From November 23rd 2012 to January 18th 2013, Satellite Gallery curated (e)merging Art/Music/Poetry: The Vancouver Artpunk Archive of Doreen Grey, an inventive, interdisciplinary exploration of Vancouver’s emerging punk scene in the late 1970s. Centered around environmentalist, artist and videographer Lenore “Doreen Grey” Herb, who died in 2010, the exhibit delved into a vast archive of Herb’s creative works and memorabilia. Satellite Gallery’s curator, Jaime Clay, recalls Lenore Herb from both a personal and curatorial perspective.
Shazia: What was your first encounter with Lenore Herb’s work like?
Jaime Clay: My first encounter with Lenore was as she was filming one of the local music shows. I was in one of the bands and was introduced to her formally by our singer. It was from then on, as I played and attended those shows in the late 1970’s that I would see Lenore often recording. She would be there with all her gear, usually alone, trying to get some of the band’s music recorded on video.
As for seeing her work (product) for the first time, I would see it presented at a pop-up art gallery around the same time. Pop-up art galleries were a recurring event back then: they gave an outlet for both artists and musicians.
But seeing her work for the second time, 30 years later, was more of a revelation. I lost contact with her (and my lead singer) in the intervening years, so finding her again proved a little difficult. Once I did, then looking at her video footage, it was all pretty exciting — having the patina of 30 years.
How does her work compare and relate to her contemporaries? Who were her contemporaries?
There were really no contemporaries to her in this genre, and she pretty much worked by herself, a decision she made and kept to. Some contemporaries would be artists Paul Wong, John Anderson, Elizabeth Vander Zaag, who specialized in video at that time. Lenore made enemies easily. She marched to her own beat, so her ideas never met eye-to-eye with any of the other artists working in the same genre. Their paths met for sure, but no collaborations ever occurred, nor the sharing of ideas. Lenore wasn’t a conceptualist. She was more of a realist. Capture the moment.
What is your favourite piece by Lenore Herb?
I have many favourite pieces from her collection. From the show at the Belkin Satellite, I could stare forever at the picture or Lenore with her video camera, taken circa 1979. She looked so engrossed in her art, unaware a film camera was near her, capturing her image. I love all her musical video work. It is very difficult to pick out one piece. Yes, they stand out well on their own, but if you take many of them together (the compilation music video was done by me) you get a sense of the awesome power of the media and how it explored and exploited unknown territory from that period.
What is the significance of her work in a cultural and historical context?
Lenore’s work is historical; an important lost document to a period in Vancouver’s (and the West Coast/BC) art movement. There was no connection to New York, London or even San Francisco or Toronto’s art scene here in Vancouver. Lenore, having grown up with the local poets in the early 1960’s, and then the counterculture to the late ‘60’ and early 1970’s, felt there was a need to record these short, undocumented times. At first she used film cameras, but it soon became evident, with the punk movement, that she needed to capture more than just still images. It was a catharsis on her part, and luckily the new medium of videotape was available in Vancouver.
Lenore Herb also ran an art collective in “Metro Media”. This was in the mid 1980’s. The storefront was a revolving door of artists, musicians and poets. She was active with “Mail Art” and received (and sent) mail art worldwide. She was also active in the new medium of colour Xerox, and the reciprocation of this art worldwide.
Her video footage alone contains rare performances of many local (and international) musicians from a time when no one else dared to record it. In addition to her music videography, she has hours and hours of poetry, again both local and international (Allan Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, etc) as well as many hours of political events, especially around the theme of sustainability — at a time when such a word barely existed.
How was her work interdisciplinary? How is this relevant to artists now, and has anyone been inspired by Lenore Herb’s work in the recent past?
Lenore straddled many genres. Video, color xerox art, poetry, film, mail art, music…the list is immense.
Up until now, she kept her work very private. Part of the problem was her video was on old formats that were difficult to transfer to newer formats. And this is true today. Her archive is in dire need of preserving, as the tapes are quickly deteriorating. So not too many people have seen her body of work, especially as completely as was shown at the recent Belkin Satellite gallery.