In context with Carolyn Jervis

Works-to-Work Alumni, Carolyn Jervis, is the Director of the new John and Maggie Mitchell Gallery, a public gallery in MacEwan University’s new fine arts centre, Allard Hall.

Carolyn’s job now, in as simple words as possible, is to absorb works of art and the world they’re embedded in. This work can’t be contained in a nine-to-five work day, as any knowledge gained contributes to a richer context, informing and connecting all of Carolyn’s practices, like curating, programming, researching, and art writing.

Being the Mitchell Gallery’s only staff member, an average day for Carolyn might find her performing hands-on duties, like gallery sitting or erasing pencil marks from the white walls. But the bulk of Carolyn’s work is coordinating, planning, researching and thinking – puzzling out what it means to be a public gallery in the just-north-of-downtown neighbourhood. Brought on to ready the gallery for opening,  Carolyn curated the Mitchell Gallery’s first show, Where This Goes, a group exhibition of MacEwan Fine Art Alumni from various eras, now practicing all over the country.

 Photo courtesy of Blaine Campbell

Photo courtesy of Blaine Campbell

The show’s title is both a statement and prompt for reflection. Thinking of MacEwan’s decades-old fine art program as a starting point, we see 6 alumni trajectories. In conversation, Carolyn discusses the significance of studying the present work of alumni:  

I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of understanding where you come from, historically. Artists and all of us are discursive formations in some way and we’re embedded in these stories. What does it mean to look at artists who were part of the history of this program, who have been students in different periods of time and to look at their work together, the work that they’ve made in the present? In doing this, there’s a tethering between the past and present. Is there a sort of commonality that we’re seeing and does that tell us anything that’s meaningful?  

In terms of the gallery itself, Where this goes also points to the complexities of running a public gallery in an academic institution. It posits big questions, such as whom and what public does this public gallery serve? Carolyn acknowledges that museums are not neutral, referencing Mike Murawski and LaTanya Autry’s campaign and t-shirt that highlights the bias nature of museums, despite the over-arching narrative that museums are safe, neutral spaces, also implied by the white walls of a typical gallery space. Acknowledging bias and shedding the urge to develop “neutral” programming leaves a gap in the identity of a gallery that can be filled by examining the many overlapping communities within the gallery’s reach:

Thinking about the diversity of the neighbourhood, we have luxury condos, walk-up apartments, a lot of newcomers to Canada, a big urban indigenous population – we’re surrounded by a lot of people with different stories. If you’re thinking about being a public gallery, what public are we serving? These are the really big questions that we’re going to be working through and struggling through and asking lots of questions about – this year, and into the future, but pretty fundamentally now.

After receiving a BA from the University of Alberta, majoring in history of art and visual culture with a minor in women’s studies, Carolyn achieved a Master of Art degree in art history, critical and curatorial studies from the University of British Columbia. Outside of the Mitchell Gallery, Carolyn is also completing a research project about the Art Gallery of Alberta regarding access to public art for Syrian and other refugees. As a Works-to-work intern for three years between 2007 and 2010, Carolyn participated in the curatorial stream. Years following, she completed curatorial work for several arts institutions, and has made many writing contributions to major arts publications and exhibitions.

You can read Carolyn’s review of Ruth Cuthand’s artwork, Don’t breath don’t drink in C Magazine online.

Christine FrostComment
Communication In Action, by Yang Lim
 Vignettes Building, Edmonton

Vignettes Building, Edmonton

Date: Sunday, July 2, 2017

Author: Yang Lim

As the former home of the Reuse Centre, the Vignettes building has provided a unique opportunity for art exhibits to be showcased as it constitutes the recycling (literally) of an otherwise empty space.  In particular, the state of the building enhances the aesthetic effect and psychological impact of some works, particularly those that appear in the building’s basement as part of a pop-up exhibition entitled Self-Disclosures, which was curated separately from the Works festival.

If one considers the setting of basements, both positive and negative connotations may come to mind.  It could be perceived as a harbour of secrets, a site of things forgotten, or a dumping ground for detritus and unwanted items.  In movies, venturing into the basement can either be a good thing—as someone may uncover a hidden treasure or long-lost tale—or otherwise a bad thing—as someone may encounter something frightening or horrific.  

