Wednesday, May 25, 2011

James Nizam Q&A in today's National Post

For the past number of years, Vancouver artist James Nizam has generated a unique body of work in abandoned homes and buildings. For his Anteroom series, he made rooms in these homes into camera obscuras. For his Dwellings Series, he lit these spaces with flashlights. And for his Memorandoms series, currently showing at Birch Libralato in Toronto as part of the Contact Festival, he created sculptures out of architectural and furnishing elements that remained at social housing project Little Mountain prior to its demolition in 2009.

At the beginning of the month, Nizam was generous in speaking with me as his show was being installed in Toronto. The resulting condensed Q&A is out in today's National Post. An excerpt:

Q You built these sculptures in Vancouver's Little Mountain housing complex just before it was demolished in 2009. How did you proceed?

A I didn't have a design governing what I was doing. I was just taking materials and working almost like a kid with Jenga. My basic restrictions were stacking, leaning, assembling and letting materials dictate the form. I think the most successful ones came out really quickly; they kind of border on collapsing themselves. Thinking about the structure that they're actually built in—this social housing block that's sitting there, towering and about to be knocked down—I kind of like that there's a mirroring between the form and something that's about to unbuild itself.

Later in the exchange, Nizam talks about the current state of Little Mountain—an empty lot. Though he most definitely sees his work as open ended and relatively neutral—ie. intentionally *not* taking a pro or anti stance when it comes to the demolition—I'd have to agree with him that this particular zero status of the housing project is sad, given that hundreds of people were relocated to make some new ostensible development happen.

In any case, it's worth keeping an eye on Nizam to see what he does in future. Besides one future project mentioned in the Q&A, he's also looking at carving up a house on stilts in a Vancouver-area harbour. When we spoke, the house was for sale for $1, provided the buyer was willing to move it to make way for a new development. Since that scenario seems unlikely, he hopes to work with the developer to make slits in the house frame to create a kind of "reverse sundial" and photograph the light that streams through the resulting space before the house is demolished.

More information about Nizam is also available through his Vancouver dealer, Gallery Jones.

I should also do a hat tip to Canadian Art managing editor Bryne McLaughlin, who brought Nizam's Little Mountain work to my attention.

(Image of James Nizam's Helix of Shelves from the Memorandoms series via

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