Karen Zalamea completed a BFA at Emily Carr University of Art & Design and an MFA at Concordia University. She is the recipient of several awards, including the inaugural Sylvie and Simon Blais Foundation Award for Emerging Visual Artists. Her work has been exhibited and screened across Canada and internationally. She currently lives and works in Vancouver, Canada. URL:www.karenzalamea.com
On-hiatus Proposal Summary
Adventures in Leisure Karen's practice has focused heavily on modes of artistic production and on the body as a tool to execute that production. The artwork is a result of the physical performance of effort and skill, with the experience of art making simultaneously inscribed on the working body. For some time she has been contemplating "appropriate" departures from this line of work that would free her from planning future photographic series or performance-based videos centred on completing tasks or repeating actions, a process that often felt like artistic self-flagellation.
While on Residency for Artists on Hiatus, Karen has opted to concentrate solely on leisure through different avenues, without utilizing them as vehicles for neither artistic research nor future projects. This will include her participation in various recreational activities that she is familiar with or as her first attempt. Her list of delving into leisure will certainly develop during the residency.
She feels that being on official hiatus through RFAOH will free her from the anxiety of forecasting her next projects or art-related events, and will allow her the time to redefine her relationship to her ideas, measures of being and doing, ways of delineating experiences, and to her overall artistic identity.
Over the past six months when I’d see artist friends and was faced with the expected question of “What are you working on these days?”, I would gladly reply that I was on hiatus. It may have been the combination of blatantly admitting I wasn’t making new work as well as my conviction in my choice of words that piqued their interest. It felt as if I was embracing a taboo, of not submitting to the idea of a constant (and therefore committed) cycle of production and exhibition that seems highly valued and championed in our network. It wasn’t my intention to demonize working on art, yet I was curious about our attitudes towards, and especially projections about, being a working artist.
Being an RFAOH resident made me question a number of things, like why I was a resident to begin with. Could I not be on hiatus outside of this residency? Did my “non-art activities” require some sort of institutional framework to be considered acceptable? Could I not grant this permission to myself? In truth, yes, I could have pursued this on my own, but I did find comfort in being on hiatus with other artists concurrently reflecting on their own hiatuses. And as a framework, RFAOH is a fluid one that for me facilitated a daily questioning of “What am I doing?” that may have been lost had it been self-directed.
I did struggle in the beginning with the thought of publicly seeking out adventures in leisure. I couldn’t shake off a feeling of irresponsibility, as if I was denying the possibilities of my practice over half a year. That of course existed in the mindset of artmaking in the production line of self-definition. If there was anything to shake off, it was that mindset. This residency was not about making nothing, nor being on an art diet based on deprivation, nor was it a display of laziness or creative stagnation, nor was it some hedonistic pursuit. At its core, it led me face-to-face with the fact that I was in fact discovering possibilities in my practice, and that there is much to discover when you let go and enjoy the process. One of my artist friends always stresses the importance of maintaining a “joyful process,” and I’ve always known I wanted a piece of that. I think this time has brought me closer to understanding what that process could be.
On Jun 8 2014, milena kosec commented on Final post: Oh! Thank you for interesting photos.
Enjoy in new project.
On Jun 8 2014, milena kosec commented on Final week in May: This is really a surprise for me. Wonderful, good lack with beans and..![...]
On Jun 3 2014, shinobu commented on Final post: Best of luck from our office, Karen! Milena and we will miss you (:[...]
On Jun 3 2014, Victoria Zalamea commented on Hello March!: Thank you very much for the beautiful knitted blanket for Kai. We really love especially knowing it [...]
On May 9 2014, Matt commented on Surviving the hectic: Awesome! Your leisure looks way more exciting/fun than my leisure Karen. [...]
From RFAOH co-directors
As in her last post, Karen Zalamea has decided to leave her 8 month on-hiatus residency 2 months early, to resume her art practice with unexpected support she has received. Karen’s case brings another interesting dimension to the notion of hiatus — what if you had an idea for an art project but you could not proceed with it due to the lack of funds; while you are waiting for the support to come or working to earn it, are we on hiatus? And what if you never obtain these funds and therefore the idea never gets realized?
We thank karen for her participation as our inaugural resident, with her attempt to experience leisure for leisure sake. RFAOH sincerely wishes her the best of luck for her post on-hiatus life.
Click “Final Report” to read on her experience at RFAOH.
After much deliberation, I have decided to withdraw from RFAOH and end my leisure-based hiatus as of May 31st. I was fortunate to receive a grant to produce a new project, and after considering postponing its start date to complete my residency, I’ve decided that now is the right time to resume my art practice. These past six months have been a generative period of reflection on my artistic production and identity, on what constitutes research, on the luxury of time and getting away from it all, and on my general well-being.
My boundless gratitude to the RFAOH directors, Shinobu and Matt, for their tireless efforts in facilitating this experience, and for inviting me to participate along with a group of diverse and thought-provoking residents from around the world.
The final week of May brought with it a few regular activities, some art-related events, and a couple new experiments: – A float session in a sensory deprivation tank, which I’ve been doing once a month with varying tank experiences, from deep relaxation to mild distraction. – A couple ballet classes which were, as usual, physically challenging. My instructor always says, “Ballet is about turning your body inside-out.” Nothing natural about that. – I attended two artist talks, one with Stan Douglas at the Presentation House Gallery, and the other with Matthew Higgs at the Western Front. – Inspired by Milena’s garden reports, I decided to plant a few French beans in some planters on my deck. They’ve already sprouted and grown about four inches in the past week. I’m hoping they’ll eventually wrap themselves around the wooden trellis installed against the deck railing and make a solid wall of greenery and hanging beans.
– I was invited to a photobook gathering. A small group of local photographers regularly get together and share books from their collections. It was exciting flipping through some limited edition publications I’ve never seen before. In my lap is one of my favourite discoveries of the night, Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs’ “The Great Unreal.”
– Last night I went to EXIT, a game facility that locks participants in a themed room from which they must escape by solving challenges and riddles within 45 minutes. These kinds of real life escape room experiences have been popping up around town and are inspired by escape room video games popularized in Japan. Our group was in the Ancient Egypt room, and although we managed to figure out a few combination locks and find clues in the sand, we failed to complete the game before the time ran out.
Things have gotten a little busy over the past few weeks with balancing time commitments between work, family, and the rest of it. Nevertheless, this residency has given me the opportunity to consciously reflect on leisure on a daily basis, what constitutes leisure for me, and where I can supplement it in my life if need be.
Here are some recent mini-adventures…
An afternoon at the Museum of Anthropology.
Opening night of Ballet BC’s UN/A.
Giving a speech at my sister’s wedding.
Meditating with Momentech.
Acting as a stand-in band member for my friend’s band Teenagre during a party-themed photo shoot.