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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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    This time of year most galleries in Montreal are closed for the summer holidays and preparing exhibitions for the “grande rentrée” in September. There are a few that have bucked this trend, and one of them is Pierre-François Ouelette Art Contemporain with its current exhibition by Marc Audette. Audette’s La Ligne is a collection of photographic works depicting paths of tube lights weaving along and lighting up the floor of darkened forests and fields. Each work is named after its location, and the sites are spread across Canada from Nelson BC to Gatineau QC. The light installations are meant to bring an uncanny otherness to the locations, evoking subjective narratives in the viewer’s imagination.

    Marc Audette, Rio Claro Columbia, 2013, chromogenic print

    The potential strength of this work lies in the juxtaposition between the cool, clinical industrial tube lighting and its installation in the wild. References might be made to outdoor scientific labs, but the more obvious connection is to the aesthetics of Romanticism in relation to landscape. At first glance the installations appear magical and mysterious. Like flames trailing through the night landscape, they are beautiful to look at. The realization, however, that in many of the photos there is a human figure lying down on the ground pushes work that was already teetering on the borderline, closer to cliché. I also question why the locations need to be so explicitly named and spread across Canada. The landscapes seem almost interchangeable and I’m not sure this geographical information brings anything more to the work.

    Also at PFOAC in the project room is Kota Ezawa’s LYAM 3D. Done in Ezawa’s signature minimalist drawing aesthetic and rendered 3D, it’s a clever deconstruction of selected scenes from Alain Resnais’s seminal 1961 film L’année dernière à Marienbad.

    Pierre-François Ouellette Art Contemporain:
    Marc Audette: The Line continues until September 13.

    Susannah Wesley is an artist and curator living in Montreal. She has been a member of the collaborative duo Leisure since 2004 and from 1997-2000 was part of the notorious British art collective the Leeds13. Formerly Director at Battat Contemporary in Montreal, she holds an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art and an MA in Art History from Concordia University. She is Akimblog's new Montreal correspondent and can be followed @susannahwesley1 on Twitter.

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    There is so much going on in the Sahmat Collective exhibition at the Art Gallery of Mississauga, it’s hard to know where to begin, so let’s start at the beginning. On January 1, 2014, poet, playwright and activist Safdar Hashmi died after being attacked while performing a play for workers’ rights. Shortly thereafter, the Sahmat Collective was formed in his name in order to fight censorship and intolerance in India. Their defence of pluralism and freedom of expression was set against the forces of what is know there as “communalism” and fundamentalism. In the intervening quarter century they have staged numerous public exhibitions, performances, and actions. They have collaborated with children and rickshaw drivers as well as fellow artists. They have produced posters, banners, storybooks, murals, photographs, videos, relational work, installations, and exhibitions. They have also fought legal battles and continued to be attacked.

    M. Sovan Kumar bicycling his work Mobile Shelter at the opening event for the Sahmat Collective's Art on the Move, Delhi, March 18, 2001

    The densely packed exhibition is a smart addition to an increasingly essential curatorial program in Mississauga. Despite its origins on the other side of the globe, the work on display has a lot to say to a suburban city with 22% of its inhabitants having roots in South Asia as well as a country that is increasingly dogmatic about its politics (see our federal government and its raging foreign policy as well as the decimation going on at our public broadcaster and the Conservative attitude to scientific research and funding). All that aside, the chronologically arranged display of the Sahmat projects begin with your standard activist art tropes like collaborative posters and feel-good sentiments about harmony and brotherhood but quickly progresses into more challenging imagery playing off the often violent responses to those who celebrate secular values and the culture wars that continue to this day. Given yourself plenty of time to take it all in.

    Ken Jacobs, Canopy, 2014

    If the disappointment associated with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cancelled Toronto International Film Festival appearance is one end of a spectrum, then the delight in getting a chance to see Ken Jacobs newest eye warping short is the other. Wavelengths is the festival series that forgoes narrative, character, celebrity and all those other non-medium specific impurities for the wholesale and unadulterated pleasure of the eye as eye. While there are some instances of structuring as in Mike Stolz and Mary Helena Clark’s visual poems, I prefer the focused ocular-blast of the film-paintings that are all about the looking. Alexandre Larose’s multipli-exposed landscape pan takes Michael Snow’s Wavelengths outdoors and then ratchets up the psychedelic qualities through never-ending tracer trails. Blake WilliamsRed Capriccio starts off as a relentlessly pointless exercise in repetition with shot after shot of a car, alarm lights flashing, until he keeps pushing the light filters to the max and fries your brain with seizure-inducing cuts. The aforesaid Jacobs’ will induce nausea through the illusion of a spinning street scene, and Calum Walter’s Relief will induce feelings of dread in its reimagining of Andy Warhol’s newspaper tragedy silkscreens as a ever-degrading charcoal pixilation.

