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Akimbo is a Toronto-based company that promotes contemporary visual art, video, new media and film locally, nationally and internationally via the internet. Established in November, 1999, Akimbo has built a readership of more than 6,800 Canadian and international media and visual arts professionals and a client base of some of the country's most important galleries, museums, art institutions and film and video festivals.

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  • 05/20/13--22:51: Doug Ischar at Gallery 44
  • I wasn't planning on writing another report on a Contact Photography Festival exhibition but it's like you can't escape them – they're everywhere! And so, as I stumbled around the halls of 401 Richmond, I found myself reflecting on the role of photography as it falls approximately halfway between the vernacular snapshots I addressed a couple weeks ago and the self-consciously capital-A art concepts of last week. Not unsurprisingly, this happened amongst the walls of one of Toronto's dedicated venues for the photographic arts: Gallery 44.

    Doug Ischar, MW 19, 1985/2009

    Like a lot of people who first clued in to the wonderful world of contemporary art in the eighties/nineties, one of my initial entry points (besides Sonic Youth's album covers) was Nan Goldin. Apart from the musical connection (the Velvet Underground served the same role for a previous generation's exposure to Andy Warhol), the appeal of her work was its representation of the kind of sub-cultural social milieu of outlaws I so wanted to be a part of. Being a straight, white, middle class young man at that time, the only marginal community I could even begin to pretend to be aligned with was that of the queer artists and writers I had already discovered through the usual channels (Genet, Burroughs, Cooper, etc.). My fascination with this world had to do with a desperate need for peers more than lovers, so my blind spot around the AIDS crisis took a while to recede.

    Doug Ischar's photographs of gay men hanging out on a concrete waterfront in the mid-eighties remind me of both the appeal of this world and my distance from it. His artistry comes through in the framing and posing of the bodies. His subjects are turned away, focused elsewhere, covering their eyes, or directed towards each other. Combined with their blissful lounging in the sun and their young, perfect bodies, I now find myself idealizing them in another way. From the vantage point of middle age and a modicum of wisdom garnered in the intervening decades, this represented past is Edenic in ways both personal and political. Nostalgia for a life I never had and historical awareness of what is about to come are left to battle it out in the space behind my eye sockets.

    Gallery 44:
    Doug Ischar: Undertow continues until June 16.

    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.

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    The city is a mélange of signs: advertisements, posters, street signs, store signage, words that direct, words that sell, words that proclaim. Artist Michèle Provost has created a poetic and personal response to the city and its signs in the exhibition Vocabulaire, which is currently on display at La Maison des artistes in Winnipeg's francophone Saint Boniface neighbourhood.

    Michèle Provost

    The gallery is divided into two sections. One room features Provost's hometown of Ottawa-Gatineau; the other focuses on Winnipeg. While she was in Winnipeg, Provost walked around downtown and took photographs of French signs or words on signs that have both English and French meaning. One of the tags that stuck out to me was a photo of Louis Riel's grave, taken just a few blocks away at the Saint Boniface Cathedral. "Novembre" was the month of his death. "Portage" is included in Provost's collection, as is the "Dix" in Whiskey Dix. The location of the photos is pinpointed on a large embroidered map. It's not surprising that Saint Boniface is well represented, but there are also a number of tags in the north and west parts of the city, illustrating the reach of French culture throughout Winnipeg. Most of the words are closely cropped but one can usually make out their source based on the font, which speaks volumes in itself about the power of signs in public places.

    Provost selected several words from this collection and searched for corresponding images on Google. The results add to the sense of mistranslation and linguistic confusion. Some of the images match up with their signifiers, while others have different meanings in each language: "manger" is paired with an image of a baby in a cradle, not someone eating. Some are difficult to explain, like the cat-headed mother and child above "irresistible". In her Ottawa-Gatineau version of the project, Provost went further and asked artists and writers to respond to a particular word. The results are fragmented poems, screenshots, even a piece of notepaper covered in wax, that combine together to create a kind of Dadaist assemblage of text drawn from place.

    Vocabulaire touches on psychogeographic strategies of mapping the city and illustrates the different interpretations we each bring to urban forms. It speaks to the appropriation and misunderstanding that has taken place between English and French cultures in Canada. In her cut-up signs and embroidered stitches, Provost portrays place as personal and suggests that we speak the city in our own words as we walk the streets.

    La Maison des artistes visuels francophones:
    Michèle Provost: Vocabulaire continues until June 13.

    Noni Brynjolson is a writer and curator from Winnipeg whose work has been published in journals, exhibition catalogues, blogs, and zines. She is a recent graduate of the Master's program in Art History at Concordia University in Montreal and currently works as the Distribution Coordinator at the Winnipeg Film Group. She is Akimblog's Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @NoniBrynjolson on Twitter.

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  • 05/28/13--19:50: Annie Martin at Pith
  • Juxtaposing castoffs, detritus, twigs, and tchotchkes into a resolved installation replete with multi-channel audio is no easy feat. Lots of practitioners deploy what some consider garbage, attempting to re-arrange such materials into something meaningful: all too many miss the mark. But Lethbridge artist Annie Martin succeeds in crafting an engaging and mesmerizing experience via everything that rises, in her two-part solo show at Pith.

    Annie Martin, everything that rises, 2013, installation detail

    Part of the challenge is that many viewers find this sort of assemblage a hard language to grasp and thence appreciate. Damian Ortega mastered it with added meaning in his Independent show at London's Barbican Gallery in 2010, and more locally Bogdan Cheta has also nailed a moving aesthetic along similar lines. Essentially, we know that industrially produced objects were created with supposed valid purpose, but in a throwaway society it often takes a human touch, along with craft value, to propose a fitting end. Martin's branched bouquets, wrapped variously with chicken wire, beads, threads, and baubles, appear partly as a requiem, yet the beautiful orange lichen adorning some boughs, along with tangled radio waves, offer vestiges of life.

    In the upstairs gallery, her temporal drawings are seemingly traced from shadows cast by objects masquerading as everyday sundials. Primary colours are interspersed to highlight movement and, perhaps, meaning, as part of some private language or even rule-based art (you can ask the artist at the closing reception on June 22).

    Lastly, kudos to Pith, now in their third year of operation, and particularly curator and founding member Stacey Watson, along with other key founders and building owner Jim Hill (principal behind Esker), for keeping this project on the road. Whilst visiting, you also might want to check out Frosst Books, now operating in the same building.

    Annie Martin: everything that rises and temporal drawings continues until June22.

    Dick Averns is an interdisciplinary artist and writer whose exhibitions and performances have been presented internationally. He teaches at the Alberta College of Art + Design, and his writing has appeared in Canadian Art, Front, On Site Review, and many catalogues. He is Akimblog's Calgary correspondent and can be followed @DickAverns on Twitter.

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    The past couple days feels like Toronto has been cast in a Canadian version of The Wire (though David Simon would probably have rejected the whole "get-out-of-the-game crowdsourced extortion video" as too unbelievable), so it seems only appropriate that I would stumble upon an exhibition that combines highly unlikely fact with real life-inspired artifice in my weekly gallery jaunt. While it lacks crack pipes, Somalian drug dealers, and city hall press gangs, 8 Days No Contact at Narwhal Projects certainly catches your attention with albino rats, flaccid dumbbells, a running machine, and Oliver Stone's Platoon on VHS.

