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Spring 2014


“Shoe Jewel” Rik Zak

Editor’s Report John Calvelli it’s time for another lecture.

Not from me (well, partly); rather from the International Panel of Climate Change. The headline of a story in The Guardian reads: “The hellish monotony of 25 years of IPCC climate change warnings.” The author documents the strikingly similar language and predictions found in all the reports, from the first (released almost 25 years ago) to the fifth, just released on March 31. (Readfearn) There have been many attempts at mitigation over the last 25 years, though my bet is that the progress is less than zero. In the IPCC report there is an infographic, reproduced below, illustrating two scenarios of temperature change based on how much we manage to control our emissions into the future. I think it a stunning image representing our possible futures. I am reminded of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, a film about a couple of recently graduated students who kill a classmate, stick the corpse in a piece of furniture made to look like a table, and invite friends over for a cocktail party and dinner. The aim of this experiment, based on a misreading of Nietzsche, is to create the perfect murder “beyond good and evil,” and in the process to pull one over on their instructor, one of the invited guests. I wonder whether our students won’t misinterpret our instruction (if indeed we did instruct them), and end up “putting the final touches” on the planet we bequeathed them. It’s been stumping me how little academia changes in response to our increasingly precarity. Given the potential of civilizational collapse, one might think that we would do something dramatic. Instead, disciplinary strictures reign and imagination

huddles in the most familiar places. One discipline—environmental science—has contributed a great deal, allowing climate scientists to relate to us the ultimate horror story, which many still take as fiction. It is easier to use our imagination to pretend that each day that follows the one before is part of an infinite series of days, that only requires a cup of coffee for each repetition to assure us that life as we know it will be sustained. For perverse reasons, I’ve come to like how we use the term “sustainability” in Alberta and even at our college, i.e., as “financially stable.” Typically, that debased term is bandied about as if we are positively achieving a sustainable state, rather than simply attempting to sustain the unsustainable. As Albertans and ACAD-ians, we have few illusions: without more oil sales, ACAD wouldn’t be even less financially sustainable than it is now. What are we doing as art and design educators? Are we preparing them to face their future, or are we just giving them a certain length of rope? Likely, we’ll be gone before they get a chance to put it around our necks. But our former students and their children might not be so well-positioned. We owe it to them, in advance, to instruct them in what art and design can do for the future. In any case, enjoy the summer, with or without a flood. Readfearn, Graham. “The Hellish Monotony of 25 Years of IPCC Climate Change Warnings.” The Guardian. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. Working Group 2, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Summary for Policymakers. The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (WGII AR5). Geneva: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2014

Figure SPM.4: Observed and projected changes in annual average surface temperature. This figure informs understanding of climate-related risks in the WGII AR5. It illustrates temperature change observed to date and projected warming under continued high emissions and under ambitious mitigation. IPCC 2014 Summary for Policymakers, CC BY-NC-ND

Kasia Koralewska Fibre School of Craft & Emerging Media Bodygraph is a visual study of the human body, its potential, limitations and predispositions. The piece is based on the differences in music interpretations and body conditions of its participants. People involved in this project were asked to dance to one song while being videotaped. I used the footage to track and mark the trajectory of each dancer’s left hand. The black and white graphs represent those movements. I believe that the

variations in body structure of each dancer determined to some extent the outcome of these graphs. To further illustrate that, each dancer’s body was also documented similar to a topographic elevation map, with the measurements taken across the same body parts. Together the movement drawings and “topographic” measurements constitute a comparative documentation of human condition.




Rik Zak Design School of Communication Design I can honestly say that Rik Zak is an extraordinary educator; to call Rik retiring is not true; he is anything but retiring.  Rik is an Alberta College of Art alumnus graduating in 1973; an Alberta boy, born and raised on a small Alberta farm. After graduating from ACAD Rik continued his studies in advertising and design at the School of Visual Arts in New York, studying with greats such as Milton Glaser, Marshall Arisman and his life long mentor, Richard Wilde— New York Art Directors Hall of Fame luminary. After leaving SVA, Rik worked at a number of New York advertising agencies on accounts such Amaretto, Electra Records, Japan Airlines, British Airways and ABC Movies. He joined Schroeder Advertising as Creative Director and Principal.  His design work has been published in Emigre Magazine, US, Studio Magazine, CANADA, Idea Magazine, Japan, Graphis, New York and PIE Book Japan. In the 1980’s he partnered with Canadian conceptual artist Ian Baxter and Polish industrial designer Roman Isdebski to form Sensitive Information, a multidisciplinary design firm. Later, he collaborated with Danish fashion designer Mads Iscanius on a club wear clothing line called Rezist, which sold through