    If you are interested in a little more content with your form, then Anna Marziano’s Orizzonti Orizzonti is an epic of documentary restraint and equally entranced with the beauty of the open sea, a muscular body, and an old lady’s face. These films and videos are screening throughout the festival’s ten-day run. There is also a program of gallery installations titled Future Projections in various locations around the city. Some of them will be on view a bit longer and will probably crop up in a future review.

    Art Gallery of Mississauga:
    The Sahmat Collective continues until October 19.

    Toronto International Film Festival:
    TIFF runs from September 4 to 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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    Late last Friday night I was driving up Sterling Road in a heavy rain to collect my kid from her gymnastics class when I noticed a surprising number of cars parked outside the nearby Nestlé factory and then a whole slew of bicycles bound in clusters to every available piece of chain link fence. There was some non-dad-looking dude redirecting hipsters away from the home of the T-Dot Tumblers and further down the industrial lot. A vague memory of some recent email clicked into place and I asked him, “Is the NetherMind exhibition going on back there?” He said, “Yeah, but it’s an art thing.” I said, “Well, I’m an art guy.” And so I headed over.

    Max Streicher, Endgame (Coulrophobia), recycled billboard vinyl, 2010

    The last Toronto-based exhibition by this collective of mid-career artists was a return to form after a sixteen year hiatus. Continuing their tradition of displaying their work in unlikely spaces, the eight artists occupied the dramatic environs of St. Anne’s Anglican Church in the fall of 2012 to great effect. They must have been equally jazzed by the response and have now followed up by collaborating with the bicycle tour + gallery hop + curatorial project known as Art Spin. Based on the evidence of last week’s rain-soaked masses, their monthly summer tours have become the thing to do. Unfortunately, this venue doesn’t possess the sacred aura of a house of the holy or the dank physicality of a dirty industrial space. It’s just a tidy basement in a gentrified warehouse, so there’s a bit of magic missing. Max Streicher still manages to use the architecture to full effect by squeezing a couple inflatable clown heads between ceiling and floor. Lyle Rye winds an extended Canadian flag around columns to create a space within the space where, at least on the night of the opening, pretty young things were hiding. John Dickson tucks his kinetic multi-media piece up in the rafters and projects the resulting lo-fi tour of the solar system on an adjacent screen. And Catherine Heard allows the bloody tears streaming from her disturbing heads on stakes to drain along the floor and under the door of a utility room. While these pieces stand out as the most dramatic, the overall exhibition is a mixed-bag that lacks the unity of the previous exhibition. Without sounding too much like the guy who only likes the earlier recordings of a band who got too popular, I’m not as wowed by this show as I’d liked to be but I’d argue it has more to do with the venue than the work.

    Amie Siegel, Provenance, 2013, HC video

    Now screening at various venues around the city, the Toronto International Film Festival’s Future Projections acknowledges the influence of film on visual arts and shows how the medium has been adapted by a variety of artists to a gallery context. In some instances, it seems arbitrary as to what makes for an installation versus just a film or video being screened in a white cube. Amie Siegel’s single channel forty minute wordless essay on the social, cultural, historical, and (most importantly) economic trajectory of a particular line of furniture designed in part by Le Corbusier might just as well have played in a theatre. That minor quibble aside, it’s a fantastic piece of moving imagery with every single shot composed perfectly and the final third – taking place as it does in the Corbusier-designed Indian city of Chandigarh – setting the stage for a subcontinental dystopian sci-fi epic that never was.

