Whitehot Magazine

Summer 07, WM #4: Kristina Lee Podesva, agent provocateur, has masterminded an ingenious and inclusive think tank, called colourschool at UBC.

Summer 07, WM #4:  Kristina Lee Podesva, agent provocateur, has masterminded an ingenious and inclusive think tank, called  colourschool at UBC.
Colourschool @ UBC, photo: Lauren Scott



The school-within-a-school zeroes in on researching and exploring five colours: black, white, brown, yellow and red. At first glance, the colourschool’s focus looks like it’s all about racial skin tone and differentiating them. It is this, and more. Halfway through a Master of Fine Arts degree in Visual Arts, Podesva transformed her shoebox-sized grad studio into a unique locus. She says, “the colourschool project is an attempt to challenge typical mediums such as sculpture, painting, photos, performance, and installation by mixing them altogether in the form of a social sculpture.” 

Colour wrapped books numbering in the hundreds are the only constant in the room. An impressive collection of colour research, the study material shifts in volume and design as an active installation, serving as colourschool’s lending library. The studio itself can morph into classroom, meeting room and performance space in just seconds.

I attended a class entitled, “irome: a certain conversation about colour,” hosted by the former Assistant Curator at Fukuoka Asian Art Museum. Misae Ogishima related the intricacies of the Japanese colour naming system with a spectrum of combinations based on the 12-layered kimonos of the Heian era. Who could forget the sight and poetic sublimity of “the underside of ice?” Colour was seen, heard and internalised, accompanied by the serving of tea in tiny white cups and palest pink sweets in the shape of phallic larvae dedicated to young boys in spring’s blossom-time.

There is a deliberate juxtaposition in scheduling. Imagine the discussion that followed “longing to be a rich white girl or Paris is burning: a screening,” exploring the film’s examination of colour via black gay balls, yearnings for ‘the great white way of living or looking,’ and the contrast between lipstick red and diamond white.

The academic poise definitely conjures up a puckish seriousness to colourschool’s “free and open space for critical enquiry.”[1] Podesva shows her bent for questioning and examining not only the dramatic subtleties of 5 colours, but demonstrates a passion for ideas related to “conceptions of race, racial othering, and the fault lines that lie between them”[2] She exhibited two farcical self-portraits of external stereotypes at Belkin Satellite earlier this year. Apparent is an awareness of surface having depth and Podesva is enticing echelons of enquiring minds to experience engagement by observing similarities as well as honouring their differences.

Regular programming includes The Listening Labs, devoted to the aural explorations of colour (participants bring relevant song titles; soundtracks from each Lab are available by podcast or in-house) and Beuy’s Brown Bag Lunch Sessions, on the writing and practice of Joseph Beuys. A stream of guest hosts adds variety: for example, Jordan Strom, editor of The Fillip Review, leads a series, “but what colour is the bicycle?”

A random list of one-off events intrigue by their titles alone: colourlines; an other cosmos: a method for reaching zones of infinite funkativity; the colour of concealment; the ruby glass; the colour of clouds at the gate.

Podesva’s 21st century salon – which concludes in its present incarnation in August 2007 – links with The Summer of Love “happenings” of 40 years ago. Certainly her colourschool is now part of the lineage of experimental education, fascinating the senses and provoking the elevation of thought.



colourschool is located at:

6363 Stores Road

Studio 2A

University of British Columbia





[Email Podesva info@colourschool.org for details about colourschool’s re-emergence at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, Fall 2007]



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Amarie Bergman


Amarie Bergman formulates and makes reductive art, showing her work at non-objective art galleries located in Melbourne, Sydney and Paris. She writes occasionally for Whitehot Magazine and lives in Melbourne.



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