    8 Days No Contact, installation view

    The factual foundation for this group exhibition of up-and-coming Canadian artists is a found journal that was given to curator and Narwhal director Kristin Weckworth. Detailing the post-breakup self-improvement strategies of a young man in the mid-nineties as he cycles through a countdown of days away from his ex, the hand-written exhortations and obsessive lists provide inspiration for a layered series of responses starting with the curator's own contribution in the form of cultural artifacts from the decade in question (eg. VHS tapes) that set up a suitable apartment-like environment. The next level of truthiness is provided by artists who respond directly to the journal such as Tibi Tibi Neuspiel's readymade sculptures on the theme of love/lust and Adrienne Kammerer's graphite versions of idealized love as depicted in Calvin Klein underwear ads. Layered on top of that are a couple more artists whose work just seemed to fit in with the whole obsessive project: Patrick Krzyzanowski's rat-driven daily doodle speaks volumes about the combination of tedium, desperation and frustration that defines those times when we pine for a love that's been lost.

    Tibi Tibi Neuspiel, YGIGLF, 2013, mixed media

    There is more, but the sympathetic connections between the works are so surprising and the eternal return to our absent inspiration (and his absent object of adoration) is so poignant, that I'd rather leave it up to you to experience it on your lonesome. All the better to feel all alone.

    Narwhal Projects:
    8 Days No Contact continues until June 9.

    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.

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  • 05/28/13--07:04: Patrick Coutu at Rene Blouin
  • The system or the systematic provides the foil for Patrick Coutu's current solo exhibition at Réne Blouin, which brings together a selection of the artist's most recent sculptural works, all produced in 2013, alongside a series of process-oriented paintings and drawings. Each of Coutu's vertical, figure-scaled sculptures are entirely composed of hundreds of tiny bronze cubes and constructed to create the impression of precariously stacked assemblages.

    Patrick Coutu, Cristalmath 2 (2, 4, 6), 2013, bronze (photo: Richard-Max Tremblay)

    One of the sculptures in particular (Cristalmath 2 (2, 4, 6)), leans ever so slightly to one side, causing a reflex in the viewer to tiptoe around its periphery, fearful of disrupting its impossible balance. Coutu's cubes not only mimic the natural growth of cubic-structured crystal formations, but also allude to the organizational system of digital visual information. Similar to the effect of a pixilated image, with enough distance the forms give way to organic masses that weave inwards and outwards, governing their own rules of dimensionality.

    Hanging on the wall are a series of drawings on graph paper (entitled Vie et mort d'un système au départ aléatoire) that also establish systems denoted by a series of cubic elements. Evocative of Hanne Darboven's drawings from the seventies that reflect her personal language developed as a method by which to record time and, essentially, artistic production, Coutu's drawings utilize a similar methodology while providing a counterpoint to Darboven's math-driven logic. The Montreal artist posits the idea of construction and growth as a synonymous notion, insisting on the system as a breeding ground for organic forms of negotiation through multifarious forms of negation.

    Galerie René Blouin:
    Patrick Coutu continues until June 15.

    Iliana Antonova is writer and curator. She is also Akimblog's new Montreal correspondent and can be followed @ilianaantonova on Twitter.

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  • 06/04/13--21:31: Alex Da Corte at Artspeak
  • When you think of "re-purposed" art objects, ideas of up-cycling and a craft-based approach spring to mind; however, Philadelphia-based Alex Da Corte re-purposes the star value of objects in his solo exhibition Bacon Brest. The maelstrom of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" is loosely used as a framework for these art objects, and the result is something between a storefront for faulty Hollywood souvenirs and a high-end junk shop.

    Alex Da Corte, Bacon Brest, 2013, installation view

    The front gallery of Artspeak's centrally located Gastown location has never appeared more like the neighboring boutique shops. A half-empty hat tree offers baseball caps with names like Wes Craven and Hennessey Youngman stitched across their front. Transparent designer chairs by the likes of European architect-designers Phillip Starck, Patrick Jouin, and Patricia Urquiola have been re-purposed into a stack of indiscernibility. In fact, many of the "found" objects - from a Halle Berry-as-Catwoman cardboard cut-out to a laser-printed Dreamworks flag to the full wall of reflective mylar curtains - do nothing more than pluck at the arrhythmic heart strings of pop culture's ridiculous value system.

    While eye-catching and pop-riddled are two of Da Corte's ongoing motifs, Bacon Brest is possibly the most subdued of his output. Visible still is a distorted wit, as the title itself conjures the image of Hollywood as a unconditional teat of inspiration.

    Alex Da Corte: Bacon Brest continues until June 8.

    Amy Fung is a writer and organizer who publishes nationally and internationally in journals, magazines, catalogues, and monographs in print and online. She is the Programs Manager at Cineworks Independent Filmmakers Society and her ongoings can be found at and on Twitter @someasianbitch. She is Akimblog's Vancouver correspondent.

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    Aleksandra Domanovic's The Future Was at Her Fingertips at Tanya Leighton Gallery uses the Belgrade Hand, a bionic hand featuring sensate fingertips invented in the artist's native Serbia in 1964, as its central symbolic motif. This hand appears in four sculptural iterations and one two-dimensional work. In all cases, the hand is digitally rendered: pun fully intended.

    Aleksandra Domanovic, Belgrade Hand on Minsky Tentacle Arm, 2013, archival ink-jet print, wooden frame with Soft-Touch finish, museum glass

    The sculptures are produced by means of 3D printing techniques, each one with their own unique surface finish, and each performing a gesture of human sensitivity, spirituality, or ambition. Little Sister features a small bird safely roosting on an aluminum hand, Mayura Mudra performs the Buddhist gesture of immortality and love with a brass hand, while Relay Runner consists of a "Soft Touch" painted hand offering a chestnut baton. The unique surface treatment of each work, in combination with their heavily weighted symbolic gestures, denotes a sensitivity towards the natural world and human sensibilities seemingly at odds with the strangely featured and disproportioned bionic hand.

    This tension between biology and artificial intelligence is heightened by film posters for The Demon Seed, a 1977 sci-fi horror film, in Mayura Mudra's clear plexiglass plinth. This film features the Belgrade Hand as a harbinger of the dangers of artificial intelligence when it is wielded by a  computer to forcibly impregnate the wife of its creator to produce a post-human "child". The total lack of bodily control experienced by this woman is juxtaposed against the promise of agency initially represented by the bionic hand.

    Questions of feminine agency are ultimately the core of the exhibition, as indicated by the title of the show and by reference to the author of the first computer algorithm Ada Lovelace (via a printed timeline of thematically significant facts). One is left with an unsettling sensation, heightened by the eerily floating image Belgrade Hand on Minsky Tentacle Arm, that a future that once seemed within our grasp, has somehow slipped through our fingers.

    Tanya Leighton Gallery:
    Aleksandra Domanovic: The Future Was at Her Fingertips continues until June 30.

    Holly Ward is a Vancouver/Berlin-based interdisciplinary artist working with sculpture, multi-media installation, architecture, video, and drawing. She is Akimblog's interim Berlin correspondent.

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    C, G, T, A. Four letters comprise the genetic alphabet, denoting combinations of four nucleotides into three-letter codons myriad of which comprise the genetic script that produces myriad us and everything else biological. Simple, yes? Well, yes and no. Things can go wrong, possibly resulting in the chance of mutation of the genetic script, but the idea of mutation has gotten a bad rap courtesy of Hollywood horror films, for in fact it can be a good thing – even an evolutionary necessary thing. A generation ago, French biologist Jacques Monod drove home the point that chance mutation was at the very bedrock of the process of natural selection, that it alone was "the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere."