  "Happiness Objects"  Nathan Levasseur and T. J. McLachlan Self-Disclosures 2017

"Happiness Objects" Nathan Levasseur and T. J. McLachlan
Self-Disclosures 2017

These contrasting characteristics associated with the basement contribute to the effect of certain works in this exhibit.  For example, Nathan Levasseur and T. J. McLachlan’s Happiness Objects appears to be a rumination on the transient nature of happiness and the fluidity of emotion as perhaps a process and a moment to be captured in time, frozen momentarily and gone the next.  The installation itself is completely yellow, which is a colour that people may associate with happiness, brightness, summery weather, and the sun.  At the same time, contrasting elements may clash with people’s initial impressions of this installation.  A table near the installation entrance has two vases containing yellow flowers, but against the right wall is a trough of water with the word “Violence” on the sign above it.  In addition, beside the entrance is a yellow flower with its stem covered in plastic, which provides a contrast between the natural and artificial.

  "Happiness Objects"  Nathan Levasseur and T. J. McLachlan Self-Disclosures 2017

"Happiness Objects" Nathan Levasseur and T. J. McLachlan
Self-Disclosures 2017

On the far side of the room is a yellow platform that the public is invited to step onto, in front of which they can see a funnel with a sad face on the front, which is attached to a pipe.  If people stop to watch the yellow funnel fill with water, it eventually tips over due to the increasing weight of the water that fills it.  As it does so, the funnel spins around and people can see the happy face on the funnel’s back side for a brief second before the funnel rights itself back up and water starts filling it again, thereby repeating and perpetuating the cycle.  With its contrasting connotations, the basement setting complements this work’s effects by highlighting the contradictory meanings that may be inherent in and underpin people’s emotions.  For example, are Levasseur and McLachlan suggesting that there is an undercurrent of violence that is present in any expression of happiness?

 "Untitled", Michelle Duchamp and Caitlin McCann Self-Disclosures 2017

"Untitled", Michelle Duchamp and Caitlin McCann
Self-Disclosures 2017

Similarly, Michelle Duchamp and Caitlin McCann’s untitled installation takes on a particularly poignant effect in the Vignette’s basement, since this space may bring to mind similar settings that have become associated with drug addicts in television shows and other mainstream media.  Although Duchamp and McCann do not deal directly with drug addiction per se, their exhibit speaks to this issue as they appear to be focusing on gender identity and mental illness in the context of capitalism and consumer culture.   In this context, they contemplate the issue of addiction within a broader conceptual frame that defines this as any pattern of behaviour with negative effects that someone is unable to stop.  

As such, Duchamp and McCann’s work appears to prompt us to consider some questions: How is mental illness or other psychological problems perceived and how are they treated?  Is there an overemphasis on treating these with drugs, which is a simple solution, rather than trying to discover and address the root causes of them?  Significant progress has been made in this regard in the last couple of decades, but there is still a social stigma associated with mental illness.  Although one may desire quick solutions to deal with these or an easy way to understand what mental illness is about, this is not possible as it differs from one individual to another. One part of this installation is an animated image of a Google search page that illustrates how one can easily find information about any type of psychological problem, but does this really help people to understand what it is about and what it is like to live with a particular condition?  In this respect, this installation appears to expose the gap in understanding and communication that surrounds this topic.

 "Untitled", Michelle Duchamp and Caitlin McCann Self-Disclosures 2017

"Untitled", Michelle Duchamp and Caitlin McCann
Self-Disclosures 2017

Megan Gnanasihamany’s work “Utility Island” takes the issue of communication to the extreme by representing a situation in which no communication occurs at all.  She considers the environment of the corporate office and parodies the ways in which it is regimented, perpetually monotonous, and unchanging.  People can read the “Code of Conduct” on the cubicle wall, which contains many rules including one about communication: “No communication may be undertaken which could constitute as progressing a relationship or addressing an issue relating to a relationship, shared responsibility, or mutual interest.”  In other words, nothing of significance will happen in this space, nor will any attempts to do so be successful.   The basement setting enhances the effect of Gnanasihamany’s installation as it contributes to the sense of isolation and depersonalization that some people may associate with the corporate setting.