    The other two works I’ve seen so far – Laurent Montaron’s Nature of the Self at Mercer Union and Lynne Marsh’s Anna and the Tower at Scrap Metal– aren’t nearly as compelling as films and make the contemporary artist’s mistake of devising ingenious spatial reconfigurations (a two-way mirror with Montaron and a frustrating zig-zig screen with Marsh) that don’t add much to the experience other than articulating what’s already there. Montaron includes some memorable imagery of a spelunker and a couple junior biologists, but the droning voice-over is heavy-handed in hammering the artist's point about perception and self-awareness home. Marsh’s piece has a great backstory about a rarely used, yet still active airport outside of Berlin but her effort to capture the tedium of the loyal air traffic controller ends up tedious itself. My advice is to make time for MOCCA and then see what Shaun Gladwell is up to at the Drake.

    NetherMind Collective continues until September 21.

    TIFF Futures Projections:
    See website for exhibition information.

    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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    A pair of exhibitions opened at Gurevich Fine Art last Friday, the gallery’s contribution to an ongoing, city-wide programming blitz celebrating the 30th anniversary of Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art. Tucked behind a lively small works show highlighting established women artists (Aganetha Dyck, Reva Stone, Buffy Sainte-Marie) alongside local up-and-comers (painter Megan Krause, versatile conceptualist Elise Dawson), the dimly-lit rear gallery houses an austere new media installation by Caroline Monnet, co-presented by Video Pool Media Arts Centre.

    Caroline Monnet, Amik(waa)

    A nine-foot octagonal prism of glossy black acrylic sheets lashed with wire to a scaffold of copper pipes, Amik(waa) rises like a crystal point, flashes of light spilling out from narrow openings at each corner. Inside the structure, abstract projections dart across the floor like campfire shadows, their dim, kaleidoscopic reflections seeming to dissolve in gathering darkness. An ambient soundscape of forest sounds breaks into sporadic rhythms of chopping wood and whispers, offering only faint and faltering points of reference.

    The daughter of Algonquin and French parents, Monnet readapts the form of the Shaking Tent, a single-occupant ceremonial lodge built to shelter and facilitate rites of divination. She transposes the site from forest clearing to gallery space, replacing sapling poles with copper pipe and acrylic sheet for bark and hide. Digital audio and low-res video stand in for conjured voices and visions.

    Along with her restrained but resourceful approach to material, Monnet’s allusions to traditional construction and successive layers of human history enrich and complicate Amik(waa)’s minimalist aesthetics. She teases out rewarding parallels between the search for spiritual understanding and Minimal sculpture’s particular challenge to the viewer, to regard the work as a presence to navigate instead of an object to look at. We approach the work with questions, and we’re met with our own reflected gaze, which gets swept up – along with any obvious answers – among the digital artifacts and dancing shadows.

    Gurevich Fine Art, co-presented by Video Pool Media Arts Centre:
    Caroline Monnet: Amik(waa) continues until September 27.

    Steven Leyden Cochrane is an artist, writer, and educator based in Winnipeg, where he contributes weekly exhibition reviews to the Free Press. He is Akimbo’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @svlc_ on Twitter.

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    I headed down to the 2-22 Building on St. Catherine Street last week to see what it has on offer for fall. Vox Centre de l’image contemporain has three exhibitions on view: Brian Jungen and Duane Linklater’s film Modest Livelihood, Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen’s NFB film programme Challenge for Change, and Richard Ibghy and Marilou Lemmens’ installation The Golden USB. Several links can be found between these three exhibitions: ideas of documentation, agency, communication, and the forging of new relationships are all explored. Together they form a complex, layered, and complimentary triad.

    Brian Jungen & Duane Linklater, Modest Livelihood

    Nguyen’s Challenge for Change is a selection of films drawn from an NFB series of the same name, produced in the 60s and 70s that documented pressing issues in Canadian society in collaboration with their subjects. At the time of their making the hope was that these films would generate social and political change.

    Jungen and Linkleter’s Modest Livelihood ties most directly to Challenge for Change. It is a striking silent film inspired by the aesthetic tradition of golden age NFB documentaries. The work documents two hunting trips taken by the artists. Like the anthropological NFB films of yore, it documents a traditional First Nation practice, but by removing the sound, a layer of privacy is added. Oral information passed down from an Elder (Jungen’s uncle) is not available to the audience, nor is any conversation between the two friends. Instead, visual spectacle becomes primary – the physical relationship between the hunters, the land, and the animal.

