Guest blog spot by Adrian Di Giovanni
Chinatown Remixed fans, this year more than any, you’d better do everything in your powers to conjure the sun on opening day. Because if you can make it happen, we are in for a real treat: the Thenwedieatron. This will be one of two exhibits by Natali Leduc, who will be arriving all the way from Houston, Texas to take part in Remixed.
The Thenwedieatron (that’s Then-we-die-a-tron, co-created with Matthew Gorgol) is an outdoor and interactive installation. Picture two giant inflatable tent-like balloons made of thin clear plastic, with a pyramid on one-end, a cube on the other, and a tunnel connecting the two (or check out the pictures right below). All together, the Thenwedieatron is big, Texas big, clocking in at about 50 to 60 feet long in total (the pyramid is 16’ tall, with a 20’x20’ base and the cube is 10’x’10’x10). Here is where it gets interactive: A stationary bicycle with a large fan attached to it is hooked up on one end. The bike powers the fan, which keeps the whole thing inflated. Members of the public take turns on the bike powering the fan. But if the pedaling stops, the whole thing falls down. As if Remixed wasn’t already interactive enough!
The Thenwedieatron plays with ideas of trust and dependency between strangers – the bike rider and the person walking through the giant balloon. The installation is also about flipping the notion of a pyramid on its head. Instead of preservation or permanence and death, the putative haunts of the pyramid, the Thenwedieatron is ephemeral or fleeting. It remains constantly in motion, new life literally breathed into it with each pedal, but at any moment prone to collapse or being blown away by an unexpected gust.
With works like the Thenwedieatron, Leduc sees herself as playing the role of amateur inventor. Her works tend to be mechanical and kinetic – “things that move” – and usually involve altering outmoded objects or technologies, like fans and bicycles, in order to create new and innovative uses for them. Leduc describes these as “antiquated innovations.”
That makes me think. Natali, if you are reading this, can I get a type-writer to help me blog better?
Leduc predicts that the Thenwedieatron installation will add to the already festive spirit of Chinatown Remixed. But there’s one catch: the Thenwedieatron doesn’t withstand the wind or rain, so start working on those good weather vibes for May 1.
A healthy dose of absurdity for Remixed
Rain or shine, Leduc will attempt to bring the outdoors inside with a series of wooden animal sculptures, in her second exhibit called the Anthropomorphism-o-tron at the Orchid Restaurant. Leduc’s plan if for the animals to interact with the space where they will be displayed – Orchid’s playroom – as if it were their normal environment. Example: a coyote sitting on a chair and reading a story. As its name suggests, the Anthropomorphism-o-tron looks at our relationship with animals and how people tend to project their own ideas and emotions onto them.
The world we live in is full of absurdity, according to Natali Leduc. A lot of the time this leads to violent and dangerous results, she explained to me from her studio in Houston, as we caught up over Skype. With her work, however, Leduc tries to turn absurdity upside-down, in the hopes of extracting its counterparts of joy and humour. In a sense, Leduc tries to disarm absurdity’s too frequent misery, so that people will be drawn to think about the lighter things, and maybe laugh a little.
The Anthropomorphism-o-tron is no exception. Leduc is straying slightly from her amateur inventor role with this exhibit’s animal fancies. Not to denied, though, she still managed to feature some part of the bicycle in the sculptures, by using inner-tubes to craft and give expression to the animals’ bodies. The result is both playful and stunning. I can attest to this based on a couple of sneak preview snapshots Leduc sent me. But sorry no pictures for you all on this one. For the full effect and surprise of the Anthropomorphism-o-ton, you will have to come out to Orchid during Remixed.
Chinatown Remixed Homecoming?
“I’m very geared towards bicycles,” remarked Leduc (not realizing the richness of her pun), who owns and rides a fleet of strange bikes of different shapes, sizes and vintages. In displaying at Chinatown Remixed she is in many ways coming full cycle (ouch, couldn’t resist one of my own). Originally from Ottawa, Leduc has been based in Houston, Texas since 1997. She is a Chinatown Remixed first-timer, and is proud and excited to be putting on her first exhibit in her hometown, in the more than fifteen years since leaving.
Well, that might not be entirely accurate. It turns out that Leduc’s Remixed roots are much longer and stronger than might at first appear. When I asked her how she learned about Chinatown Remixed all the way down in the deep south of the United States, she told me that she and Remixed organizer Don Kwan go way back… all the way back to 1996. Back then, she remembers putting together an art party with Don and a motley crew of fellow artists in the parking lot of Shanghai Restaurant. Call it Art in the Parking Lot. Or maybe ‘Chinatown Remixed in diapers’? Sigh, they grow up so fast.
- Chinatown Remixed will fall in a busy period for Leduc. She will be landing in Ottawa just days after taking part in the 26th Houston Art Car Parade, billed as the biggest of its kind in the world.
- On June 4, 2013, she will be performing a puppet show in Victoria, BC, which later this summer she will make her new hometown.
- For more details on Natali Leduc’s work, check out this YouTube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0LG7HCQxYU
(The Thenwedieatron starts at around 7:42 minutes. There is an excerpt of the launching ceremony of the Giant Multitron (a wooden satellite), as well as an excerpt of the Underwater Live Shrimp Puppet Show, a few pictures of bicycles and Natali Leduc as Stormy, the friendly but unpredictable bike mechanic.)
Chinatown Remixed Printable Map 2016
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