Copyright (c) 2006 TROY DAVID OUELLETTE.Website Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License". <a href="http://www.facebook.com/p/Troy_Ouellette/862845533" title="Troy Ouellette's Facebook profile" target=_TOP><img src="http://badge.facebook.com/badge/862845533.719.2145444816.png" border=0 alt="Troy Ouellette's Facebook profile"></a>
Troy David Ouellette is a recent PhD graduate from York University. He graduated from the University of Windsor with an M.F.A. and holds a B.F.A. from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. His early work in 1991 examined consumer culture leading to the creation of kinetic sculptures that utilized mass-produced electronic consumer products, which he used to animate his sculptures. Ouellette produced his first solar powered sculpture, Dark Resistance, in 2001 while at artist-in-residence at TempLO in Houston, Texas. Many of his recent works demonstrate how architecture, sculpture and out-dated technologies can be harmoniously incorporated to help reduce the environmental impact on our communities. His work has been included in several solo and group exhibitions in Canada. Ouellette was the Sculpture Facilitator at The Banff Centre for the Arts, where he built the Centre’s first bronze casting and robotic facilities within the sculpture space.
== Recent Work == Urban Archivist Performance Photo
The Fog Factory is a portable, nomadic structure designed to be, “positioned” within various locations in an urban environment. As disposable architecture, it utilizes recyclables in its construction. Its utter failure as a greenhouse or functional structure directs the viewer’s attention to its unreliability, a challenge to the utopian idea of sustainability.
The main structure alludes to the Buddhist concept of emptiness. It is the emptiness of the unseen refuse as the other of consumption, which gives shape to part of the structure. The stacks mimic the industrial city as the fog rises and fades and alludes to the current state of culture as it relates to the bewilderment of position - the challenges of ideas regarding selfhood, presence, truth and origin. The discarded vessels that make up the skin of the structure become emblematic of the disparate locations from which the material was used, discarded and finally gathered in a transparent mapping of locations and circumstances that coalesce in this intervention.
Statement on The Politics of Trade and Trash
When I first set out to collect trash alongside Huron Church Road in Windsor, Ontario, I had no idea that I would be bringing back two garbage bags full of items that ranged from receipts for paper shredders to bottled water. I was amazed at the implications this suggested – namely that we have very little control over our lives as citizens to assert rights regarding quality of life. This also holds true in terms of ethical input to change the direction of systems of technology. Virtually everything has become commodified. Although our democratic institutions profess to allow for the commercial exchanges to provide for a variety of products it could be suggested, by the evidence of the garbage within this project, that there is actually little variety. Our free agency and our ability to build a community with local resources is almost non-existent. The western economy is built on a paradigm that regards nature as a resource. The implications of such an attitude do not bode well for the future.
Growing up in the 1970s it was unthinkable that, in the near future, bottled water would become a common commodity one simply trusted the local water authority to do their job with local taxes. Industry was expected to be ethical enough to dispose of waste properly, although it often didn't. This lack of ethical integrity, the prioritization of profit over public welfare has persisted and grown. As Herbert Marcuse commented, "There is no personal escape from the apparatus which has mechanized and standardized the world, (66) For me it was important to make this visible.
The statement by Herbert Marcuse offers up very little room to manoeuvre in terms of individual autonomy indeed he also points out that many scientific discoveries are shelved as soon as they interfere with profitable marketing. This is in his essay the “Social Implications of Technology”. 1982
By manipulating the garbage collected I fashioned a map of North America and local area, graphs, and a display showing the contents of what had been archived from a performance of garbage collecting. The introduction of “old” technology the computer references a system of technological production and commodity. In this case a very hopeless system indeed, tethered to its trademark umbilical electrical cord, which powers a tiny display listing the items gathered. The display technology exemplifies what Derrida referred to as "Archive Fever." 'Archive Fever]]' demonstrates the mnemonic unreliability of the archive, which at once preserves and institutes the "true" interpretation, the traditional reception of the material it records. Just as the encyclopedic documentation purveys a universal order and is disrupted by difference - gaps and fissures in the order of things and is subsumed by an "irrepressible desire to return to the origin, a homesickness, a nostalgia for the return to the most archaic place of absolute commencement."(91) The graph or chart is a manifestation of data collection, forecasting trends and events from the downturn of the stock market to sales forecasts. They are inextricably tied to notions of progress. By the juxtaposition of the map, the graphs become suspect and open to question.
