The Canadian Art Database

lain Baxter (N.E. Thing Co.)
Vancouver, B.C. (from a taped interview, 6 February 1967

baxter image
(click on image for larger size)

VSI-CirrusCloud 1967
Electricity, colored PVC and air 4' 6"H, 100'W
VSl-Pool Flower 1967 Electricity, colored PVC and air 3'6"H, 15'W, 15'

"Visual Sensitivity Information" (VSI) is my term for all art products. If you approach art in this new way, calling it VSI, it makes you think in a totally new way about the history of art. You don't get hung-up on the whole pretentious build-up that has been going on for centuries. Like Rembrandt is ART, and what people are doing today can't be accounted for except as "modem art". That's nonsense because modern art has aiways been there. It is just the art that is happening in your own time.

The world is made up of pieces of information of all kinds, visual or sensory. A fork, a car, a door, a handle or a rock – all these things are information; and if you can get beyond the label-attitude, you are able to see and experience all they contain. The label is what gets in the way of experience. Because an object is labelled a "glass", people see simply g-l-a-s-s. They do not see all (the intrinsic potentials of "glass-ness": how the glass is a bubble; how it's a container that captures space; how it's a clear window into some other little worid. And then there's the whole other tactile experience, as well as the visual one, of drinking out of a variety of glasses: watching the fluid come up, sensing it flow into different kinds of shapes. People don't go off into these various realms of magic and empathy, pure form and surrealism, because labelling has become what their appreciation of life is. They have lost their innocent way of looking and feeling: and they start drilling it out of their kids at the age of six.

All artists, all painters and sculptors are simply "visual-sensory informers": people who handle our worid's information, putting it together in colours and shapes. In the time we are coming to, "VSI display areas" will merchandise art, and traditional "galleries" will soon be thought of as storehouses for art history. The snobbery concept will disappear along with the pretentious price tag. Mass-produced art-will be sold in stores and in drive-ins where people eat; and exhibitions from Tokyo to Los Angeles will be tuned in on T.V.

Plastic is so widely used it wraps the electric age: all that information running around the worid through little plastic-coated wires! Plastic is the clothing of our time, not cold and sterile, but an extension of our "human-ness", like a new skin, a membrane: warm to touch, laughing, shiny, happy.

The plastic bags that are floating around today are like flexible pots; it's extraordinary to have this flexibility in a container. There are white bags and black bags and lilac bags and green ones for garbage, and transparent ones so that you can see what's inside. As you drive through society now, you find all sorts of things bagged, even whole cars. This led me to the idea of the "bagged landscape": sealed vinyl with water in it, and a little boat and perhaps a little plastic cloud – a heightened microcosm. A painted landscape blends with the environment, but bagging a landscape adds an extra dimension of awareness, like looking at it through a window.

From bagging, I went on to the idea of inflated vinyl sculpture, I started making clouds and other huge shapes, floating and tethered. Inflateds have a built-in physical fitness program. They have the advantage of being deflatable. Shipping problems were solved: I could make a very large sculpture, seal it off, and mail it with pumping instructions.

For centuries now, sculpture has been like jewellery. I am concerned with the concept of bigness, with sculpture that can finally make a statement as a dimension in society. Inflated sculpture is one possibility. But I am thinking in terms of acres and half-acres. I would like to teach a sculpture class, using bulldozers. I would like to create a great sculptural place. A sort of park, a whole family experience.

But enough of that for now. Bag it!

baxter portrait

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