Tea Cups (2016-2018)
The Tea Cups series consists of short videos and photo-based digital prints made by projecting contemporary global news imagery into vintage tea cups, and recording the results. An immigrant to Canada, and typical of women of her era, my grandmother collected and displayed beautiful china cups and saucers which are now mine. Many feature uniquely rich colour and design. With turbulent news images and footage projected within them, the cups become vessels containing a window onto the world. They bring worldwide events ‘closer to home’, both literally and figuratively, while evoking the tensions and intersections between private and public, past and present, order and chaos. Despite the scale reversal, the fine china appears barely able to contain the raw energy of the miniaturized scenes. Indeed, the careful ordering and arranging of cherished collectibles seems but a thin veneer of control in the face of a world beset by indiscriminate turmoil and crisis. The contextualizing frame of the tea cups also serves to acknowledge the filter of individual experience through which our perceptions are shaped, as we try to comprehend far-reaching events around us. The baroque, dramatic lighting that models the outside of the cups, and the glowing projected light that emanates from within, together impart intensity and solemnity to the work.
Each of the nine tea cup images is composed of several layers of a projected news photograph, employing varying degrees of opacity and focus/blur to create a shallow depth of field. These techniques highlight one or more individuals within a larger scene of trauma, fostering empathy and a sense of our shared humanity. The selected media images were purposefully chosen because they are not sensationalized or graphic. Incorporated into the new art work, they reach beyond the specific details depicted to suggest the universal and basic commonality of what it means to be human. The close-up photography of the cups and saucers contrasts with the distance portrayed in the news images contained inside, creating a play between surface and depth.
The video stills below are from Yellow tea cup: refugees at sea, a short HD video. The push and pull between tea cup and world event, held in tension within the photographs, unfolds over time in the video. The changing, abstracted reflections and refractions of the moving imagery projected into the cup’s concavity, continually bring our attention back to the surface of the cup itself. The video that was projected into the tea cup was edited together from many news clips to form a loose narrative that centers on the human dimension of the reported events.
In Green tea cup: collectivities, the second video in the series, the projected new footage focuses on group dynamics in protests, marches, vigils, and rituals spanning the ideological spectrum. The fragile china can barely contain the raw, explosive energy of those moments when, through their numbers, individuals transform into a larger collective identity, empowered in celebration, in support, in mourning, and sometimes in rage. Again, the cup becomes a window onto the world, merging past and present, private and public, order and chaos.
In White saucer: surveillant eye, the third video in the series, a vintage saucer becomes the lens through which we observe projected footage of natural disasters, world events and a drone’s-eye view of one individual’s daily activities. The camera angles tracking her movements match those in the news, police and military sources. Public and private worlds collide as the omniscient gaze cast by the aerial perspective parallels the wide net of electronic surveillance and data collection that monitors and captures our everyday communications, transactions, and locations.