Luis Jacob (BA 1996) is passionate about art, and wishes more of his ironically detached peers were, too.
This summer, he’ll have a chance to convince them.
Jacob, 36, is one of two Canadian artists asked to participate in “documenta 12,” a massive contemporary art exhibition taking place from June to September in Kassel, Germany. For Jacob, it’s a rare opportunity to show his work to a huge international audience; more than 650,000 people are expected to attend.
The UC grad will unveil two pieces in mid-June as part of a single installation. One is called – take a deep breath – A Dance for Those of Us Whose Hearts Have Turned to Ice, Based on the Choreography of Françoise Sullivan and the Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth (with Sign Language Supplements); the other is Album III, a collection of images concerning fluidity and rigidity, says Jacob.
Like its title, the first work is complex, involving video and print. The central focus is a high-definition video of fellow Toronto artist Keith Cole performing an homage to Danse dans la neige (1948), a choreography by Québécois artist and dancer Françoise Sullivan.
To a viewer, the dancer comes across as a metaphor for the artist in a coldly conservative milieu – the artist attempting to “melt our hearts.”
Being passionate about one’s art is crucial to Jacob, who laments the ironic detachment so prevalent in today’s art scene. His recent work hearkens back to artists of an earlier, less cynical era. “Sullivan talked passionately about art in a way that to contemporary ears would sound awkward and embarrassing,” he says. “To me, it’s instructive.”
Jacob was born in Lima, Peru, and immigrated to Canada with his family when he was 10. Active in the Toronto anarchist community, Jacob believes non-hierarchical models of organization are the only ethical ones and tries to advance this idea in his work. “Activism has an important place in an art practice,” he says.
Although he has been working single-mindedly on his “documenta” piece for several months, Jacob is also well known around Toronto as a DJ – and an energetic dancer. “Dance has been an outlet for me ever since I was old enough to go to nightclubs,” he says. “It’s a cathartic experience that I totally love.”
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