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Cornershop Projects

Cornershop Projects

  1. cornerfarm
  2. "Community Work"
  3. Grant Writing Primer
  4. Arcades Audio Project
  5. (Post) Modern Times
  6. Silent Runnings
  7. 09F9 Archive
  8. Counterfeit Workshop
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  1. Cornershop Q & A with Johan Lundh
  2. To Whom it May Concern
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Cornershop Q & A with Johan Lundh

Cornershop Projects

On October 10 2007, you announced that you “resigned from any thoughts, ideas, images, or hopes of being or becoming an art gallery or artist-run centre.” Could you please elaborate more on your resignation?

First – We love questions like these. Second – “Can’t you take a joke?”

But, more seriously, we’d have to talk about what it means to be an artist run centre (ARC), gallery, or museum before we can talk about resigning from them. In Canada, ARCs were founded in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as an alternative to mainstream gallery and museum exhibitions and programs. They were founded by artists for artists as a way to open up the literal space of art in terms of exhibitions, but also the cognitive space of it as well in terms of experimentation with ideas, media, presentation of work, etc… More recently, in the last decade or more, we see that there has been a level of professionalization and bureaucratization that has made that system less dynamic and interesting.

By resigning from any particular, known role in our local setting, we felt that we could avoid being redundant, which is what really attracted us to making this kind of project. Also, after finishing up with school, it seemed appropriate to take what we learned and to then respond to it not with regurgitation of what we learned, but with some kind of sensitivity and sensibility that is both wildly faithful to what we learned as much as it is a rejection of it.

Resigning seems like a negative act, but for us it was more about absolving ourselves and anyone involved with our projects of any titles or expectations. This way we get out of some responsibilities, but also some of the failures we see in arts institutions. For instance, ARCs rely on Canada Council funding, which can be pretty restrictive in its requirements. Often to receive funding for a project, there needs to be a precedent that the CC understands. Also, if you are just out of school, you don’t qualify for funds. So, there is little to no room for new projects that are spontaneous or experimental. This is especially true when someone is planning a project that needs grant money in order to be actualized. It can take anywhere from 1 to 3 years of time then. Since we live in a digitized, networked, and globalizing world, it seems there should be a space to match the speculation, dynamism, and flexibility of this context, and we don’t see a lot of space available for this, so we are making one.

Also, even though every artist is an institution in a sense, it is almost impossible to become an ARC. On top of paying for the space and running of a gallery you need to pay CARFAC fees to participating artists for at least 3 years before becoming an ARC. So, to become one you need to spend a lot of time on meeting these requirements — perhaps even more than thinking about art.

ARCs have a lot to do and so it is probably not surprising that certain discourses get circulated and re-circulated there. So, if you don’t speak these languages visually or theoretically, then the consequence is that you seem to be out of the loop, but in reality, it seems that the loop is just really, put another way, a form of running around in the same circle.

Is it right to assume that you have no intention of becoming part of the established contemporary art discourse in Vancouver?

You’re too much… You’re hilarious…

Vancouver is a small city. It’s smaller than it seems or thinks of itself as being, so it kind of feels like the established contemporary discourse just goes around in circles. We just want to expand the circles here or create more of them with a lot of different intersections with, but also departures from what currently exists. It seems there is a phenomenon here (and probably everywhere) of artists who want to fit in more than they want to engage with art in a more substantial sense by resisting a reproduction of the local and the local-historical. It would be good to expand an engagement with art beyond these limitations.

The ‘shop’ as a performative artwork/exhibition has a long tradition in contemporary art. Could you please tell me about your sources of inspiration?

Necessity, convenience, and history.

Jacob originally came into this space through friends. He was friends with the landlord and knew her as she was looking to buy a property. He gave her advice about the space and the neighbourhood and knew of the store as a small grocery, which was rundown and dusty and living off the sales of lottery tickets and cigarettes. Then, when his friend bought the place, she renovated it and during the renovations, Jacob and Gareth Moore began having some ideas about how to use the space and made a proposal to use it as St. George Marsh. For Jacob, the space was something to happen upon, an enigmatic place. There was discussion about that space as being more strategically, rather than organically, enigmatic since both Jacob and Gareth went to art school, but the project was always about using a corner store model, but with a different agenda as a distortion of that model. The distortions were manifested in interventions and installations involving the merchandise sold, which were consumables that were often dated, nostalgic, and not consumable. They wanted to find a balance between function and some level of dysfunction, which distanced the space from other, more traditional venues in terms of display and exhibition. They wanted to talk about the experience of the corner store and not of the gallery.

St. George Marsh was inspired by actual, real-life spaces in Vancouver such as The Lido and Exotic World as well as small town museums. In a way, it was kind of like a scaled down, small town, thrift store version of the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles. It was inspired as well by the curious phenomenon of entrepreneurialism and was playing with notions of value and culture. The end goal of the project was not to turn a profit in its 1 1/2 year existence, but to take advantage of the luxury of being able to play with the space, where merchandise and personal archives mixed, among other things.

And then after the Marsh closed, the space became Storage Gallery, which was not a gallery per se and tried to transcend that model by being multifaceted, offering an event space and store inspired in part by the Vancouver Museum of Anthropology’s Visible Storage Gallery (where visitors can see works in the collection on visible storage display). The location was important in this context too since there was not typical traffic from the art world in this spot. So, again, it remained a “place of discovery” for people in the neighbourhood. When the space was St. George Marsh, the corner store appearance drew people in, but then when it changed, we sort of knew people no longer knew what we were.

And now, we are not a gallery or a store and so there are no expectations about what this means, so people can engage with the space and the ideas here without any prescribed roles. In this sense, it is performative, but there are no pre-planned roles. Everyone can enter into the space and make it something of their own and change it according to time, circumstance, event, or mood. It is highly contingent in this way.