Stratiform is an exhibition featuring work by Berlin- and Saskatchewan-based artist Kara Uzelman. The exhibition is Uzelman’s first solo presentation in Vancouver, and was conceived in the context of a larger series of works and events exploring contemporary forms of melancholy.
Stratiform is an exploration of the melancholic object. Melancholy, it seems, hangs with particular heaviness around objects. As urban subjects, we surround ourselves with an unprecedented volume of material things: objects fix us in time and place, while remaining fundamentally silent, inert and indifferent.
One might argue that the work of many contemporary artists, designers and curators—much of it concerned with fragments, ruins and retreats from definitive meanings—is itself bound up with a melancholic desire to fill in “the missing.” Our current cultural moment (i.e., late Late Capitalism) could be defined by a kind of unprecedented melancholic drive, fuelled in part by an endless proliferation of things, none of which can ever satisfy our desire for a deeper connection with our physical world. Our persistent attachment to objects and their ultimate distance from us: this paradox underpins Stratiform.
Kara Uzelman’s work offers an evocative lens through which to consider the melancholy of objects. With a background in contemporary art, urban planning and archaeology, Uzelman constructs elaborate pseudo-historical narratives for hitherto discarded, forlorn objects. She works with scavenged materials to explore the possible stories embedded in found materials. Her growing body of work has consistently evaluated the object’s potential for alternative sources of meaning beyond what is read or understood on the surface. Uzelman’s work is an interruption in our collective drive towards mega-production and the disposable object; it proposes a landscape in which objects begin to assert themselves and reveal layer upon layer of alternative meaning.
The work in Stratiform stems from Uzelman’s recent move to rural Saskatchewan, and her research into renegade communities that have historically populated this remote area. Sourcing materials from garage sales, adhoc excavations, and exploratory meanderings in the countryside, this series is composed of an ongoing collection of fabricated artefacts and documented site works. Uzelman engages techniques associated with regional homesteading, survivalist culture, and experimental archaeology. Through this collection of objects and imagery, a material language of salvaged and reassembled twentieth century refuse is developed, generating a gateway for reflection on the possible past and future of objects, their lost histories and their possible stories.
This exhibition is accompanied by the publication Unknown Objects by poet and essayist Lisa Robertson, an artist edition by Kara Uzelman and Jeffrey Allport, and SAD, a series of events and discussions on the subject of melancholy and commiseration.