Shadows Cast and Present
Shadows Cast and Present is the digital re-imagining of three cantos from the artist’s book project Shadow. This variation on the long poem format integrates imagery, writing, video and soundscapes into an interactive presentation of the shadows cast within our domestic spaces and by our daily activities.
The title of each canto refers to an undervalued art form and echoes my politic of attending to the overlooked and dismissed aspects of daily lives. The first canto, Still Life, began when a cedar waxwing flew into a picture window and died. Avian fatalities are tragically common because of the excessive size of our windows. The emotional experience triggered a memory of the first canto from Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain by the false azure in the windowpane…” and the fictitious poet then proceeds to create imagery of the viewer seeing reflections and doublings of the interior and exterior spaces. Building on this literary source, my visual recording of the incident evolved into both an elegy and a musing on the nature of stilled lives. The poem is written from the bird’s perspective. The sequence and structure of the still life images and videos of flickering light encourage the viewer to create their own pairings. The piece is a contemplation of images of interiority and the nature of the “still life” and the stilled life.
Graffiti is the second canto. Graffiti began with the discovery of a serial graffiti piece in an underpass in Rochester, NY. The artist was anonymous, but I would like to thank them for their piece. I was fascinated by the representation of a creature in flight locked into a static wall. My photographic record of this discovery was the starting point for the series of layered images presented in Imprint. While layering the images of the graffiti and actual birds, I was struck by the counterpoint of the images. This introduced a musical component to the piece. I studied piano but do not perform. For Inscribe, in response to the interplay of images, I selected three piano pieces where the musical voices interact in a way that felt relevant. I scanned the musical notation and then condensed each piece into a single visual representation. These images were then printed out and transferred onto copper, creating a visual record or performance. For Shadows Cast and Present, I have performed interpretations of the three piano pieces and layered these with soundscapes from my environment. The music becomes an element of its surrounding space. Graffiti is about duets and an exploration of dualities. It is an attempt to make permanent records of fleeting instants; birds fly by, the murmur of musical notes fades away.
The third canto, Incidental Music, is about shifting visual and psychological states. Naturally occurring patterns of light and shadow create cyclical but transient intrusions into interior spaces. Sunlight progresses through the time and space of the pages with a brief shadow-play balancing-act performed mid-way through. The poem is a variation on the villanelle and cycles through psychological states. The soundscape evokes subtle movements in a space so quiet that you can hear the most minute sound. Each component of the piece, image, poems, soundscapes exists independently and plays out its own rhythmic logic and integrity; a visual, poetic and structural ostinati. The components complement each other by their shared manifestation of transitions. Incidental music bridges one scene to the next. In this piece, however, the interlude is the significant event; the condition of being the present. The past and future remain unknown.
This work could only have been realized with the creative input of my two collaborators, Matthew Hollett and David Morrish. Matthew transformed the individual elements into an interactive digital entity with an uncanny ability to translate the intention of the physical book work into this new form. David assisted with the creation of the sound elements, helping me create the individual layers and then bring them all together into a rich space. Their input and insights improved the work and I extend them my sincere thanks. I also gratefully acknowledge the Canada Council for the Arts Digital Originals grant program for funding this project and the CBC/Radio Canada for partnering to provide a national platform for this new work.
Marlene MacCallum has relocated to Prince Edward County, Ontario, the traditional territories of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe people, following 26 years in Corner Brook, NL, the traditional territory of the Mi’kmaw people, at the Visual Arts Program of Memorial University. Her practice has moved from singular photogravure prints, to their integration into artist’s books to the inclusion of writing and interactive digital formats. Consistent is the attention to the poetic potential of the ordinary matters of daily life.
Matthew Hollett is a writer and visual artist recently transplanted from St. John’s to Montreal. His work explores landscape and memory through photography, writing and walking. He has published books of writing and photography, such as Album Rock (Boulder Books, 2018), and created installation art for the 2017 Bonavista Biennale and as artist in residence at The Rooms. A graduate of NSCAD’s MFA in Media Arts program, he has taught new media art and interaction design at Memorial University and other institutions. He makes a living designing and developing websites, and these skills intersect with his creative practice in projects such as Between Seasons.
David Morrish has exhibited traditional copper-plate photogravure prints nationally and internationally since 1996. He is co-author with Marlene MacCallum of Copper Plate Photogravure, Focal Press, 2003. Notable photogravure work includes portraits of distressed taxidermy and landscape panoramas of the limestone alvars of Newfoundland and Ireland. His artist’s limited-edition book-works, GAZE and DIED use copper-plate photogravure and letterpress under his imprint: DeadCat Press. DIED includes a rare four-plate CMYK color copper-plate photogravure. Recent research explores animal and human mortality, faux biography, provenance, collections, and the museum archive through the construction of an immersive Wunderkammer, The Lyric Cranium, that was the catalyst for on-going works on paper, artistamps, potential video, and other ephemera.
Morrish currently lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario, and has re-located his studio and print shop to continue DeadCat Press and Obelus Publishing at Residue Studio.