Artist Chris Flanagan is presenting a talk at the Gallery tomorrow evening (Wednesday April 4 @ 7 pm) on his exhibition Sympathetic Magic – on view through April 29th. Ahead of the talk Chris took some time out of his busy schedule to chat about his work.
Q: Tell us about the exhibition, Sympathetic Magic.
A: Sympathetic Magic is an interactive multimedia installation based on the idea of building replicas of objects to affect magical transformations in the real world.
Q: What inspired this work?
A: I’ve been fascinated by Cargo Cults, a religious practice that cropped up on the islands near Papua New Guineau when the indigenous population had contact with American soldiers stationed in the area during World War Two. The islanders saw the soldiers, who apparently sat around doing nothing, rewarded with “cargo,” material goods flown in by planes on a regular basis.
Once the G.I’s left and the planes stopped coming, the islanders tried to emulate the behaviour of the absent Americans. They built incredible replicas of runways and airstrips complete with bamboo planes and control towers in order to lure the gods to bring more “cargo.”
I’ve applied this “logic” to affecting a positive change for Kitchener. There’s an obvious comparison that can be made between Berlin and Kitchener given that they once shared the same name, so my questionable thesis is that Berlin was transformed by a wave of Western musicians who created odes to the troubled city, most notably Lou Reed who recorded the album Berlin in 1973. Within this Cargo Cult system, if I am able to Lure Lou Reed to Kitchener and get him to record an ode to the city it should result in very positive outcomes for Kitchener. All of the objects that I’ve built reference people and music from his life as an attempt to entice him to Kitchener . While at this stage, Lou has yet to arrive, L.Reed of Kitchener recorded a reworked version of Berlin, so we will have to wait and see what happens!
Q: What about this exhibition was most exciting for you?
A: Seeing Barra Castle and it’s magical door come together was pretty thrilling as it seemed so ambitious and outlandish when it was just an idea in my sketchbook a few months ago.
Q: What do you want visitors to take away (if anything)?
A: I don’t expect that everyone will delve into all of the conceptual stuff, but I’ll be happy if people find it engaging and playful.
Q: Tell us about your artistic practice.
A: My installation practice is heavily influenced by music, urban mythologies and clandestine practices. I make work about things that really excite me and hopefully that’s something that comes across. It’s fairly making intensive and often incorporates film and low-tech electronics. My recent projects have had site specific components and play with the idea of false histories and fabricating historical artifacts.
Q: If you could spend the day with any artist who would it be and what would you do?
A: I might have to cheat here and stretch “artist” to include musicians as well, as I am often more excited and awed by music than I am visual art. With that qualifier it would have to be enigmatic Jamaican Dub pioneer (wait can they be dead too?) King Tubby. I’d like to hang out in his Kingston studio circa 1975 and observe him in action, then maybe head out to watch his Sound System play at night.