S2WR is the Halifax-based collaborative duo of DIY technologist, Shawn Wolchyn and multidisciplinary artist, Sally Raab. Raab graduated from ACAD in 2010. An arts administrator and self-proclaimed governance nerd, she works as a freelance bookkeeper and chairs the board of directors of Eyelevel Gallery. Wolchyn graduated from the University of Calgary in 2011 and is currently pursuing a second degree in Engineering at SMU.
a modern wunderkammer
Our work explores the relationships between the basic functions of electronics and organic/human systems. Through drawing these parallels we explore and disturb power dynamics and hierarchies of medium, form, and context. Craft has become an important visual and formal component not only because of its history of social engagement through repurposing the contemporary art dialogue, but also because of its inherent tendency towards modular repetition and non-linear patterns.
Through working with visual simplicity, indexes and cataloging we aim to create a modern Wunderkammer, giving space for interpretation and discussion from the viewer’s perspective. While we work with a lot of broad notions of social or political engagement, our aim is not to problematize, but to allow for viewers to project on our work their own ideas, views and experiences.
push and pull dynamics
Our collaboration brings two very different perspectives together, but what drives our work is the parallels between our individual interests. Looking into the history of maker technology and the DIY movement there is a strong push towards decentralization: decentralizing manufacturing, education and resource access comes from a desire to disturb hierarchies in modern society and increase accessibility of both knowledge and valuable tools. Craft theory has a similar, but much longer history than the DIY movement. Contemporary craft also seeks to break down hierarchies, and has a strong correlation to feminism. Our research is strongly influenced by feminist art and relational aesthetics, with the tendency towards work that is sensitive, socially-aware and participatory.
These unlikely parallels are what inspire our art. We really enjoy the push and pull dynamics can be created when you put two seemingly at-odds components together such as playing with male/female relationships, organic/digital and humans/nature. Visually, we draw a lot of work from natural phenomenon and organic systems. Some of our favorite artists are Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, James Turrell, Alfredo Jaar, and Yoko Ono.
the challenge of collaboration
Finding venues for non-commercial work such as ours has always been a challenge, and will continue to be. Having a small amount of exhibitions and projects does allow us to create work that is continually more ambitious, and to grow our knowledge. Part of the fun of creating work like ours is the continuous challenge of collaboration and the problem solving needed when working with DIY technology.
connecting with our new community
We purchased a household membership to VANS when we first moved to Halifax with the goal of connecting with our new community. The newsletters have been very helpful in staying updated and learning about new spaces and artists. The inventory of Nova Scotia galleries on the website gives us a great place to start in researching exhibition venues.
Recently we were in-residence at the MTC subsidized studio for the past three months. We applied in order to have a designated space to build one of our installations for Antigonight and Lumière. It was really fabulous not only having a space that we could easily afford; it was a great community to make art around. During our time we made friends and got loads of great advice about our work.
hoping to work together again
We recently showed our interactive project, OVERWINTER, OVERLAND at Antigonight and Lumière this September and taught a workshop on DIY robotics in conjunction with Lumière. We’re taking a hiatus for the time being from our collaboration while Shawn focuses on his studies. Sally continues her independent work in community performance and installation – Shawn is still making little robots and taking apart computers. We hope to work together again in the near future, possibly in conjunction with Shawn’s degree.
To see more of Sally Raab and Shawn Wolchyn’s work visit their website: http://s2wr.ca, look at Sally’s e-studio: http://www.visualarts.ns.ca/artist-pages/sally-raab/ or
follow them on social media:@saillavee @shawnwolchyn