    The Golden USB also documents the contemporary world but its scope is both broader and yet absurdly minute, its alleged raison d’être being the search for new relationships through interstellar trade. The exhibition references a digital compendium of everything on earth that might be economically interesting to extra-terrestrial life forms, from elements of nature, to cultural and industrial products. The “samples” are stored in a golden USB and documented through video, voice recording, charts, and actual “specimens”, all of which are on display. The work critiques contemporary consumerist culture and global – or in this case, galactic – capitalism.

    Also always worth checking out at the 2-22 is Artexte’s exhibition space. At the moment it features two conceptually compelling bodies of work by the American artist Jason Simon.

    Challenge for Change & Modest Livelihood continue until November 1.
    The Golden USB continues until November 8.

    Susannah Wesley is an artist and curator living in Montreal. She has been a member of the collaborative duo Leisure since 2004 and from 1997-2000 was part of the notorious British art collective the Leeds13. Formerly Director at Battat Contemporary in Montreal, she holds an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art and an MA in Art History from Concordia University. She is Akimblog's Montreal correspondent and can be followed @susannahwesley1 on Twitter.

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    Whenever I hear the name Tricia Middleton, I think of the Oakville Galleries exhibition of hers from 2012 that I missed and the stunning installation pictures that reinforce my regret. And then I think of all the exhibitions I’ve missed (mostly the good ones; I’m not so concerned with the average or the bad), especially the one-off, site-specific installations that will never be reproduced in quite the same way, if at all. Then I feel bummed and wonder what’s the point and think about how inconvenient and unlikely the whole artistic enterprise is, tied as it is, for the most part, to a highly selective, localized, and temporally brief series of displays that can’t be adequately reproduced. Though I supposed that’s what makes it special, giving each exhibition something of Walter Benjamin’s aura, and infusing my regret with more than mere consumer remorse.

    Tricia Middleton

    All this to say I made sure not to miss Middleton’s newly opened solo show at Jessica Bradley. Rather than present one of her immersive environments, the currently Paris-based artist fills the gallery with an assortment of unplinthed sculptures (for lack of a better term) that run the gamut from a roadside tribute of assembled brick-a-brack to body parts dumped amidst the scrub-brush to molten lumps to a collapsing cardboard ladder and a hanging bag piece that (along with a couple other things) draws some provocative connections with Luanne Martineau (who showed with Bradley in the past). There are also some text works on paper that may or may not serve as artist statements, but before I even think of those I want to dwell long and hard on the objects in the room and the multifarious objects buried within them. The closer you look, the more you find amid the detritus that has been redeemed in an intentionally semi-pathetic, semi-wondrous way by a uniform covering of candy-coloured wax that draws the eye it’s so sweetly confectious but also repels it’s so gooey and gross. Once you’ve had enough of the purely visual appeal of each work, there’s more than enough to keep you engaged with disentangling possible narratives that delve into surreal imagery and notions of the unformed, but be prepare to get down on your hands and knees to appreciate every little detail.

    John Kissick

    John Kissick is an elder statesman of post-Photoshop abstraction. His frenzied canvases paste a melee of dots over tubular mazes under splatters of sparkle paint alongside drips and pours of primer. The noise is glorious. The paintings currently on display at Katzman Contemporary are so whizz-bang-pow, they might even have too much personality. I'd have second thoughts bringing one home and worry that whenever guests would come over they'd want to spend more time with the canvas than me. I don’t know if I could meet the painting's exuberant demands, be the life of the party, sparkle so brightly. I'd probably have to put it in the front hall so it would greet newcomers with a boisterous “HOWDY-DO!”, but I can’t imagine eating dinner in front of it or having a casual conversation – I’d just want to keep looking at it and that would be rude.

    Sam Mogelonsky’s equally anti-social but far more subdued sculptures are also on view. Their sequined surfaces are inviting but they hide an army of pins that threaten to draw blood with just a touch, which is a bit of a bummer after Kissick’s rollercoaster ride. I lean more to the works here that are just surface. I don’t need danger with my delight.

    Jesscia Bradley:
    Tricia Middleton: Making friends with yourself continues until November 8.

    Katzman Contemporary:
    John Kissick: Sugar Won’t Work continues until October 11.
    Sam Mogelongsky: Pins & Needles continues until October 11.

