement of time.” (Newdigate, 1995)

Hibernaculm (ash cabinets) speaks specifically about containers and preservation (hibernacula are winter residence for animals such as snakes). What is contained, though, is difficult to specify-- nature/culture, work/rest, life/death -- the terms are reversible. Only accumulation through repetition is constant.” (Author unknown, 1996)

This idea of repetition also signals ideas of  domesticRemaining much at home; devoted to home duties or pleasures; as, a domestic man or woman.  Living in or near human habitations; domesticated; tame as distinguished from wild; as, domestic animals.  Made in one's own house, nation, or country; as, domestic manufactures, wines, etc.  One who lives in the family of an other, as hired household assistant; a house servant. Articles of home manufacture, especially cotton goods.  (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  labour. Newdigate offers the following observation about viewing these works: “The  feministFeminism essentially comprises a number of social, cultural and political movements, theories and philosophies concerned with gender inequalities, and equal rights for people of all genders. Especially since the late 1960s, when the feminist art movement can be said to have emerged, women have been particularly interested in what makes them different from males — what makes women artists and their art different from male artists and their art. This has been most prominent in the United States, Britain, and Germany, although there are numerous precursors to the movement, and it has spread to many other cultures since the 1970s. Feminists point out that throughout most of recorded history males have imposed patriarchal (father-centered) social systems (in which they have dominated females). Although it is not the goal of this article to recount the development of feminist theory in full, the history of feminist art cannot be understood apart from it. Feminist theory must take into account the circumstances of most women's lives as mothers, household workers, and caregivers, in addition to the pervasive misconception that women are genetically inferior to men. Feminist art notes that significant in the dominant (meaning especially Western) culture's patriarchal heritage is the preponderance of art made by males, and for male audiences, sometimes transgressing against females. Men have maintained a studio system which has excluded women from training as artists, a gallery system that has kept them from exhibiting and selling their work, as well as from being collected by museums — albeit somewhat less in recent years than before. (Artlex.com)  virtues - patience, prudence, perseverance - came to mind.” (Newdigate, 1995) Shantz enjoys these repetitive tasks and has referenced quilt-making and other feminine labours associated with her Mennonite heritage.

additional resources Creating Her Art
Duration: 2:13 min
Size: 9558kb
Hibernaculum
Duration: 2:27 min
Size: 10358kb
Hibernaculum Title
Duration: 1:24 min
Size: 6286kb
Life into Art
Duration: 1:44 min
Size: 7772kb
The Beginning of the Hibernaculum
Duration: 2:29 min
Size: 11297kb
Things to Think About
  • We often seek the pleasure of nature through natural living things such as plants, but many people don’t like bugs. In our homes we often want facsimiles or fake versions of natural objects because we do not want to have to look after them. Talk about the real/unreal things you have in your home such as artificial plants, Christmas trees, gas fireplace, dish washer, etc. and your reasons for having them. Do you think having these things is environmentally friendly?
  • Discuss Shantz’s use of ashes. It can be a bit morbid to think of ashes as art, but it seems okay here. Why is that?
  • Shantz is able to take a jug that is stored away in a museum (invisible) and recreate it, or makes it visible, somewhat like what is done in Star Trek and other science fiction where an object can be recreated using advanced technology. The technology for doing this exists and is called a Rapid Image Prototype machine. It is like a photocopier, but it can actually recreate an object in a three-dimensional way. Discuss the advances in technology over the past fifty years. What can you possibly envision for the next fifty years?  Here are some websites to help you find out more about Rapid Image Prototypes:
  • Think about ideas of preservation and loss. Why would the Egyptians want to embalm bodies to preserve them? Why do you think the wood of the cabinet in Shantz’s artwork would be polished and lacquered while the wood within the cabinet was destroyed?
  • Discuss the ideas of collecting and accumulating things with fellow students and teachers. Why do people collect things? Is Shantz’s work about collecting? How does it differ from what might be called traditional collections?
  • Shantz’s work is about nature and its processes but we do not get any idea of the rustic qualities of nature. She displays the quiet, beautiful and serene. Why do you think she does this?
  • Why would Shantz not want to have lids on her cabinets?
  • Writer Claire Christie states, “Preserved is the cabinet with its refined wood. Sacrificed is the burnt wood ash. Recorded is human intervention, and an equation of dependency qualifies our relationship to nature, signifying both civilization and survival.” (Christie, 1995) How do we decide what is valuable and what is not? What is your relationship to nature?
Online Activity
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Learn more about time, recycling and snakes (in hibernation), all themes Susan Shantz explored in her work Hibernaculum (ash cabinets).

Watch examples of the passage of time by going to the Playing With Time website.

  • First, click on the “to see and do” link
  • Then click on the “a place in time” link
  • Finally, click on either the “new york forest” link, or the “cape beach” link.


You can also visit the following websites and go through these activities!

 

Studio Activity

Use the  conceptAn idea, thought, or notion conceived through mental activity. The words concept and conception are applied to mental formulations on a broad scale. (Artlex.com)  of time as a theme for an artwork and blur the boundaries between art and life.