    Nell Tenhaaf, Apparatus for Self-organization, 1995

    So how about this, then: the chance of inviting artist Nell Tenhaaf, she of genetically oriented and wrought aesthetic enquiries, to mount an exhibition at the Visual Arts Centre of Clarington in Bowmanville, by chance a gallery established in a former grain mill – genetic tampering anyone? – by chance situated right next to a creek in which salmon – genetic engineering, anyone? – run each year.

    Sounds good. Context can be everything.

    For Life Forms, Tenhaaf organized a mix of new work with not-often-seen-these-days older pieces. Wisely installed in a ground floor room set apart from the main space was the 1999 video work dDNA (d is for dancing) which follows a couples dance class at a bar as they learn different dance steps. It is conceptually framed by Tenhaaf's aesthetic interest in research that suggested learned skill sets could develop into genetically innate traits if acquired at population levels.

    The VAC's main space was given over to drawings and photographically-based installation works like Apparatus for Self-organization, a wall-mounted, horizontally lozenge-shaped, back-lit work that winks on and off. The image within is that of a woman. She fits so snugly within the ovoid frame as to suggest a swaddled newborn infant, or perhaps even a kind of anthropomorphized seed pod. Here lays the genetic hopes of humanity, the creator mother of those who are to come.

    Maybe I read too much into it. Maybe not.

    Nell Tenhaaf, Oedipal ounce of prevention, 1993

    On a nearby wall hangs a small cluster of back-lit images comprising Oedipal ounce of prevention. Two of them are the shape of laboratory beakers, the remainder standard rectangular shapes. We see a portion of a woman's face in one frame juxtaposed against a detail of a belly and a forearm right next to it. Each image is contextualized by intrusive surgical forceps. Below them is a row of smaller images, three of which are illustrative of genetic processes at work.

    It's so very complex. Larger meanings elude me, but I'm still drawn onward and forward by the work, knowing that, like the genetic script that has determined (amongst other far more important things) that I have male pattern baldness, Tenhaaf's dizzyingly difficult work is ultimately generative. A process is at play in it, one that I struggle to follow but which I know doesn't begin or end with an aesthetic excerpt I might encounter – or even with my understanding of the piece. It does its work with or without me.

    I wish I could have seen her new video-based work set in the gallery's third-floor loft, but, alas, technological difficulties pre-empted that possibility. Unfortunately, it's not the first time. As the VAC's curatorial schedule increasingly incorporates media-based art forms and more daring exhibitions, that's become a bit of a problem.

    A potentially big problem.

    Visual Arts Centre of Clarington:
    Nell Tenhaaf: Life Forms continues until June 30.

    Gil McElroy is a poet, artist, independent curator, and freelance art critic. He is the author of Gravity & Grace: Selected Writing on Contemporary Canadian Art, four books of poetry, and Cold Comfort: Growing Up Cold War. McElroy lives in Colborne, Ontario with his wife Heather. He is Akimblog's roving Ontario correspondent and can be followed @GilMcElroy on Twitter.

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  • 06/03/13--22:04: Mis-fits at Parentheses
  • Most artists have at least one unusual work that doesn't quite fit into their oeuvre. (((Parentheses))) Gallery & Art Projects new exhibition Mis-fits invites us to celebrate those divergent moments in which artists deviate from the identities they've created for themselves. It features thirty different artists, ranging from intuitive, self-taught artists such as Gillian Frise to academically trained artists such as the Brooklyn-based Nova Scotia College of Art and Design alumni Chris Hanson and Hendrika Sonnenberg. "We wanted artists to bring out something that they had either tried to experiment with or a piece of art that was just sitting around on their top shelf that they'd made, that they knew didn't fit into a body of work, but that they just loved and couldn't get rid of," explains Dave Hayden, who co-curated the show with Kevin Lewis.

    Matt Leines, Blue-Haired Man

    Often collaborations help push artists out of their creative routines. Jason McLean and Billy Bert Young include a collaborative acrylic and ink collage titled The Pancake Speaks. They are both well-known doodlers and collage artists, part of a Canadian drawing movement with contemporaries including the likes of Marc Bell and Peter Thompson. Featuring a mad swirl of magazine cutouts and doodles of food and comic book characters precariously balancing fruit on their heads, the collage is both playful and chaotic. The work prompted me to imagine an exhausted chef slowly losing his grip on reality in the kitchen, ingredients mingling in his mind with memories, daydreams, and senseless cooking instructions.

    The exhibition also features Brooklyn-based artist Matt Leines who creates flattened drawings of fantastic and morbid creatures immersed in supernatural, storybook-like worlds. He is inspired by everything from ancient bestiaries to campy American wrestlers. He initially lost the piece he's displaying in Mis-fits: an acrylic and Ink painting titled Blue-Haired Man that he'd made for a series he created about five years ago. He recently rediscovered the strange portrait. Now, the worm-shaped creature with saucer-like eyes and bushy black facial hair stands alone and apart from the pieces it was created with, a "misfit" by circumstance and chance.

    Heather Snider's Shipyard Valentines features timesheets from the Halifax dockyard folded into floral arrangements. It juxtaposes the way in which shipyard workers pass time completing tasks society deems productive, whereas artists spend time engaged in non-utilitarian, aesthetic pursuits. Mitchell Wiebe's chimerical creatures adorn a lamp, as though poised to leap off into the dreams of those whose bedside the lamp might sit beside. And Andrew Hunt's Veneer, a study in beiges and browns of a wooden desk, demonstrates a departure from his usually brightly coloured paintings.

    There were too many varied and quirky works to rattle each off by name or to tie the show together with any sweeping thematic linkages, but allowing the misfit pieces in the back of various closets to take center stage gave the artists the chance to break free from any limitations imposed by themselves, the public, curators and critics on their creativity, and provides gallery goers the opportunity to see the nuances in each artist's career.

    (((Parentheses))) Gallery & Art Projects:
    Mis-fits continues until June 18.

    Lizzy Hill is an internationally published writer and the editor of Visual Arts News, Atlantic Canada's only magazine focusing on the work of visual artists. Lizzy loves her community in Halifax's artistic north end, a wonderful summer camp for grown ups full of underground restaurants and pop-up galleries. She is Akimblog's Halifax correspondent and can be followed @LizzyFHill on Twitter.

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    The popular response to the 55th Venice Biennale after its opening week has been positive all around. Curator Massimiliano Gioni's expansive group exhibition Il Palazzo Eniclopedico (The Encyclopedic Palace) at the Palazzo del Esposizioni is well loved if Twitter feeds are anything to go by. And the national pavilions contain surprise after surprise. As first time Akimblog correspondents, we focused on the latter, doing our best to see both the big names and the newcomers. We haven't yet made it to the Angola pavilion (which won the Golden Lion for Best National Participation), but here are some of our favourites so far...


