on display at the Ministry of Casual Living
October 14-29th 2016, Odeon Alley, 764 Yates st.
the soundtrack (https://soundcloud.com/daniel-laskarin/to-know-a-thing)
After a career as a helicopter pilot/engineer, Daniel Laskarin turned to the visual arts which now seems to be a field of equal, albeit dissimilar, danger.
Laskarin describes his practice as object based, materially and philosophically rooted; much of this work investigates the ways in which art can generate the sensory experience of consciousness. He has exhibited in Canada and internationally, and currently teaches at the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Victoria in Western Canada.
Daniel Laskarin’s work for many years has lingered on a thematically continuous exploration of objects and our coexistence with them. Laskarin’s work is sincere, sound, and intentful. ‘to know a thing’ is an exemplification of just this; simply put, it is an examination of a steel block, accompanied by a comprehensive recording of Laskarin describing the details and observations he had come to ‘know’ after spending about a month with it. Laskarin furthers “the writing was a description of the thing itself. I tried to write as neutrally as possible, but in retrospect my description is shaded by all the things I was reading at the time. This track is a 52 minute reading of a distilled version of the writing. It normally accompanied the object, but may be heard on its own.”
‘to know a thing’ exhibits an unalloyed rectangular steel block placed in solitude; an intrinsic object, the block itself looks cold and heavy. It reads as a simple object, recognizable rectangular shape with precise clean edges with mottled shades of steel and rust. At this point, I would shamelessly admit that my observations are superficial, unoriginal, and cliche. I have simply acknowledged and identified the basic qualities of the steel block in front of me without delving any further. It would be easy for me to feel as though I had come to some sort of a visual conclusion - my mind could rest ‘knowing’ what I was looking at, and listen to the recording.
Art is generally intended to encourage the viewer to pause, engage with something, leave with a deeper awareness, a curiosity, etc. However, sometimes the content of an artist’s work is so obvious that it does not take a great deal of thought in order for you to get the central theme and content of their work. This can be a satisfying experience in many ways, but it is not always something that leaves you with many questions.
But curiosity is vital.
When you are confronted with a piece that requires you to really take the time to pause and search for the subtle undertones, it can lead you to unexpected places...
Sitting with my multiple, impatient trains of thought, my focus begins to shift to the title - ‘to know a thing’ - my questions begin to expand: how well can we really come to know a “thing?” Is it actually possible to quantify this “knowing” in order to fully contain and explain its entirety? How many thoughts, questions, feelings, etc. would it even take to realize the boundaries, the confines, the whole essence of some‘thing?’ How we can genuinely say, “what else is there is to know?” … where would it stop…
‘to know a thing,’ is a found object enhanced by a sound background. The recording acts as a second layer to the piece - it is a philosophical exploration - concurrently it directly engages with another title associated with Laskarin’s artistic practice. ‘agnostic objects (things that persist)’ - a collection of essays written on Laskarin’s extensive artistic projects. What is most interesting, is how these two titles interact with each other. The title ‘agnostic objects’ alone, semantically speaking, seem to satiate an unconscious verbal aesthetic - two words sitting stoically beside each other, neither fighting for attention over the other. Neither admitting a dependance on each other, and yet identically, neither of them wanting to move away from each other. Together, these words are larger than the sum of their parts. The relevance of this linguistic lead, once deconstructed, almost becomes an ideology that hints/seeps through/around/and underlies many aspects of Laskarin’s tenor of thought. The interplay of these two titles come together in a way that can to strengthen our interest in the unfamiliar.
‘agnostic objects’ and ‘to know a thing’ provoke questions of what it means to ‘know,’ or not ‘know’ something. ‘Agnostic’ can be defined as a state of doubt, an unsureness of something, a place of not knowing. If you look up the definition of ‘object,’ you will undoubtedly find the other noun ‘thing,’ right there supporting its cohorts ability to be defined and visa versa. ‘Objects,’ are essentially entwined synonymously with ‘things.’
One title (‘agnostic objects’) encourages us to look at things through a lens of uncertainty. It asks us to consider what it means to be dubious of ‘objects;’ Conversely, ‘to know a thing’ alludes to our (potential) capacity to do just that, ‘to know a thing’ (though neither claims to provide just ‘that’)... therefor, ‘to know a thing’ and ‘agnostic objects (things persist),” are in fact paradoxical in nature. Objects can/not be known, and yet they ‘persist,’ are always present, and are perhaps more elusive than we might think. ‘to know a thing’ is a linguistic hint. It supplies us with a frame of reference pertaining to the entirety of the piece. Additionally, the 52 minutes of in-depth, illustrative narration, that catalogues what is knowable about the steel block. I am left wondering whether Laskarin’s ‘to know a thing’ can, in fact, “prove” that things can be ‘known,’ or, as previously asserted, things/objects cannot in fact be known even after repeated attempts to fully understand them.
Are we (unknowingly) existing in a comfortably ambiguous persistent state of unknowing? certain that we in fact do ‘know’ the world around us?