 "Utility Island", Megan Gnanasihamany Self-Disclosures 2017

"Utility Island", Megan Gnanasihamany
Self-Disclosures 2017

 "Utility Island", Megan Gnanasihamany Self-Disclosures 2017

"Utility Island", Megan Gnanasihamany
Self-Disclosures 2017

During this exhibit’s opening reception, the artist Megan Gnanasihamany sat at the office desk in her installation and would greet each patron who chose to sit down.  However, nothing of significance is discussed and, in her role as the performer, she would ask the patrons whether they would like to have a printout.  If they do, she would proceed to print out a piece of paper with an essentially meaningless statement of fact; in some cases, she may also hand patrons an object without any explanation or elaboration, whether it is a photograph, trinket, or some other object.  This usually signals the end of the conversation and patrons will leave with puzzlement and bewilderment. 

As suggested by its title, the exhibition Self-Disclosures asks us to consider what it means to self-disclose and the conditions that are needed for such disclosure to be possible and for this to be acknowledged by others.  In their own ways, the three works mentioned earlier deal with this issue.  Whereas Nathan Levasseur and T. J. McLachlan’s piece considers self-disclosure in the context of emotional responses, Duchamp and McCann’s work seems to point to how self-disclosure is only possible when there is a mutual understanding and empathy between the people involved.  Megan Gnanasihamany’s work takes this further as she seems to be suggesting that without any contextual reference points or a mutual willingness to engage among the people involved, communication or any meaningful interaction is impossible.

 

Christine FrostComment
That's a wrap! for The Works Street Stage 2017!

What a jam packed 13 days of everything from tap dancing with jazz to spoken word.  With over 80 acts, the Street Stage featured local favourites and performers travelling from as far away as Argentina. This year, we had great attendance at the festival, and many enjoyed the live music from our all ages licensed patio. The Works Street Stage would like to thank all those who came out (rain & shine) to see their favourite act or discovered some new music! We certainly saw a lot of head bopping, cheering and dancing throughout the festival. 

The Street Stage would also like to express their gratitude to the partnerships that brought even more variety and talent to the stage. What a treat to be partnered for another year with TD Edmonton International Jazz Festival to bring Works with Jazz. For 7 days, we had smooth jazz fill Churchill Square and many people found it the perfect way to spend their lunch hour. 

On June 24th we celebrated Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day with Festival Edmonton Chante, and what a party! The Works Street Stage led up to the evening party with a number of francophone performers who graced our stage with original music. The party started off with a Grosses Têtes parade that was accompanied by festival goers lively keeping the beat with over 20 djembes. The evening continued with performances by Bouclette, Zéphyr, Sébastien De Francesco & Jean-François Prud'homme (Motel 72), Hey Wow! and Franco Party. It’s a good thing we extended our Street Stage till 11:00pm because Franco Party closed the party with a crowd dancing up a sweat! 

We proudly celebrated Canada’s multiculturalism on June 25th, in partnership with the Canadian Multiculturalism Foundation. We had City Councillor Scott McKeen (Ward 6), MLA David Shepherd (Edmonton-Centre) and MP Kerry Diotte (Edmonton-Griesbach) attend the opening ceremony that featured Siberian singer Sophia Nikerova. The Works Street Stage also presented a showcase of cultures on Canadian Multiculturalism Day that included performances by Indian Music Academy, nêhiyawak, Bardic Form and many more.

Spirits were high as we had many bands stopping at our stage before heading up to the North Country Fair. The excitement hit a peak by the end of the first day with Entangados, a group all the way from Argentina, Columbia and... Surrey, British Columbia. Their high energy music mixed with carnival styled costumes and antics got the audience on their feet and dancing.  

You had to be there on Canada Day to fully understand how much was going on. As per tradition, The Gateway Big Band opened the Street Stage with O’ Canada and proceeded to wow the crowd in a big way. One of our favourite moments was their beautiful rendition of Stand By Me by Ben E. King.  It seemed like the party never stopped, even when it was raining our performers and festival goers stuck it out like troopers.  We were so proud to feature bands led by Albertan women, each performance was uniquely entertaining and was wildly received. Some of the evening highlights included Nuela Charles and Ellen McIlwaine. 

There were so many memorable moments and connections at The Works Street Stage. We saw many people inspired by The Street Stage, whether it was to get up dancing or engage others in a conversation about the music.  Many festival goers even created impactful dialogue with our musicians! We hope that next year you will join us again to experience another 13 days of free live music. See you next year!

