The Cleaning Girl and the Boarder

The Cleaning Girl and the Boarder is the work I presented in the ECUAD Low Residency MAA Graduate Exhibition in July 2012.

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Nov 16, 2011

The Cleaning Girl and the Boarder is a stop motion animation that re-imagines a portion of the narrative in My Mother Told Me, a work I created for the mid-program MAA exhibition UponOccasion in 2011 at Emily Carr University. The original work consists of a narrative that is loosely based on personal memory, and The Cleaning Girl additionally incorporates fantasy and fiction into a fragment of that memory.

The section of the story that is re-imagined from a portion of text in My Mother Told Me reads, “I didn’t notice a lot of blacks in our town, but I recall the Chinese boarders that lived in our bedrooms after the divorce – I thought it was strange how you could see their fallen hairs on the pillows”. The set for the animation is a bedroom made from low-tech materials. The figure and the furnishings are created from white paper, while the bedroom walls are constructed from corrugated cardboard.

The story begins with the girl occupied in cleaning the room of a boarder who lives in her mother’s house. She is distracted from her work and gazes out the window, masturbates on the corner of the bed, and imagines black hairs dancing on the boarder’s pillow. The Cleaning Girl sets memory and fantasy side by side as well as bringing together past and present. I draw upon memories to create the structure of the narrative, and these memories are paired with fantasy, which allow for moments of both humour and disgust to be present in the film. Simultaneously, past memories are brought to the present through the use of live action sequences, such as my own hand sloshing water in a bucket and washing a hot plate, and these are mixed with traditional stop motion animation techniques.

My Mother Told Me…, 2011, Graphite on wall, frame, photo, pillow, hair.
My Mother Told Me…, 2011, Graphite on wall, frame, photo, pillow, hair.
My Mother Told Me…, Detail.
My Mother Told Me…, Detail.

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Film Stills

Still from The Cleaning Girl
Still from The Cleaning Girl
Still from The Cleaning Girl
Still from The Cleaning Girl
Still from The Cleaning Girl
Still from The Cleaning Girl

July 2012
Exhibition version on Vimeo.

White on Whiteness by Diana L. Gustafson

White on whiteness: becoming radicalized about race by Diana L. Gustafson

I especially appreciated Gustafson’s personal approach in the essay. She takes the reader through her journey of awareness of herself as a raced person and how that has informed her nursing practice. While I am not a nurse, there is much that she discusses that I can relate to. I too am a blond, blue-eyed, Canadian.

She asks some questions related to her growing understanding of racialisation. Here I am asking the same questions borrowed from her paper (154), but changing them to reflect my practice rather than a nursing practice.

  • How does being white shape my world view, my art making and my thesis writing?
  • What lessons about Whiteness am I learning (or having reinforced) through the institution of the art school?
  • How, if at all, do these lessons direct my theoretical and practical approach to research, art making, and writing?

Gustafson learns that “knowledge production is a political act” (155) and she writes:

My social location or, more precisely, my white identity influences what I see, the assumptions that focus my attention, the observations that I make, the problems I identify, the solutions that I generate and, more broadly, the knowledge that I produce (155).

This is very important. It is this awareness (along with all the other layers that make up my fluid identity), I believe, that is critical to art making. In my observation, and Gustafson’s (156-158), there is little self-examination by fellow artists whose lived experience is as a White person. I discussed this point in an email to my supervisor in relation to the book Themes of Contemporary Art: Visual Art after 1980 (2010), that in dealing with the subject of identity that the book uses examples of art and artists who do not deal with the subject of Whiteness from the point of view of a racially marked White person.

Gustafson’s approach to writing is an approach worth investigating as my writing begins to take shape. She, like Erdem Taşdelen, lets the reader know how her thinking developed and shares many of the questions that pushed her research forward. This is a strategy that I can also adopt.

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Work Cited

Gustafson, Diana L. “White on Whiteness: Becoming Radicalized about Race.” Nursing Inquiry 14.2 (2007): 153-61. EBSCO. Web. 14 Nov. 2011.


