By Justine Hartlieb-Power
Over the weekend (to be specific, Friday evening—that can be considered the weekend, non?) I had the distinct pleasure in interviewing the lovely and multitalented Jessie Beier regarding her most recent work at the Drawing Room, One More Time With Feeling. This being my first published interview I was, admittedly, slightly nervous, but within a few moments it became clear that Jessie is a passionate, dedicated artist who was more than happy to discuss her work in depth with this novice ‘reporter.’ Recorded at the Drawing Room, you can hear their intern Amy painting a bookcase in the background, horns honking from the street out front, and muted conversations from the alley out back (along with the actual interview, I assure you); since sound is such an integral part of Jessie’s work I thought the ability to capture the oftentimes overlooked background chatter we experience every day would add an interesting dimension to the interview, just as Jessie’s soundscapes (or lack thereof, in some cases) highlight that “leakiest of signifiers” in an incredibly visceral way. I hope that everyone who listens to our chat is encouraged to drop by and turn up the volume as they check out One More Time With Feeling for themselves.
So listen on if you want to hear Jessie’s thoughts on music, art and, last but certainly not least, Gilles Deleuze. On view at the Drawing Room until May 1st.
The world, it seems, is becoming increasingly precarious. (Perhaps it has always been this way.) Our contemporary impasse — that dead-end cul-de-sac of habitual narratives and broken dreams — is made and re-made daily by seemingly limitless flows of capital and dispersive systems of control, which in turn produce particular ways of knowing and relating to the world. Within the impasse, we have developed a reactionary stance to life’s precarity, struggling to keep damaged and outdated rhythms afloat. Here, we have learned to normalize our exhaustion, our pain, and our despondency, in the name of protecting that which we always-already know. Here, we have become caught between stasis and despair; we have become perpetually ironic.
David Foster Wallace, highlights this ironic posture as early as 1993 in his essay titled “E Unibus Pluram”. In the essay, Wallace (1993) diagnoses what he sees as the malaise of modern American culture of his time: irony. As a response to the impact of modern media in the aftermath of the 1960s, Wallace points to the role of irony as a particular despondent and cynical, yet self-referential, attitude that works to make viewers feel smarter than the naive “public”. Irony, as Wallace points out, operates as a protective shell, a defence mechanism against the possibility of seeming naïve or unknowing. Put otherwise, irony allows one to know the world, thus foreclosing alternate and potentially productive experimentations with life’s inherent precarity. Wallace recognizes this movement as a process of gradual but unavoidable isolation, whereby the knowingness and self-referentiality of postmodernity is slowly absorbed into popular culture and irony and ridicule become entertaining and effective social and political tools that are at the same time, “agents of a great despair and stasis” (Wallace, 1993, p. 171).
Fast forward thirty years later and this ironic posture is alive and well, enhanced and augmented for our own time. This ironic posture could be perceived as a welcome reprieve within the impasse, if this sense of humour was not a perpetual refrain of resemblance and resignation. At one time, irony served to challenge the establishment; now it is the establishment. Irony, in this way, works as a habitual strategy for knowing the world, without having to truly connect to it. This posture, what we might think of as irony for irony’s sake, is what enables a continued cynicism, disavowal, and ultimately our stay in the impasse. One More Time with Feeling seeks to experiment with this ironic posture, this protective shell, through sound and its necessary counterpart, silence.
Jessie Beier is a teacher, artist, writer, and researcher based in Edmonton, Alberta. Beier holds a diploma in design and illustration, a Bachelor of Education, and has recently completed a Masters Degree in Curriculum Studies. Beier’s interests in both visual and sonic ecologies have led to an arts-based research and writing practice that works to think art, in its many forms, as a power for overturning cliché and dismantling common sense habits of interpretation. She doesn’t make sense, she makes sensations.