Capital Boulevard Legacy Public Art Project – Canada 150 Public Launch Event

On Canada Day, Saturday July 1, The Places hosted a public celebration of the launch of the Capital Boulevard Public Art Project – Canada 150. This Project has seen the commission of five new original landmark sculptures along 108 Street between 99 Avenue and 104 Avenue. As of Canada Day three sculptures have been installed: at Site 1 (108 St between 99 Ave and 100 Ave) “Transect” by Firebrand Glass, at Site 2 (108 St between 100 Ave and Jasper Ave) “Start Gazer – Koo-Koo-Sint” by Voyager Art & Tile (Dawn Detarando and Brian McArthur) and at Site 5 (108 St between 103 Ave and 104 Ave) “world enough, and time” by Ken Macklin.

A candid shot of the Artists gather with Project Sponsors following remarks by Edmonton Centre MP Randy Boissonnault and DBA Executive Director Ian O’Donnell. 

This event welcomed the project to Downtown Edmonton, and celebrated the artists/artist teams. All artists were in attendance, and were joined by their guests, as well as Project Partners and Supporters at the Maquette Exhibit at the Legislative Assembly Visitor Centre. Attendees were then led on a walkabout of 108 Street to gather for congratulatory remarks from Edmonton Centre MP Randy Boissonnault and DBA Executive Director Ian O’Donnell at Mondo Café. 

Upon the installation of the final two sculptures later this summer – Site 3 (108 St between Jasper Ave and 102 Ave) “Sentinel” by Sandra Bromley and Site 4 (108 St between 102 Ave and 103 Ave) “Nature’s Harmony” by Leo Arcand – The Places will host another public event celebrating all five sculptures and the completion of the Project.

This Project is funded in part by the Government of Canada, with matching investments from partners: the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and the City of Edmonton; and support from the Downtown Business Association, and The Works Society.    

Broadening the Dialogue: (Re)making the Canadian Nation by Yang Lim

    What does Canada mean as a “nation” and what types of discourses are created and disseminated about our country?  A number of exhibits in this year’s Works festival deal with this issue in different ways, which include those that the festival has curated and others that have been curated by its partner galleries.

 "A Possible Canada" asks visitors to post gratitudes, dreams, visions for a possible Canada.

"A Possible Canada" asks visitors to post gratitudes, dreams, visions for a possible Canada.

    Amy Loewen’s interactive installation A Possible Canada speaks to the issue of nation by representing a readily identifiable symbol for Canada in an artistic form and by asking the public to think about what they would like to see for Canada’s future.  As such, her work engages the public in a dialogue with her artwork as well as with each other, such that their ideas build upon each other and provide inspiration for further discussion.  Her installation consists of two parts.  The first is her artwork “O’Canada Project” that consists of a maple leaf woven out of rice paper strips, on which there are words identifying values for fostering harmony and relationships in 35 different languages.  The second part of her installation includes two notice boards that pose a question about the Canadian nation and invite the public to participate in envisioning what the Canadian nation can become in the future.  The board poses the question, “Post your gratitudes, dreams, visions for a possible Canada.”  People can write their thoughts on the provided sticky notes and post them on the notice boards; at the same time, they can browse through what others have written.  The sharing of ideas become a generator of dialogue and reflection and may even, perhaps, inspire people to action in their own ways in order to work towards that “possible Canada.”

 "A Possible Canada" by Amy Loewan, displayed in Edmonton City Hall during The Works 2017

"A Possible Canada" by Amy Loewan, displayed in Edmonton City Hall during The Works 2017

    In another sense, the exhibit What Have you Heard About Us? also speaks to the issue of nation by considering the ways in which cultural and political discourses have shaped public perceptions of indigenous and cultural minorities in Canada. Indeed, the concept of “nation” is inextricably linked with issues of identity because its cohesiveness depends on the circulation of predominant narratives that have served to exclude it.   This exhibit is a multidisciplinary art installation in which the artist collective ImagiNation Miscellany has created new artwork that explores how Canada’s indigenous and cultural minorities have been represented in stereotypical, reductive, or negative ways that elide the complexity of these peoples’ lives, experiences, and perspectives. 