specialty fashion boutiques in Canada and through Ray Gun magazine in the US. Rik has taught a long list of international acclaimed designers and advertising practitioners, and in 2009 he and four of these celebrated former students were included in a benchmark design and advertising exhibition in New York, titled ‘The Wilde Years, Four Decades of Shaping Visual Culture’, a show curated in recognition of Richard Wild’s 40th year as an influential educator. If you asked Rik about his influences he would say they are his colleagues, but he does single out Ron Ponech and Royston Evans, two of ACAD’s great design educators, who he says were instrumental in building its globally relevant design curriculum. During the past 30 years, the last decade as Chair and Head of the Visual Communications program, Rik has spearheaded new programming to better prepare students for new challenges and international horizons. It is unsettling to me that this is Rik’s last semester teaching in the School of Communications Design, but I am somehow reassured by the strength and direction he has helped provide our school. If you asked Rik about the relationship of graphic design, advertising

and education, he would say these worlds are in the midst of major transformation. Worldwide, he says, we are moving into a new kind of design, a design empowered by storytelling and content creation, a design which is enabled by new and faster online technology, where brands increasingly rely on storytelling and consumers to share content. These subjects have been fundamental to Rik’s seminal 4th year courses in Brand Identity, courses where students are put to the test, creating entire identity campaigns, which challenge them not only to think strategically but to identify new product possibilities and to harness the power of storytelling and content creation—skills which will be indispensable to a new generation of design professionals working in a 21st century global environment. A recent book, published in 2011, titled Design School: Extraordinary Class Projects From the International Design Schools, Colleges, and Institutes, by internationally acclaimed design author and editor, Steven Heller, featured 50 of the most challenging class projects from design schools worldwide. Five projects from Rik’s 400 level brand class were included, with ACAD being the only Canadian design school to be represented in this unprecedented anthology. In May he will be presenting a paper, “How Social Media is Changing Brand Design and Advertising,” at the 2014 PICA Conference, that brings together visual communicators, educators, students and industry representatives from across Canada.  During his years at ACAD Rik spearheaded initiatives, developing new programming, inviting a steady stream of internationally significant designers and illustrators to speak and run workshops at ACAD and encouraging students to travel, study and work abroad—initiatives designed to enable students to do work that is relevant and internationally competitive. Alumni Xerxes Irani, Creative Director of Fairgoods, reflects “Rik has

taught me more than any other design professional in my career, while I was attending ACAD as well as team teaching with him for the last 9 years. It is no surprise that so many ACAD design and advertising students after graduating from ACAD go onto graduate school, but also launch significant, and in many cases internationally stellar, careers—a tribute to ACAD. Jeff Lennard is Advertising Lead and instructor in the School of Communication Design. He has been a colleague of Rik’s at ACAD for the past ten years.

T-Shirt and shoe from the Rezist Clothing line

Family. 2013. Sarabeth Carnet

Sarabeth Carnat Jewelry & Metals School of Craft and Emerging Media Sarabeth Carnat, Jewelry and Metals faculty for over 30 years, will be retiring this Spring. For the occasion, she is sharing with us two images, the fruit of an idea that was germinated at Jim Ulrich’s retirement party last year. On the right, a painting by Jim, which hangs in her living room. Above, a recent work of hers, of which she says: “...I made this piece with love, about love as a 50th birthday gift for Sivinee Ulrich’s sister. The piece is beautifully balanced & wearable.  All gems untreated natural stones. It was joyful & pleasurable to create.”

Untitled abstract. 2010-12. Jim Ulrich

derek beaulieu School of Critical & Creative Studies

I n trod u c t i on: Medi a St u d i e s an d Writ i ng Su r face s Writing Surfaces: The Fiction of John Riddell, edited by Lori Emerson (University of Colorado, Boulder) and myself and published by Wilfrid Laurier University press in 2013, brings an overview of the work of John Riddell to a 21st-century audience, an audience who will see this volume as a radical, literary manifestation of media archaeology. This book is also, in the words of the promotional material of Riddell’s 1977 Criss-cross: a Text Book of Modern Composition, a “long-over-due debut by one of our most striking new fictioneers.” Since 1963 John Riddell’s work has appeared in such foundational literary journals as grOnk, Rampike, Open Letter and Descant as part of an on-going dialogue with Canadian literary radicality. Riddell was an early contributing editor to bpNichol’s Ganglia, a micropress dedicated to the development of community-level publishing and the distribution of experimental poetries. This relationship continued to evolve with his co-founding of Phenomenon Press and Kontakte magazine with Richard Truhlar (1976) and his involvement with Underwhich Editions (founded in 1978): a “fusion of high production standards and top-quality literary innovation” which focused on “presenting, in diverse and appealing physical formats, new works by contemporary creators, focusing on formal invention and encompassing the expanded frontiers of literary endeavour.” Writing Surfaces: The Fiction of John Riddell reflects Riddell’s participation in these Toronto-based, Marshall McLuhan-influenced, experimental poetry communities from the 1960s until roughly the mid- to late-1980s.

