Page 1


— 1.1 free

syphon: huffing that gasoline, making that scene

with reanna alder, raymond biesinger, d.l. iffla, emily jones, aaron mauro, wojciech olejnik, & of course riva symko a publication of modern fuel artist-run centre in kingston, ontario, canada issue 1, volume 1 / winter 2009 issn number: 1480-0306 syphon honours the etymology of the term "hoser", referring to those farmers who, on the Canadian prairies during the Great Depression of the '30s, would syphon gas from their neighbours’ vehicles with a hose. We reclaim the somewhat derogatory expression and apply it to all those trying to make ends meet in artist-run culture.



Reanna Alder sneezes "bullshit" on your art writing.


As a creative writing student I was taught to revere concrete, specific nouns and vivid verbs. My teachers believed that writing is, first and foremost, a craft, and the craft begins with the infinitely challenging task of engaging readers through the senses. Abstract, academic language is just not up to the task. But it seems that while students of fiction, poetry and literary non-fiction are having the generalities and abstractions pummeled out of them, art students are having a strange brand of academic-eze pummeled in.  "Ah, but art is complicated," you say. "Artspeak is a tool of intellectual precision." Isn't the subject of novels and poetry – "life" – also complicated? "Art is intellectual, like philosophy. It deals in abstract ideas." Maybe so; maybe art is necessarily abstract. Certainly its value – both monetary and cultural – is nebulous and ever-shifting, like gold on the futures market. continued on page 2 ALSO INSIDE Ffindings from Wojchiech Olejnyk an exhibit review by D.L. Iffla a chronology from Raymond Biesinger


Aaron Mauro remembers Rothko and agrees: Art is a lonely and terror-inducing thing.

'm confused about art. Specifically, I'm confused about the language that many artists, curators and critics use to talk about art. Why does an acquaintance, fresh out of art school, write that her video art  "explores the social economy of mass communication via semantic and phonetic sportiveness"? Why does another write that she's interested in "orchestrating intersections of artistic and ideological directions"? What does that mean, and why are we talking like this?


Emily Jones writes home from the USA. Dear Vicente, Here I am in the Windy City. It’s the most civilized place I have ever been. On the train, an automated recording reminds passengers to refrain from unruly behaviour, such as wielding a gun or shoving and yelling. Unlike New York, there is not an invasive security check at the door of the major art museum. People aren’t all up in your face here. Everything is big. Chicago is tough as nails, yet composed and cosy. I have started the MFA program at the University of Chicago. The campus is spectacular and located in the neighbourhood of Hyde Park (Obama!), which is full of gorgeous apartments for just $500 a month. The neighbourhood is surrounded by a deep dark ghetto; unlike anything I’ve ever seen on the TV or in movies. In fact, the MFA studios are located on the wrong side of the tracks (the lovely mile-long Midway Plaisance). As per my experience in this world so far, the artists here are left to an old building ready for demolition, next to an empty lot of gravel, last on a dead end street. This is incomprehensible to me considering the University’s wealth. I feel it signifies the city’s notoriously corrupt politics. While the building certainly has its charms, I am occasionally struck by a flashback of Khyber board meetings. We call the building “Doomsday” as it is the former home of atomic sciences, known for the clock that counts down the minutes to midnight (the hour of our demise). The continued on page 2


am terrified of art galleries. I feel a very palpable sense of fear whenever I enter one. Now I must say, this fear is not overwhelming, nor is it something that I avoid. In fact, I tend to seek it out. There is something unsettling and calming about the starkly white walls. Sometimes I feel like I don’t even know what I am looking at, and I occasionally have had the suspicion that other gallery patrons or employees can identify my awkwardness. Said simply, I rarely feel at home in a gallery. Yet, I have come to think of this feeling as part of the process of viewing art. When we enter a gallery, we are often confronted by an object, an image, or a sound that demands our attention. Without realizing it, we are participating in an elaborate ritual to which we will always be unaware of the customs and courtesies. I have felt an attention to this anxiety at my local artist-run centre, Modern Fuel, and, mustering the courage, I have even ushered people into this strange place. In this gallery, video games can become elaborate puzzles of our own ambition, a record collection can become a history book, and we can even become citizens of a new landless nomadic state. The changeable nature of our experiences of art is to be enjoyed, along with our sense of uncertain anxiety. As we draw near the fortieth anniversary of his death, it might be appropriate to remember the mutability of Mark Rothko’s work and the struggles he had with the art world. I will remember Rothko as an artist who engaged throughout his career with experiences of fear, anxiety, and terror. Upon seeing his paintings, some people have a profound experience that is difficult to put to words, while others feel indifferent and perplexed. Yet no one can deny that Rothko garnered a great deal of renown and his canvases were highly desirable both during and after his lifetime. After his suicide in the winter of 1970, which occurred amidst his deteriorating health and family life, his last works were the subject of a hotly contested legal battle between Rothko’s continued on page 3