 Results of a story circle in 2017, "What have you heard about us?" ImagiNation Miscellany

Results of a story circle in 2017, "What have you heard about us?" ImagiNation Miscellany

    As a whole, the artwork depicted includes sketches and photos on the exhibit walls as well as installation pieces.  For example, there are numerous popular associations with particular items or cultural practices that become identified with particular cultural communities or groups in the mainstream cultural discourses.  Two examples of this which are mentioned in the exhibit include martial arts and rice, both of which will likely cause people to think of the Asian community.  Although these associations are not invalid, they are problematic if these characteristics become identified as supposedly inherent traits of the group as a whole.  For example, not all people of Asian descent know martial arts, yet the representations of Asians in popular culture have perpetuated such associations by portraying Asian characters in rather limited roles: they are depicted as working in laundromats, convenience stores, and restaurants. Even though television shows such as Kim’s Convenience on CBC are a welcome addition because it includes Korean characters, which has not been seen very often on mainstream television, it is still taking place in the recognizable context of a convenience store.  As such, this may inadvertently contribute to the same reductive cultural discourses about Asian communities that does not really reflect the diversity of their peoples’ occupations in Canadian society.

    In the same way, the representation of the character of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon in The Simpsons is problematic because he has become engrained in the popular imagination as a quintessential South Asian person.  As one of the artists has written on one of the exhibit walls, Apu does not represent who he is.  It is true that Apu has some positive qualities such as the fact that he has a Ph.D. and harmonious family, but nevertheless he only owns a convenience store and speaks with an accent.  Furthermore, the 7-Eleven chain has used his image as a marketing tool to advertise its business, but by highlighting the characters’ qualities that may be stereotypically associated with that cultural community.

 "What have you heard about us?" by art collective ImagiNation Miscellany

"What have you heard about us?" by art collective ImagiNation Miscellany

    The exhibit also speaks to other issues that are faced by indigenous and cultural minority communities, such as the fact that the diversity of Canada’s population is not represented in various institutional contexts such as the educational setting.  One artist provides two coloured drawings that contrast the predominantly white composition of the Edmonton school staff’s demographics with the cultural diversity of its students.  Other artwork in the exhibit evoke the feelings of inadequacy and exclusion that people experience because of their inability to fit into Canadian society, whether this is physically due to their skin colour or the clothes that they wear. 

 “Grandma’s Garden” by Lynne Howard

“Grandma’s Garden” by Lynne Howard

    The exhibits in the partner galleries also speak to these themes of nationhood and the discourses that have been circulated to promote a national identity.  Two notable ones include the ones at the Alberta Craft Council and Latitude 53.  The Alberta Craft Council’s fibre art exhibition Women’s Hands: Building a Nation commemorates Canada150 and focuses on women’s achievements. This exhibit exemplifies an assertion and inscription of women’s achievements into Canada’s national narrative, which has historically excluded, marginalized, or trivialized their achievements.  In this exhibit, the act of representation functions as a form of agency that is mediated through an art form that may have been associated with domesticity or women’s work.  As such, this constitutes an appropriation of that art form in a way that empowers women by using it as a means to affirm their presence and achievements.

 “Settler’s Bonnet” by Pat Minton

“Settler’s Bonnet” by Pat Minton

Critic Sharon Marcus has commented on how fibre work has become more conceptual in recent years due in part to postmodernist influences, which has led to the creation of work that deals with various cultural and political issues.  Indeed, the range of work in this exhibit varies from the highly personal to the broadly societal.  For example, Lynne Howard’s “Grandma’s Garden” is a highly biographical series that provides an intimate look at the artist’s grandmother, as told through narrative and scenic snapshots associated with her life.  In doing so, Howard gives voice to her grandmother’s experiences and recognizes them as an important aspect of Canada’s story.  Pat Minton’s “Settler’s Bonnet” also acknowledges her grandmother’s contributions to building the nation in her own way through her personal achievements.

