Over the past few months the Forest Lawn Youth Arts Action group has been busy working with local Calgary artists Caitlind r.c. Brown to complete a public art sound installation for the Forest Lawn Natural Playground. We sat down to ask Caitlind a few questions about her work and her process.
Stay tuned for more images on this finished project and other projects the Youth Arts Action team is completing in Greater Forest Lawn
Kevin: Hi Caitlind. Can you tell the folks reading this a little bit about yourself and your past work?
Caitlind: Hi! My name is Caitlind r.c. Brown and I’m a local artist and collaborator. I grew up in Calgary, came of age working at Tubby Dog and CJSW, and went to art school at Alberta College of Art + Design (graduating in 2010, Year of the Tiger). For me, art has been a long-standing romance, beginning in the woods as a kid, stretching out towards the stars as an art student, and ultimately grounding itself in the urban landscape – from magic, to sci-fi, to social space. My arts practice is primarily experiential. The work I enjoy making almost always acknowledges the viewer as an integral component of the art, inviting them to participate as an active contributor. I don’t believe that art exists inside a bubble (the white cube is a myth!) rather, I’m most interested in projects that acknowledge the complexity of their social, cultural, political, environmental, local, national, and international context. Why shouldn’t artists think holistically about the surrounding world? After all, our art is part of that world – subversive or not.
Kevin : What are you curious about these days?
Caitlind: This sounds so boring, but lately I’ve been curious about economics. I never really thought about it (either than thinking about $$$) until I got hooked on Freakonomics. The idea of exchange is interesting to me – essentially, how do we negotiate sharing, worth, and trade on an extremely broad scale? It’s not just about money, it’s about kidneys and feminism and productivity and predicting the future. It’s about value systems, and I find value really fascinating, especially in how arbitrary it often seems.
Right now I’m also curious about pop culture, optics, Better Call Saul, curatorial practices, #blacklivesmatter, socialism, those new hyper-efficient incandescent bulbs, Turkish politics, the National Music Centre, and Donald Trump’s hair.
Kevin: What has been the most interesting thing about making this project?
Caitlind: I’m delighted to be collaborating with Antyx over the coming months to develop a new, experimental, public sound installation called Whispers in the Tall Grass. This project has already been a learning curve for me – I’m a serial collaborator, most commonly with my partner Wayne Garrett, and working as the Lead Artist behind this installation has already offered several moments of self-reckoning. But this artwork ultimately remains a collaborative project with the Antyx Youth and the broader Forest Lawn community.
Already I’ve been impressed by how amazing the Antyx Team is, and how insightful the youth are – especially considering their scant years. I suspect the most interesting part of the project will happen when we begin to interview the local community, collecting stories and secrets, peering into the unexplored memories of strangers (future friends?) in Forest Lawn. There’s always a hidden sub-narrative to the people around us, and I can’t wait to dig deeper!
Kevin: The work we’ve been doing with the Youth Arts Action youth has been around interviewing/getting to know strangers. I’m interested in an unforgettable interview or your conversation that you’ve had in your past with someone.
Caitlind: This is a wonderful question! There have been so so many – this is a hard question to answer. In terms of more formal interviews, one of the most memorable was a hotel-room interview I did for CJSW radio with the comedians starring in Fubar 2. They were fully committed to their characters, so much so that they were shot-gunning Pilsner and peeing in the sink while I was talking to them. It’s all on tape somewhere…
In terms of casual conversations, I’ll never forget my Driver’s Ed instructor (10-years ago already) telling me what it was like growing up in Bosnia during the Bosnian Crisis in the early 90s. Similarly, I remember my Papa telling me a life-wrecking story over tea and toast about a time in his 40s when he found the body of a little boy who’d drowned in the river. The boy had fallen through the ice in the winter, and it had taken until the spring thaw for him to be found. The little boy’s parents were so grateful to finally lay their son to rest after months of looking.
In general, I like conversations, but I really love stories – even when they’re sad, or challenging, or cryptic. We’re losing the art of storytelling, you know? Probably because we’re slowly losing the patience for listening. That’s ultimately my interest in building an audio installation – it’s a good excuse to learn to listen better, in collaboration with a group of youth who might help me to learn to listen differently. Hopefully everyone (including the interviewees) will get at least a few really solid & insightful conversations out of the experience. Maybe we’ll understand Calgary better? Who knows.