Exhibition: Chuck Stake

Chuck Stake at Oxygen

November 28 to December 20, 2008


“It is clear that ethics cannot be put into words. Ethics is transcendental. (Ethics and aesthetics are one and the same.)”  Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus  Ludwig Wittgenstein; Page: 71.

I have written many Artist Statements in the past thirty-five years or so. For many years these statements usually approached my work in terms of its formal structure, and, only subsequently, moved on to issues of content. In time issues of content became more important and moved decidedly to the forefront of my thinking and of the work I was producing. With that said, back in 1969, when I initially began to employ words as the structure and content of my work, I did so primarily to communicate content to the viewer, so, content was a concern more of less from the beginning. At that time, in my naivety, I felt that somehow words could more directly transfer content to a viewer. In time I realized that most of the content of a work is indeed transferred by the form and structure of the work and not by its “image” — or, in my case, not by the words. For a time I did a great deal of research into aesthetics and I came to accept the fundamental meaning of aesthetics which is: sensitive perception, or, in a profound sense it means: consciousness. The opposite of aesthetics is: anaesthetics; that is, unconsciousness. The underlying purpose of art is to stimulate the consciousness of the viewer and to challenge the viewer to move to a different level of consciousness, to wake the viewer up to question her/his own state of consciousness. To wake us up from the state of somnambulism that is the common state of consciousness for human beings. My own aesthetics became one and the same as my ethical principles as alluded to in the Wittgenstein quote above. Art should take an ethical and moral position.

While I was a student at the Alberta College of Art (Calgary) I discovered the Dada movement and the Neo-Dada movement and this had a tremendous impact on my subsequent development and my attitude towards art. I feel that Dada is almost completely misrepresented and misunderstood as an anti-art movement — I don’t think it is an anti-art movement at all for it confirms art and life: “yes, yes to life”.

Most of the recent lectures I  have presented about my work have been entitled Standin’ In The Shadows which refers to the situation that the kind of art activity I am involved with exists in the shadows of the mainstream art world — that I mostly find myself standing in the shadows of what is generally considered to be more serious or lucrative art activities. Most of this alternative activity is process oriented, moving away from the object which has been the focus of Western Art for centuries. A number of artists and critics are of the opinion that the main thrust of twentieth century art was about the shift in aesthetics from object to process. Marcel Duchamp is a key figure in this shift and his ready-mades are a significant rupture in the continuum of the Western obsession regarding taste, technique, representation, financial value and even the very act of creation. Early on in his development Duchamp became interested in the ancient Greek sceptics and was influenced by the sceptics concept of ou mallon (“no more this than that”) — the idea that true reality can never be known with certainty. I have also been influenced by my reading of the sceptics, and, I have tried to adopt their “motto” of ou mallon as a guiding principle in my life. My discovery that Duchamp was very much interested in the same concept confirmed to me that many of the Postmodern concepts are anything but new. Duchamp maintained an attitude of  skepticism throughout his life, which allowed him to arrive at what the sceptics called ataraxia or inner tranquility — this idea/attitude influenced many of those around Duchamp.

As Chuck Stake Enterprizes I have been involved in Correspondence/MailArt (CMA) formally in 1972. This international network of communication and free exchange of art has involved thousands of artists in some 45 countries and does not involve the exchange of money. CMA is primarily exchanged on a one-to-one basis, but, from its inception there have been public manifestations via exhibitions. My newest obsession is Artist Trading Cards (ATCs). Historically the roots/attitude of CMA and ATCs are located in Dada, and Neo-Dada and FLUXUS.

There are philosophical relationships between ATCs and CMA as they both emphasize certain principles which are important to me, such as: a democratic exchange and interaction with others (artists and non-artists); open-ended creativity; a non-hierarchical non-judgemental activity that exists within, but more importantly outside of, the existing high-art world — ATCs are a true vernacular art form. They relate directly to the concepts of Joseph Bueys and his idea of social sculpture.

The essence of my practice is collaboration/communication/interaction with other artists and the public as demonstrated by CMA and ATCs. My performance art is similar in approach; my first performance (1968) was a group collaboration. Since then, through my membership in the international group The Nomads and the Calgary ensemble The SKEP(tic)KS, this interest in collaboration continues. I am presently working with a number of Calgary artists/non-artists in GROUP: A Performance Collective which has been together since September, 1998.

Don Mabie (AKA Chuck Stake) was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada on January 9, 1947.

He graduated from the Alberta College of Art (Calgary) in Fine Art Painting in 1969; he did post graduate work at the Instituto Allende, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in 1970. He lived in Toronto from 1970 through 1974; during this time period he spent six months touring extensively in Europe. He returned to Calgary in 1974 and lived there until 2006 when he moved to Nakusp, British Columbia.

Mabie has been drawing, performing, assembling, trading and mailing art for more than four decades. He has had more than thirty solo exhibitions in Canada and Europe. He has participated in numerous group exhibitions and performance events across Canada, in the United States, Mexico, Europe and Japan.




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