 “Do You Know These Famous Canadian Women?” by Ruth Walkden and Rose Brooks-Birarda

“Do You Know These Famous Canadian Women?” by Ruth Walkden and Rose Brooks-Birarda

In contrast, the quilted work “Do You Know These Famous Canadian Women?” takes a broader societal scope to its subject matter by depicting famous Canadian women who have made an impact on Canada as a whole.  Created by Ruth Walkden and Rose Brooks-Birarda, this work portrays several faces of Canadian women who have made their mark on Canada in various ways.  These include women in a wide range of disciplines, such as anti-slavery activist, publisher, teacher, lawyer, and journalist Mary Ann Shadd, astronaut Julie Payette, Olympic gold medallist Hayley Wickenheiser, and notable Inuit artist Kenojuak Ashevak, among others.  In a similar vein, Sheralee Hancherow’s “Never Give Up” portrays female athletes whose athletic achievements may not have been widely known.  For example, her work mentions Chantal Petitclerc. the most decorated athlete in history, and Clara Hughes, who is the only athlete to have obtained multiple medals at both the Summer and Winter Olympics.  Other works focus on historical events or developments that have impacted significantly on women’s lives and contributed to their independence and agency, such as Jan Peciulis’s “Women’s Suffrage” and Sharon Johnston and Jennie Wolter’s “The Pill.”

 Big'Uns, exhibit by Dayna Danger showing at Latitude 53 

Big'Uns, exhibit by Dayna Danger showing at Latitude 53 

In a different sense, Latitude 53’s exhibitions Trumpet and Big‘Uns reflect on Canada as a nation as they draw attention to how national narratives and ideological discourses have excluded or silenced indigenous and other minority perspectives.  In Dayna Danger’s Big‘Uns, the life-size photographs of indigenous people constitute a means for individual and collective self-affirmation in two senses: as an affirmation of indigenous identities that have historically been stereotyped, misrepresented, and excluded from narratives of Canadian history, and as an affirmation of people with sexual orientations who continue to be misrepresented, objectified, or omitted from mainstream media.  As the exhibit description states, it “explores the act of reclaiming power over our own sexualities and bodies.”  Indeed, the use of antlers—associated with male animals—becomes a means for reclaiming a sense of power as they are held by the women in each photo.  

 Lee Deranger “Reconcile This” and Kazumi Marthiesen “71 Swipes” 

Lee Deranger “Reconcile This” and Kazumi Marthiesen “71 Swipes” 

    The exhibit Trumpet complements Dayna Danger’s work as it includes artwork that questions the contemporary political climate and encourages the public to consider stories and experiences that have been marginalized or excluded.  For example, Kazumi Marthiesen’s “71 Swipes” comments critically on the history of American naval bases that are still located in Okinawa, Japan to this day and the sexual crimes that are still committed against Japanese women by American military personnel stationed there.  Another work by Lee Deranger, entitled “Reconcile This” highlights how Nova Scotia’s history has failed to recognize indigenous perspectives or fully acknowledge the long-term effects of their mistreatment on indigenous communities today.  The work depicts what appear to be three scalps of indigenous women that are tacked against a wooden door, with the Nova Scotian flag set above it, thereby calling attention to the harsh reality of indigenous women who are still murdered or going missing today.

 Gerry Yaum photography exhibit at Latitude 53 

Gerry Yaum photography exhibit at Latitude 53 

    Similarly, Gerry Yaum’s photographs of impoverished people in Thailand also draw attention to unrecognized stories and experiences that have not typically been part of the mainstream discourse.  Despite their economic circumstances, Yaum’s work does not portray them simplistically as powerless victims with which viewers are asked to sympathize.  Instead, they are depicted as individuals with dignity and whose lives are not solely defined by their poverty; they are able to make a home for themselves, even though it is located in a garbage dump.  This does not discount the reality of their impoverished circumstances, but Yaum’s representation of them avoids stereotyping them as a collective group as his photos depict them as individuals with their own unique personalities and circumstances.

    Taken together, these are some of the exhibits in this year’s Works festival that approach the subject of the Canadian nation in their own ways.  What can be seen from this artwork is that Canada as a nation is composed not simply of one national narrative, but rather multiple narratives arising out of specific historical, political, and cultural circumstances that are continually in the process of being reconfigured anew by people in the present.  It is these narratives and the dialogue generated by them that comprise the ongoing body of stories about Canada.

Le Salon Slideshow by: Julie-Claude Vezeau-Croteau, Production Assistant.

Il n’y a pas longtemps, j’ai trouvé une boîte remplie de photo sous le lit de ma grand-maman. Ses images témoignent du passé, de souvenirs lointains quelquefois oubliés ou parfois d’événement tout simplement inconnu. Ce mystère qui les entoure, nous pousse à leur créer un sens. 

