Forum

CAFKA Rewind

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Don Miller (photo: Gordon Hatt) 

CAFKA Rewind speakers have been selected! The first speaker on September 25 will be Robert Hengeveld, whose works "Uprising" and and "Sssspun" were exhibited in CAFKA.09 and in CAFKA.14. Don Miller, whose work "Saturn and Cronus" created a sensation at CAFKA.14 will be the featured speaker on October 30. Mat, Robert and Susan Gorbet whose "Power to the People" lit up the second CAFKA exhibition in 2002, will speak on November 20. All lectures with be at the Waterloo Public Library and all lectures will begin at 7 PM sharp.  

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When I began working with CAFKA in 2008, I experienced a new approach to producing art exhibitions. The CAFKA Program Committee was a lively forum for curatorial debate and artists and projects under consideration were examined from every angle. Once the decisions were made, without a gallery space or designated property, CAFKA had to go out and negotiate spaces for our program. We had to articulate our proposals to the public and private property managers and we had to make our projects conform to all of the municipal by-laws, regulations and policies. We worked closely with municipal employees who helped us navigate the more complicated permissions, and who at times stepped up to do great work on our project installations.

But it was the dedication of the CAFKA Program Committee that impressed me. Program Committee members each took the lead on the various installations. Their knowledge, professionalism and commitment to the artists’ visions guided each installation to completion. So when I began writing about CAFKA.09, I consulted with the members of the Program Committee. I did recorded interviews with some; some sat down and wrote thoughtful texts about their participation in that year’s exhibition. And I came to see the exhibition, and the writing about the exhibition, in a new light. The completed artwork, in addition to the artist’s original vision, was the product of so many circumstances, so many factors, and so many people, that it was impossible for me to talk about the projects alone without talking about the process and the people that made them happen.

This became a new way of writing about art for me. Once the current CAFKA website was put in place, I began to augment the basic catalogue pages, writing illustrated histories of the artworks, inserting early conceptual and working drawings through finished installation photos, and inviting Program Committee members to contribute supplementary texts. I have tended to focus on the more complex projects, or the projects where CAFKA has played a major coordinating role. At times I have dipped back into the past to add current information to old pages. There is still much work to be done.

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This fall CAFKA will be presenting a new program called CAFKA Rewind. CAFKA Rewind will be a series of artist talks with a difference. First of all, the artists are all CAFKA alumnae – they have each presented work at one (or more!) of our past 11 exhibitions. Secondly, a lot of local people have not only seen the work, many of us in the community also helped make it happen. And lastly, some of these projects provoked negative responses that brought together the artists, the CAFKA team, and sometimes the media and municipal government as well as we looked for ways to respond.

CAFKA Rewind is not going to be just another series of artist talks. We want to drill down little deeper. We want to go back, rewind the tape, examine how projects began as ideas, explore how ideas were adapted to local sites, and what went into their realization. We want to compare CAFKA’s decisions to support these projects with how they were understood or misunderstood by the public. In addition to learning about the genesis of the works in the minds of the artists, we also want to include the recollections of people in the community who became part of the process. And lastly, we want to ask, “Was there a lasting effect?” “What did we take away from the process?” and “Did anything change as a result?”

As a way to understand how contemporary art in the public space comes to be I am really excited about the conversation that the CAFKA Rewind series promises. Stay tuned for details about the featured artists speaking at CAFKA Rewind later this spring.

CAFKA Rewind has been made possible with support from the City of Waterloo.

Gordon Hatt, Executive Director

Photo top: Don Miller (Gordon Hatt)