My pursuit to determine the origin of waste was made manifest through the stringing together of various locations that became increasingly futile. Although a package may say, "Made in Canada", the paper resources may be from the United States, the ink may be from Mexico, and the manufacturing facilities may have been in Toronto, with the package stored in a warehouse in Hamilton. What seems like rubbish from Windsor is a misnomer, although the responsibility in terms of collection and accumulation is another question. The map operates as a bridge from the manufacture to the hand fashioned cultural artefact and is a step towards the realization that artists in general sample from the things found in visual and commercial culture. However the continent of North America is consumed itself awash in garbage a landscape that has no horizon and is utterly overwhelmed by the commercial enterprises that seal its fate as only resource. In turn the artwork also becomes a commodity. The differences in material, the chemical evidence of the objects manufactured, the distances packaging travels and the affect of processes of weather on the rubbish are coupled with the marketing strategies of a capitalist economy and are laid bare. This is an Orwellian pop art one which contains all the trappings regarding the assertions for the rights of individuals to have unlimited variety of goods but, at the same time, realise that there is something amiss. Problems that arise from excessive amounts of trash are certainly not lost on municipalities and environmentalists but again Marcuse's comment becomes all the more poignant because there seems to be little change in terms of limiting growth in some areas while encouraging others. This is the heteronomy of the masses – heteronomy in the Kantian sense, which under a capitalist meritocracy promotes all kinds of nasty things. These range from the notion that there always needs to be growth in markets (no matter what the cost) to the degradation of social spaces and alienation where the individual is lost in a sea of products and unattainable standards.
Whatever notions of progress we have, are mediated by technology, a consumer of a good in their quid pro quo transaction simply buys the good on the assumption that the product has been managed in a particular way. There is usually no concern regarding the circumstances that resulted in the items production.
One couldn’t imagine product packaging reading: this item was not union made instead it was produced with materials from an important watershed made from sweetshop labour under a totalitarian tyranny with genetically modified organisms from countless hours of animal testing and undetectable nano technologies. Instead we get exhibit 3 "Blair’s Death Rain - Buffalo Wing” Chips from extream foods or exhibit 57 Nestle "Pure Life" Natural Spring Water 16.9 fl oz clear bottle blue, red print. If the old axiom is “knowledge is power” then the other location, location, location is also power as portable technologies and RFID tags track positions of consumers, goods and delivery of services all in the name of efficiency and convenience. These things must obviously play out in a democracy but what will the checks and balances be? Will there be an opportunity for citizens to influence the direction of technology other than by the purchases they choose to make? What kind of models of control are people of differences willing to accept and how can we make technology more adaptive to use rather use a model of planned obsolescence and upgrade fever.
Marcuse, Herbert. Social Implications of Technology. Readings in the Philosophy of Technology. Kaplan. Roman and Littlefield Publishers Inc.2004
Derrida, Jacques. Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. Trans. Eric Prenowitz. Chicago, University of Chicago Press. 1997.
Windsor Plants - January, 2006
This work confronts the trivialized actions of labour within society. It is a critique that postulates that much of aesthetic practice happens when people improve communities by enhancing their homes, property, rental units or gardens. This is work outside of “real work”. What people do outside their workplace has become equated with leisure rather than regarded as an integral component of community life. This is also true of child rearing or cooking and other cultural activities.
