October 7 – 29, 2022
Artist Talk – October 19th from 6:30 – 8:o0pm
Montreal-based contemporary artist Matthew-Robin Nye has created the solo art installation Goodnight Moon: a Rhythm, a Tempo to reflect many of the elements in the children’s book by Margaret Wise Brown, including “a tiny toy house and a young mouse, a comb, and a brush and a bowl full of mush and a quiet old lady who was whispering ‘hush’”.
The installation includes performance residencies with Montreal contemporary artists k.g. Guttman and Jordan Arseneault, the former exploring technology to create immersive visual experiences and the latter presenting a music and movement performance. Through their interventions, both artists seek to enhance the viewer’s experience of Good Night Moon. More details on the performance events soon.
Goodnight Moon (1947), written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd, is a timeless classic familiar to many children and adults today. The story narrates a simple, rhythmic counting of objects in a room occupied by two rabbits. One by one, objects in the room are wished ‘goodnight’. The book deviates from the standard fairy tale in that it does not have a moral, but a rhythm, a tempo. Because of this, it represents a major shift in how stories are told to us as we are developing; changing, in turn, how we develop. I believe that Goodnight Moon is the story of the environmental static around every fairy tale, the backgrounded processes vital to an experience, providing the lively textures from which a story stands out: in other words, experience for and of itself. There are fissures in the logic of Goodnight Moon, however: the passing moon in the illustrations do not coincide with the hands on a clock that sits on the mantle; a bowl of ‘mush’ is left overnight; the harsh colours of the room may cause unease; finally, the book ends with a blank spread wishing “Goodnight nobody,” to nothing.
Why intervene in the world of the children’s book? In our psyche, the fairy tale holds the place of the ideal form; an ideal that we shape our real worlds around, but that we can never quite attain: a semblance of reality pushed away from reality’s actual concerns, a balloon of possibility that will never be actualized. A fairy tale that does not have a subject, an individual to hinge tension, release, and resolution upon is a dispersed story that is about the non-human, more-than-human, and inhuman processes that make up our world. When not at the service of a central character, these processes are let loose, left to rest and unfold of their own accord, to flourish! Will the mouse go to sleep with the reader? What of its becomings when the lights go out?
As an artist, I’m always pursuing the following question: What makes a work work? How, in the world of experience, might we know ourselves and each other – and in so doing, reflect, relate, and change? Here, I invite you to help me find out; not only by reevaluating this fruitful collaboration between Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd; but by granting me the possibility to demonstrate that an artwork begins to do its work when you initiate an interaction with it. To help facilitate my understanding, and your entry, I have invited two artists — k.g.Guttman and Jordan Arseneault — who I have the greatest respect for. k.g. and Jordan are both forces of nature in contemporary art and performance in Montreal, and each is unique in thier ability to facilitate an audience’s experience, daytime and late night. To this end, each will ‘visit’ the stage that Rob Bird has constructed in an attempt to tease out the wonderment that has been fostered in Goodnight Moon’s pages for 75 years.
I would like to give my deepest thanks to Rob Bird of St Andrews. His wholehearted joy for craft, art, and the lack of distinction between the two is palpable in this space. The exhibition would exist in pale form were it not for his prowess. Joel Mason invited me to the community surrounding Sunbury Shores, intuiting that I would find this to be a welcoming space for this zany experiment. I believe that Joel shares my belief that there is no line between ‘art’ and ‘ecology,’ if we’re to get out of this damned mess. Angela McLean has been a steady, charming, and enthusiastic support, as has the team of beautiful accomplices that she has brought along with her: Florence Small, Amy Ash, Mary Wobma, and Caroline Young Walker. My deepest thanks to each of you.
I’ll end with an invitation: This work has been made to foster curiosity, dialogue, and – hopefully – understanding. Please, come in.
Curatorial Statement: “The Process of Art is Art/The Tomato Makes You Think About Eating It”
Shall art communities designate the limits of what is considered a medium of art? If we say yes, we are shutting the door on a variety of creations, and on the subsequent creations that those creations would inspire. We are also then, arguably, shutting a door on unexplored parts of ourselves. At heart is the question, is art but a fancy, or is it an earnest, unpredeterminable exploration? This was the question on my mind when I invited Matthew Robin Nye to bring his complex, playful, and ethically grounding artistic practice to St. Andrews and to Sunbury Shores. Interdisciplinary to the last, and deeply committed to new ways of making art through the administration of it, Matthew- Robin’s work always troubled the ground on which I walked, while also giving me new ways to navigate the spaces I thought I knew. There is a brutal kindness to his work, a feeling one imagines he exacts the most on his own comings-to-form that his practice embroils him in.
I was lucky enough to see and participate in a work of Matthew-Robin’s in 2015 in Montreal. Already his thematics around “queer utopias” were taking shape in a manner that was forcefully historical and yet also slippery in terms of identities and how they attach (or don’t) to bodies. This ranges like a strong breeze through sexual identity to artistic identity (and does not stop there). Nye believes in process as a real force in the world, a thing that can be named and expanded on, supported and called essential. For example, when Matthew came to St. Andrews in May to meet residents and spend time with Rob Bird (as well as lose at bingo), these things were, for him, already being materially encoded in Good Night Moon. They are active, invisible, yet undeniably real aspects of this show’s comings to form. Nye instrumentalizes administration for artistic means and uses artistic production for administrative ends. This is felt clearly in how Goodnight Moon: a Rhythm, a Tempo draws around it a cavalcade of unlikely artistic co-creators. When Matthew was looking for a local craftsman to collaborate in the construction, I suggested Rob Bird, a local experienced woodworker with sensitivity and intelligence that, I thought, would pair well with Matthew’s vibrant and thoughtfully excitable approach. The Peskotomuhkati word for such UN-obstruction, for such openness to process, is Panolamson (the wind blows unobstructed). This is the path Matthew-Robin Nye brings me on (and, perhaps, us). A path of non-obstruction to art. To face that which is beautiful around us, and to invest resources in the unveiling of art as a real and often raw process within communities. To become consumed with our collective stories (even while they are divergent). It is surprising but true, it is the only way we come together softly.