Riva Symko channels Lester Bangs and conjures up The Famines, in your garage, if you’re lucky. July 30th, 2009: A characteristically humid and tired Thursday night in one small Ontario lake-city. (Laziness pervades. Nothing uncommon here, yeah? I’m going to see some friends, if I’m lucky maybe I’ll drink a drink, listen to something that will maybe be interesting if I’m lucky. Then I’ll drink another drink. Then I’ll go home.) An empty white space on the second floor of a downtown artist-run-centre. [Modern Fuel, natch. – Ed.] Suddenly, OUT OF NOWHERE: noise! All over the place! Sound is sent screeching through a vibrating set of amplifiers, ricocheting off the concrete floor, smashing into the drywall, and shattering the eardrums of a small group of devotees, aficionados, and habitués – paralyzed by this sonorial assault. Ahhhhh, but is it not that kind of paralysis that takes hold only because you’re maybe a little bit shocked, if you’re lucky? That kind of hypnosis that comes with being impaled on a good riff? It’s that kind of petrifying captivation that balances right on the ledge of really really good, ready at the slightest wrong move to tip over and plummet into embarrassing disaster. And if you’re lucky, your paralysis will be partly of your own making – I mean, maybe you’d been making yourself bored with the same old same old, but that means you can unbore yourself twice as fast and you don’t even have to be continued on page 3





syphon is a Modern Fuel publication, with a mandate to feature local and national art coverage and engage a readership that includes its members, the greater Kingston community and communities beyond.

Maybe art is like gold. The value of gold, too, is intangible and subject to the whims of the marketplace. Jewelers prize it because it can be endlessly melted down and re-shaped, but as an economic unit, gold derives its value solely from the combination of tradition and mutual agreement that we call "the economy" and that value fluctuates. Similarly, works of art derive their value from the marketplace of cultural exchange, where language is the primary currency.  And if language is the primary currency, then it matters what kind of language you use.

clock sits in my classmate Andre’s studio, ten minutes to the hour. The first atom was split here.

Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre is a non-profit organization facilitating the production, presentation, and interpretation of contemporary visual, time-based and interdisciplinary arts. Modern Fuel aims to meet the professional development needs of emerging and mid-career local, national and international artists, from diverse cultural communities, through exhibition, discussion, and mentorship opportunities. Modern Fuel supports innovation and experimentation, and is committed to the education of interested publics and the diversification of its audiences. board of directors Matthew Hills, President Chantal Rousseau, Vice President Riva Symko, Treasurer Donna-lee Iffla, Secretary Lisa Figge Troy Leaman Pat McDermott Christine McDonald Catherine Toews staff & personnel Michael Davidge, Artistic Director Bronwyn McLean, Admin Director Ted Worth, Bookkeeper and Finance Jason Woudsma, New Media Workspace Co-ordinator Modern Fuel would not be able to function without the generosity and spirit of its volunteers. Thanks to everyone who has helped us out in our times of need, especially to Greg Tilson and Apple Crisp Arts ( 21 Queen Street Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7K 1A1 tel: 613 548 4883 Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 12 noon to 5pm editorial & publishing for syphon Michael Davidge, Editor-in-chief Vincent Perez, Editor-at-large & Art Director Kaethe Yanovsky, Advertising Director Printed at 1000 Islands Publishers, Gananoque, Ontario.