This exchange/work exists within the gallery and consist of seeds that I have harvested, in my garden, over the summer. These sunflower seeds are contained within small, 2 1/4” x 3” envelopes, with instructions for planting in the spring and harvesting in the fall. These small envelopes are push-pinned to the wall in a grid format. There is also be a food bank collection receptical for the participant to donate whatever they can financially. In exchange they can take an envelope containing the 3 sunflower seeds. Removing the pushpin they will show where they intend to plant the seeds in the community indicating this with a pushpin on a map of Windsor provided beside the envelopes.
This work references volunteer labour by referencing the food bank, which was/is essential in helping to feed striking workers and the working poor. It further emphasises the value of local knowledge, (planting and harvesting), being traded to enhance life in the community. Unseen or unacknowledged labour = invisible work
Power Play, Performance
The Waste Collective Inc., Blenheim Ontario, 2005 solar panel, proton exchange membrane, water, gear motor
This performance was staged at a gas station in rural Blenheim Ontario – in the heart of an ethanol producing community. The performance began by making of hydrogen from a solar current. The hydrogen production is then used to power a small motor. The process calls into question the need for fossil fuels when there are so many alternatives. It’s a small intervention that gets little attention but seeks to critique our on-going acceptance in the use of gasoline in spite of its environmental consequences.
The Envirobotic Greenhouse
There has been recent interest in the renewal of urban gardens or what is sometimes referred to as UA or urban agriculture. All of this interest can be boiled down to a number of factors that have coalesced in recent times. The rise of fossil fuel costs, the questionable use of pesticides, herbicides and factory farming – not to mention GMO’s, and of course a general concern for the environment. We live in a world with its faced-paced fashions and trends, with its speed of communication and travel, where most people find it hard to slow down for a stoplight let alone have the patients to dig a garden and tend it. Most see it as a hobby something to do in ones spare time (if they have any).
The premise of the greenhouse covers a lot of ground. Physically the greenhouse is situated at a 61° angle to a south facing sun to maximize heating during the winter at the latitude where I am situated. It measures 12’ x 12’. I have tried, wherever possible, to use recycled material or second hand material and have put a limitation on the greenhouse structure, that is, that there would be no wood products used in its construction. This has hampered the speed of its construction and has driven the cost up a bit but it is almost complete. The insulation of the three walls and ceiling is made of recycled cotton covered with strawboard. The metal skeletal structure is made from sixteenth inch steel. The lattice structure in the front-facing window looks back to the days of 1970’s idealism as it relates to the interest in geometry but more than this – it seemed appropriate to use the stellar dendrite hexagon as a symbol of cold climates and snow. This is a visual symbol of the way in which water molecules freeze to form hexagons and further references the sun. The light of the south facing window is conveyed through Verolite polycarbonate twinwall and is excellent in light transmission and fair as a thermal barrier. The greenhouse is situated on a concrete pad which absorbs some heat energy to release at night but most of this will come from the barrels of water on the inside north wall. Once the greenhouse is finished I hope to add electronic components to control soil moisture and irrigation, ventilation, and lighting all derived from hydrogen/solar power.
When I started work on the Envirobotic Greenhouse, about four years ago, I was starting to see that there was a precedent for much of this work back in the 1970’s. The idealism that swept through the youth at the time was bringing about change that was challenging the existing models of trade and capital. Monsanto, a company known for its biotech and precision farming today, was actually building innovative greenhouses in the seventies but of course it didn’t take long for them to realize that they needed to patent life and produced terminator seeds to turn huge profits. There were projects, here in Canada like John Todd’s Ark in P.E.I., that were on the cutting edge of technology and design which were inspiring people from all over the world. The Canadian ark had within it a barn with space for food preservation, a human habitation with a composting toilet, a research lab, a greenhouse, aquaculture systems, hydroponic experiments, commercial crops, integrated pest controls, and a bench for propagating the roots of tree cuttings. The ARK still exists today, but not in its former glory.