Une oeuvre nommée  Le Salon Slideshow présenté sur Churchill Square dans le cadre du The Works Art and Design Festival perpétue ces sentiments que l’on ressent lorsque l’on découvre et investigue d’anciennes photos. Cette installation est menée par Sevihcra project, un duo comprenant Sophie Arès-Pilon et Patrick Arès-Pilon. Elle présente des diapositives de voyage de leur grand-mère et grand-tante au Québec lors de l’expo 67, d’Edmonton dans les années 50 et d’autres diapositives dépourvues d’origine même pour les artistes. 

 Ses diapositives sont présentées dans un décor hybride entre un cinéma et une chaleureuse maison d’époque. Les diapositives varient dépendant à quel moment nous décidons de visiter cette installation immersive. Je vous suggère fortement de prendre quelques minutes et de vous y attarder, de prendre le temps de vous reposer et de vivre cette expérience sans tarder puisque le festival prend fin demain, le 4 juillet.

Julie-Claude Vezeau-Croteau is an interdisciplinary artist, born and raised in Montreal. She received her D.E.C. of Visual art from Cégep Marie-Victorin in 2013 with the the Marie-Victorin Foundation’s Visual Art scholarship. She is currently pursuing her B.F.A. at Concordia University in Studio Art. Interested in Quebec heritage, Julie-Claude investigates the past, present and future of cultural symbols like maple syrup and the red plaid shirt. These symbols, that some perceive as stereotypes, have links to First Nations and Celtic cultures that reveal ways Quebec is the result of a cultural exchange. She has recently presented this concept in the exhibition ‘’Islands’’ presented at the Art Matters 2017 festival. Julie-Claude expresses her ideas through installation, sculpture, fiber and print. 

Hidden treats and sneaky rewards by: Lucy Pauker, Curatorial Assistant.

The Works Festival of Art & Design is full of holes-in-pocket type secrets, the kind that are unexpected and sometimes sour, but at other times like finding out that the clanking in your dryer was a toonie all along. 

Performance artists merge with patrons and viewers on Churchill Square, sometimes their performances are known and expected, other times their movements and spectacles are unknown and unannounced even to the staff. 

   Photograph: Inside and Out by Kasie Campbell

Photograph: Inside and Out by Kasie Campbell

Hidden associations can also be found if The Works’ curatorial choices or more likely happenstance are carefully considered. One of my favourites is iHuman’s Graffiti wall, which for a day displayed “Defend the Sacred - Resist 150” next to City Hall’s equally large permanent Canada 150 sign. 

Kasie Campbell’s quietly momentous immersive installation is secluded in the small strip of grass, picnic tables and trees on the East side of the Square. Inside and Out sits like a squishy, wrinkled fleshy volcano, its skeleton a metal trailer, wheels engulfed by drooping girth. Inside and Out erupts with questioning and occasionally explosive patrons hourly. Despite of, or perhaps in spite of, the large vaginal looking entry into Inside and Out the piece feels surprisingly un-gendered, it feels uncomfortable and alive, it sits shaded, and dirty just outside the ring of conventional white cube gallery tents. Although soft, padded and cosy inside (its interior is lined with pillows and blankets) music pulses with a too-loud base, reverberating your chest and ringing your ears. Inside and Out, to me, has a queer reading of deep discomfort, of feeling trapped and controlled by your body, of having your flesh rebel. Through out the festival Kasie periodically performs with her child, Mav, both in costumes made from stuffed nylons, the same materials as the fleshy skin of the trailer. Kasie’s slowness oozes in comparison to Mav’s jerky childish motions, both are uncomfortable, and off-putting, they speak to me of repulsion of gender, and enforced identity based on physical attributes.  

Whether you are in it for the hidden treats, sneaky rewards, or the beer tent, the Works Art & Design Festival most likely has something up its sleeve (or staining its shirt) for you. 

Lucy Pauker is a multi-disciplinary artist from Toronto currently based in Halifax. She is about to complete the final year of her BFA at NSCAD, majoring in Intermedia. She is influenced by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Maggie Nelson, Simone Veil, Anne Carson, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Vivek Shraya, and Candice Hopkins (to name a few). Lucy uses intersectional queer and feminist approaches in order to make installations and performance utilizing textiles, ceramics, poetry and video. Lucy was awarded the Creative Innovators of Tomorrow Award upon her acceptance to NSCAD. Her work and collaborative publications have been shown in Canada, with one collaborative project in Europe and the U.S., her co-curated show (with Camila Salcedo) Ritual/Virtual was selected as a must-see by Canadian Art in 2016.