    Representing the home team, Shary Boyle takes us on a spiraling journey into the recesses of the psyche with her spooky installation Music for Silence. Viewers are only allowed into the darkened nautilus-shaped Canadian pavilion a few at a time. As our eyes adjust, we encounter a succession of hunched and arching ceramic figurines on plinths, all supporting globes of various sizes on their chests or backs. Two of these figurines slowly rotate on antique record players. Further along we pass a black and white video of a woman communicating in sign language, and then finally, at the far end of the space, we are confronted by a white mermaid reclining across the mouth of a white cave, her tale split into two leg-like appendages. Onto this tableau, the artist intermittently projects textures and colours, the distorted details of the mermaid's face, and the faces of artists, entertainers, Charlie Chaplin, Helen Keller, and some others we didn't recognize. It's classic Boyle creepiness (in a good way).

    Great Britain

    Jeremy Deller's English Magic had our vote for the Golden Lion (Tino Sehgal won, but what do the judges know anyway). He draws upon a vast array of ideas and disparate sources, collaborating with musicians, prison inmates, archaeologists, archivists, and members of the public to delve into the diverse nature of British cultural, economic and political society – it's the artist as visual anthropologist. Beginning in pre-history, a collection of arrowheads and Paleolithic hand axes found along the Thames snake through the first room. There is even an expert on hand to let you hold some of the specimens and discuss their significance. Meanwhile, we pass a giant mural of a hen harrier scooping up a Range Rover in its talons as the Isle of Jersey burns on the opposite wall. Images of mobs of teenage fans from David Bowie's 1972 Ziggy Stardust tour are juxtaposed with mobs of disenfranchised and unemployed youth from that same summer. There is a video of a South London steel drum band recording a rendition of Bowie's The Man Who Sold The World at Abby Road studios. Two more Paleolithic hand axes, excavated at the site of the EMI studio hang above. The video is intercut with shots of a Range Rover being crushed and the endangered hen harrier (a bird of prey and annoyance to old moneyed grouse hunters). Elsewhere Deller explores the nefarious network of high finance, Russian ponzi schemes, and the offshore tax havens of Britain's wealthy elite. It's a lot to digest, but in the end you can get a cup of tea and enjoy the sun on the back terrace of the pavilion as you mull it all over.


    The two longest line-ups were for the Germany and France. The latter country is showing Anri Sala and we never did manage to get in. The line up for Germany's Pavilion was largely due to their inclusion of Ai Weiwei. The two pavilions are directly across from each other and their respective lines intermingled at the ends, so it was difficult to know which line you were actually joining. To make matters more confusing, the two countries have traded buildings this Biennale in honour of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty Elysee, a symbolic moment when Germany rejoined the European community after WWII. In an extension of this gesture, curator Susanne Gaensheimer has chosen to explore what national representation or nationhood even means at this point in history. She proposes that nationality as a defining format of the Biennale be treated as an open concept and that Germany not be understood as a "hermetic entity," but rather, as an active participant in a worldwide network. In addition to the Chinese superstar, she has invited the French filmmaker Romuald Karmarker, South African photographer Santu Mofokeng, and Indian artist Dayanita Singh, all of whom have particular and significant relationships with Germany.


    For the South American nation's contribution to the Biennale, curator Juan Calzadilla has chosen to present the culture of graffiti and street art as a particularly significant agent within Venezuelan society. Often organized in "communicational brigades", graffiti writers there play such an important role within their communities that they are often "converted" with the support of state institutions into official graphic designers of public spaces. The exhibition consists of a mosaic of videos and music celebrating this culture.


    As the cliché goes, Italians are serious about how they look and dress up. At the Italian Pavilion, the artist Sislej Xhafa will give you a haircut in a tree if you do not mind climbing the rope ladder to sit on a branch with a yellow heavy-duty safety belt around you. One visitor got a quite stylish eighties-looking haircut for free! I regretted having mine cut before leaving for Venice. Inside the pavilion, a young girl under a spotlight keeps dressing and undressing in an extremely orderly manner. One could easily dismiss her as a young feminist artist talking about gender and the body until you realize that she is putting on the uniform worn by young Italian fascists and that she has be hired to re-perform the late Fabio Mauri's 1973's work Idiologia e Natura.

    Part 2 of smfoundation's Biennale reviews (including Angola) will run next week on Akimblog. Stay tuned!

    2013 Venice Biennale:
    The 55th International Art Exhibition continues until November 24.

    smfoundation is Shinobu Akimoto and Matthew Evans who sometimes collaborate in the same apartment in Montreal, Canada, and other times across the Pacific. Shinobu has practiced art and life in Canada since the early 1990s and now divides her time between Japan and Canada. Matt is a Canadian artist currently based in Montreal. This is their first writing assignment for Akimblog.

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    Sakahàn, currently on view at the National Gallery of Canada is comprised of works by over seventy-five international indigenous artists. It is the largest exhibition of its kind mounted anywhere, ever. And it not only occupies much of the NGC, but in one instance it literally covers it (in addition to also involving other venues around Ottawa). If there was ever a case for long, slow, and repeated visits, followed by careful and ongoing reflection, this is it. I've been twice and am still astounded by, and still looking for ways to cope with, its breadth and depth.

    Brett Graham & Rachel Rakena, Aniwaniwa, 2007

    So, allow me to indulge in an anecdote as a coping strategy. In 1995 I had the unexpected privilege of being a guest of the University of Auckland's Maori Studies degree program at the religious, administrative, and social centre of the campus' indigenous population: the Marae. The one-room building was warm and dark, ornately decorated, and the periphery lined with solemnly seated and elaborately dressed people. I was seated among them. Our task, I quickly found out, was to greet the incoming first-year students by performing the 'Hongi' with each and every one. You say, 'tena koe' (literally, 'here you are'), lean towards one another, gently and firmly press nose, bridge, and forehead together and linger for a moment in a gesture that welcomes and simultaneously acknowledges exchange and personhood. It took a long time. Once each person's face had touched every other, various rituals and rites took place (all in Maori) and then, as I recall, Marae business was conducted.

    Long, slow, deliberate, monotone speeches were made. I passed the time looking around the sanctuary, soaking in the intricacies of the carving and the other art on display. I assumed that many people had fallen asleep when every so often someone would offer a close-eyed rejoinder, having been intently following all along. The experience demanded sustained, thoughtful engagement and was both utterly foreign and richly surprising.

    And so it is with Sakahàn. It is not only big; it is complex, sprawling, varied, and replete with overt and latent political and aesthetic content.

    Brett Graham and Rachel Rakena's Aniwaniwa, which represented New Zealand in the 52nd Venice Biennial in 2007, encourages people to lounge on their backs. Overhead are large round oculi or screens housed in giant tire-like forms that variably read as fungi. Moving images appear of Maori underwater, dressed in period clothing and performing domestic or perfunctory tasks. At times they simply move through the water, apparently unaffected by the inability to breathe nor the impediment to mobility. The temptation to drift off to sleep oneself is strong and the soporific effect both opens the possibility for half-conscious insights and argues for modes of thinking that are perhaps less strictly rational, less Western. The work references the deliberate flooding of a New Zealand town in order to create a hydroelectric dam and emphasizes the all too familiar history of Western exploitation of natural resources that many global indigenous populations continue to share.

    Jimmie Durham, Encore tranquillité (Calm Again), 2008, fibreglass stone and airplane (photo: Roman März)

    Perhaps the most overt gesture of resistance is expressed by Jimmie Durham's full-sized single-person airplane crushed by a massive fallen boulder Encore Tranquilité. The event long since having happened, the work is silent now. The loud shock that would have woken us exists only in our imaginations, particularly when you realize that the boulder is now replaced by a fiberglass replica that clings desperately to any notions of verisimilitude. We are left with an irreparably damaged, permanently grounded, and inauthentic symbol of the triumph of Western ingenuity and invention.

