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The Uniter, Issue 14, January 11, 2007

Words of power

Local artist Paul Butler uses a simple, strong message

By Ksenia Prints

Power to the Artist is the exhibition of a single work: a light box displaying that inspiring message hangs at the end of a hallway. Considering that this hallway constitutes the entire Semai gallery, the exhibit may not sound like much. But according to creator Paul Butler, Power is a much-needed reminder to remain true to onefs perspective at a time when the artistfs role is expanding beyond the studio.

gIfve done it for myself, but then I decided I wanted to take this idea of the artist being in control of the communityc instead of just adapting,h Butler explains. gItfs a very minimal text piece, just a statement.h But itfs one that carries much weight as artists are made vulnerable to outside pressure.

gWe depend on a lot of people to represent us, so wefve fallen into this mindset where [others] decide whether we have a valid point,h says Butler. In response, artists moved beyond creating and into publishing, running galleries and other administrative tasks.

This change in job descriptions has positive and negative effects. One negative is sometimes the loss of an original voice. Power can be seen as both a celebration of the artistfs increasing power, and a warning of what can come from all the administrative commotion.

The space and materials used in Butlerfs piece are not accidental. g[Semai gallery] was appropriate for me because itfs a non-profit, artist-run gallery,h says Butler. Takashi Iwasaki, the galleryfs owner, is himself an artist who highlights the fact that artists have gthe power to shape the environment.h He exemplifies the shift in roles Butler had in mind. The awkward space lends an intimate air to the show, as the viewer steps into a tunnel that draws him to the light box, the message.

The light box itself is important, emphasizing the meaning of the words. It is made of junked light boxes that Butler recovered. A different light box was exhibited once before in Vancouver in 2006.

The artistfs dual identity is something Paul Butler is familiar with. His is a commercial nomadic gallery through which Butler and thirteen artists take their works to different galleries in Europe and North America. Butler carries the bulk of the administrative work in this project.

gMy art is social,h he says. gThe administration has now turned into my medium.h He sounds pleased about it.

gComing from a city like Winnipeg, we donft get that traffic, so it exposes us to an international audience,h Butler says about gIt has broken down all barriers.h

Butler disagrees with the notion that his gallery has a slight air of easy-approach-consumerism about it, and can be seen as the Wal-Mart of the art world. gI have accepted that therefs a commercial side to the art world, and I donft feel 100 per cent positive about it all the timec But this is how Ifve unconsciously decided to explore it.h

Power to the Artist shows at Semai gallery, basement corridor of 264 McDermot Ave., until Jan 20.

Original source of this article on the web