Big Rock Candy Mountain
Hannah Jickling and Helen Reed
A project by Other Sights for Artists’ Projects
Curated by Vanessa Kwan
Big Rock Candy Mountain is a flavor incubator and taste-making think-tank with elementary school students. The project takes its name from a folk song that has been revised and rewritten countless times over the past hundred years to reflect a comic utopia, where we hear a “…buzzin’ of the bees in the peppermint trees, ’round the soda water fountains.” The Big Rock Candy Mountain is a topsy-turvy world, where adults and rationality no longer define the rules and limits of what is possible.
Taking place over the course of a multi-year residency with Queen Alexandra Elementary School (located at Clark and Broadway in East Vancouver), Big Rock Candy Mountain expands traditional notions of public art. The work is comprised of a multi-faceted program of workshops, printed matter, artist editions and installations. Rather than invest in a single “result”, BRCM privileges instead the school as a kind of (candy) factory, engaged in a wide range of productive capacities and processes. Here, creative flavour-making, pop art riffs and explorations in kid-defined ‘persuasive’ language intersect with larger context of economy, labour, taste-as-power and culturally defined objects of desire. At every stage, the artists investigate the potential of children as collaborators and consultants, encouraging an exchange of ideas, methods and aesthetics across the adult-kid divide. The project is disseminated serially, through artist editions, printed matter and collaborative confections that inhabit various venues and address multiple audiences.
Helen Reed and Hannah Jickling have worked together throughout the past 9 years. In each of their projects, collaboration is a working process from which the artwork emerges. Projects often take form as videos, public installations, social situations, events, photographs, printed matter and multiples. In a recent series of projects with children, the artists have been exploring the ‘contact high’ intrinsic to collaborative work, especially in proximity to young people. In 2012, Jickling and Reed were artists-in-residence as part of the Pedagogical Impulse, a SSHRC- funded research/creation project at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. Within this project they developed a series of projects with children (Ask Me Chocolates, Your Lupines or Your Life, and Upside Down and Backwards), that sought to explore questions about where, with whom and at what age contemporary art is created, curated and experienced. In 2013, they were artists in residence at the MacDowell Artist Colony (New Hampshire), and have recently returned from an artist residency at the Nida Artists’ Colony (Lithuania). They are the recipients of numerous arts council grants and have recently presented work at the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Dunlop Art Gallery (Regina), Studio XX (Montreal), the Carleton University Art Gallery (Ottawa) and Gallery TPW (Toronto). Their artists’ book cum exhibition catalogue, ‘Multiple Elementary,’ co- published by YYZbooks (Toronto, CAN) and Black Dog Publishing (London, UK), will be released in 2017.
We gratefully acknowledge the support of the BC Arts Council Youth Engagement Program, The City of Vancouver, The Canada Council for the Arts, and the Vancouver School Board.