CAFKA Rewind: Don Miller

Monday October 30, 2017 /// 7PM
Waterloo Public Library
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35 Albert Street, Waterloo, Ontario, N2L 5E2

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CAFKA is pleased to announce that Shelburne, Ontario artist Don Miller will be the featured speaker in the second of our series of CAFKA Rewind presentations at the Waterloo Public Library on Monday, October 30 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 will go 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.

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In the build of up to CAFKA.14 Stephen Litt approached CAFKA about the possibility of working with two derelict houses on David Street in Kitchener. The CAFKA Program Committee brought Shelburne, Ontario artist Don Miller to Kitchener to consider the possiblities. The condemned houses, which were at one time single family homes, had in recent years been converted into rooming houses and had fallen into considerable disrepair. It was immediately clear that we would not be able to develop a project utilizing the buiilding's interiors. An agreement with the developer Stephen Litt allowed CAFKA to appropriate the houses through the end of the 2014 biennial exhibition, after which time the houses would be demolished. Don Miller decided to paint one black and one white, and call the project Saturn and Cronus. 

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Left: Stephen Litt and Don Miller inspect the interiors of the houses. Right: Volunteer Duane Frey at work. Photos by Karie Liao.

A group of dedicated volunteers was mustered for the job. The goal was complete coverage of the two buildings. When the volunteers asked Don where the buildings began and ended, he told them to decide for themselves. 

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Photo Left: Karie Liao; Right: Gordon Hatt

Reaction to the project from some quarters was extrememly hostile. CAFKA's Artistic Director, Karie Liao, and the artist and his volunteers were confronted on the street in front of the houses. Angry letters were directed to the media and the city and to Karie Liao. 

“The worst piece of crap I have ever experienced. It is just vile. People lived in those houses. They brought up children in those houses. Why didn’t you just let the houses die their rightful death instead of making a mockery of them? I will NEVER waste my time on CAFKA, or your work ever.”

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Photo by Gordon Hatt.

Don Miller will discuss the genesis of Saturn and Cronus, the process of making it happen and the controversy that attended it. We'll have an opportunity to reflect on what may have accounted for the angry reactions and to assess the fallout. 

Don Miller is an idea-based visual artist, intuitive carpenter and poet who lives near Shelburne, Ontario. Miller works in a number of media including performance, video, installation, experimental architecture, snow sculpture and written word. He also works with stone, steel and wood to generate income to fund his artistic pursuits; his creative endeavours tend to infiltrate his life, and his life tends to infiltrate his art. Though the majority of his projects are produced independently, outside the gallery network, Miller has also presented performances, videos, readings and interventions at Ghost Ship (Amsterdam), York University (Toronto), Knock on Woods (Holland), Pleasure Dome/ Cinecycle (Toronto), Engine Gallery (Toronto), Tranzac (Toronto), and Anna Leonowens Gallery (Halifax). His projects include an ongoing series of sensory deprivation and/or sensory enhancement snow caves, a large one of a kind frankenhouse constructed from numerous century old barns, spoken word performances at various venues, and creating what he terms “a strategy for living.” Don Miller received a BFA in 2002 from NSCAD University (formerly the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design).

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@cafka.org.

Top photo of Don Miller by Gordon Hatt

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