She would like to acknowledge the incredible work of many Femmes, Women of colour and allies that came before her, that have made possible the opportunities she has been able to access.

 

Mediations on Reality - Yang Lim

Date: Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Author: Yang Lim

 "Sevihcra: Le Salon Slideshow" by Patrick Arès-Pilon and Sophie Arès-Pilon.

"Sevihcra: Le Salon Slideshow" by Patrick Arès-Pilon and Sophie Arès-Pilon.

How does the past signify and to what extent can this past be recaptured and made meaningful for the present moment?   And to what extent can certain stories and perspectives be told or understood, given the inevitable distance between the past and present?  The two exhibits Patrick Arès-Pilon and Sophie Arès-Pilon’s Le Salon Slideshow and Mitch Kern’s Upside Down and Backwards offer interesting and contrasting approaches to these issues, despite their seemingly different subject matter.

Patrick Arès-Pilon and Sophie Arès-Pilon’s Le Salon Slideshow will stimulate discussion and prompt reflection around what we consider to be significant about the past.  Providing an immersive installation that evokes a homey feeling and sense of nostalgia, it also functions as a work in the present moment that derives its meaning through the people who enter that space.  

Upon entering the installation, the public is invited to take a seat and watch a narrated slideshow, evoking days long past where families may have sat in the living room and watched a slideshow.   The reactions of the people as they watch the slideshow and listen to the stories being told about them are itself a process of dialogue in action: the confluence of image and narrative mutually creates meaning for each other.  The act of articulation ensures the historical narrative’s continuation in the present, even as its meaning is reshaped in relation to the audience who listens to it.

For example, one of the slideshows that Patrick Ares-Pilon and Sophie Ares-Pilon have shown was about their uncle who visited the Arctic from 1961 to 1963. As the slides progress, Sophie provides narrative commentary; people’s reactions to the slides, some of which are humourous comments, contribute to the flavour of the narrative.  The result is a communal sharing of the past, captured through a fleeting experiential moment that cannot be replicated as it is only tied to the very people who are in the audience at that given point.

Indeed, without a narrative context, images of the past are only just that—images that lack significance or connection with the present, even if they refer to settings, events, or other things that may be familiar to people who have not had any personal experience with them.

At the same time, the installation appears to reveal the inadequacy of what is there and what is lost about the past.  Perhaps what their installation suggests is that we can never fully recover the past; instead, what we can do is to preserve and share that past through the act of storytelling, which makes that past alive and meaningful for people in the present. 

In contrast to “Le Salon Slideshow,” Mitch Kern’s Upside Down and Backwards seems to tackle the issue of the past itself by reflecting on the temporal nature of the present and the nature of reality itself.  His installation consists of a small grey trailer that appears to be an innocuous object.  However, when it is placed in the middle of Churchill Square—clearly out of place in relation to its urban surroundings—it invites different reactions that range from curiosity and excitement to suspicion and scepticism.  The artist Mitch Kern invites people to come and sit inside the trailer, but not everyone is eager to do so.

 "Upside down and backwards" by Mitch Kern

"Upside down and backwards" by Mitch Kern

For those willing to enter the trailer, they may feel like nature photographers who blend into the landscape to take photos of wildlife.   The trailer has a narrow chamber onto which a camera lens is affixed, so an image of Churchill Square is projected onto the trailer’s interior wall, but upside-down and backwards.   People inside the trailer can watch what is happening on the square while hidden from view, much like watching a motion picture.  However, nothing is photographed or recorded and everything is transient and observable only as a fleeting, site-specific moment.  For Kern, then, Upside Down and Backwards functions as an “anti-camera” device because it is the opposite of what a camera does, which is to capture the past in still images.  

As such, Kern’s piece aims to get people talking about their experience through the lens of photography, which has historically been regarded as an “objective” medium through which reality can be represented.  The experience that people get will vary, thereby encouraging dialogue around what they see and perceive and, by extension, drawing attention to the constructed nature of “reality.”  In the same way, Le Salon Slideshow can be interpreted in a similar fashion—as an installation that asks for the public to reflect on how they perceive reality and what this may mean for the significance that they draw from it.

Christine FrostComment