The Arc by Kathleen Ritter, Live on Q with Jian Ghomeshi: A Performance Reconstruction in Graphic Novella Form
by Jem Noble
This artist’s project by UK artist Jem Noble is a FUSE online exclusive publication, available on the web for your viewing pleasure.
When fire tore through the building on the corner of Broadway and Kingsway in Vancouver early Christmas morning in 2009, a vital community of artist studios was decimated. Artist and curator Kathleen Ritter’s studio was among those destroyed, containing most of the work she had developed since her practice began, in addition to the archive of documentation from projects and exhibitions in which it had been shown. Compounding this misfortune, documentation of Ritter’s highest profile work — a performance delivered live earlier that year on CBC Radio’s talk show, Q with Jian Ghomeshi — was lost in early 2010 when the digital video and audio recordings of the show, along with all but two photographic images of the event, suffered irreparable file damage. The remaining photographs accompany a closed-captioning transcript of the show as the only residual evidence of this important work.
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Ritter subsequently issued the following call to friends, colleagues and acquaintances after the fire, requesting contributions to the reconstruction of her archive:
CALL FOR WORKS
Looking for artworks by, or attributed to, Kathleen Ritter. Artworks may take the form of moving images, photographs, performances, events, scripts, posters, sound, language, ephemera, utterances, and/or instructions. They may not initially appear as artworks, but may be in a more familiar guise, such as administration, ambient music, detours, neologisms, loitering, and secretive acts. Artworks were often performed furtively and were not necessarily visible. Evidence of such gestures may remain as documentary images, video footage, anecdotes, research, maps, scripts, detonated low munitions, accessories, fraudulent products, a sense of déjà-vu, an awkward encounter, or distant memory. Works may have been disseminated by exhibition, print, mail, lecture, free gifts, invitation, word of mouth, or reenactment. Ritter has worked under different aliases including, but not limited to, the Ladies’ Afternoon Art Society, Please Pay Here Collective, and Neoclean Cosmetics. Documentation can be sent by email to email@example.com or by post to 101 E 7th Avenue, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V5T 1M5. Authenticity of attribution is appreciated but not mandatory.
In response to the call, Jem Noble proposed a commission to CBC Radio to produce a graphic reconstruction of her broadcast performance using its partial, residual documents. The outcome is a novella animating two images with text, enhanced with digitally realised additions that comprise his impressions of Ritter’s lost sculptural works, based on her descriptions from memory.
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Kathleen Ritter is an artist and a writer based in Vancouver. Her work has been performed on CBC’s Q with Jian Ghomeshi (2009); and exhibited at Prefix (2009), Modern Fuel (2008), the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (2008), Western Front (2004), Skol (2000), and Access (2000). Her writing has been published in the anthology Places and Non-Places of Contemporary Art (2005) and the journals SWITCH, Prefix Photo, ESSE, Open Letter, and Fillip Magazine. She has curated several projects, including Expect Delays (2003), a series of artist’s interventions that took place throughout the City of Vancouver, and How Soon Is Now (2009), new work by artists from the province of British Columbia at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Jem Noble works with diverse methods and media. His practice connects conceptual art and post-humanism, addressing in part the mutual entanglements of materiality and subjectivity in a collision of ideas, gestures and materials that pitch the often stern, esoteric language of theory against vibrant, dark and humorous explorations of form. Ideas of individuation and interdependence resonate throughout this work, encompassing an interest in neoliberalism and questioning what dynamics between the individual, the social and the material it assumes and produces.
Among recent projects he has produced image, text and audio work in conjunction with Bruce Nauman’s Days at the ICA, London; created and screened structural edits of 1988 feature films Ghosts of the Civil Dead and They Live; created a lending-library of self-improvement materials on commercially obsolete media found in Hobart second-hand shops for permanent installation in the Tasmanian School of Art library; produced a bike-ride, wall-drawing and text works tracing the movement of the film Harold and Maude on rental VHS tape through the city of Vancouver; facilitated 100-piece vocal-noise choirs with improv vocalist Phil Minton by disseminating bespoke video training-manuals through community networks in Bristol and Glasgow; and painstakingly recorded music from the internet in real-time over three months to DJ at Manifesta 7 in Trentino in collaboration with Swedish anti-copyright activists Piratbyrån.
He is founding member of the Blackout Arts expanded-cinema collective and was co-director of Venn Festival of new and exploratory music and sound between 2004 and 2008. He is currently working towards a practice-based PhD in fine art – Fiction and the Fabric of Form: Non-Dialectical Approaches to Imagination and Reality – in association with The New Ruined Institute. This research develops earlier work with cut-out video images, addressing questions of the frame, narrativity and collapse and includes emergent explorations with blackout-cloth installation and the tiling of images using structuralist manipulation of digital photography.