    Sakahàn is meant to be the first of three large-scale surveys of international indigenous art that will occur every five years at the National Gallery (and an opportunity to expand our art vocabulary: quinquennial). This is a commitment that is grand and auspicious, and makes much progress towards reifying indigenous culture as present, relevant, and contingent, as opposed to exclusively historical and ethnographic.

    National Gallery of Canada:
    Sakahàn continues until September 2.

    Andrew Wright is an artist and an assistant professor of visual art at the University of Ottawa. His mid-career survey exhibition Penumbra is currently on view at the University of Toronto Art Centre until June 29 as a primary exhibition of the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival. He is Akimblog's Ottawa correspondent and can be followed @AndrewWrightArt on Twitter.

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    A large print of Jacques-Louis David's Napoleon prefaces Entre le chien et le loup, David R. Harper's current solo exhibition at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. David's central rearing horse is covered, as if by thick moss, by pristine embroidery in fluctuating tones of grey and black. Immediately left to this work is a large grid of ceramic animal masks in a gradient of blues. The masks' gargoyle expressions are at first hilarious, then curiously neutralized, as if drained of energy in the process of replication.

    David R. Harper, Then we are lost Forever in the Gloaming, 2012

    Rounding a corner, two awkward tables half-covered in dark stage carpet sit stiffly together, resembling twin shrines. Ceramic animal heads appearing to wear pelt masks skewer oversized cartoony versions of the typical gift store amethyst; the result resembles hunting trophies crudely anchored by giant roasts, Lord of the Flies style, while the plug-in glow of a fake fireplace log on a lower rung emits the idea of heat. Between the animal heads are awkward collections of tinier ceramic heads held in place by transparent pins. Look closely and the animals' masks are not only crudely stitched, but covered with tiny beads of glue. These and other details start to appear both inept and contrived.

    In the central gallery space, ceramic wolves wearing pelt costumes pose atop fake rocks atop bottom-heavy plinths. Details are everything here. The fake rocks are covered in a down of flocking. Grouting is replaced by strips of felt, making everything appear to be fastened by Velcro. One wolf stands in a pile of black ceramic roses with a glistening grey snake (more snake-shape than snake) in its center. Nearby, Geodesic dome meets jungle gym wherein replicated bones covered in kitschy blue and white floral are interlaced with blue fur.

    While I cast around for ways to describe the odd sense of humor of this work, didactic text helpfully tells me the exhibition title translates as a phrase meaning a kind of twilight "when the light is so dim one cannot distinguish a dog from a wolf." In turn, the conveniently slippery metaphor of the threshold is a suggested link between works, particularly in the form of the memorial, as a link "between memory and past experience." My internal inventory continues to create associations less vague but equally cliché-inducing, combining seventies B-movie with Andrew Lloyd Weber stage prop.

    Several prints of still life paintings contain rabbits now camouflaged in greyish embroidery. Two more prints replace intricate greys with optical day-glow green. What appeared precious in the David print now seems outright mechanical or throwaway collage. These last prints become the backdrop to a large installation of bone and tusk-like ceramic objects in piles. The assemblages seem to push the objects into both lexicon and currency, but, through Harper's careful (or unwitting) material anonymity, avoid both.

    The flip-flop, self-neutralizing quality of Harper's works starts to become clear, as signs and codes already several times removed make an eerie loop from stock sign to self-parody to earnest kitsch to tone-deaf comedy back to stock sign. Harper seems interested in this inherently vaporous state of signification both triggered and anchored by gift shop folklore, institutional and domestic display, faux taxidermy, and DIY memorial, even while the self-referencing behavior of his mass-produced materials holds this process in a state of suspension. The result is a collection of works which evoke less of an inscrutability than a curiously anticlimactic, or preemptive, sense of turning inward.

    Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery:
    David R. Harper: Entre le chien et le loup continues until August 18.

    Kim Neudorf is an artist and writer currently living in London, Ontario. Her paintings have shown widely in Alberta, including the Illingworth Kerr Gallery, Stride Gallery, and Skew Gallery in Calgary. She has contributed writing to FFWD,, Prairie Artsters, Hamilton Arts & Letters, Stride Gallery, Truck Gallery, and most recently Susan Hobbs Gallery. She is Akimbo's London correspondent and can be followed @KimNeudorf on Twitter.

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    As we head back to North American along with the steady stream of reports and reviews from the on-the-whole well-liked 2013 Venice Biennale, here are five more reviews of some celebrated pavilions that would normally be off the art world map. If anything, this year's exhibition is a testament to a post-global dispersion of centres into margins that, as some have grumbled, does it's best to ignore the insidious tractor beam of the art market.


    Who expected plucky Angola to take home this year's Golden Lion for the best pavilion? Building on their contribution to the 13th International Architecture Exhibition with its focus on "the city as encyclopedia," curators Paula Nascimento and Stefano Rabolli Pansera selected the young Angolan artist Edson Chagas for their exhibition Luanda, Encyclopedic City. Chagas' intervention uses the Renaissance opulence of the Palazzo Cini as a site-specific foil for his Found Not Taken series of photographs, which catalogue abandoned objects repositioned within the contexts of Luanda's dusty streets. Throughout the Palazzo's impressive collection of 15th Century paintings and ceramics, Chagas has arranged his images as stacks of peel-able posters up for grabs on small pallets. Beyond the clever, if not obvious post-colonial critique of European wealth extracted from resource rich Africa, what was most intriguing to watch were the visitors. Between Chagas' now-hot-commodity posters and the art history textbook masterpieces on the wall, it was a "grab-all-you-can" viewing frenzy. People were obsessed about not missing a single free poster, all the while trying to photograph the Palazzo Cini's amazing collection. They looked up and down and up and down but not around, consequently creating a chaotic traffic at the exhibition, as if to reflect the mental and physical chaos of our urban society. If the artist-curator team foresaw this as a crucial element of the installation, their brilliant calculation truly deserves the award they received.


    So far the most unusual venue has been the Lithuanian/Cypriot pavilion. Curator Raimundas Malasauskas occupied a community sport centre to showcase sixteen artists. The structure of the building itself is already a bit puzzling and daunting. We were first guided down to a basement basketball court, which was hard to determine if it was an art installation or not. Then we took random stairs to have odd encounters with a robot vacuum cleaner crawling on the floor, stacks of paper for an "assemble-yourself" exhibition guide, or a TV screen repeatedly airing the weather forecast of, I presume Lithuania. We finally found ourselves at the very top of a grandstand looking down on a strange mish-mash of contemporary art-looking objects placed on a gymnasium floor and in the surrounding bleachers: scuffed drywall dividers, custom-made furniture, illogical LED numbers flashing on the score boards. And all the while ambient sounds echoed throughout the building. There were more art-like photos or sculptures as well, which, all together, might have appeared rather unspectacular were they put in a more "formal" pavilion. We felt weirdly satisfied by the end of this sport-art tournament.