The boundaries of art have become blurred in the popular imagination with something that five year olds, elephants, and people in therapy do. I once knew a man who worked in an openpit gold mine in the Yukon. He described his job as an archetype of "job": dirt goes into machine, gold comes out; man tends machine. In a way, art-making has become the archetypal non-job: Artist Goofs Around, or Artist is Tortured, Struggles to Make Work. The boundaries of art have become blurred in the popular imagination with something that five year olds, elephants, and people in therapy do. The non-job and its ill-fitting title – "artist" – seems to come with a certain insecurity. Note the rise in the use of the phrase "cultural worker." Note the funny way of talking.  Art-speak has become the art-world equivalent of corporate-eze, a half-guilty attempt to get away with something, to raise one's stock prices. If my art-school friends don't feel guilty about being artists, they seem to have learned how to write about art from those who did. In the course of my textual forage through the landscape of Canadian art periodicals, I did come across a few pieces of good writing. One was a short on the back page of Canadian Art, a 200-word "close up" written by Shary Boyle about Shuvinai Ashoona's drawing, Untitled (Walrus Man). It began, as stories do, with a time and place: "The moment I encountered this image..." and continued

continued on page 6 2

Freedom can be terrifying. Just a couple of weeks ago, a man was shot in the very lot you see in the picture I sent. But Doomsday is built like a fortress. Marvellously, a flock of parakeets live around the building, surviving the winter year after year. Andrew Fansler, a second year MFA student from North Carolina, lives well in his spacious studio on the top floor of the building and does his hygiene (so he says) at the gym. The studios have fireplaces. A new arts building will be erected by 2012. Canada’s political correctness has left me feeling oppressed and ignorant after a taste of the academic freedom that goes on at this wonderful university. Freedom can be terrifying. My first piece of art in the program will be a video called “On the Wire.” I’m having my classmate tap dance for my camera at the University’s illustrious and cut-throat Booth School of Business. He will be wearing pressed black pants, a crisp white shirt, and a yarmulke. There are a total of nine MFA students here. We treat each other well. The University’s unofficial motto is “Where fun goes to die” but I find that artists usually manage to have a hell of a lot of fun. One thing is for sure though; Canadians (especially my east coast peeps) are funnier. The humour is a little restrained here. A lot of dry musing goes on. There’s also a lot of misogyny here. It’s straight out of the 50s. Your friend, Emily

emily jones is a Haligonian curator and video artist.

Sketch for “Mural No. 6” (Two Openings in Black Over Wine) {Black on Maroon} 1958. Oil on Canvas, 105x152inches. From the collection of the Tate Modern, London. image source: Anfam, David. Editor. Mark Rothko: The Works on Canvas. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. pp. 641.





pictured: Robert Linsley at Modern Fuel ARC

surviving family, the executor of his estate, and his art dealer. His artwork stood as a tragic testament to the business and trade of art and the odd desire to commodify objects that hold a great deal of personal and intimate meaning. Though the controversy surrounding Rothko’s art was a sad and bitter epilogue to his life, in some way this posthumous chapter was a continuation of his struggles against the material and financial limitations placed on artists. The controversy also had the effect of forestalling the family’s release of Rothko’s remaining estate. Of particular interest were Rothko’s letters and writings, including a full handwritten manuscript of essays on the nature of art entitled The Artist’s Reality: Philosophies of Art. His son Christopher explains in the introduction to the book, published by Yale University Press in 2004, that the prolonged and very public legal battle for his father’s life’s work caused him to withdraw and protect his family’s inheritance. In combination with a book simply titled Writings on Art, also published by Yale in 2006, the majority of Rothko’s written output is now readily available, much like the images of his work had been with the completion of the catalogue raisonné, Mark Rothko: The Works on Canvas, edited by David Anfam and published by Yale in 1998. Throughout his writings, we can now see how resolutely Rothko held his disdain for the academic and economic taming of art. Yet, upon receiving his honorary doctorate from Yale University in 1969, his feelings were reflective and uncertain. “When I was a younger man, art was a lonely thing: no galleries, no collectors, no critics, no money. Today it is not quite the same. It is a time of tons of verbiage, activity, and consumption. Which condition is better for the world at large I will not venture to discuss. But I do know that many who are driven to this life are desperately searching for those pockets of silence where they can root and grow. We must all hope that they find them.” These are certainly important words for any artist. While it seems his sense of anger and resentment for the art industry mellowed in later life it may be difficult to see how Rothko’s work has always been at odds with the commodification of art. For this reason, Rothko’s so-called Seagram Murals are a fascinating example of his reaction to art and consumption. The famous Canadian liquor manufacturer commissioned the series in the spring of 1958 for their Manhattan headquarters. The paintings

continued on page 7

lucky to do that. So you find yourself standing there – mouth gaping, saliva practically dripping off your chin, eyes locked on Biesinger’s lithe frame,

Wojciech Olejnik comes to some conclusion on his research in abstraction.


