Writing with Video

    Friday, October 24, 2008 to Saturday, November 22, 2008

    Opening
    • Friday, October 24, 2008
    Video-Diary Through sheer coincidence, at the very moment that I was beginning my research on the work of Kinga Araya at the archives of the National Gallery of Canada, I found myself face to face with a woman of Polish origin who had known Kinga in Italy. That was in 1988, and Kinga had just fled Poland during a student trip from the Catholic University of Lublin, a place she liked very much, and colleagues whom she would miss from then on. The woman told me that Kinga seemed so very young and alone during this period. But nothing could prevent her from pursuing her journey, of immigrating to Canada, which she did in 1990. She would also push the boundaries between cultures, knowledge and creation in the pursuit of her artistic practice. Kinga Araya was born to a family that was exiled from Lithuania and the Ukraine, eventually immigrating to Poland during the Second World War. Kinga was born in Poland, on December 4th, a date that would mark the starting point for this project. It was from December 4th 1996 to December 4th 1997 that she produced her first Video Diary that is part of the exhibition Video Diaries presented at Gallery 101 in Ottawa, the city from whose university she received her first degree in Visual Arts. The exhibition uses five television monitors and 365 pages of hanging manuscript. The installation introduces us to the daily ritual of Kinga writing a new page in her journal. She uses the pencil as a tool, her hands, feet or mouth, act as levers. The sound of crumpling paper betrays irritation, and we cannot help ourselves from feeling the tenacity of the artist who is willing to work on such a detailed and seemingly absurd piece. The journal took shape during a period of intense travelling. The ritual of entering into her journal provided the necessary focal point for the development of her approach. This work was an important springboard for her subsequent work such as: Orthoepic Exercise (1998), Exercising with Princess Headgear (Adjustable) (2000) and Walking with Arms (2003), where the symbolic notions of speech, walking and roaming are as much metaphors for the adaptation of a stranger to her new homeland as they are of the various prostheses used. Video Diaries also presents Kinga Araya’s second journal created 10 years later, from December 4th 2006 to December 4th 2007. The work was conceived as a special way to celebrate her birthday. She had given herself a year to record meetings with people who were in the same place and time zone as her. Starting in Philadelphia, she travels to Mexico City, Ottawa, Montreal, Gatineau, Wakefield, New York, Washington, Alma, and Berlin. Kinga states: “There are entries done in private and public spaces, on the plane, in the bus, on the train, and in moving cars. At first, I did not know what to expect from this diary. I let the video camera roll and tell me what is happening around me. Those I encountered I asked to face the camera and speak in their native language; thus, I collected over 40 different languages. The characters in my Video Diary feature diverse people. Some of them are old and new friends, others are complete strangers. If I could not find anyone to record, I would turn the camera away from myself and this is how I would mark an entry. The standard questions that everyone had to answer were: What is your name? What is the exact date and location we were in? What were you doing before the recording and what you will do after we stop?”[1] Undoubtedly, the images that Kinga Araya brings to us in this second journal display a world that has gradually changed. It is impossible not to consider these images within the context of globalization. This movement is at the centre of this intersecting of individuals, it is also apparent in the evolving identity forming through continuous movement. Globalization is in the turbulence of cultural exodus, and in the diversity and the differences that are recorded by her travels. It is a portrait of the artist that we discover in the diversity of those being filmed. The eye of the camera, thus the artist, is watching them. This migration of the eye attempts to capture the real, while faced with the impossibility of this endeavour. The camera attempts to stop time in order to seize the moment. Ultimately, the captured image is only a brief description of the futility of this effort. We can also guess at the necessity and determination of the artist to continue her task. It seems simple - to persevere in counting off the days of the year by creating these videos, but it is not an easy task. The aberrant nature of the task could compare to that of Sisyphus, from Greek mythology. He repeatedly pushed a boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down again. There are duplications that must be accepted as part of her process, there are days that are repetitive and days that overlap. There is also the unpredictability, the spaces, the darkness and the colour. In the end, insisting on using the date December 4th to construct and reconstruct her video journal from one decade to the next, Kinga Araya relies on her personal origins. She allows us to view the dynamic of an identity that is forged and deployed, while revealing and capturing the wandering that is part of the human adventure and the condition of our existence. - Hélène Lefebvre Hélène Lefebvre - A grant recipient of the Ontario Arts Council, Hélène Lefebvre works in a variety of disciplines. Since 2001, she has exhibited and presented performances in several regions of Ontario and Québec. She holds a diploma from the Ottawa School of Art, and degrees in Philosophy, Arts and Linguistics from Laval University and in Law from the University of Ottawa. Hélène lives and works in Ottawa.
    [1] Email correspondence June 2008.