Patricia Reed tackles the world in visual arts lecture series. Photo: CC, pixabay.
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Visiting artist Patricia Reed tackles all three for students

On Oct. 10, the University of Ottawa visual arts department welcomed Patricia Reed, an Ottawa native based in Berlin, to give an hour-long presentation about art and its reflection of the changing nature of our world.

Despite a late start due to technical difficulties, Reed attracted a full-house of 40 students and interested community members.

“My work initially stemmed from an interest in the process of globalization,” she told the crowd in her introduction. “So, in political terms, I’m interested in what we take as a given—of common sense, that then ends up legitimizing how we navigate and interact in the world.”

Reed presented a myriad of works to the audience that raised issues about our contemporary society, and how we view it.

Among them, were two particularly encompassing pieces—a colourless flag, that is composed of all the world’s flags overlayed onto one another, and a book of national anthems, where all specificities to the country are swapped out for general terms.

“It’s a recomposition of all nation-state anthems, recomposed line by line, with all proper nouns redacted, and swapped with common words,” said Reed of the book. “What you end up with is the paradox that the national anthem, which is supposed to be so specific to … a particular people … actually follows a super generic formula.”

While much of her focus has been on this phenomena of carving up the world into states, coined “Westphalianism,” one of the most unique aspects of her approach, is that she does not limit herself to a single form—her works often encompass both writing and art.

“There is a degree of overlap, since I’m the same person doing this stuff, and certainly they feed and bleed into the other,” she explained.

“Sometimes a piece of writing is the best vehicle to say something, sometimes that vehicle may be an art work. I never do the two activities in parallel … I’ve never managed to be able to switch those mind-sets back and forth in the same working period.”

For students who attended, she hoped they understood that “some of the most pressing issues of our time cannot be adequately confronted in an isolated manner, or contained within a singular state—like climate change and deep economic interdependency.”

“I get inspiration from things I have a hard time understanding,” Reed said. “Although with the term ‘Post-Westphalianism’ there’s not so much of a counter-proposal as to how to do things differently at this point, it at least marks the recognition of this ‘Westphalian’ incompatibility as a diagnostic starting point.”

Indeed, she believes that that torch should be passed on to the next generation of would-be societal challengers. “Be stubborn and stay curious. Surviving as an artist is more of a marathon than a sprint.”

To find out more about future lecture series sessions, check out the visual arts department calendar. Alternatively, if you want to see more of Patricia Reed’s work, she displays it for free on her website.


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