These communities, and the work of contemporaries bpNichol, Paul Dutton, jwcurry, Richard Truhlar and Steve McCaffery, give context to Riddell’s literary practice and his focus on ”pataphysics, philosophically-investigative prose and process-driven visual fiction. While many of his colleagues were more renowned for their poetic and soundbased investigations, Riddell clearly shared both Nichol’s fondness for the doubleness of the visual-verbal pun and Steve McCaffery’s technical virtuosity and philosophical sophistication. In his magazine publications, small press ephemera, and trade publications, Riddell created a conversation between these two sets of poetics and extended it to the realm of fiction (exploring a truly hybrid form that is poetry as much as it is fiction). Riddell’s work as fiction works to explore the development and accretion of narrative in time-based sequence, a fiction of visuality and media. Writing Surfaces is the documentation of Riddell pushing his own writing to the very limit of what conceivably counts as writing through writing. While it’s true that the title “writing surfaces” carries with it the doubling and reversibility of noun and verb, reminding us how the page is as much a flat canvas for visual expression as it is a container for thought, the first title we proposed for this collection was “Media Studies.” The latter, while admittedly too academicsounding to describe writing as visually and conceptually alive as Riddell’s, could still describe Riddell’s entire oeuvre; the term not only refers to the study of everyday media (such as television, radio, the digital computer and so on) but it can—in fact should—encompass the study of textual media and the ways in which writing engages with how it is shaped and defined by mediating technologies. In other words, Riddell’s work is a kind of textbook for the study of media through writing, or, the writing of writing. The best-known example of Riddell’s writing of writing is “Pope

Leo, El ELoPE: A Tragedy in Four Letters,” initially published in April 1969 with mimeograph illustrations by bpNichol through Nichol’s small but influential Canadian magazine grOnk. It was published again, with more refined, hand-drawn, illustrations, once again by Nichol, in the Governor General’s Award winning anthology Cosmic Chef: An Evening of Concrete (1970, the version included here) and in a further iteration in CrissCross: A Text Book of Modern Composition with illustrations by Filipino-Canadian comic book artist Franc Reyes (who would later pencil and ink Tarzan, House of Mystery and Weird War for dc comics and was involved with 1970s underground Canadian comix publisher Andromeda). “Pope Leo” relates a stripped-down comic-strip tale of the tragic murder of Pope Leo; the narrative unfolds partly by way of frames within frames, windows within windows, telling a minimalist story in which the comic-strip frame is nothing but a simple hand-drawn square with the remarkable power to bring a story into being. The anagrammatic text is an exploration of the language possibilities inherent in letters ‘p,’ ‘o,’ ‘l,’ and ‘e’ (hence the sub-title, “a tragedy in four letters”)—sometimes using one of the letters twice, sometimes dropping one, always rearranging, always moving back and forth along the spectrum of sense/ nonsense: “O POPE LEO! PEOPLE POLL PEOPLE! PEOPLE POLE PEOPLE! LO PEOPLE.” With a/z does it (1988), Riddell’s writing of writing focuses even more on the investigation of the possibilities of story that lie well beyond the form of the sentence, paragraph, the narrative arc. Rather than playing with the visual story structure of the frame and the verbal structure of the anagram as means by which to create a narrative, with pieces like “placid/special” Riddell first creates grid-like structures of text with the monospaced typewriter font and then uses a photocopier to document the movement of the text in waves across the glass bed.