he role of research within contemporary art is difficult to define. In most academic disciplines research is framed by guidelines, goals, hypotheses, and utilizes proofs and refutations to establish or defend a given truth. Contemporary art rarely employs such rigorous methods and the recent research done under artist Robert Linsley at the University of Waterloo was no exception. Robert Linsley received two major academic grants (Research/Creation grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Canada and a Premier’s Research Excellence Award from the Province of Ontario Ministry of Economic Development) to carry out research within the scope of abstract art. By the end however, the very title “research in abstraction” was altered to “new models for abstraction.” Indeed, carrying out research within art practice is a strange endeavour. How can research be conducted in a discipline which is so unpredictable, which in fact fosters the spirit of unpredictability, is based on exploration and experimentation and regularly questions established knowledge and established systems for the creation of knowledge? Fittingly, Robert Linsley has insisted that research in art “has to be open ended.” This conviction yielded a keen interest in “autopoiesis,” a concept that ultimately expressed the activities of the grant more accurately than “research.” According to this concept a system or a discipline such as art and especially abstract art can be thought of

continued on page 7

And if you’re lucky, your paralysis will be partly of your own making. his feet dancing around the cord of his guitar in a rock & roll ballet that threatens to send him toppling over a mic-stand at the slightest trip. And then your eyes are flipping back and forth between Biesinger and Kruger – his drumsticks bouncing off the skins are making you blink in rhythm. And you’re thinking, “what garage did these two just emerge from?” Because it must be the same one that once housed earthshakers like The Sonics, Miserables, The Kinks and, more recently, The Vines, The White Stripes, and G&E Auto Brake and Tune-Up. And, after the two of them end up in some kind of a minimalist scrum in the centre of the floor, you close your mouth and swallow and slowly let your ears pop back into tune with the hum of after-gig white noise. And now you understand why E-town’s reputation for d.i.y. symphonic aesthetics has been spreading across the country. Anyways, the point is: Dear Famines, “I like some of the things you do”.

A transplanted Art History graduate student researching contemporary visual culture and theory in Kingston, riva symko’s roots have never been fully removed from her beloved hometown, Edmonton.

D.L. Iffla challenges the peeping tom in all of us.


ince the rise of the Novel in The Eighteenth Century, and particularly the epistolary novel, writers and readers have known about the power of private letters, notes and messages. We know they are private communication between two people, yet we are drawn to read them, our curiosity and the illicit pleasure inevitably outweighing our guilt at being voyeurs. Playing with this tradition and adding a few extra layers, Dave Gordon's fascinating piece of performance writing, Inside, a series of eight multi-coloured banners with writing on one side of each banner, hung from July 19th to September 5th 2009 in front of the Swamp Ward Window (the project run by artist Jocelyn Purdie at 440 Bagot Street in Kingston). Gordon, one of the founders of Modern Fuel Artist Run Centre and the Kingston School of Art, has also taught in the local prison system for several years, so the "Inside" of the title makes reference to the inside of Kingston's prison system. Since the banners are hung outside, and we are invited to read them as we pass by the house, the juxtaposition is not only private (and literally locked away private) words and public reading, but also private space and public intrusion, in that we are invited to "read" the front window of a private home. The voyerism is thus two-fold and causes us to reflect on the nature of both domestic and institutional privacy as well as the nature of the community inside a large prison or in a neighbourhood historically called the Swamp Ward. As if underlining the point, Gordon has placed

continued on page 7 3

ARTIST PROJECT raymond biesinger is a self-taught illustrator and musician based in Edmonton, Alberta, who likes conceptualizing, minimalism, art, and progressive politics. His chart of the history of the Edmonton music scene is an ongoing project. Contribute to it by e-mailing ( or calling him (1.780.433.4560) with new info.



pictured: A lexicon of inaesthetics cribbed for tomorrow’s art critic.

REANNA ALDER CONTINUED with concrete details. The writing is quirky, unabashedly enthusiastic ("Check out those whiskers!! My god") and specific ("the figures making a pretzel of their arm, entwining fingers, crossing legs"). When I tried to pull out verb phrases about what the art was accomplishing, all I got was: "made me feel like keening." That's what Ashoona's drawing does. Well, did. To Shary Boyle. Most of the piece is, instead, an exhortation to the viewer: "look at the pencil," "now lean in closer." Boyle is an artist herself, and the words she chooses draw the reader into her experience of looking and create verbal connotations, adding layers to our experience without telling us what we should see. There's courage and power in that.  Art and literature have always played tag with each other, and art is now overdue to find ways of talking about itself that are more in keeping with contemporary writing. Good (art) writing can help us stop and see the world with someone else's eyes; it can have a sense of humor and humanity. Art isn't gold mined from the earth, after all; it's just us, talking to each other.

reanna alder is the current Editor of Front Magazine, a free Vancouver art magazine published for over 20 years by the Western Front.