Activities since the last post have included:

  • marking 23 papers written on analysis of an art work with -insert name of methodology here- methodology
  • answering emails from students about why I marked above mentioned papers the way I did
  • reading Pink, edited by Barbara Nemitz
  • watching RIP!: A Remix Manifesto
  • reading about Nate Hill and his project as a White Ambassador at Hyperallergic
  • ignoring a facebook friend request from some guy named Emmanuel Sunday whom I don’t know
  • selling a work from the Skin Tags project
  • participating in a chat with Elisa Yon of QR_U (a project run out of Emily Carr University)
  • watching Jay Smooth – How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Discussing Race on TEDx‘s Youtube channel
  • reading about a controversial exhibition in Paris at the Quai Branly Museum called Human Zoos: The Invention of the Savage (and here).
  • reading about PETA not liking pubic hair – weird
  • writing about my dollhouse project
  • updating my thesis blog
  • helping students with their print-making projects – some of the students are so fantastic!
  • looking for a sources for the remaining parts for the stop-motion film
  • thinking about what I really want my thesis to be about (my previous outline should be file thirteened in my opinion and rewritten)
  • learning once again that some people really are disingenuous

Things With Thread

So, thinking about thread and string I took a quick look around. Use thread on window screen, burlap, paper, any material that can be pierced. “Thread” could be rope, cord, wire, etc.

Other people’s things with thread:

Michael Raedecker

We are all part of the same thing & I think it is interesting that the stitching is done on paper.

Michelle Ivory did some research for a project and a lot of what she found is thread and string projects.

Cardboard and thread.

I am only interested in the top image on this post.

An unusual sculpture.

Notes on Artists and Art

Brief posts noting questions or comments related to artists and their work.

