Kristi Malakoff’s Transformative Environments

by Annie OwensPosted on

Canadian artist Kristi Malakoff‘s paper sculptures and installations inhabit the space they are in… in fact you could say they swarm the environment entirely. These sculptures are made from a number materials such as foreign currency, stamps, thousands of color copies of scientific bee or butterfly illustrations, ply wood, photographs of flowers and of course paper. Malakoff is interested in, among many other things, swarm theory – self-regulating communities, decentralized control. Heady stuff though the concepts are so beautifully articulated with her cut paper creations the work speaks for itself. We did a short interview with Kristi below:

6000 color copies of butterflies on transparency material

“Caribou Migration (detail)” made from 1 sheet of plywood (434 caribou and 3 wolves)

“Caribou Migration” (detail)”

“Caribou Migration”

“Garden II” 6000 photographs of flowers and hummingbirds

“Market (detail)”

“Polyhedra” 8 bills of foreign currency

“The Ascent (detail)”37 children’s books illustrations, miniature rope

“The Ascent (detail)”

“Grabkreuze (Grave Crosses) III” Black paper, pins

HF: The butterfly installation is amazing!

KM: The butterfly installation was actually made in my last year of art school (I graduated in 2005 from the Emily Carr University in Vancouver, BC). It has turned out to be one of my most popular pieces – it is by far the one piece that I am most often asked about. While I usually show my pieces once or twice, I have shown this piece 5 times now (across Canada and in Mexico).

HF: With pieces like the Grabkreuze, what is the process? Are these hand cut?

KM: The Grabkreuze series was a series of work I made while living in Berlin, Germany in 2007 – 2008. They are actual, real-size reproductions of existing wrought-iron grave crosses from the Baroque and Rococo periods. While in Berlin, I did a lot of research in cemeteries and museums (most of these crosses are now housed in museums). These pieces are cut by hand out of black paper with a really fine scalpel. It took me about 7 days to do each cross. It is really important to me that the cuts be perfect and crisp, so I had to go over the edges multiple times to get them just right.

HF:What will your future shows encompass in terms of concept and materials and will they be similar to your past exhibits?

KM: I don’t have any concepts or titles nailed down yet. I usually don’t confirm those until a few months before the show goes up. My process is such that I produce new work continuously. When I get offered a show, I usually bring the new work together with past work and re-contextualize things in a new way. The shows come up so fast and furiously, I almost never have the luxury of designing a new show from the bottom up.

In terms of materials, hmmmm, it is hard to say… I can confirm that the piece I am currently working on as well as the next one are both using paper in a sculptural way. I’ve been drawn to paper in recent years as a medium that is not often used to its full potential sculpturally, so I am finding that direction pretty exciting for the moment.

HF:Will these exhibitions be similar to past exhibits?

KM: They will be similar in that they will probably (but not necessarily) encompass a mixture of sculpture, drawing and installation, but otherwise, each exhibition is always a surprise. I do a lot of site-specific work after I have seen the space, so truly that work will only be conceptualized and realized during the installation of the show.

My swarm pieces (i.e. the butterflies and the bees), I came at these from a few different directions. When I was in art school, I was really interested in the idea of taking common, 2-D materials and expanding them into 3-D space. I worked with wallpaper, paper currency, stamps etc. and naturally moved into working with photographs. As well, I have been researching swarm theory and ideas concerning self-regulating communities and de-centralized control. I am also interested in ideas of repetition and accumulation.

Kristi Malakoff will be exhibiting this year in Canada at Hamilton Arts Inc., Latitude 53 and Touchstones Nelson – dates to be announced.

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