    As a Biennale amateur, we expected the whole exhibition to be an art fair of so-called national pride and cultural celebrities, and less diverse in manner and presentation. When we went to the Georgia pavilion's opening, we felt as if we were at a party for some newly launched artist/activist-run organization held in their self-built attic office. Curator Joanna Warsza brought together what appears to be the symbol of a new wave attempting to influence the cultural development of the country. A team of artists along with an architect have re-enacted the architectural "movement" to augment existing Soviet-era buildings with terraces or balconies, common in the city of Tbilisi since the fall of the iron curtain. Here in Venice, they extended an old building in the Arsenale with this informal structure called a kamikaze loggia. The haphazard plywood stairs take us up to the ludicrous wooden DIY lodge with details done by each artist. People sat on the floor or on handcrafted benches and ate food shared from big bowls (unlike the petit individual portions served in pretty plastic glasses and cups at other pavilions). Outside the lodge, a bunch of young athletes (Bouillon Group) repeated a strange aerobic routine to the point that their knees started bleeding. This turned out to be a choreographed movement based on rituals of the three most popular religions in the world: Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. Many pavilions at the Biennale reflect the social/cultural problems their countries face; what was most refreshing was the way these young artists from Georgia dealt with similar problems, but with an incredible wit and objectivity.


    Among the inherent nature lovers and tree-huggers of Scandinavia and the Northern European pavilions, Finland's Antti Laitinen wins our hearts with his abundance of nonsense and poignant devotion. Here, he has transported birch trees he cut down from his own back yard, chopped into segments, and then manually "re-constructed" in front of his pavilion. Behind this is a story that during the 2011 Biennale, a large tree fell over on the Finnish pavilion.


    At the Russian pavilion's lower entrance, we first see an empty bucket on the end of a rope coming through the ceiling. Beside that, there is a room full of golden coins, where only ladies are invited; an umbrella is provided as they enter. Suddenly, more golden coins fall from the skylight. We are encouraged to pick up coins and put them in the bucket upon leaving. When it collects enough coins, the bucket is pulled back through the ceiling. Upstairs, there are three parts to this performance/participatory/large-scale installation. In the first room a gentleman in a suit is sitting on a horse saddle on a beam, eating peanuts, and dropping the shells. The second room is directly above the golden coin room with a large square opening through which the coins fall. A wooden railing and padded ledge surround this opening where people kneel and watch the women below. From a distance, it appears as if they are praying to a golden shower of coins. The last room reveals how the coin falling apparatus works. There is another tall, slick-looking gentleman in a suit pulling up the bucket and pouring coins onto a conveyor machine that takes them up to the skylight to eventually drop into the room. Once in a while, a visitor will try to touch the coins in the machine, only to be shouted at by the gentleman: "DO NOT TOUCH THEM!" Titled Danae and conceived by artist Vadim Zakharov, this is an over-the-top spectacle of self-criticism of the current state of Russian (or the Western world in general?). We couldn't help wondering why Pussy Riot are in jail while this is the national entry at the Venice Biennale.

    2013 Venice Biennale:
    The 55th International Art Exhibition continues until November 24.

    smfoundation is Shinobu Akimoto and Matthew Evans who sometimes collaborate in the same apartment in Montreal, Canada, and other times across the Pacific. Shinobu has practiced art and life in Canada since the early 1990s and now divides her time between Japan and Canada. Matt is a Canadian artist currently based in Montreal. This is their first writing assignment for Akimblog.

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  • 06/11/13--06:53: Goodwater at G Gallery
  • Perhaps I was showing my age, but at a recent gathering of recent MFA graduates (my wife was one of them) I wondered aloud if and where the next generation of artists (the young twenty-somethings still in or just out of school) were showing their work. I was specifically interested in whether they were setting up their own exhibition spaces like Art System and West Wing from a decade ago that served just as much as social-cultural incubators as places to hang art. I wasn't talking about commercial galleries (there are always entrepreneurial young gallerists on the go) or artist-run centres (God knows how to set one of those up these days), but the anomalous, somewhat anarchic zones where commercial interests take a back seat to the creative spirit and the venue itself functions as a work in progress.

    Moyra Davey, Bottle Grid, 1996-2000

    I have a feeling that places like Double Double Land or Tomorrow Gallery are doing that sort of thing at present, but since my nightlife activities have been drastically curtailed, I am not privy to that world any longer, which is fine by me as there is no need for a critic at a party. The remains and documents and resulting careers are of interest, though, so it was fascinating to explore them at a scene from my past. Run by Toronto art stalwarts John Goodwin and Roger Bywater in various locations over the years, Goodwater was more art lab than dance club, but, particularly when it set up shop at Palmerstone and Dundas at a time when that was nowheresville, it was a place where exciting things happened and had an international reach (Jeremy Deller and Mark Dion exhibited there) that telegraphed its ambitions.

    Now on view at G Gallery, one alley away from the hipster centre of the universe that is Ossington, the collection of once exhibited artists returning for one more go-around demonstrates nothing so much as the productive relationship between the gallery braintrust (more so Goodwin in this arrangement) and the formerly young, heady but visual (post-conceptual?) painters, photographers, and picture-organizers in whom they found kindred spirits. Sometimes the collaboration is literal, as in Moyra Davey's photographic correspondence with Goodwin. Sometimes it's lateral, as in Andrew Reyes' marginal response to Euan Macdonald's print. But it's always about the art, not the sale. That's what makes it unstable and therefore dooms it to being forever temporary (the venue, not the art).

    G Gallery:
    Goodwater continues until June 29.

    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.

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    Paddy Johnson over at Art Fag City (now ArtFCity) wasn't kidding when she retweeted her agreement with fellow New York critic Karen Archey that the current exhibition pictured on the Tomorrow Gallery website looks amazing. The handful of jpegs therein depicts a wired space linking freezer cabinet to modified sound devices to a puddle of condensed water and a floor stain. Filled as it is with the kind of semiotic triggers (gear, noise, obscure systems, live grasshoppers) that get me riled up, I headed right over.

    Ben Schumacher & Carlos Reyes, A Salted Quarterly: Notes from the Why Axis, 2013, installation detail

    I remember entering with trepidation the industrial zone where Tomorrow is located about a decade ago to visit a shady friend of my brother's, but nowadays I'm here all the time, dropping off my daughter at the gymnastics club across the street. This desolate strip is soon to become a neighbourhood unless the nearby Nestle factory can stop the encroaching condo development, but successful art galleries (namedropped in the New York Times, no less) are only bait for the gentry.

    This intriguing exhibition by Ben Schumacher and Carlos Reyes isn't going to help as it slyly alludes to forward-thinking urbanism through an outline of Toronto's skyline and underlying links to the relentless construction in the downtown core. There's a lot more going on – what with the melted-plastic-comic-book-printed symmetrical forms encasing audio boxes and a scattering of miniature Eiffel Towers (not to mention a gorilla glove and the aforesaid grasshoppers) – that, in the best (and the worst) of the art of paranoia, is as likely to add up to nothing as it is to something.

    Michael Dumontier & Neil Farber, Glob, oil on MDF panels

    Further up the street and in another of Toronto's quaint oases of industry in the midst of residential bliss is the Toronto outpost of Montreal's Division Gallery. The space is big and high and full of promise. Out of the two current exhibitions, a reunion of sorts for the members of Winnipeg's teen idols the Royal Art Lodge is necessary viewing this summer (the other exhibition is a group show of contemporary Chinese artists that is more miss than hit). Works from the original five (minus Drue Langlois) reveal different degrees of refinement from the practices they established a decade ago. Adrian Williams has cleaned up the most and contributes ink and varnish illustrations that could have come straight from a classic children's book. Jonathan Pylypchuk continues to make puppet psychodramas out of junk. And Marcel Dzama's vaguely nostalgic scenarios are still wrought in the brown tones of root beer syrup (though not actually painted with such). Michael Dumontier and Neil Farber's playful but twisted and brightly coloured collaborations are the clearest progression from the zine aesthetic of their past to their professional careers today. The elders of TRAL have all grown up. The new generation at Tomorrow might want to pay a visit to see what's in store.