Support Syphon, Subscribe!

Don’t miss an issue of Syphon. Take out a subscription and have it mailed directly to your door. (Annual fee is $10 for two issues). Send a cheque or money order to Syphon Subscriptions c/o Modern Fuel, 21 Queen St., Kingston, ON, K7K 1A1.

Support Syphon, Submit!

We want to hear from you. Send us your letters, rants, reviews and musings about an aspect of your local arts scene. Though we have ideas of our own, we welcome unsolicited material (of which we would otherwise be unaware) at a length ranging from 500 to 1000 words. Send them by email as MS WORD or RTF attachments to Please include a short biographical note with your submission. The deadline for our next issue is JANUARY 31, 2010.

Support Syphon, Solicit!

Advertise in Syphon. Please contact us at and we'll send you a rate card. With a deadline of January 31, our next issue appears in March 2010.



What follows is a selection of verb phrases taken from recent issues of Canadian art periodicals. These are actions attributed either to works of art, or to artists. Taken out of context, the specific is rendered general in the hope of answering two of the most persistent conundrums of our time.

Editor-in-Chief Michael Davidge reads in the bathtub.

WHAT DOES ART DO? Switch (issue 2): Consists of documentation; slowly depreciates; enacts rather than depicts; escapes the literalness; is undermined by the predictability of its schema; is projected and circumscribed; requires realization by the viewer; leaks; materializes the container; performs; retains much of its potentiality and power; interrogates; will not change. Pyramid Power (issue 6): Reads as a continuous flat surface; generates complex spacial effects; seem to slowly swim from side to side; has at least three distinct ideal viewing distances; is animated by ideological tensions echoed in the work's appearance; depends upon the support of gallery walls; lays a broader claim upon the imagination; take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context; does not materialize its critique as content, but subliminally as form; implies that conflicts between artworks and the institutional platforms which present them are probably unavoidable; calls attention to their unique place in the world. Canadian Art (25th anniversary issue): Brings to the fore the sense of atmosphere; became pure scenario; became ghosts of a larger project; becomes a mirror of an existing society; functions as a sharp tool for critiquing the present; brings an awareness of the sheer abjection in its structured organization; accumulates into a kind of critique from within; reframes narrative as atmosphere; emphasizes our condition of immersion in a system; asks us to pay attention to the story each object withholds; imbues objects with new stories by transforming them into sculptures or installations; takes junk and transforms it into something new; referred to or obliquely represented landscape; has been as much rumor as reality; functioned as a venue for the display of things we normally discard. WHAT DO ARTISTS DO? Canadian Art (25th anniversary issue): Channel human ingenuity; wrestle the human condition; revisit the fictions of modernism; blur the line between fantasy and reality; bring the art of the past into the new world of video. Pyramid Power (issue 6): Play with humility; give [themselves] completely; let what has to happen happen; allow [themselves] to be annihilated; play humbly, without direction, without opinion, aimless and hermetic; live and work in Berlin and Hamburg; arrange objects in space as a way of thinking that equates material relationships with conceptual relationships; invent the subject matter of their images through collaboration; recently had a solo show of paintings; drop out of graduate film school; hold bachelor of media arts degree; recently completed a new film; teach at the State University of Design, Karlsruhe; [are] Ph.D. candidates; [and were] recently chosen by MacLean's Magazine.