Choose an activity that you can do every day for a month so that the accumulation of your work will result in an artwork at the end of the month. This could include ideas like the following:

  • Diary Artist:  Write in a diary daily and select passages from your writing to use in an artwork.
  • Calendar Artist:  Use a calendar-like format and each day make a drawing, painting, or collage, to show something about that day and your reaction to events of the day.
  • Transformation Artist:  Record with paint or photography the growth or the death of a plant, or the gradual decay of a vegetable or piece of fruit.

Arduous labour - Clay animation

View an animated film where the characters are given life and movement using the laborious process of  clayMud; moist, sticky dirt. In ceramics, clay is the basic material, usually referring to any of a certain variety of mixtures of such ingredients — fine-grained, firm earthy material that is plastic when wet, brittle when dry, and very hard when heated. There is a temperature with ceramic clays at which their particles fuse (vitrification), and this is most commonly controlled by heating (firing) them in a kiln. The most common types of ceramic clays are earthenware (terra cotta when fired, terra cruda when not), stonewares, and porcelain. (Artlex.com)  animation. Look at the following websites for ideas on how to make ‘claymation‘:

Now, use  clayMud; moist, sticky dirt. In ceramics, clay is the basic material, usually referring to any of a certain variety of mixtures of such ingredients — fine-grained, firm earthy material that is plastic when wet, brittle when dry, and very hard when heated. There is a temperature with ceramic clays at which their particles fuse (vitrification), and this is most commonly controlled by heating (firing) them in a kiln. The most common types of ceramic clays are earthenware (terra cotta when fired, terra cruda when not), stonewares, and porcelain. (Artlex.com)  figures and a movie  cameraIn photography, a tool for producing photographs, having a lightproof enclosure with an aperture and a shuttered lens through which the image of an object is focused and recorded on a photosensitive film or plate. In video, a device that receives the primary image on a light-sensitive cathode tube and transforms it into electrical impulses. (Artlex.com) Find out about 35-mm cameras at Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/135_film  to create your own animated video.

  • Design several characters and a setting for them to interact.
  • Now begin the arduous process of filming and animating their actions.
  • Position your characters on the set and shoot their positions.

Clay <span><span style= animationGiving movement to a thing. Also, making animated cartoons — films that are also called animations. Types of animation include cel animation, clay animation (also called claymation), and computer animation. (Artlex.com)  1" class="contextual" src="/assets/images/contextual/t14_stopmotion1.jpg" /> Clay <span><span style= animationGiving movement to a thing. Also, making animated cartoons — films that are also called animations. Types of animation include cel animation, clay animation (also called claymation), and computer animation. (Artlex.com)  2" class="contextual" src="/assets/images/contextual/t14_stopmotion2.jpg" /> Clay <span><span style= animationGiving movement to a thing. Also, making animated cartoons — films that are also called animations. Types of animation include cel animation, clay animation (also called claymation), and computer animation. (Artlex.com)  3" class="contextual" src="/assets/images/contextual/t14_stopmotion3.jpg" /> Clay <span><span style= animationGiving movement to a thing. Also, making animated cartoons — films that are also called animations. Types of animation include cel animation, clay animation (also called claymation), and computer animation. (Artlex.com)  4" class="contextual" src="/assets/images/contextual/t14_stopmotion4.jpg" />

  • Using this slow and laborious process it can take weeks to complete a one- to two-minute segment in which the characters come to life, but the rewards are worth the effort.

Non-traditional materials

Ashes are one example of something not often used in art-making. Find materials from your daily life and use these non-traditional materials in your art-making. For example:

For more examples of non-traditional art-making materials, go to Non-traditional Materials at Art and Perception

Use technology to defy time or create a magical effect

In one of her videos, Susan Shantz had a jug that poured out its contents. But the video defied time and never ran out of liquid. It just kept pouring through the magic of technology.  How do you suppose she achieved this effect?

  • Use technology to magically make something happen that shouldn’t happen in real life, such as making person vanish from a scene or magically reappear.  There are many books and online resources to help you.  Perhaps you can find a cinematographer or videographer in your community to coach you through such a filming and editing process. Training in Canada abounds.  For a beginning list try:

Gather found objects for a sculptural art work or installation

  • Start collecting items of interest to you. Collect things for at least a month or more.  Or, pay closer attention to things you have been collecting over time.
  • While collecting, play with the objects and keep thinking about what you want to do with them in your final presentation.
  • Let the process of collecting and handling the objects and the ideas they represent help to inform you about what you will eventually display.
  • Think about why you are collecting these items and how your final artwork and message will be interpreted.

For some examples of using “found” items in artwork, go to the following websites:

References

Author unknown.  Unpublished document, MacKenzie Art Gallery, 1996.

Christie, Claire.  Natured.  Exhibition catalogue.  Mercer Union, Toronto, Ontario, 1995.

Fischer, Barbara.  Susan Shantz: Recent Work.  Exhibition catalogue.  Glendon Gallery, North York, Ontario, 1997.

Newdigate, Ann.  ‘Susan Shantz: Hibernaculum.’  Canadian Art, Spring 1995.

Trepanier, Yves.  MacKenzie unpublished document, Trepanier Baer Gallery, Calgary, Alberta, 1996.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning