The first rule of mastering the Jedi within? Be a deliberate Padawan learner.
Last night I ventured out after dinner to Fraser and 15th, the site of a former church, re-zoned as a private residence, and the workspace of artist Jane Irwin.
Instant Coffee is a service oriented artist collective based in Toronto and Vancouver. Through formal installations and event-based activities, it builds a public place to practice, where ideas, materials and actions can be explored outside of the isolated studio and in a manner that renegotiates traditional exhibition structures, but is still supported by them. Instant Coffee’s frequent practice is to build architectural installations, which become venues for a series of organized events from formal lectures and screenings to informal gatherings and workshops. Each installation requires hosts who initiate some form of social interaction. These social sculptures are both inclusive and exclusionary. From the beginning Instant Coffee invited other artists, designers, musicians and other producers to work with us.
The truly notable thing about Instant Coffee is their loyalty to their mission: function over form, truth in art, and engagement is everything.
Looking at slides of their past projects (see below for a CV) the evolution and reiteration of ideas is noticeable. And reiterated throughout their presentation: they do it all without a dime. The group members do this on a volunteer basis.
“We found that collecting money is a real drag.”
The Instant Coffee artist collective is a true subversion of the norm. Circumventing the inaccessibility of the contemporary art world by the general public by doing unignorable outdoor displays (a campily wrapped bus, a jillion kilowatt bus-stop, a neon-pink bomb shelter pumping the base like it’s 1999.)
The execution of their works and installations screams over every inch, through every moment that user engagement is the art. If you’re not interacting you’re missing the point.
Stepping into the church last night, walking through the front doors of this once-upon-a-time church and momentarily becoming the object of focus at the front of the room (nerve-wracking when you fly solo as I did last night) it was immediately apparent: this was a space for interaction. For conversation.
The group are incredibly creative, deeply intellectual, and in touch with the idea of audience, creating with an eye to the viewer, rather than in spite of it.
Instant Coffee sparks a dialogue before they even erect a nook or a bomb shelter – their marketing begs for misunderstanding, re-understanding. Blatant lies like Instant Coffee Love Everyone demonstrate the impossibility of everyone liking everything, the impossibility of a collective acting uniformly toward a mass. In establishing what is not possible, it become evident that this is the easier way to go, it’s the shorter list. Everything else…
Thanks to Jeffrey, Megan and Jennifer (all of CASV) for being so gentle on me my first time.
CV: Urban Disco Trailer, Get Social or Get Lost, One is Never Enough, and Nooks: Wish You Were Here all involved a redesign or reconfiguration of a domestic social space within an institutional framework. It is through these saccharine, and at times ironic reconstructions, of spaces (for example, a sunken living room, a bedroom and kitchen) that highlight the relationship between form and social interactions. The last few projects examine tighter social spaces that bring the issue of inclusion and exclusion to the forefront.