  • Eduardo Sarabia
    “As the creator of fake evidence for his staged, semifictional events, Eduardo Sarabia places himself within a tradition of contemporary artists who mine culture for their performance-based satire…These theatrical situations revolve around Sarabia’s Latino heritage, which he both honors and mocks through his investigation of Mexican cultural clichés about drug smuggling, banditry, and the import/export of tawdry contraband.” Sarabia is an artist who works with narrative, while incorporating fiction.
  • Mark Wallinger
    About Ecce Homo: British artist Mark Wallinger produced Ecce Homo (1999) for the Fourth Plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square as part of a program to fill a large plinth that stood empty for over one hundred and fifty years. Ecce Homo is a cast sculpture of an ethnic European male meant to represent the figure of Christ. Of his sculpture Wallinger states, “ I wanted to show him as an ordinary human being” (emphasis mine) (Gibbons). In his statement, Wallinger makes no note of the figure’s race. He assumes European, or White, as representing ordinary humanity.
    Gibbons, Fiachra. “Behold Jesus, Just Another Ordinary Bloke.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 22 July 1999. Web. 30 Apr. 2012.
  • Jennifer Linton
    “The idealized view of domesticity that informed my childhood dollhouse is reconfigured by my adult self as a place much more complex, even contradictory, in nature. In stark contrast to the innocuous role-playing of childhood — when one could ‘play Mommy’ — as an actual parent, the actions I take have real life consequences. This simple fact can, at times, be the cause of anxiety.” (Linton’s website)
  • Jesse Hemminger
    “Yes, Viewing Device #3 obscures vision, much in the same way blinders on a horse obscure vision and at the same time also focus vision. In this case your attention is being focused on a work of art.” (email from the artist)
  • Tom Sachs
    “Sachs cultivates a trashy aesthetic. Each of his sculptures is hand made by piecing together plywood, foamcore, synthetic polymer paint, hardware, and found or scavenged objects such as phone books or police barricades. There’s no Prada Death Camp nor Chanel guillotine in the gallery this time but the titles and content of some of the works are nevertheless sure to get the public’s attention. First there’s Negro Music which you could regard as interactive. It’s a big white-painted box with a retro gangsta-style boombox inside, you insert your hands inside orange rubber gloves, rummage inside the box, select a k-7 of your favourite “negro” music, fiddle with the control buttons and play the music as loudly as you wish inside the gallery.” (Sperone Westwater)
  • mwangihutter
    fence, 2009
    What can I say except that I think this work is absolutely fantastic.
  • Becher and Robbins
    German Indians
    “Also, postwar Germans, discouraged from nationalism and group ritual, sense a permission to find themselves in other ethnic groups. And, perhaps, criticism of atrocities against Native Americans also gives Germans some sense of relief from their own shame of the holocaust.”
    This seems highly ironic to me and almost funny. As Žižek says in The Christian-Hegelian Comedy (2005) Slavoj Žižek writes: “Comedy is thus the very opposite of shame: shame endeavours to maintain the veil, while comedy relies on the gesture of unveiling. More closely, the comic effect proper occurs when, after the act of unveiling, one confronts the ridicule and the nullity of the unveiled content – in contrast to encountering behind the veil the terrifying Thing too traumatic for our gaze. Which is why the ultimate comical effect occurs when, after removing the mask, we confront exactly the same face as that of the mask” (Žižek 56).
    Žižek, Slavoj. “The Christian-Hegelian Comedy.” When Humour Becomes Painful. Ed. Felicity Lunn and Heike Munder. Zurich: JRP, Ringier, 2005. 52-58. Print.
  • William Pope.L
    Broken Column, 1992–95, mayonnaise in jars, packing tape, foil.
    “I wanted to talk to each particular group and have their differences communicate, collide, disagree, augment each other. I wanted to talk about everyone, everything at once as being mutual commodities on the shelf of the marketplace.” and “For me, mayonnaise is a bogus whiteness. It reveals its lack in a very material way. And the more you apply, the more bogus the act becomes. […] What is brownness as opposed to whiteness? Mayonnaise gave me a quirky material means to deal with issues black people claim they don’t value very much, e.g. whiteness. Black folks […] are born into whiteness. On the surface, it seems wholly to construct us, and the degree to which we may counter-construct sometimes seems very limited. […] Mayonnaise was a very useful and fresh way for me to get out of this dead-end: whiteness constructs blackness. Mayo and peanut butter allow me to think about race in a more playful, strange, and open-ended way. For example, the idea that there’s a pure good blackness or a pure bad whiteness is untenable for me.”
    Pope.L refers to whiteness as a commodity that non-whites also buy. Thinking about Breitz’s strategy I wonder if I can also adopt Pope.L’s or Glenn Ligon’s strategies for talking about whiteness.
  • Kristina Lee Podesva
    Brown Globe
    Podesva says: “Brown Globe proposes a chromatically coded world in which the global and the local and the universal and the particular merge as an alternative to binary expressions in black and white.”
    She is offering one solution to the binaries and that is mixture, or admixture. Is there room for difference? Is there a problem with difference? As an individual, everyone else is an Other.
  • Candice Breitz
    Ghost Series
    Breitz, a white artist, says in Candice Breitz and Louise Neri: Eternal Returns: “An artist like Ellen Gallagher – whose work I admire very much – is as likely as I am, as a white South African, to have her work read psycho-biographically, but to opposite effect. Which is to say that as an artist of colour she might be granted the licence to use certain strategies in her work that might be denied to me. Conversely, I am aware of the invisible power and privilege that come with being white. The Ghost Series was precisely about the violence that can be performed by whiteness.” You were criticised for the way you used images of black women? “How dare you cut up and white out black women?” was the question I was asked more than once (Nobody seemed to mind that I was cutting up white women too!). To be interesting, a question like that would have to include the workings of representation: “How dare you cut up images of black women?” To assume that an image can stand in transparently for that which it represents is problematic, especially given the fact that the source images that I was using to make those early works were images that had already been heavily conventionalised and encoded (by National Geographic or Hustler or Cosmopolitan).”
    I have asked the same question. Can I use strategies that are used by non-white artists?
  • Mary Kelly
    Post-Partum Document is a six-year exploration of the mother-child relationship. When it was first shown at the ICA in London in 1976, the work provoked tabloid outrage because Documentation I incorporated stained nappy liners. Each of the six-part series concentrates on a formative moment in her son’s mastery of language and her own sense of loss, moving between the voices of the mother, child and analytic observer. Informed by feminism and psychoanalysis, the work has had a profound influence on the development and critique of conceptual art.”
    Does Kelly, who is white, understand the significance of her work in light of the construction of whiteness? Is there an analysis of how her work either orients herself, or the viewers, away from or towards whiteness?
  • Georg Baselitz
    New show at the Gagosian
    “In his new paintings, larger than anything he has done previously, Baselitz has revisited provocative aspects of his own history, such as the fractured paintings of 1966, reinterpreting them with the experience of hindsight […] In Beginging (2011), and Ist Franz Pforr in Rom? (2011), genderless, abject bodies surge with color and life …”
    Does Baselitz, who is white, also think about the colour of the bodies he represents in his works? Does anyone else (critics and reviewers) think about that?
  • Nate Hill
    The White Ambassador
    Not sure what I think of this project, although he does get a lot of response when he is in ‘black” neighbourhoods.
    White Power Milk
    White women gargle milk to purify it.
    I won’t pretend that my thoughts on this are original. Others have critiqued that it is highly sexual, pornographic, and doesn’t address male power in the project. I am thinking however, of how it might relate to Richard Dyer’s description of white women in White (1997)  as the “bearers of whiteness” (57).
  • Terence Koh
    In Terence Koh’s words: ‘I’m like the captain in Moby Dick. I’m trying to find the White Whale in the white objects, but in the end I find nothing.'” and “In Koh’s work, cultural identity also emerges from a seemingly infinite palette of possibilities: as neither-here-nor-there, as ceaseless change, as transition between Asia, America and Europe, but also as a diversion. This play on the artist’s own existence is reflected in his work in such objects as dynamic, modularly stacked display-case architectures furnished with a varied selection of white objects. On closer examination, these objects appear to be the global jetsam of all places and times, stranded high and dry in a pale, strange and often grotesque beauty. Coated in white by the artist as if by a wise taxidermist, they are presented to coming generations as scrupulously preserved treasures.”
  • Nora Howell
    Cracker Dress

