In December artist Nic Wilson joined Troy Gronsdahl, Curator (Performance & Public Practice), to introduce Wilson’s new exhibition project A Dying Hare.
You can watch the full video at the bottom of this post, but we pulled out a few of our favourite quotes and moments from the conversation to offer insight on this video project, presented as part of the RBC Emerging Artist Project.
Wilson uses the candles to represent lifespans
Each video focuses on a different candle, from standard birthday cake toppers to wonderful and weird wax figurines. The first one in the series is a rabbit inspired by a painting by Jan Weenix, Still Life with Dead Hare. The painting is connected to ideas Wilson has been working with for a long time, including cultural conceptions of decay and death.
The length of each video was determined by how long each candle took to burn itself out. Wilson was interested in the way viewers could interpret the different durations as lifespans.
One candle didn’t burn all the way to extinguishment, however. The candle seen here, Flowers (Red), started a small fire in Wilson’s studio before it burned out. During filming Wilson had to spring into action to save his studio, and possibly himself!
“A poetic Wikipedia entry”
A Dying Hare has multiple, layered references that come together in what he describes as a “poetic Wikipedia entry.”
Wilson has an interest in videos that disrupt the boundaries between moving and still images. Andy Warhol’s films, part of the Structuralist film movement, were one of the inspiration for this series. But rather than a straightforward homage to Structuralist film, Wilson takes a playful and cheeky approach, admitting that the genre can be “willfully obtuse and boring.”
A Dying Hare also incorporate references to still life painting, the fireplace channel and scrying (read on to learn more about how this form of divination influenced the project).
“The connectivity between different ideas is important to me,” he said.
As Gronsdahl writes, these layers memory and allusion create a strange and poignant body of work. The disparate references create new associations, but Wilson attributes the multiplicity of inspirations more to a restless mind than an intellectual intention.
“Everyone gaze into the flame and contemplate”
Scrying is a type of divination most often portrayed in movies through crystal ball gazing, but it can also be performed using candles or flames. In A Dying Hare, Wilson uses the practice of scrying as an exercise in looking. Due to their minimal aesthetic and extended durations, the works invite the viewer to spend time looking, and inevitably to contemplate their meaning.
Wilson also sees a connection between scrying and today’s social media feeds. He uses the example of Tik Tok as a platform where the computer algorithm chooses content for users that can feed back an idea of oneself. Both scrying and social media represent our desire to seek out interpretations of the self, however problematic or superficial those learnings may be.
Wilson’s writing practice is also included in the project
Wilson’s text piece Very Small Fires is included as part of the exhibition. The Instagram Live includes a reading of this piece, which is on view on Level 3 of Remai Modern. Watch the reading by clicking the video below
The project culminates with the creation of a new book
Wilson’s project at Remai Modern also includes a public performance and the production of a new artist book, both taking place in 2022. For the book project, Wilson is finding inspiration in numerous including their drawing practice, ideas around negative space, familial history, queerness and more. Wilson’s previous writings are available to order as chap books through Art Metropole or read as text on their website.
Watch the whole conversation
The annual RBC Emerging Artist Series provides funding to support an emerging artist at Remai Modern. The artist would like to acknowledge the support of SK Arts. A Dying Hare is on view at Remai Modern until March 6, 2022.