Text by: Katherine Bourke
longing for less – lot full of excess
Sitting on a train traveling through a metropolis the words Space–personal storage fill the window. On this train bodies are being moved, as spectators not as participants, through space and time. The surrounding cityscape of industrial buildings, parks, residential neighborhoods, bustops, motor-vehicles, people, shops, restaurants and pubs… momentarily the concept of storage for ‘stuff’ was replaced with the idea of storage as a space for thoughts, a purposeful void. A place for the imagination to breathe in a world that is full.
Lot full. Stride full. World full. Full.
Rene Price (self-proclaimed mock-artist) makes tongue-in-cheek reference to overabundance in his exhibit Lot full at Stride Gallery. By writing ‘empty’ on one of his mini-semi-trucks Price has left a space for permanent vacancy. The ‘empty’ truck, unlike the gallery, remains empty and advertises nothing but confusion. Prices use of excess is both a metaphor for the compulsive materiality in North American culture and a personal statement of creation as a means of life affirmation. Advertisers cyclical make-more-money, buy-more-stuff, need-more-space-to-store-new-stuff lifestyle that leaves many with a house and mind full of stuff.
Too many ideas. Too much stuff. Too many people. Too.
More space. More time. More parking downstairs. (hutch--- could you add arrow graphic please?)
Bigger homes. Faster cars. Wider roads. Er.
Battle stuff with stuff. Celebrate excess with excess.
Dissolve guilt with honesty. art as excess.
In Lot full Price battles motors with motor-art in his series of vehicles, images and constructions. He explains that he isn’t interested in denying the “absurdity and waste of modern life” and acknowledges that he feels a sense of guilt for contributing to the mass excess. “There isn’t an obvious solution,” so Price celebrates by joining the inexhaustible team of makers with his plentiful and satirical revisions of cars, trucks and all things wheeled.
Along the parallel highway that Price’s vehicles travel are signs posing the question: how do we want to live in this world? A question not soon forgotten from Calgary’s urban designer Beverly Sandalack. How does one deal with “living in a world where spaces are designed for sleeping and not living and cars instead of people”? 1
Balance with paradox
in Price’s art and life all things exist in the presence of opposition. Even his art practice does not escape his job as a national parks exhibition designer where the satirical ideas for his art objects in Lot full begin. Where there is excess, there is void, within presence, exists absence, inside darkness, light shines, and during noise, silence echoes. Balance is not reached through stasis, instead a union exists between opposing and contingent halves. In this union a space is created which dissolves the wasteful and anxious longing for less.
Cars like clothes are a second skin for the modern human and contribute to our identity to the outside world. But in this culture of sameness another paradox exists. What is revealed if there are only a handful of vehicles, clothing styles, and furniture designs to choose from? David Fincher’s ‘Fight Club’ addresses this absurdity with the protagonist fantasizing about an apartment full of Ikea designs, which will be definitive at this point in time. There is an inconsistency present in the excess of choice unrelated to need. In order to be an individual we must choose our own definitive combinations of stuff. This is a challenge because the mega choice aisle of today’s consumer culture there is a tendency to be swayed by advertising and overwhelmed with options. Does anything underground even exist anymore? A challenge exists to simultaneously be an individual and not be overwhelmed by excess. I.e. not fall into the buying schedule of the brand name uniform, brand name furnishings, and the biggest bestest SUV of the month.
In Price’s parking lot mechanization travels beyond the use of machines for transport of goods, services and residents and arrives at modern life itself as a machine. Given the common, though not necessarily true, notion of this modern world as a space for thoughtless automatic machine-like living, scenes from Tim Burton’s Edward Scizzorhands come to mind. Citizens go about their lives (as if all lives are the same life. Residents cars, homes and work hours and facial expressions have little diversity) without thought – as if they are machines.
PERSON. VEHICLE. PERSONAL VEHICLE. PERSON AS VEHICLE.
Price’s motor-art vehicles provide a different type of travel and reach a different type of destination. A transformation in transit occurs. In cars and SUV’s on the road our bodies, static, become parcels being transported from one place to another. In Lot full the passenger and vehicle have collided. A shift from body as parcel to body as vehicle and vehicle as a response to our surroundings emerges. It is as if Price is holding up his mirror that transforms people into vehicles and renders them still. In this mirror is satire and truth, the irony that is Price’s trademark.
transit to destination without self
Price’s motor-art vehicle entitled Peopless goes on holiday lacks windows and doors; it has no entry point at all. Peopless is released from drivers with destinations and as a result is free to travel anywhere. Trailer and birch bark canoe in-tow, Prices’ construction flees longing for less.
Less people, less structure, less schedules. Less.
If cars are a sort of second skin for humans peopless goes on holiday is the one that rebels against the excess of things, travel, places to be and numerous plans that leave us without moments and spaces for discovery. Peopless’ longing to be without is reminiscent of filmmaker Richard Linklater’s desire to be without self. In this 1995 film the character Jesse explains to character Celine that he desires to be “somewhere he hasn’t been…”
Why the desire to be without self? This is not disconnected form longing for less. How does one find a sense of refuge in a world of excess when every space and moment is accounted for? If it the self that is caught up in abundance then it is the self that needs escaping from to establish purposeful voids for discovery; SPACE PERSONAL STORAGE.
Price’s vehicles are spaces for his own interpretation of everyday transit, these resonate with contemporary British photographer Martin Parr who is known for documenting the everyday with colour photographs. Prices deadpan motor-art vehicles resonate with the same disapproval of everyday life as Parr’s images of British shoppers scrambling to purchase cheap wine and cigarettes in France. “The picture speaks not of the heroism of daily life, but of its banality: the boredom of plenty.” 2
Parr has been criticized for becoming part of the malaise he set out to document with his excess of work. Price openly admits he is part of the problem and his work is his resolve and a way to stay engaged in a world where sitting on the sidelines complaining is an appealing or easy option.
“Ennui is the existential corollary of excess”
Rick Poyner, Obey the Giant
If to live means to be ravished – the only difference between individuals is what they choose, even if by default, to be ravished by. Will we live in the suburbs, own cars, buy stuff, watch TV, and fill our lives with too much? Price has plans to start the “Save Suburbia Society’ as a means to remember “from whence our millennial angst comes.” His awareness of too much and his alternative ‘S.S.S.’ is a celebration of excess and recognition that we are all part of the problem. Overabundance of creation fills his time and house, relieves his frustration with banality and most importantly allows him to feel alive.
1. Maureen McNamee. “Putting the Breaks on Urban Sprawl,” FFWD Weekly Arts and Entertainment Magazine, November 29, 2001
2. Rick Poyner. “Obey the Giant,” 2001 August: London, 18 –19.
Katherine Bourke is a semi-nomadic visual artist and writer with a BFA & MFA in photography whose next locale is London, England to pursue graduate work in photography and urban cultures. Bourke longs to walk in cities and create spaces with words and imagery. Bourke longs for less. www.citywalker.ws firstname.lastname@example.org
René Price is a middle aged late bloomer mixed up media artist and a grand amateur. He is an ideaguy/inventor, quirky mockartist rascal and a nonsmoker cyber Luddite. He's also an exhibition designer for Parks Canada. He's shown semi nationally in Winnipeg, Toronto, London, Ottawa, Cornwall, Montréal, St Foy
(near Québec city), in solo and group shows. He has just completed construction of a life-size pyramid shaped suburban house in his home town of Cornwall, Ontario.