n the last winter issue of Modern Fuel’s official newsletter, we ran a report by Lance Blomgren that detailed the dismantling of the Dawson City station of Metro-Net, the legendary subway system installed by the artist Martin Kippenberger. Dawson City was the site of the second Metro-Net station, and its construction linked it to the first site in Syros, Greece, thereby inaugurating a global network of extraordinary ambition. Now its loss is being mourned, and the site, filled with earth, is being referred to as a grave. The report from Dawson City quietly announced a new direction for Modern Fuel’s newsletter, now even further entrenched and more loudly proclaimed with its appearance under a new name, Syphon, and with a new format. Well, you might say it’s an old format, the newspaper, whose global reach along with its page size is currently also shrinking. In the pages of Syphon, you will find coverage of Modern Fuel and local arts events activities, but our connection to the network of artist-run centres and initiatives elsewhere will also be visible. We think that Syphon is the perfect companion for any commuter on the Metro-Net subway or “hoser” on the artist-run highway. Kingston’s transit service is purportedly comprised of a fleet of buses, with no subway in sight. However, if you look closely at the surface of its Market Square, you will note a discoloration that suggests there might have once been a subterranean opening that is now sealed. That occasional unallocated rumbling feeling you get could be explained by the passing of a Metro-Net train. Now, in addition to bus tickets, Kingston residents will have Syphon to roll between their fingers. Beneath the cobblestones, you’ll find the underground.

michael davidge is an artist and writer and he is currently the Artistic Director of Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre in Kingston, Ontario.

"I hope to ruin the appetite of every son of a bitch who ever eats in that room." - Mark Rothko AARON MAURO CONTINUED


he was asked to create were meant to decorate The Four Seasons, the exclusive restaurant in the Seagram Building, designed by the modernist master architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. By understanding the building to be a monument to modern capitalism and gross over consumption, Rothko wanted his vast blood coloured canvases to consume those that grew fat, quite literally, from the violence of unhindered greed. During the creation of the nearly 600 square feet of paintings required to fill the restaurant, a friend of Rothko quoted him as saying, “I hope to ruin the appetite of every son of a bitch who ever eats in that room.” We might say that he wished that his paintings would terrorize their audience. He wanted the consumer to be consumed. In the gullet of Rothko’s immense visceral canvases the viewer would find a fear that is elemental and plain. It was, however, only after having lunch in the space that Rothko realized that these corporate sycophants would never understand his paintings. He asked himself, how could someone that would spend so much on a single meal care about his paintings? His life’s work would be mere wallpaper for the wealthy. For this reason, he pulled out of the commission and, after a great deal of negotiation, donated his work to the Tate Modern in London.

as a self-generating system, one that comes out of itself and thus places the artist in the role of a facilitator. In this position, an individual would be more inclined to allow the voice of the work to be heard rather than advance his or her own concerns.

As a final quirk of history, the Seagram murals arrived at their new home on the very day that Rothko took his own life. For me, these paintings stand as a reminder of Rothko’s life, but also the mutability of art and our urban landscapes. What does one see in an abstract painting? Do we witness the artist’s intentions? Do we see windows or doors? Or perhaps, in a brief moment of terror, do we see two towers? The history of art consists not only of artists and their work. The production and consumption of art has always been tied to how and where art is presented. Surely, the opportunity to view art in an artist-run centre such as Modern Fuel speaks in some small way to this history of modern art. For here, in a not for profit venue, we have an opportunity to confront our fears, whatever they may be.

aaron mauro is a PhD Candidate in the English Department at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario.

The abstract is and always has been a part of art-making, but even more essentially it has been a part of mark-making. Where does all this leave research in art? It seems that the very definition of research pertaining to contemporary art must somehow be addressed. In my opinion, there has always been artwork made and criticism written that was historically inevitable. In other words, there are certain approaches, techniques, methodologies or conceptualizations that seem to almost stream out of the process of art making itself, as if they were always already present, waiting to be discovered. This is especially apparent when considering certain scientific breakthroughs. For example, the observation of falling bodies eventually yielded the conception of the force of gravity. I think the turn to abstraction (in the 20th century) is an example of such inevitability. The abstract is and always has been a part of art-making, but even more essentially it has been a part of mark-making. Every mark is also a sign, or a non-sign, a symbol, a cue, and yet always somehow related to a symbolic order, something abstract. Of course, it is possible that the turn to abstraction may have been a chance occurrence, but in retrospect this turn seems to flow so smoothly from one art movement to the next, it seems to be present at so many crucial moments of history, that it is difficult to imagine it occurring otherwise. This is perhaps what one can call research in art: the ability to work unguided that invents original ideas and new ways of working which in hindsight seem to have been destined to happen, to have been inevitable.

