Opening to a packed house at the Western Front Gallery in Vancouver on March 17, 2005, 15 years after participating in the Ken Lum work, WE ARE SACRED BLADE, Othyrworld members Jeff Ulmer, Ted Zawadzki and live guitarist, Randy Robertson, return to art galleries in WE ARE OTHYRWORLD. This 9 x 4 foot piece is the latest work in Vancouver artists Hadley and Maxwell’s Décor Project, a series started in 2001 in which the artists redecorate the homes of curators, collectors and other cultural practitioners, documenting the installations photographically with the assistance of Sven Boecker.
Hadley Howes and Maxwell Stephens began collaborating in 1997, graduating together from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, Canada the following year, and in 2004 co-wrote a thesis on collaboration to receive their Masters of Art in Communications from the European Graduate School, Switzerland.
Maxwell: “We are working on a catalogue to document all the Décor Projects to date and artist Tim Lee is designing the catalogue, so for the cover we thought it would be apt to create a new project in his apartment. We gave Tim a questionnaire in order to research his taste in both art and décor. in response to the question If you could own any 3 pieces of art in the world, what would they be? one of his answers was “We Are Sacred Blade, Ken Lum” When we found out that Sacred Blade was still around (albeit under a new moniker) we decided this would be the most exciting way to approach the project… to work with the band in an updated version of Lum’s original work specifically designed for Lum’s student, Tim Lee.
“Bensen Neo Couch, charcoal grey, bought at Inform Interiors, 2004″ was his response to the question Name 3 favourite objects in your home and how you acquired them. This of course is the couch Ted and Randy are sitting on in the image.
Meanwhile in another (an othyr?) universe, Jeff Ulmer was busy putting the finishing touches on a ten-year epic in the production of Beyond Into the Night of Day when an email from Hadley & Maxwell opened the conversation on their new project idea. Jeff was intrigued, so planning for the event, which would take place once the new Othyrworld CD had arrived, was initiated and a good deal of time was spent defining the concept for the image, with Hadley and Maxwell seeking Jeff’s input as to different design ideas or elements that would be suitable.
After many days of deliberations, the final approach was decided upon, using the architechtural features of Lee’s apartment to advantage – a mirror in the alcove off the livingroom would be used to reflect an image of Lum’s original work, which fit the theme of the new piece perfectly.
“There are a lot of parallels at work in this piece,” says Ulmer. “It is a reflection of the past on several levels–literally and figuratively. It is also a piece on succession, for ourselves in the transition from Sacred Blade to Othyrworld, but also in the relationship between Ken Lum as the teacher and Tim Lee as his student, and in the representation of one era of Vancouver art to a new generation with Hadley and Maxwell. It pays homage to the Ken Lum work we were involved with 15 years ago and also represents both Ken and Tim at similar points in their careers.
From the band perspective, there are a couple of interesting comparisons. WE ARE SACRED BLADE presents a raw image of the band, indicative of the attitude of the first studio album. The photograph also mirrors the stage of our careers at the time, even down to the similarity between the background in the image (the hallway outside Lum’s studio) and the environment of one of our rehearsal spaces.
By contrast the WE ARE OTHYRWORLD image is more refined, more produced, reflecting the current state of the band. The use of the reflected Lum image not only bridges the past and present – and philosophically places the past behind us while remaining a part of the present – it is also representative of my own use of reflections and photography in creating the cover art for the Sacred Blade album.
On the WE ARE SACRED BLADE project, we had no idea how the finished piece would turn out until we saw it, and had little involvement other than supplying a logo and showing up for the shoot. WE ARE OTHYRWORLD was a very creative and collaborative experience, from the photo composition to designing the logo treatment. Hadley, Maxwell and Sven were wonderful to work with despite a very cramped set and the long shooting day. I would have no hesitation working with them again, however, next time I’m taking the couch…