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.
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.
recent commentsOn Jun 8 2014, milena kosec commented on Final post: Oh! Thank you for interesting photos. Enjoy in new project. [...]
Here’s a quick update on a few things I’ve been doing in the past weeks…
I had a great float session in a sensory deprivation tank this month. I think I’m finally settling into the environment and am trying to embrace whatever sensations, thoughts, and reactions may arise.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been trying to get to ballet class twice a week, each day consisting of a regular 90-minute class followed by 45 minutes of pointe exercises.
It finally snowed and I went for a nighttime walk through Queen Elizabeth Park.
I received a pass for 5 complimentary yoga classes at the Chopra Yoga Centre, which I in turn left to the last minute, but forced myself to go 5 days in a row before the pass expired. I tried some hot yoga, Hatha, a yoga-pilates fusion class, and a power yoga class. The last class was a bit beyond my abilities, but I stuck it out despite the fact that it started with head stands.
I’ve been working full-time during the week, so most of my social outings have been for meals, coffee, or pastries. I’ve also attended a number of exhibition openings and a couple artist talks.
I’ve continued on with my volunteering for Ballet BC, and twice I saw their most recent performance Grace Symmetry, a presentation with live music performed by the Turning Point Ensemble and choreographic works by Wen Wei Wang, Medhi Walerski, and Kevin O’Day.
I had a lovely 3-hour Skype chat with my dear friend in Belgium. She shared with me her upcoming art projects and performances.
I went 5-pin bowling with my partner on Valentine’s Day and it got hilariously competitive. I scored my all-time high score of 175, which isn’t bad since I often stuggle with breaking 100 on any given day.
Finally, I decided to knit a baby blanket for my then-expecting/now-delivered cousin. I haven’t knitted anything in a few years, and it was pleasurable returning to the pattern and rhythm of the process, while listening to the CBC or old podcasts of This American Life.
It’s February already, but I heard someone say “Happy New Year” the other day.
In the past month, I’ve made two day trips down to Washington, the first trip being highlighted by the consumption of peanut butter pie in Fairhaven at a restaurant that claims to serve the best pie in the Northwest. The most recent drive down was with a group of my childhood girlfriends, mostly for a change of scenery, good conversation, and some light shopping.
I’ve continued on with ballet classes twice a week, and am seeing some minor improvements. I participated in a master class with a guest teacher, a director of a ballet school in the United States; however, the class was far too advanced for me, and I repeatedly looked at the clock wishing for it to be over. Note to self: When they say “master class,” believe it. It perhaps did not help that I was mildly hung over with a splitting headache, but when you’re invited to a dinner party the night before by a museum director, who has accommodated your vegetarianism and continually refills your wine glass throughout the evening before it has a chance to empty, you say yes. All in the name of leisure research.
In addition to a few social brunches and afternoon coffees, I had the opportunity to go to the River Rock Casino in Richmond. I signed up for a client card simply to get a $10 credit that I could slowly burn off at the one-cent slots. It may have been the overwhelming combination of the bright flashing screens, stale smell, and greasy slot buttons I had to repetitively push, but I could not find anything thrilling about the experience. Perhaps I was just disappointed I didn’t win big. I did momentarily have a $4 advantage on a unicorn-themed slot machine, but I got greedy and those credits soon withered away.
As part of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, I visited the Human Library, a one-on-one experience where you as a reader spend time with a human book who shares their story. The available curated “titles” available at the circulation desk included “Open Marriage,” “Over the Hill Gender Transition,” HIV, Addition & Me,” among others. I spent time with “Boy Weaver” and “Recovering Hoarder.” The encounters were surprisingly intimate, even though our conversations were limited to 20 minutes each. The compressed timeframe encouraged them to share as much as possible, with Tobin, the Boy Weaver, bubbling with passion about his technical skills and the possibilities of learning more. I asked him about his relationship to perfection. He laughed and said his craft demands it.
I had expected my conversation with Ross, the Recovering Hoarder, to be mainly about accumulating things, but I was pleased to have my assumptions thwarted when he shared stories of his childhood and adolescence, as well as the passing of his mother. It was a timely story to share, as I had just finished reading de Beauvoir’s “A Very Easy Death.” I asked him what recovery looks like, and he simply said that he would want to have a home where each room serves its function (i.e. a kitchen where he can cook, a bedroom where he can sleep). I wished him the best when we parted.
Much of the leisure time I’ve been spending over the past weeks has been in winding down after my day job, mostly in the comfort of my home in the evenings brought to me by the all too convenient Netflix (and perhaps a download or two). Here’s a list of some recently watched and re-watched flicks:
My day job keeps me in front of a computer all day, so I’ve decided to reduce my screentime exposure and make a conscious effort to spend more time reading books. On what would have been Simone de Beauvoir’s 106th birthday last week, I went to the central public library and took out a few books to get me started.