CINDY BAKER, festival animator

Biography

Interdisciplinary and performance artist Cindy Baker is passionate about gender culture, queer theory, fat activism and art theory. Baker considers context her primary medium, working with whatever materials are needed to allow her to concentrate on the theoretical, conceptual and ephemeral aspects of her work. She believes that her art exists in its experience, and not in its objects.

Some of Baker’s biggest interests are skewing context and (re)examining societal standards, especially as they relate to language and dissemination of information, and she perceives a need for intervention and collaboration, both within the art world and in the community at large.

With a background of working, volunteering, and sitting on the board for several artist-run centres in Western Canada, Cindy has a particular professional interest in the function of artist-run centres as a breeding ground of deviation. She is based out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Artist Statement

As a context-driven artist, I consider my art to exist in its’ experience, process, and dissemination more than its objects. As a professional artist, I do not think of myself as an expert, but as a curious explorer. My artworks are not statements, they are a series of questions that I am actively seeking answers to. It is the search for these answers that forms the basis of my artistic practice.

Because of my focus on the experience and the relationship between artist, art and audience, a lot of my work that exists as objects are, to me, primarily artifacts of performative acts, or props for connecting me and the art to the audience. Objects that in the past contained memories of the act which resulted in their creation (performance ephemera) have slowly given way to objects created in expectation of the acts which they will exist in the service of, either by me or by others. To me, the art does not exist except within its animation by an audience, whether that audience is a gallery visitor, a person on the street, or someone who I have contracted to create the work with me. Because it is those relationships that are essential to my work, I often implicate other people in the performance or creation of my work, usually as a hybrid of contracted employee/volunteer/ audience member/collaborator.

Much of my work that could be considered performative is actually performed by the audience. The distinction I make between ‘performative’ and ‘interactive’ is that interactive art is art that needs an outside hand to fully realize the art object itself; it is the object that is being acted upon and that needs completion. I consider my objects performative because in themselves, they are complete objects – it is the object (or its context) which acts upon the viewer, and the experience of the art exists within that space between the viewer and the object, in how they feel and how they react and what they decide to do relative to that object. I have also made work which could be considered performative that is actually performed by a contracted third person, Most often, I have employed a professional to do that which it is there profession to do, and it is the artistic context which turns the carrying out of this work into a performative act, In these cases, the art is not only in what happens between performer and audience, but performer and artist as well, in the act and in the complicated relationship between them. I feel that my art is successful when I am learning or experiencing at least as much as the audience. When I stop learning from or being challenged by a work, that’s when I am done presenting it.

Since some of my biggest interests are skewing context and (re)examining societal standards, especially as they relate to language and dissemination of information, I have a particular professional interest in the function of artist-run centres as a breeding ground of deviation and sanctioned dissent. I am titillated by the ironic implications of officially endorsed and publicly funded guerrilla art; art which not only potentially bites the hand that feeds it (which much art does and many artists do, as well), but art which exists in the activity of biting that hand. Spending the majority of my existence in regionally isolated areas, whose arts communities are often very one-sided, I see the need for intervention and collaboration, both within the art world and in the community at large.

Most of my work is culturally driven – I cull from my surroundings. I am a sponge. Specifically, I’m interested in things that are awkward, out of place or pathetic and therefore draw attention to themselves. There is an obsessive nature to my work; I am a paranoiac and am easily affected by insignificant things. My work takes those things and makes them literally as important as they seem in my head, to display their absurdity and somehow trivialize my own worries. I am very interested in language, symbols and codes, especially those that are developed or altered by small communities or subcultures and therefore have meaning within a group but may easily have other meanings or be misinterpreted outside of that community. I think there is somewhat of a self-deprecating humour to my art, but by working with not only my own but also other people’s words, phrases and ideas, I am pointing out the absurdity that I see around me.

Though I try to fashion my work to be humourous or visually seductive, or able to be easily read at a surface level, there is always a complex series of questions buried within. I want the viewers to have to convince themselves of the meaning in my work, to find it on their own without having to be preached to. That way, they can go away enjoying or appreciating the art, while being left with that awkward feeling of not quite getting it that is meant to challenge them to think more deeply about the intent behind the work. I believe that once an audience has opened themselves up to an artwork through its humour, comfort, or familiarity, they are more likely to invest in the challenges such work presents.