CAFKA is pleased to announce that artists Robert Gorbet, Susan LK Gorbet, and Matt Gorbet will be the third and last speakers in the 2017 CAFKA Rewind speakers' series at the Waterloo Public Library on Monday, November 20 at 7 PM.
CAFKA Rewind is a series of artist talks with a difference. Our guest speakers are familiar figures: They have each exhibited work with CAFKA over the course of our 16-year history. Many in the Region have not only seen their work, a lot of us also helped make them happen. Some of these projects drew criticism in the community and the subsequent controversies sometimes involved the local media and municipal governments. CAFKA Rewind goes over some of this familiar territory. We want to examine how the projects were developed, explore the nature of the disagreements within the community and reflect on how we have changed in the years since.
The thematic title of CAFKA.02: Power to the People was chosen to recognize the 100th anniversary of the inception, in Kitchener, of one of the largest publicly owned utilities in the world. The phrase encouraged artists either to make works that responded directly to this history, to take up its democratic connotations, or to simply view public artistic activity as an act of empowerment in itself.
P2P by artists Rob Gorbet, Susan LK Gorbet (Kitchener) and Matt Gorbet (Toronto) highlighted the ubiquity of the most basic icons of the electric age: the household switch and bulb. Significantly situated at the entrance to City Hall, P2P put the marquee, a now-ubiquitous and iconic tool of corporate communication, into the hands of the general public. By engaging in the everyday unconscious activity of flipping a light switch, P2P allowed citizens to communicate directly, without the oversight of a centralized authority, within a government-owned public space. Literally and figuratively, P2P brought power to the people.
P2P consisted of two components. The first was a large marquee sign made up of 125 light bulbs suspended beneath the canopy over the main entrance to Kitchener City Hall. The second was a panel of 125 household light switches located in front of the reflecting pool. Each switch controlled a single bulb that could be turned on or off at will.
The work was reminiscent of a celebratory marquee that spanned Kitchener's King Street in 1910 in which the words “Hydro” and “For the People” were spelled out in light bulbs. The difference here was that the message was not fixed. Available 24 hours a day for the duration of the Forum, anyone could arrange the lit bulbs to spell out personal messages.
As with all forums where there is potential for differences in opinion, the debate around what were "appropriate" messages for the citizenry became particularly intense. The dais where the switch panel was located became the site of heated arguments between people of all descriptions (including police), all eager to voice their thoughts, kudos, or objections to the messages displayed, which were often only single words. Others devised and played games with the work, while others still turned the marquee into decorative pattern.
The team behind P2P is a design collective dedicated to enriching the lives of citizens through the creative application of technology. Collectively, they hold several patents and have research affiliations with the University of Waterloo, MIT, Stanford, Interval Research, Xerox PARC, and Silicon Graphics. Their work has been shown in the USA, Sweden, Austria, and Japan.
Text by Andrew Wright.
Image: Matt, Robert and Susan Gorbet, P2P, mixed media installation, Kitchener City Hall, CAFKA.02. Photo: Elizabeth Feryn.
CAFKA Rewind has been made possible with the support of the City of Waterloo.
For more information about CAFKA Rewind and other speakers in the series, please contact us at cafka at cafka.org.