Marc Siegner is the silkscreen and lithography technician in the U of A Printmaking department and also an important contributor to the arts community locally and internationally. Marc’s print and installation works have been exhibited across Canada as well as internationally: in Brazil, China, Czech Republic, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Slovenia, Thailand, and The UK. Marc was co-founder of the Society of Northern Alberta Print-Artists (SNAP). Marc’s work has been collected by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts as well as the Canada Council Art Bank and several corporate and private collections both in Canada and Internationally.
Food is one of the cornerstones of cultural identity, and for me my love of food has provided me with intimate opportunities to engage and learn about other cultures. The resulting relationships provide a rich personal context in which to visually explore aspects of cultural adaptation.
A significant part of my studio practice from 2009-2013 resulted in the project, “FeiJiaCun”. For this I was able to travel to Beijing where I focused mainly on migrant workers who worked in what I call the “street kitchen”. While in Beijing I interviewed and documented street venders at busy urban intersections and the families who run makeshift BBQ restaurants or small businesses out of their homes. The resulting images from these experiences resonate with an insight that is born from the subtle gesture of a stranger walking into view or the complex interweaving of aromas from unfamiliar foods and unfamiliar sights.
And so, upon encountering my work for the first time you might consider accusing me of cultural appropriation or of supporting colonialism or worse yet categorizing me as a cultural tourist. My response is to re-consider my work under the guise of cultural adaptation or about constructing identity. I see my work as an extension of the regard I have for the culture I have embraced and the desire to explore and understand it. My studio practice is focused on my own interpretations both anthropological and ethnographical of, not only food culture, but of a reflection on my own cultural heritage and my, perhaps ours as human beings, and my/our ability to adapt.
I am very aware of a few of the anthropological and ethnographical interpretations that could be constructed due to my working methodology, however, after reading, among many other texts, Routes by James Clifford, I am clear about my intentions. I am not an anthropologist, or a scientist, or a sociologist or a social worker. I am motivated by a need to uncover my identity, I want to position myself in such a way that the viewer too can appreciate the simple beauty of a culture that is on the brink of cultural extinction. Of course this extinction is not restricted or limited to China, many other cultures are quickly becoming “the same” as everything else. And so my collaboration with nostalgia is about a longing for identity, unique cultural identity. My search for a personal identity and the problem it addresses mirrors a crisis in cultural identity that was perhaps initiated by the colonialism of my/our families’ decades and centuries ago.
More recently I have chosen to include additional content in my practice that supports the notion of nostalgia, enhancing characteristics of absence and loss. I do this to engage in a dialogue about acknowledging the present, valuing the places and things that give us identity and enhance within us a sense of place. All too often this is ignored in a furious race to make everything the same and simply replace the old with the new.