    “The dresses were created to initiate a conversation about race and racism.” and “Whatever the origin of the term, I use the cracker as a metaphor for a person with white skin, hence the name of the Cracker Dress: ‘White Girl’s Birthday Suit.’
    Looking at the photos I’m not sure the dresses do what she hopes they do.
  • Hans Ulrich Obrist
    Hans Ulrich Obrist
    on “The White Website by Hans Bernhard”
    “From the empty image to the empty gallery, from the white painting to the “white cube” (O’Doherty), we see the iconoclastic gesture of modern art.” and “To be able to maintain its significance up against the sciences and their picture-producing procedures, art must look for a position beyond the crisis of representation and beyond the image wars straight into the blind spaces of the black black and the white.”
    Look for a position into the blind spaces of “black black” and “the white”?
  • David Adey
    Does David Adey, who is white, notice that the majority of the skin samples he took are from light-skinned people (also probably women)? While we collectively know that whites are overrepresented in fashion magazines, it is also apparent that racial distinctions are based on more than skin colour. Does he draw a line between where white skin starts and ends? There is a connection between this work and my Skin Tags project.
  • Do Ho Suh
    Do Ho Suh’s ‘Cause & Effect’ Artwork to be Installed at WWU
    This is what is said about it: “The mindset of the individual, coming together as a group,” and “The work is an attempt to decipher the boundaries between a single identity and a larger group, and how the two conditions coexist,” and “‘It comes from a belief that every individual is spawned from the lives he/she may have lived previously. The vertical context of the figures becomes a collection of past influences, and again, begins to define the inherent powers and energies that characterize an individual,’ he [Doh Ho Suh] said.”
    Why are all the figures male? And how much were the workers paid who produced all these tiny resin figures? What does that have to do with whiteness?

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Visual Context

These works are related to my project visually, where I have gone as well as where I am looking to go.


