Signature Appearances, curated by Joanne Bristol
The New Gallery
Essay by Joanne Bristol (PDF)
Amanda Schoppel & Joanne Bristol with a surprise package.
Amanda Schoppel, Joanne Bristol, and Holly Newman open their telegram.
LOVE CINDY BAKER STOP – the act of being absent -
In 2000, I moved from Edmonton, Alberta to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Lampooning the fact that I have little or no importance outside of my own tiny and isolated universe, I initiated a project about how very important I am and how much I must be missed in Edmonton. I am constructing the mythology of me. This is a project about isolation, ritual and absence. I am content with my life, now as with before I left; I have a good job, an artistic practice, friends, a home, a community. Yet I want my absence to make an impact. Life has moved on since I left. People have been getting married, having babies, getting sick, holding functions, and all with no concern for me. This project is an artificial way of re-inserting myself into their lives, constructing myself as an important figure of prestige which rings incredibly hollow, for I have not been gone long enough to warrant such melodrama nor have I achieved enough to deserve the memorial.
I started sending telegrams to functions in Edmonton that I was invited to, as though my absence makes a huge impact. The telegram, once the quickest, most basic way to send a message, has become literally obsolete; yet it still exists, now an elite form, eliciting ritualistic behaviour. Even the Queen of England has stopped sending telegrams in favour of mail and telephone calls. The fax machine, email and cell phones have eliminated the need for telegram service and in most countries across the world, telegraph lines have been removed. Though most people alive have never sent, received, or even been in the presence of a telegram, there is still a sense of wonder and ritual surrounding its’ delivery and presentation. Though faxes, emails, letters and phone calls are sent and received constantly with little or no fanfare, telegrams, one always knows, must be read aloud, officially, and presented to the recipient with a flourish. At least, this is what I must IMAGINE happens with my telegrams. In this project, the art is what happens between the reality of my absence and the construction, or what I imagine that construction to be. It is a project that falls somewhere between grandiose pomposity and pathetic embarrassment.
I have sent a telegram conveying regrets for my absence to every little thing that I was invited to, as though my absence were incredibly conspicuous. People applaud at the reading of the telegram; women and old men cry, and children ask their fathers who this great woman was. Nevermind that most people will not have even heard of me; in fact, that is ideal, since I then have a clean page on which to build my mythology. As in the story of the emperor’s new clothes, no one wants to admit to not knowing me. The contents of each telegram is simple; an address to the audience, a lengthy description of myself and reason for my absence, regrets and my relation to the person or event, and closing. The only reference I ever make to the person or event is to underline my personal relationship to him/her/it and to refer to it only in terms of what the invitation itself says. In other words, I say nothing except to talk about myself and say whatever can be taken verbatim form the invitation. It is obvious that I have gone to no effort to personalize the telegram and in fact may have had my “secretary” do it. The telegrams are painfully arrogant and in fact may well serve as a personal coping mechanism for dealing with my own absence, as it becomes easier and easier to understand why my absence is not missed, and it becomes harder and harder to return. Eventually, I would like to become important enough to send telegrams all across the country, building a towering monolithic mythology.
Sample telegram text
HELLO FRIENDS STOP
IT IS WITH GREAT PRIDE THAT I WOULD LIKE TO OFFER A WORD OF CONGRATULATIONS TO PATRICK BULAS FOR HIS EXHIBITION WHICH IS THE FINAL VISUAL PRESENTATION FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF FINE ARTS IN PRINTMAKING STOP
I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO CONGRATULATE MARGARET BROOKS ON HER EXHIBITION OF DRAWINGS AND INSTALLATIONS COMPLEMENTING THE FULFILLMENT OF A PHD DEGREE IN ELEMENTARY EDUCATION AND ART AND DESIGN STOP
DURING MY TIME IN EDMONTON AS NOT ONLY A STUDENT OF VISUAL ARTS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA BUT AS A GALLERY ATTENDANT AT THE FINE ARTS BUILDING GALLERY AS VOLUNTEER AND AS STAFF FOR THE WORKS INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF VISUAL ART COMMUNITY OUTREACH COORDINATOR FOR LATITUDE 53 SOCIETY OF ARTISTS AND LATER AS PRESIDENT AS HOUSE MANAGER AND VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR FOR METRO CINEMA FILM SOCIETY VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR FOR THE SIGHTLINES INTERNATIONAL PRINT SYMPOSIUM AS PROGRAMME COORDINATOR AT HARCOURT HOUSE ARTS CENTRE AS WELL AS IN MY MANY OTHER ROLES THROUGHOUT THE ARTS COMMUNITY AS PRACTICING AND EXHIBITING ARTIST CURATOR VOLUNTEER ADVOCATE AND AUDIENCE MEMBER I HAVE PERSONALLY KNOWN PATRICK AND KNOW HIM TO BE A DEDICATED ARTIST STOP
NOW AS PROGRAMME COORDINATOR AT AKA ARTIST RUN CENTRE IN SASKATOON I AM CONFIDENT THAT PATRICK WILL CONTINUE TO IMPRESS THE EDMONTON ARTS COMMUNITY AND BEYOND WITH HIS TALENTSTOP ONCE AGAIN PATRICK CONGRATULATIONS STOP
I AM DEARLY SORRY TO HAVE MISSED ATTENDING THIS TRULY MOMENTOUS OCCASION BUT I LOOK FORWARD TO WATCHING YOUR CONTINUED DEVELOPMENT AS AN ARTIST FROM MY NEW LOCATION IN SASKATOON STOP
LOVE CINDY BAKER STOP