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ABOVE: materials collected by Lezli Rubin-Kunda for her September 2000
Gallery One One One installation.
LEZLI RUBIN-KUNDA "LOCAL ACTIVITY"
curated by Cliff Eyland. (The following text is by Eyland.)
Lezli Rubin-Kunda's installation and performance happened within a season of related Gallery One One One exhibitions in the year 2000 at that attempted to illuminate current practices in performance, installation, and architectural art.
Rubin-Kunda's work is repetitive, and makes reference to domestic activities using a frugality of means. Her Gallery One One One installation attempted to connect her to the Winnipeg world of her grandmother and her immigrant experience of unceasing domestic labor, her struggle to create an ordered space, and her attempt to find roots in a new country.
The artist collected and utilized local materials from the immediate Manitoba environment (see image above) in order to construct temporary installations, objects and drawings. During her exhibition, she carried out personal ritual activities in the Gallery One One One space. It was, for her, a way to form connections to place, to feel "at home" in the world, both locally and within the fragile conditions of our existence on the planet. Lezli Rubin-Kunda has been carrying out these activities in the various places in which she has lived, in Canada, the United States, and Israel.
Opening day Gallery One One One was blank. Over the next two weeks Lezli Rubin-Kunda worked, but not towards a "final" installation, because much of the work was disassembled as she went along. At the end of the show's run only two piles of performance residue remained on the floor. The exhibition's last week was comprised of Polaroid shots of activities, a diary, and an edited videotape of the week's work, all visible in the gallery windows of an otherwise inaccessible space.
One of those activities involved Lezli Rubin-Kunda and I going to a desert, a sacred native site called "The Spirit Sands" near Carberry, Manitoba. It seemed an appropriate place to take a Canadian artist who lives in Israel.
Above: Lezli Rubin-Kunda in the Carberry desert in Manitoba, Canada.
Rubin-Kunda has made art in Canada, the United States, and Israel, but this is her first Winnipeg show. Winnipeg was Rubin-Kunda's mother's home town, visited many times by the artist as a child but less frequently as an adult, the place where her mother's parents and other relatives arrived from the old country to set up a new home. Rubin-Kunda envisioned a Gallery One One One exhibition partly as a way to connect herself to the world of her grandmother's
immigrant experience, with its unceasing domestic labors, and its struggle to create an ordered space and roots in a new country.
The artist's mother thought of Winnipeg as just a place -- "Bugs in the summer and freezing in the winter."
"When my grandmother came to Winnipeg it was all about getting food on the table," says Rubin-Kunda.
Immigrants often moved on in those days without having the time or money to enjoy much or to make connect to their new surroundings.
"For them it was a random place," says the artist.
This is how the artist works: she collects local materials from the immediate environment and constructs temporary installations, objects and drawings, and she carries out personal ritual activities that she documents in video, notes and photographs. The work often involves repetitive activity and frugal means; she calls it "busy work."
While she was in Winnipeg she spent two weeks walking and driving around Winnipeg and its outskirts, tracing her mother's childhood haunts, gathering materials, performing on-site little rituals, and meeting with relatives and friends. Gathered materials were brought into the gallery space to sort, order, pile, and hang in different configurations.
This activity helped and helps Rubin-Kunda to "form connections to a place," to feel "at home" in the world within "the fragile conditions of our existence on the planet." Her work is aligned with the material sensibilities of 60s artists such as Eva Hesse, but she sees her work as being "more akin to transient art forms of those times, like the work of the British land artist Richard Long, Fluxus artists who created 'events,' and to artists like Mendieta, who used her own body with materials to create the work, which then only survives as a document."
Lezli Rubin-Kunda's choice of materials and activities depends on the seasonal availability of things, on chance encounters with people, and on a certain personal "repertoire" of substances which includes domestic materials like baking soda. (Interestingly, the artist associates baking soda not only with domestic activity but also with the Gulf War, when Israelis jammed up cracks at the bottom of doors with it in anticipation of Saddam Hussein's gas attacks. Rubin-Kunda noted that the baking soda was often employed incorrectly. Fortunately the gas attacks never came.) At one point the artist sprinkled baking soda within a circle on the gallery floor, lay her body down in it, and made a "snow angel." Hence Rubin-Kunda's "domestic" material became both a teaspoon by teaspoon sign of the (non-domestic) violence of war and also a citation of Canadian childhood play. (Her angel making activity, as well as some other repeated rituals, are carried out in different places and contexts, for example, just before her Gallery One One One show she made angels in a German military installation with flour.)
Rubin-Kunda does a kind of conscious dream work with the local things that she collects, as if to worry away some anxiety. She collected burrs and at Gallery One One One "angrily" stuck them to a sweater; she mulched crab apples with her feet; she pinned together yellow birch leaves found on the University of Manitoba campus into a yellow "scarf," which she then covered with baking soda; she threw the spores of a plant called "Russian thistle" into the air and let them land on her face; and she bit the shells off sunflower seeds and spit them into a circle delineated by wine glasses filled with yellow cooking oil.
Rubin-Kunda has her own personal associations with each activity and material. For example, she associates sunflower seeds with Israel, where many people nervously eat seeds out of bowls they keep for social gatherings, while maintaining that the material and actions are both about themselves, and -- for both artist and viewer -- about "connotations arrived at intuitively."
The Lezli Rubin-Kunda: Local Activity CD-ROM includes material about other Gallery One One One shows. For information please contact Robert Epp, firstname.lastname@example.org Gallery One One One, School of Art, Main Floor, FitzGerald Building, University of Manitoba Fort Garry campus, Winnipeg, MB, CANADA R3T 2N2 TEL:204 474-9322 FAX:474-7605