The resultant text is the visual equivalent of his earlier fine-tuned probing of the line between sense and nonsense in “Pope Leo.” These typewriter/photocopier pieces record both signal and noise as columns of text waver in and out of legibility. Semantically, these mirage-like texts focus on the words ‘placid’ (the lines of text reminding us of the symmetrical reversibility of ‘p’ and ‘d’ which begin and end the word), ‘love’ (with just the slightest suggestion of ‘velo’ at the beginning and end of each wave), ‘first,’ ‘i met,’ ‘special,’ ‘evening’ and ‘light’ (appearing as a hazy sunset moving down the page), and conclude with ‘relax’ and ‘enjoy.’ The paratactical juxtaposition of the two pages in “placid/special” creates the barest suggestion of a narrative about lovers enjoying an evening together while at the same time each page is in itself an even more minimalist story told through experiments with the manipulation of writing media. Riddell’s writing of writing that is simultaneously sense and nonsense, verbal and visual, self-contained and serial—that demands to be read at the same time as it ought to be viewed— nearly reaches its zenith in later work such as E clips E (1989). In particular, “surveys” is writing only in the most technical sense with its Jackson Pollocklike paint drippings and scattered individual letters, all counter-balanced by neat, hand-drawn frames. Just as Riddell’s compositions challenge how writers and readers form meaning, the original publications of many of the selections in Writing Surfaces, and Riddell’s larger oeuvre, were also physically constructed in a way that would demand reader participation. Riddell’s original publications include small press leaflets (Pope Leo, El ELoPE: A Tragedy in Four Letters), business cardsized broadsides (“spring”), chapbooks (A Hole in the Head and Traces) and pamphlets (How to Grow Your Own Light Bulbs). His work also extends into books as non-books: posters which double as

dart boards (1987’s d’Art Board), novels arranged as packages of cigarettes (1996’s Smokes: a novel mystery) and decks of cards to be shuffled, played and processually read (1981’s War (Words at Roar), Vol.1: s/word/s games and others). Inside books with otherwise traditional appearances Riddell insists that his readers reject passive reception of writing in favour of a more active role. While outside of the purview of Writing Surfaces, 1996’s How to Grow Your Own Light Bulbs includes texts that must be excised and re-assembled (“Peace Puzzle”); burnt with a match (“Burnout!”); and written by the reader (“Nightmare Hotel”). Copies of the second edition of Riddell’s chapbook TRACES (1991) include a piece of mirrored foil to read the otherwise illegible text. Riddell’s compositions do not just question the traditional role of the author; they attempt to annihate it. With “a shredded text” (1989) Riddell fed an original poem into a shredder, which then read the text and excreted (as writing) the waste material of that consumption. The act of machinistic consumption creates a new poem—the original was simply the material for the creation and documentation of the final piece. With “a shredded text” Riddell acts as editor to restrict the amount of waste that enters the manuscript of the book. The machine-author becomes a reader and writer of excess and non-meaningbased texts while the human-author becomes the voice of restraint and reason attempting to limit the presentation of continuous waste-production as writing. If, as Barthes argues, “to read […] is a labour of language. To read is to find meanings,” then the consumption and expulsion of texts by machines such as photocopiers and shredders produces meanings where meanings are not expected by fracturing the text at the level of creation and consumption—an act which is simultaneously both readerly and writerly. Riddell’s oeuvre is almost entirely

out of print and unavailable except on the rare book market. Working within the purview of 1970s and 1980s Canadian small presses means that Riddell’s writing proves elusive to a generation of readers who have come of literary age after the demise of such once-vital publishers such as Aya Press (which was renamed The Mercury Press in 1990 and has also ceased publishing), Underwhich Editions, Ganglia, grOnk and the original Coach House Press. As obscure as his original books may be, Riddell’s work remains a captivating example of hypothetical prose; dreamt narratives that have sprouted from our abandoned machines. With no words and no semantic content, we are left to read only the process of writing made product—a textbook of compositional method using writing media from the pen/pencil, the sheet of paper, the typewriter, the shredder, photocopier, to even the paintbrush. The medium is the message.

Riddell from Morox

Riddell from Shredded Text

Riddell from Placid Speicial



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Cathy Simone Photography School of Visual Arts

Cathy Simone’s photography celebrates the essence of the horse, the energy and character of these majestic beings, and the spirit within. “Taos” is one of twenty photographs from her solo exhibition Unbridled, presented at historic Lougheed House Gallery, January 8 – March 2, 2014. “My visual research focuses on the essence of the horse within organic environment photographed in natural light without fence, barrier or restraint. My ambition is to capture spirit within lens, commemorate the quality and craftsmanship of photography’s unique aesthetic, and create powerful poetic narratives representing eternal nature. Unbridled embodies a journey of passion, respect, dedication, determination, and profound inspiration. Personality can be editorialized within a still image. Character, more difficult to render. Emotion is by far the most challenging to portray for it cannot be replicated with any medium except memory, and the unity of self, sense and spirit.”