Blending the tangible and ephemeral to haunting effect, Ben Skinner’s practice is equally informed by curiosity about the nature of language and fascination with the varied materials he works in. His text works play humorously on the subjectivity inherent in communication; pictured below is a piece from his ‘Pangram’ series, which showed absurdist phrases that use every letter of the alphabet. He has made use of materials including mirror, holographic foil, plexiglass, and water marbling, carefully choosing colours including Klein blue and dusty pastels. His projection mapped project for Façade Festival explores the complexities of linguistic nuance with a string of synonyms that gradually digress in meaning. 

Burrard Arts Foundation: Can you tell us a bit about your artistic practice and background?

Ben Skinner: I’m a mixed media artist who often incorporates text into my work in a Pop/Conceptual kind of way. Word play and humour are often present in my work as well as a fascination with materials and fabrication processes.

BAF: Describe your project for Façade Fest 2017.

BS: My piece for Façade Fest 2017 is a long scrolling sentence that starts with “IT WAS THE MOST…,(then a long list of adjectives)… THING I’VE EVER SEEN. The adjective string slowly changes from negative to positive words, using mostly synonyms side by side that nudge their way to to words that seem quite opposite of what they started out as. A slowly changing colour gradient fills the text and the background.

BAF: Have you ever worked in video art or projection mapping before? To what extent was working with this technology a new experience for you?

BS: I hadn’t worked in video since art school, and especially not projection mapping. It was not a huge stretch conceptually because I’m used to working in lots of different media and formats. The technicians at GO2 have been very helpful in constructing the piece for me from instructions and designs I provided. There was a sense of self editing there and if I had known how to use the animation software myself, I might have pushed the technical parts bit further.

BAF: Is your Façade idea an entirely new project or are you further developing existing themes?

BS: It’s based on an earlier work I did with the same text printed over a large set of wooden venetian blinds.

BAF: Your work will be projected over the entire façade of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Have you ever worked in such a large scale before? What has been exciting, and challenging, about the process?

BS: I haven’t worked this large before. I have done a few murals, but only indoor, and no where near this big. The ephemerality and the size of the audience is different for me. I wouldn’t say that has been a challenge but it is exciting.

See Ben Skinner’s projection mapped artwork in Façade Festival 2017 – it will be shown from 7:30PM to Midnight on Thursday, September 7th, as well as in the encore presentations on September 9th and 10th.