ENG – Think outside the box: Jane Tingley (Canada)
Interview by Esteban Lara
- Esteban Lara: First of all, where do you come from, could you give us a short introduction to your work and your story ?
Jane Tingley: I grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where I also did my undergraduate degree; I majored in sculpture. My practice used a broad range of materials ranging from steel, fiberglass, food, rubber and cement. At that time I made objects that could be interacted with and moved around but did not autonomously move. I was very interested in the syntactical meaning of objects, and often worked representationally – concerned with the enculturation of the body and individual experience. The machines I made were metaphors for socialization – central to this was that I positioned technology as oppositional to the body. After I spent some time travelling, I moved to Montréal to do my MFA at Concordia University. There I discovered a different way of thinking about the body and began to explore new metaphoric relationships.
- EL: What inspired you to be an artist?
JT: When I was a teenager I met a painter, who had a cabin on the same lake as my family cabin – Eleanor Schellenberg. She would invite me over, give me tea and let me experiment with paint. It was not exactly when I decided to become an artist, but certainly opened my eyes to the possibility. In high school I had a lot of older friends, all in Fine Arts. It seemed quite clear to me that this would be my next step. I never really questioned it.
- EL: Is there any particular messages or ideas you would you like to share with your work? Or any themes you like to explore?
JT: Centrally I am interested in experience and the creation of spaces that afford poetic or metaphoric interactions. My hope is to someday create a space that allows for novel emergent behaviours and to find ways to create meaningful interactions with technology. I tend to favour a visual metaphor that draws parallels between the human body and the technological body and often look to biology as the launching point for this exploration. I am not interested in creating factual representations of the body however, but favour the creation of spaces that offer magical reinterpretations of the body – where sound and light stand in for the electrical impulses in the brain. Recently I have become more interested and critical about the role technology plays in our daily lives, and am concerned with how the body is being left out of the conversation. My current work uses Internet of Things technologies and explores embodiment and the ways we can interact with each other through technology.
- EL: Tell us a bit about your background, why did you choose interactive installations ?
JT: As I mentioned, my old work was capable of movement but needed people to initiate that movement. I realized that I wasn’t interested in getting people to perform actions, but rather wanted to find ways to create the context for spontaneous interaction. This led me to create responsive installation, to learn physical computing, and basic programming. Recently I have become more and more interested in interactivity over responsiveness, which is now leading me down a whole new path.
- EL: Did you meet people who influenced you and played an important role as mentors ?
JT: I have been lucky enough to have had three strong women artists mentor me at crucial times in my life. As mentioned before, Eleanor Schellenberg was an important mentor to the 12 or 13 year old me – she demonstrated it was actually not necessary to plug into the machine – that one could follow their unique path and become something different.
In the time between my undergraduate degree and my masters I participated in MAWA (Mentoring Artist for Women’s Art), and was lucky enough to be placed with Diana Thorneycroft. Diana is an amazing person and mentor, and has since become a friend and colleague. She provided advice and support at that crucial time in an artist’s life, just after the BFA (or initial training), when you need to actually become the artist that you were trained to be. With her guidance and support I successfully applied to Concordia University for my MFA, and also received a Manitoba Arts Council “Visual C’ grant.
My third mentor and friend is Lynn Hughes, an artist and colleague in Montréal, whom I met after my masters degree at Concordia University. She hired me as an RA on her various projects done at Hexagram/Concordia. Lynn demonstrated a standard of excellence, made visible a possible path to becoming an artist in the new media field, and also offered invaluable support and advice.
- EL: What are your plans for the next months?
JT: November is a big month – I will be participating in two Canadian exhibitions. I will show Re-Collect in a group show entitled ‘L’espace en dialogues’, curated by Geneviève Goyer-Ouimette at CIRCA Art Actuel – the vernissage is November 7th. There will also be an artist exchange with my collaborator on this project – Michal Seta and sculptor François Mathieu. I will then show Peripheral Response in another group show entitled ‘The Age of Catastrophe’. Curated by Dr. Melentie Pandilovski and Video Pool Media Arts Centre – it will be at Actual Contemporary in Wpg. MB. CA. The opening is on Friday the 13th of November.
Other than that – I am an Assistant Professor in Hybrid media in Fine Arts and the Stratford Campus at the University of Waterloo, and so I will continue to teach. I am also working on a new SSHRC and Canada Council for the Arts funded project anyWare, which I expect to finish in 2016.
- EL: What comes naturally and, conversely, what is complicated when you’re working on a new project?
JT: This is a difficult question – every step of the way has its difficulties, but it is the challenge that I really appreciate and enjoy. I guess the best part is when I am experimenting and am in production mode, when there is no pressure. It only becomes difficult when the deadlines set in. I find learning the technology at times very frustrating, but when I master it I find it extremely satisfying. The hardest part is unifying the ideas, with my limitations, and being satisfied with what I end up creating.
- EL: What pieces of advice would you give to a young aspiring artists?
JT: Don’t stop. Think outside the box. The path you follow doesn’t have to be the path you thought you would follow. Enjoy the evolution and be willing to pivot.
- EL: Any news you would like to share or something else you would like to add?
JT: Currently I am working on an exciting project entitled anyWare with game designer Cindy Poremba (Professor of Game Design at Sheridan College) and software engineer Marius Kintel (author of OpenSCAD and CEO and founder of Shapefactory). anyWare is an Internet of Things inspired distributed sculpture, that incorporates game design in order to structure interaction. Right now we are in the creation stage – check out my blog for progress.
Visit Jane Tingley’s website: http://janetingley.com/