  • Barbara Kruger, Power Pleasure Desire Disgust, 1997
  • Joseph Kosuth, Titled [Art as Idea (as Idea)] [meaning], 1967-68
    One and Three Chairs, 1965 (
  • Pierre Huyghe, Disclaimer, 2006
  • Nedko Solakov, El Bulgaro, 2000
  • Mary Kelly, Post-Partum Document: Documentation IV, Transitional Objects, Diary and Diagram, 1976
  • Sharon Hayes, In the Near Future, 2005


  • Thomas Hirschhorn, Jumbo Spoons, 2000
  • Mike Kelley, John Glenn Memorial Detroit River Project (Including the Local Culture Pictoral Guide, 1869-1972, Wayne Westland Eagle), 2001
  • Pipilotti Rist, Receiver, 2003
  • Marcel Duchamp, De ou par Marcel Duchamp ou Rose Selavy (Boite, Series B), Begun in Paris 1941, completed in New York 1942-54
  • Susan Hiller, Dedicated to the Unknown Artists, 1972-76
  • Charles Ledray, Oasis, 1996-2003
  • Joseph Kosuth, The Play of the Unmentionable, 1990
  • Susan Hiller, From the Freud Museum, 1991-1997
  • Carol Bove, Das Energi, 2005-06
  • Nari Ward, Reading Room, 2004
  • Mark Dion, Tate Thames Dig, 1999 (
  • Aby Warburg, The Mnemosyne Atlas, 1879?-1929 (
  • Julia Scher, Fibroid Reliquary Table #2, 1996


  • Felix Gonzales Torres, Untitled (Death by Gun), 1990
  • John Baldessari, Prima Facie (Fifth State): Warm Brownie/American Cheese/Carrot Stick/Black Bean Soup/Perky Peach/Leek, 2006
  • Byron Kim, Synecdoche, 1991-present (

Hair/Body Parts

  • Lorna Simpson, Wigs (portfolio), 1994
  • Kira O’Rielly, Wet Cup, 2000


  • Vik Muniz, Mass from the series Pictures of Chocolate, 1997
  • Glenn Ligon, Untitled (I’m Turning Into a Specter Before Your Very Eyes and I’m Going to Haunt You), 1992 (oil stick)
  • Titus Kaphar, “I still don’t know how it ended like this, but it began when one of the older women called her blackness into question,” (2007) (tar)
  • Stephen Shearer, Poems XX, 2005 (charcoal on paper) (
  • Also looking for work related to makeup

Other Visual Ideas

  • Cosima von Bonin, Tudor House, 1997 (use of fabric panels)
  • Nathalie Djurberg, New Movements in Fashion, 2006 (clay doll animations)
  • Tony Oursler, Flood or Fear with Bugs, 2009 (constructed house)
  • Mickalene Thomas, Din Avec La Main Dans Le Miroir, 2008 (use of materials as well as idea of challenging perceptions of black women)
  • Rosemarie Trockel, Freude, 1998 (cross-stitch)
  • Kara Walker, Untitled, 2001-05, set of collages on paper (insertion of black bodies into civil war images)
  • Dash Snow, Untitled (At Least They Died Together), 2007 (collaged image onto newspaper page)

Roy Arden’s “Bike”

At the CAG. Roy Arden. I am riding the art.
At the CAG. Roy Arden. I am riding the art.

I don’t recall the name of the work, but the show is called Under the Sun. It is on now at the CAG until March 27. I carved out a couple of hours from a busy weekend full of family obligations to stop for a visit. The “bike” does not go anywhere; the “windmill” (it might better be called a pedal-mill since it is not moved by wind, but pedal power) does not store energy.

Arden’s collage work was the main focus of my visit, since I am working on some ideas related to collage.

A Morning at the SAM

Inopportune: Stage One

This past weekend, my significant other and I spent the late morning and early afternoon at the SAM in Seattle. While being thrilled to see so many works I have previously been observing in ink on paper, such as Cai Guo-Qiang’s Inopportune: Stage One, Do-Ho Suh’s Some/One, Glenn Ligon’s Stranger in the Village (Excerpt), #7, I was especially interested in the work of Titus Kaphar in the show History in the Making.

Again a fascination with the work of non-white males. I thought the work had the best of both worlds: great skill and great ideas. The quality of the painting draws me in while the cutting and tarring keep me engaged with what Kaphar is trying to tell me.

