STONES OF TEETH
Chad Connery & Anca Matyiku
Words: Karen Hare / Photos: Joseph Visser
From Ymir`s flesh
Was the earth created,
From the bloody sweat, the sea,
Cliffs from bones,
Trees from hair,
And the head, the heavens;
And from his eyelashes
The gentle gods made
Midgard for the sons of men;
And from his brains
All the oppressive
Clouds were formed.
(The Lay of Grimnir, 40-41)
Chad and Anca, beginning as studio (as well as room) mates have found a unique working relationship and an alchemy all their own. As we talk, they try to convince me that they are in fact completely different, while revealing that they both, at a young age took interest in reading cultural mythologies. Their dissimilarity may be great, but there is also something in each of them that is incredibly in tune with the other. This formula becomes the exchange of ideas and trust, encouragement and coercion. They push and pull at each other; their differences drawing them close and their similarities extruding concept.
Their most recent work, ‘Stones of Teeth’ compose chemical with chaos, science with myth and body with landscape. Showing at Raw Gallery May 22 - June 27th, last chance to catch the show this Friday!
Muddy Water: Anca, you are living in Montreal now, how has this working relationship changed with such Physical distance between you both ?
Anca: We only actually started to officially collaborate after I moved to Montreal, so the physical distance has pretty much always been there. One of the benefits of working from two locations is that we have to really communicate our ideas well (to each other) which sometimes lends itself to leaving a nice trail of process. For example we started the Migrating Landscapes project with a series of letters that we still have. It can be quite revealing to see the kind of things that were intuited from the beginning and how they stayed with the project. I think the displacement also encourages or forces us to interpret in our own way what the other person meant, which can definitely make for some nice surprises. Chad and I like to work with each other because we are not each other. It works like a contamination of what’s obvious to one person, and I think the distance augments this.
Most of the challenges that come up have to do with actually building things.
MW: Chad, you cast the plaster figures in the exhibit, could you tell me a little about this process?
Chad: Well both of us did it really because it was done on site and was a mountain of work but I tested the materials ahead with some trial castings. When we scaled the mixtures up to the full castings they exhibited a bunch of behaviours that were a lot more radical than we had expected. Even though the lilting and bending concerned us a lot we decided to lean into it and see what it could teach us. Really this is when we realized that the salt was creating reactions that were beyond our scope of scientific understanding. That's been a really interesting element, interacting with it the work by provoking and responding to it rather than controlling it.
MW: And Anca, you have hand hammered each of the metal pieces, what is this process like?
A: Well I first had to order a sheet of copper and the smallest I could buy was a 3’x8’ sheet. It came on a truck strapped to some pallets and the guy got to my apartment and called me from the street asking where the loading dock was. Between my broken French and his broken English we dragged just the sheet up two flights of residential stairs and it laid next to my bed the whole time I was cutting things out of it.
All the pieces were hammered at the jewellery school where I take my metalsmithing classes. The 2 large copper “lakes” were formed against a series of objects including a sand bag, an office chair, anvils, hammers, mandrels and mallets. My body had to contort in all sorts of funny positions to hold the metal. We also didn’t exactly know how they would be and what I would be able to do with the hammering so it was kind of a learning process. You can tell the first piece I hammered has more marks because I was trying out a few things.
The little cups that top the pillars were more like a repetitive ritual. I figured out I could do about 5-6 in an hour and ended up with 70 pieces. (People liked them so much I had to make some to give away and at the time we were shooting for 60 pillars). So for those, I traced the circle templates on the copper, cut them out with shears, filed them with 2 kinds of files, and then annealed them – which is what it’s called when you heat up the metal with a torch to make it soft and pliable. (The nice surprise was the coloration we got on the disks when they were annealed. They were all unique! It’s what we used for the posters and promo material) So once the metal was soft I used this tool called a dapping block to hammer them into cups. It’s metal on metal hammering and the mother of pounding migraines. I could only do 6 or 7 before my arm muscles would start to cramp, so then I had to switch it up and go back to filing, or cutting.
MW: How many pounds of salt did you use in this exhibit?
C & A: Its roughly 2200 lbs
MW: There was a third artist present in this exhibit through sound, could you tell us about her and her process for this piece?
C & A: Sarah Shin. We approached her to help us by adding another dimension to the work that would make it a place or experience rather than a series of objects. After a few discussions she really just clicked into ideas we were interested in and found her own take on it. She used the large copper pieces and recorded the sound of water dropping onto them. She had contact mikes on them and they looked like those things they put on people in the hospital to measure their heart rate. She discovered these landscapes of reverberations and sound within each of the two pieces. (There are a few sweet spots that made interesting sounds and we actually tried to get water to drip onto those in the installation at Raw). So the whole soundscape is made from recordings of water dropping onto copper. She had read the Edda as well (the copy with all our underlined moments) and her approach was to run the sound through a filter called granular synthesis, which she explained it was similar to taking sand and sifting it. The idea was that the original sound would undergo multiple processes of disintegration like the salt casts. After that it was just layering and playing with the composition.
MW: The exhibit has transformed over it’s time at RAW Gallery, how will your work transform in future, what’s next for the two of you?
C & A: I guess the next immediate thing is to try and get as much mileage out of this project, since it was so much work. We’ll probably try to put together some variations on it and propose it to other galleries. Maybe try to take a version of it to Montreal? Maybe push the lessons we took a bit more and do a few more tests with the new version. The other next thing we think we might do is switch gears a bit for a while and do some fictive or imaginary work… either drawing or writing or probably both. It would be nice to work with something that doesn’t push back as much for a while before coming back to large scale constructions. But that could change tomorrow and probably already has.