    Tomorrow Gallery:
    Check website for current exhibitions.

    Division Gallery – Toronto:
    After the Royal Art Lodge continues until August 31.

    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.

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    Port Hope is a pretty little town that has a tenacious and ongoing perception problem, what with its longstanding connections to the nuclear industry. But it's also a lovely place with a downtown that's been used in film shoots. Go figure. But about art. Aside from a small satellite space of the Art Gallery of Northumberland and a sprinkling of private galleries, there's surprisingly little visual arts activity in the town. And no, this isn't a comment on the number of visual artists who might make the town home; I'm talking more about an institutional and even contextual dearth.

    Aurelie K. Collings used to run a gallery in Port Hope, but opted out of the notion of being rooted to a set, fixed physical space and went on to found Critical Mass: A Centre for Contemporary Art, staging public exhibitions on a project-by-project basis. For a town that really needs aesthetic intervention at a very public level, this is welcome news.

    Felix Kalmanson, Hot Air (Instant Nationalism)

    Identification Papers is the current exhibition Critical Mass has staged and it comprises three separate storefront interventions by Yvonne Singer, Heather Nicol, and Felix Kalmanson along a couple of blocks of the town's main drag. The thing about storefront exhibitions is, of course, all about keeping things simple: mounting something visually engaging enough to draw the attention of passersby, but not so visually complex as to overwhelm people who haven't come specifically to see art – who, in effect, haven't already said yes to work before even seeing it.

    All three interventions kept closely to such precepts. Felix Kalmanson's Hot Air (Instant Nationalism) was in many ways the most technologically complex piece. Set in the front window of a working business, it comprised two air blowers mounted into a false wall that had been programmed to switch on and off, and a Canadian flag attached to a vertical pipe directly in front of them. The flag is blown about for a few seconds, waving inspirationally and patriotically in the false wind, then hangs limp as the blowers shut down. Repeat. And repeat.

    At the opposite end of the spectrum, Heather Nicol's A Fine Specimen was purely static. Set directly behind a pair of glassed-in doors of an empty storefront, Nicol has installed a wedding gown – lace-trimmed in a floral patterns – its New York label prominently displayed, its storage box and tissue wrapping set out on the floor beneath it. "Static" is the operative word for this wedding dress is pinned to the supporting wall with hundreds of large T-pins that splay the dress out like some collectable bug species or hapless dissected worm. As well, some areas of the dress – the centre, and a large area near the front bottom, for example – are intensely pinned with dense thickets of pins that have nothing at all to do with the mechanics of display.

    Yvonne Singer, I do, I undo, I redo (homage to Louise Bourgeois)

    And finally, furthest down the street, there is Yvonne Singer's I do, I undo, I redo (homage to Louise Bourgeois). Like Kalmenson's piece, it's located in the window of a going business concern (in this instance, a bookstore). Like Nicol's, it's a static work, comprising the whole of the titular text installed on both sides of a false wall, the street side in sculptural red, sans-serif plastic letters, the interior side (next to a comfortable chair in which to read) in black. Like a lot of text-based art it's not ignorable, but it is persuasive in a quiet and meditative way. Kalmanson's fluttering flag may catch the eye of a passing motorist for a moment, and Nicol's work may unfortunately be all too easily missed behind its set of double doors.

    But Singer persists.

    Critical Mass:
    Identification Papers is ongoing.

    Gil McElroy is a poet, artist, independent curator, and freelance art critic. He is the author of Gravity & Grace: Selected Writing on Contemporary Canadian Art, four books of poetry, and Cold Comfort: Growing Up Cold War. McElroy lives in Colborne, Ontario with his wife Heather. He is Akimblog's roving Ontario correspondent and can be followed @GilMcElroy on Twitter.

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    Veronique MacKenzie moves through a series of fluid gestures. She is engrossed in the moment, oblivious to the gaze of spectators in the Saint Mary's University Art Gallery. With each pose, the environment reacts to her body: her movements trigger variations of a layered soundscape created by Lukas Pearse and a flowing series of animations by Susan Tooke. MacKenzie dances with the ease and grace of someone who has practiced each pose thousands of times before. She shifts spontaneously, without stopping to consciously consider each action – like one might arrange words in a sentence without deliberating over each individual sound.

    Veronique MacKenzie

    In the exhibition Motion Activated, MacKenzie explores the idea of "muscle memory." The dancer-choreographer became fixated on this after she had an accident and couldn't express the gestures that were "trapped" in her body. Neuroscientists explain the phenomena as a series of movements that have been mapped not in the muscles, but the brain to create a "shorthand between thinking and doing." A dancer relies on muscle memory to seamlessly move through each pose in a series.

    The exhibition draws parallels between "muscle memory" and the data embedded in a computer program, creating a duet between the human body and the technology rigged up by Pearse using Kinect sensors and Isadora software. In one room, Mackenzie seems to dance alongside a piano that plays itself. Pearse has hooked the piano up to several webcams that trigger Isadora to play from a series of sounds, prompting the piano strings to vibrate when someone moves in the gallery. The effect is stunning. One feels that something ethereal is taking place. It's as though some invisible spirit were animating the piano. Overall, Motion Activated is an ambitious exhibition and sensory delight that draws intriguing parallels between the inner workings of humans and machines.

    Saint Mary's University Art Gallery:
    Motion Activated continues until July 28.
    Upcoming performances take place on July 18 and July 26 at 8pm.

    Lizzy Hill is an internationally published writer and the editor of Visual Arts News, Atlantic Canada's only magazine focusing on the work of visual artists. Lizzy loves her community in Halifax's artistic north end, a wonderful summer camp for grown ups full of underground restaurants and pop-up galleries. She is Akimblog's Halifax correspondent and can be followed @LizzyFHill on Twitter.

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    According to Jackie Traverse, "ever sick" is slang that aboriginal people use when teasing each other, and the expression can be insulting or complimentary. This double meaning is visible in the paintings that make up Traverse's exhibition at Neechi Commons, which pair light and dark humour, the sacred and profane, the grotesque and the beautiful. EVER SICK includes three series of paintings by Traverse, which are currently on display on the second floor of this recently opened aboriginal co-op in Winnipeg's north end that includes a grocery store, restaurant, and arts and crafts store (Neechi Niche). The paintings are installed in the restaurant area next to windows that look out over several Main Street bars and pawnshops. Traverse grew up in a small apartment right across the street, and she spoke with me about how much it meant for her to see her work in this space, and to see a place like Neechi Commons thriving amidst the poverty and violence that exist in the north end.

    Jackie Traverse

    Childhood Memories is one of the series in the show, and it focuses on characters who made an impression on Traverse as a child. The figures in each painting are isolated in the same brushy, off-white background. One work shows her uncle pulling red snakes out of his nose, which Traverse later learned were bloody cotton balls. In the piece Bats of Lake St. Martin, a small girl in a parka screams as she is lifted away by a bat. A short handwritten note accompanies each of these memory paintings; this one says, "My mom told me if I didn't wear my hat the bats would grab me by my hair and carry me away to go live with them."