D.L. IFFLA CONTINUED My main contribution to the research program in question was spurred by observing its inner workings, as I wrote reflexively about collaborations, their functioning and contribution. I saw the program itself as a loose collaboration, a heterogeneous group of artists, writers and scholars. There were conferences, studio visits, guest lectures, publications (especially in the form of dialogue), as well as many informal conversations. These sessions did not trace out a trajectory for abstraction, but created a place for discussion about abstractness and its trajectory. The program was an opportunity for the exchange of information and ideas (i.e. discussions about autopoiesis), and it represented the inevitability of the formation of new dialogues and conflicts on the topic of abstraction. Yet, such an inevitability is difficult to accomplish. While the goal is to encourage growth, allowing the sprouting out of ideas and activity to happen on their own (and thus not force an inevitable outcome), at the same time there is the hope that the project will have achieved something inevitable, maybe even something measurable, something tangible. This approach is analogous to the very contradiction of the abstract, where every abstract mark is nothing but a mark, just the real itself.

wojciech olejnik works in computer-based art (Autocad, Maya). He has collaborated with Sarah Jane Gorlitz on videos and sculptural installations since 2006 under the name SOFT TURNS. They live and work together in Malmö (Sweden).

Your Exhibit At Modern Fuel

Modern Fuel welcomes submissions throughout the year for projects in any media to show in our Main Gallery space and in our State of Flux Members’ Gallery. Proposals are selected by jury. Please see our website ( for submission details. Our Annual deadline is May 1.

the banners so that they literally drop from the eaves. Like all eavesdropping, institutional or otherwise, we are only "seeing" one side of the story.

... everyone is being watched almost all the time... The writing, all upper case, consists of phrases, some incomplete, that note reports on specific issues, or that record specific events or occurrences. In no way are these the "voices" of inmates: they are the titles of reports or in some cases partial notes of prison guards or other prison staff. For example, "REQUESTING TO SEE PSYCHOLOGY DUE TO EMOTIONS HE IS FEELING OVER HIS BROTHER HANGING HIMSELF IN JAIL" flutters on a green banner next to "REPORT REGARDING INJURED DEER ON PERIMETER" in purple. "...COMPLAINING ABOUT BREATHING PROBLEMS--ON CALL DOCTOR WAS NOTIFIED AND AGREED THAT INMATE WOULD BE FINE HERE ... 'HAVEN" follows "INMATE SEEN PARTICIPATING IN SEXUAL ACTIVITY DURING SOCIAL-VISITOR WAS SEEN WITH HER HAND INSIDE HIS PANTS." Others refer to weapons found, inmates trying to hide objects, or observed to have something in their possession. The glimpse we are given of this community "inside" is a place where everyone is being watched almost all the time, and one group writes reports about it before going home each night. Such dirty laundry, and hung in the front yard! Dave Gordon's work Inside records the notes and reports, which are themselves records of activity within the walls of a penal institution. Through Gordon's selection, contextualization and choice of form, the records become public paintings of private discourse, published messages meant for other eyes, and finally, challenges to the peeping tom in all of us.

d.l. iffla is a performance writer living in Kingston, Ontario. Secretary of the Board of Directors at Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre, her minutes are legendary.


PREMIUM CUSTOM PICTURE FRAMING -since 1982main location: 198 Princess St., Kingston tel: (613)546-1868 fax: (613)546-9443

Gr aphi c Services

west end location: 745 Bayridge Drive at Taylor-Kidd tel: (613)389-1700

Stud io 2 2 Ide a M a nufac tory 320 King Street E. - 2nd Floor ~ 6 1 3 - 5 4 6 - 7 4 6 1

Fi n e Art Prints & Reproductions ( Gyc lée )

Epson 7800 [24” full bleed using only K3 archival inks]

On a wide selection of Epson Fine Art Papers & other less ‘conventional’ stocks. * M icro -Publ ishing Artists’ Catalogues, Books & Magazines. Typography, Design, Laser Printing, Perfect binding or Saddle Stitching Available

* Co m m ercia l Print Services We design and manufacture all manner of ‘Promotional Pulp’

Posters, Flyers, Invitations & Bro ch ures

All services available are Priced Individually

d i

2 2

o ac t r S t




M dea



320 King Street E. - 2nd Floor ~ 6 1 3 - 5 4 6 - 7 4 6 1 8

robert macklin gallery

contemporary painting, sculpture, and works on paper 20 Market Street, Springer Market Square, Kingston, ON 613.344.0994 Wed-Sat 12-5pm

Syphon 1.1  
Syphon 1.1  

a publication of modern fuel artist-run centre in kingston, ontario, canada issue 1, volume 1 / winter 2009 issn number: 1480-0306 syph...