Really you should see it for yourself:

Better yet, head over to the SAM while it is still on.


Bogus, paper on paper, 22 x 30 inches
Bogus, paper on paper, 22 x 30 inches

About Bogus

Many race theorists include in their discussions a quote from Melville’s Moby Dick, “a colorless, all-color of atheism from which we shrink”. Bogus consists of each occurrence of the word “white”, or variations of it, carefully cut from a copy of Moby Dick, glued onto a sheet of white paper.


Pontiac Laurentian, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48 or something like that.
Pontiac Laurentian, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48 or something like that.
Pontiac Laurentian, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48 or something like that.
Pontiac Laurentian, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48 or something like that.


I am in the middle of a project involving the arbitrary approval and/or disapproval of passages in the Bible. Something people, at the very least, do in their minds.

This is the wrong side of the volume cover that will be titled “NO.”


Art & Criticism

Like a fellow classmate, I did enjoy reading Round Table: The Present Conditions of Art Criticism published by The MIT Press Journals. I fantasized about people sitting together and discussing without interruption and wondered if I would ever have the pleasure. (oops was I being sarcastic?) I did also note that this article is just the beginning of what could be so many discussions about art, artists, critics and writing (and magazines and their audiences). There is a goldmine of topic starters.

As I read I made notations and these are some of the main ones and based on my understanding of the discussion and context.

The role of critic has been diminished. The reasons, as far as I can tell, are complicated. Art has become more about investment rather than commentary or visual discussion among other reasons. Storr mentions (203) that the language in criticism is difficult and I agree. I would not go so far as to say it should be dumbed down, but sometimes that is exactly how it makes me feel, like a dummy. What I conclude when I approach difficult articles is that someone like me makes the art and someone else writes the criticism, but I may not be the person it is written for. At least not at my level. Ha, no one is writing about my work anyway! lol.

I appreciated parts of the discussion where teaching (at least for me) was occurring. The delineation between the economic and intellectual markets, for instance. Or the way in which writing legitimizes certain art practices. And the discussion around judgment and interpretation was useful. Also helpful was Buchloh’s explanation of academic criticism versus the artist critic. I agreed with Molesworth’s comment (207) that “there is always a benefit to a discursive.”

I wondered where some comments leave me. Baker says “a younger generation that has not had as much public discourse to develop that their criteria are (210),” and Miller repeats it with “the invocation of the youth culture…either older artists are affirmed as quasi-masters, or the artist is young and their work has to have some kind of relation to D.J. Culture or something similar. (218)”

I was interested in the discussion surrounding collaboration as I am also just finishing the Web2.0 class which discusses peer to peer networks and mass collaboration as culture creators. Buchloh (215) points out that thinking we are actually collaborating is a false assumption based on the way power is, in reality, distributed. Something that I realized in the other class too is that mass collaboration is only democratic when everyone has a computer, has an Internet connection, and has the tools to create. Hello, there may be 1 billion people like that, but that leaves over 5 billion of them without. Poor and illiterate (and mostly female too?) people would be my guess.

An affirmation for me was the discussion surrounding site-specificity and context. For round-table participants, as writers, it is important, but also for artists. As Fraser says (223) “I do believe that artists have a responsibility to think critically about their contexts…” Storr also comments (224) that for writers it is important “not to get stuck in one register.” Ditto that for artists!

Purely fun was the comment by Storr on 215 where he says, “No I don’t. And that is insider or coterie talk, because you’re saying, ‘Yes, you know who they are,’ and I don’t know who they are. So tell me.” I laughed so hard.

I suppose that critics could be helped if I subscribe to October magazine?


Monsignior (self-portrait), Oil on canvas, 76.2 x 76.2 cm (30 x 30 in), 2007
Monsignior (self-portrait), Oil on canvas, 76.2 x 76.2 cm (30 x 30 in), 2007

This is a reinterpretation of Monseigneur Rémi Gaulin (1838) by Quebec painter Jean-Baptiste Roy-Audy (1778-1848).