    Along the Main Street side of the restaurant are the paintings that make up Seven– the seven sacred Anishinabe teachings filtered through Traverse's personal experience and often perverse sense of humour. Love depicts a dream her cousin had in which an eagle tore out her eyeballs. The abstract shapes in the painting represent the signs in front of Main Street hotel bars, two of which (the Yale and the Northern) are visible out the window behind the painting. Traverse's concern for the next generation of young urban aboriginals is expressed in the series Baby Gat, a play on Baby Gap (gat is slang for gun). Babies in bling hold rifles; one of them has been shot through the heart. Traverse wanted these disturbing paintings to de-romanticize the gangster lifestyle, and she made them after seeing facebook photos of friends' babies in gang colours and chains.

    Traverse aims to make art that is accessible to everyone. These works are successful in that regard - there is an immediateness to them that speaks to her strong storytelling abilities, and quite a bit of culturally specific humour thrown in (one man chases a beaver late at night, another contemplates telling his girlfriend that she has a bannock-shaped ass). This accessibility does not make them any less loaded with social commentary. While they are often extremely funny (Rodney Dangerfield as an ugly baby getting pissed on by a dog), they also highlight the violence, poverty and racism that are lived realities for many aboriginal people in Winnipeg. Traverse's EVER SICK should be viewed as a site-specific art installation. The paintings communicate plenty on their own, but they take on an even more powerful presence at Neechi Commons, a hub of culture that has quickly become the heart of an already vibrant aboriginal community in Winnipeg's north end.

    Neechi Commons:
    Jackie Traverse: EVER SICK continues until August 1.

    Noni Brynjolson is a writer and curator from Winnipeg whose work has been published in journals, exhibition catalogues, blogs, and zines. She is a recent graduate of the Master's program in Art History at Concordia University in Montreal and currently works as the Distribution Coordinator at the Winnipeg Film Group. She is Akimblog's Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @NoniBrynjolson on Twitter.

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    The challenge each week in writing these reviews is to say something non-obvious or otherwise original about the things that I see. However, when the work is uninspired, I'm uninspired. Then again, when it's ripe with meaning, my job is easy. The sculptures I looked at this week seemed to fall in the latter case, but I still struggled with what to say. It all started with the Louise Bourgeois exhibition at the MOCCA. Apart from the undeniable presence of her large Cell installation (I would pay big money to see a complete collection of her Cells) and the so obvious, it's genius of the Echoes pieces, the real stars of the show are the sixty year old Personnages that stand in a loose cluster like a crowd of loners or a dying grove. These have been intentionally matched to the subsidiary exhibition of David Armstrong Six, whose abstract and angular figures are similarly personified through the use of titles (The Solicitor, The Changeling) and our natural tendency to anthropomorphize even the most unlikely of objects.

    David Armstrong Six

    While the comparison of these two artists was clearly pre-planned by the curators, a serendipitous conjunction happens when you stroll down the street to Erin Stump Projects and suddenly find yourself in familiar surroundings amidst the sculptures (not to mention the wall works) of Beth Stuart. She too takes a long narrow form and makes us see it as a frail adolescent in the latest fashion, or, at least, a radically reduced form of the same. Perhaps the teen's essence?

    Beth Stuart, Too-Bright Light, 2013, oil on linen on panel, and Teens in Tight Jeans, 2013, found objects, ceramic tile, wax

    And while all these new friends are a delight to behold and I long to spend more time in their company, getting to know them, learning to appreciate their personalities in the manner we get to know all our acquaintances – in bits and pieces over time – I'm not sure there's much more that I can say. I could describe each one, but that would be like hearing the ingredients of a cake instead of getting to eat it. I could tell you what I learned of them, but in this case – and as a professional critic, I don't often defer to subjectivity (what would justify my exorbitant fees?) – I think it's better if you meet them yourself.

    Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art:
    Louise Bourgeois & David Armstrong Six continues until August 11.

    Erin Stump Projects:
    Beth Stuart: LOUD. BROWN. SHROUD. continues until July 14.

    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.

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    Ways of Living, Stephen Mueller's current exhibition and durational performance at Windsor's Artcite, is roughly in the middle of its two-month run. On the left side of the gallery, the artist (completely covered by a floor-length sheet) sits silently and motionlessly at a small table. The chair opposite him is "occupied" by an upended table upon which several chairs perch tenuously. This silent dialogue, contingent upon the gallery's public hours, is to last uninterrupted until August 3. To Mueller's right are two white sheets hung as screens that face each other (echoing Mueller's performance on the left) at opposite ends of a plinth and vitrine, inside which sits a jar of dark liquid. Projected upon each screen is time-lapse documentation of a previous durational performance wherein Mueller meticulously de-bearded his face, hair by hair. Inside the jar is the remaining evidence, indifferent to the abrasive presence of the twin projections surrounding it. The somnolent, vaguely haunted feeling of the exhibition is heightened by the gallery's darkness, as it is lit only by a dim afternoon pall and accompanying slippery play of sunlight upon surfaces.

    Stephen Mueller, Still Believing, 2013, durational performance (photo: Rory O'Connor)

    The formal and logistical configuration of this face-to-face work immediately references the vast array of images and reports of well-known durational pieces such as Marina Abramovic's 2010 performance at MOMA. Mueller acknowledges this in an accompanying text, suggesting that this inherent and/or deliberate quotation is meant to "conjure and reconfigure," rather than merely rely on validation via such well-known performances. Additional pop-cultural links are also deliberate but transitory, such as the ghost-assembled chairs in the 1982 film Poltergeist or the chess match in Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal. Mueller's work feels as though it strives for its own kind of eventfulness.

    Throughout my visit, ambient noise and traffic fluctuated, consisting of much gallery staff banter (including phone calls, coughs, sneezes, and some loud sighs) amongst themselves and with visitors. The frenetic pulsing of Mueller in the projections became an exaggerated version of the invisible assertion of his body in real time. My own tightly knitted anxiousness on behalf of the artist was repeatedly amplified by the interruptions and surrounding noise, creating more distance between me and the performance itself. These are some of the palpable (and perhaps deliberate) contradictions within his self-imposed durational isolation and his interest in direct, if silent dialogue with his audience. While this seems in keeping with his broader interest in personal stubbornness, failure, and futility, it also evokes several questions about the inherently territorial nature of both social space and the very un-neutral (or unnatural) space of a gallery.

    Mueller's work reminds me how these and other phenomenological factors become an inescapable and yet vital part of my experience with any exhibition. The competing push-pull behavior of the exhibition space, its staff, the work (not to mention the artist himself), as well as the comedic "noise" of my own body, fascinates and grates at me long afterwards.

    Stephen Mueller: Ways of Living continues until August 3.

    Kim Neudorf is an artist and writer currently living in London, Ontario. Her paintings have shown widely in Alberta, including the Illingworth Kerr Gallery, Stride Gallery, and Skew Gallery in Calgary. She has contributed writing to FFWD,, Prairie Artsters, Hamilton Arts & Letters, Stride Gallery, Truck Gallery, and most recently Susan Hobbs Gallery. She is Akimbo's London correspondent and can be followed @KimNeudorf on Twitter.

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