I’m wrapping up assessments for stage two of my program, which means I’m entering my third and final stage. All the constituent parts of my project are made, I just need to figure out how to assemble it all. I’m trying to make a filmic installation that you need to manoeuvre around and “read” to understand the whole story.
At the start of my course, I was working with “hard data”: archival, historical and observed material. Now I’m writing my own narrative and extrapolating from reality. I ain’t making a documentary!
The uncosmopolitan, life on the fringes, gentrification, land use, spectatorship, money and the loneliness of urban life: instead of trying to explain or illustrate these abstract ideas, I’ve found a thing (dog racing) that can stand in as a concrete example of them.
Even though my subject matter appears Britain-specific, it does come from my experience growing up in Abbotsford, BC, and coming of age in the hardcore punk scene (gag). In the industrial suburbs, if you want to have fun you have to make it your own way. When I moved to Vancouver I was appalled by the aggressive ways in which the city was trying to fabricate culture through urban planning. They don’t trust people to make their own culture. One of the most important ideas in punk culture is that you are your own expert.
I’m the token graphic designer in my course so I’ve been busy creating promo material for exhibitions and posters for bands. I don’t identify with either art or design and I feel like I’ve got one foot in the door and the other foot out. I use my in-between position to avoid conflict and commitment. It’ll catch up with me one day!
Outside of school, I found my outlet: beekeeping! I got involved with a local beekeeping society and am taking informal lessons on apiary management. I’m becoming a total fucking nerd, that person who shoehorns bee facts into every conversation. I like beekeeping because you need to think beyond your own life/ daily schedule and be a steward to living things that can also fuck you up.
My teacher’s hives are outside the city limits near the veterinary school. I visit once a week in my street clothes,
enter the supply shed and emerge wearing my Hazmat bee suit, ready for business. I love the sound of thousands of bees around you, it’s meditative.
Beekeeping has also taught me I’m less of a city person than I thought. I like my solitude and isolation. I especially like being on the fringes of the city, minding my own business. I’m a bit of a junkyard dog.
Surprising results in the local elections: Conservatives won a ton of seats in Scotland, a first in recent history. I think it’s because Brexit is scaring moderate people who are turned off by the SNP’S push for independence. It’s an unstable time here in the UK. It feels like the dystopian hell-hole in Children of Men. If I do anything of substance during my time here, maybe it’s my vote in the June general election.
Glasgow’s been a great antidote to my life in Vancouver and a good choice for this point in my life. I can’t imagine what it’s like to grow up here, or be stuck here, for that matter. I have the incredible privilege of being mobile and I must remember that. Life here is hard. Not depressing, but everything is rough: the people, the food, the weather, the humour, the economy, the outlook on the future. The beaches are covered in jagged pebbles and the water is fucking freezing. The Big Brother aspect of the UK brings me down: CCTV, rules, regulations, order and castes. I suppose that’s what happens after thousands of years of social stratification and inequality.
I’m seeing Canada with a new perspective. I wouldn’t have identified with being Canadian before I came here, but I definitely do now. I’m excited to return to Vancouver later this year and see what’s next! I need to get a dog, guys. I hope you’re all alive and well.
These are all woodcuts on paper and fabric. The picture hanging in the top right is a drawing. I’m sewing these banners that are inspired by football fan flags and union banners. The colourful things with numbers on them, on the table, are actual dog-racing jackets used in races. Not sure what I’m going to do with them.
Christine Novosel is a graphic artist from British Columbia. She lives in Glasgow.