b.m.w.y.w. (Being Made While You Wait)
Frances Adair McKenzie’s exhibition b.m.w.y.w. (Being Made While You Wait) invites the viewer to explore an imagined world while holding a question in their mind: What is being made? And, perhaps more importantly, what does it mean to be invited to wait?
Wait for me, lay in wait, waiting room, wait-and-see, wait upon, I can’t wait… Such everyday expressions of suspended animation and inactivity may be the linguistic associations we bring with us to the work.
The room we enter presents a series of translucent stained-glass panels that are the products of rigorous physical and material activity. Each panel is the result of countless markings and makings—lines scored and pieces snapped, ground, foiled, soldered, and tethered into place with strands of copper comprising an invisible root system, adding stability and strength to what might otherwise fall apart.
To encounter these works is to witness the transient solidified through the ancient art of stained-glass, an act which, in itself, pays homage to the (now obsolete) sense of vidimus, the name given to a design for a painted or stained glass window meaning, we have seen. Ordinarily used to hold colour, and traditionally made to depict images of devotion, this technique has been appropriated by the artist to create new encounters and interactions—transposing many of the preoccupations Adair McKenzie has otherwise explored through digital animation into the object-based and reified space of the gallery.
Every panel, because it is made of clear glass, has transformed the soldered line into an offering: a sculptural form that encloses and embodies light, time, and translucence, activated by staging and the movement of the viewer.
One of the main elements in b.m.w.y.w. is an animated video that mirrors and extends the show’s concerns back into the digital realm using practical effects, such as the transposition of images, reflections, and organic lens filters—explicitly linking the exhibition to Joyce Wieland’s 1965 film, Water Sark. This important reference in Adair McKenzie's work, was conceived by Weiland as a “film sculpture, being made while you wait.” Wieland called her film “the high art of the housewife,” and it was made at her own kitchen table.1
In b.m.w.y.w., Adair McKenzie’s stop-motion animation work substitutes the artist’s studio and gallery installation space for the kitchen table—suggesting a fusion of the inner and outer locus of the creative act—and layers the panel forms into a looping meditation on passages of movement, colour, light, and time.
Another entry point of b.m.w.y.w. is a diorama into which glass panels, mirrors and objects have been affixed, proposing that respect for the sanctity of the object in a world that invites waiting, requires us to subvert those objects and embrace their impermanence and mutability.
In b.m.w.y.w., pieces of glass that may once have been confined to the two-dimensional are transformed into works that fuse the oppositional forces of fragility with architectural strength, transparency with busy latticed networks, and rigidity that dissolves into fluidity. The viewer is invited to witness the tools of the moving image enmeshed and arrested as immovable, and embrace the many sensuous possibilities in real time.
1 “Water Sark,” Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre, accessed August 14, 2017,
- Text by Lisa Pietersma