    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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    I like alternatives to the intentionally blank white cube of your typical gallery space. And I love repurposed spaces, environments that still have non-modernist architectural baggage and can still carry a charge (to mix a couple of metaphors), places that don’t, won’t, can’t disappear, be rendered mute and inert in the face of contexualizing the visual art that they contain. Rather than vanishing or being subsumed, they more aggressively inform, even challenge, whatever you aesthetically put up against them. Evans Contemporary up in Peterborough is rather like that. It’s a small gallery space – two rooms, essentially, what had once been a home’s living and dining rooms – set in an old Victorian house on a pleasant side street in the middle of town. They’re painted a neutral white, as if to mimic the gallery cube, but they just can’t. For one thing, there are chandeliers hanging in both spaces, gaudy baubles of sparkly glass and incandescent candles. The idea of neutral just ain’t gonna happen. The two spaces surrender nothing of themselves, and so as an artist you’ve got to figure that into your aesthetic equations or you’re dead in the water. Not everyone manages it.

    Jeanie Riddle

    Jeanie Riddle can, though. Modern Things comprises three wall- and floor-mounted interventions into these spaces, the biggest of which stretches across one wall and onto the floor of the front room. A large horizontal swath of sections of adhesive vinyl printed so as to (badly) resemble wood is intruded upon by an inserted section of red painted wall fronted by three small pieces of vertically arranged wood that are themselves attached to an L-shaped grey bracket that brings the whole thing down to the floor.

    The things a bit of red can do – the red rectangle seems to float above the fake wood vinyl surface, visually disengaging itself from the wall and becoming more a part of the sculptural bracket. Nice. What might have appeared to be a sort of floor plan of some space transcends itself, becomes something other.

    Jeanie Riddle

    Two smaller works are situated in the second room. Tucked into a corner sits a small, neatly arranged pile of bits of cloth, and on the wall above it, slightly to the left, is another amalgam of materials visually arranged around two sections of adhesive vinyl (another wood pattern) split vertically and looking for all the world like a broken toilet seat. And there’s text: to one side of the central vinyl panels are a number of paint sample cards – “ash mist,” “white shoulders” – themselves abutting a large, horizontally striped card with the words “The Decisive Years” printed upon it.

    Text, of course, changes absolutely everything, and so we tend to view a visual work through its semantic prism. Perhaps not the best of ideas, but there you are. Riddle’s words on found materials incorporated here shape determined, particular seeings. So too does a pile of cloth stacked neatly nearby, again pulling the work away from the wall, but we keep being yanked back by the imperatives of language – “ash,” “white,” “decisive”…. We can’t help it; it’s ingrained into us.

    So I stick to the front gallery space, please, to a chandelier-illumined work unhindered by the constrictions of the linguistic but interestingly contextualized by – not contingent upon – the language of the architectural.

    Evans Contemporary:
    Jeanie Riddle: Modern Things continues until October 12.

    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. He is Akimblog's roving Ontario correspondent and can be followed @GilMcElroy on Twitter.

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    Nordic Landscapes, the exhibition of new work by Marc Séguin in Ottawa, came as a bit of shock. I knew that Séguin had built his career on a seemingly unrelenting series of dark and brutal images that employed provocative use of serial killers, terrorists, crash sites and the like, so I steeled myself for what I was about to see and still found myself completely unprepared. In a sequence of ten new oil paintings, the artist has rather straightforwardly rendered pleasantly picturesque views of northern Quebec and Labrador. Washed out applications of colours softly stain raw canvas to effectively produce barren and expansive terrain in a kind of Northern Impressionism. The paintings verge on the abstract, even more so when the composition is cropped without a clearly discernible horizon line. The slightest details become more pronounced in these minimalistic landscapes. In Paysage nordique No. 12, dark paint appears to pool in crevices. On Paysage nordique No. 11 (trois loups), red and white brush strokes apply plus and minus signs atop bare tundra to manifest an ambiguous symbolism. These paintings were inspired by Séguin’s hunting and fishing trips in the area, as well as by his recent experience shooting a feature film there. Previously, Séguin has said that he felt it was his duty to pursue in paint what deranged or disturbed him. These easily enjoyable works indicate perhaps that the trips up north have helped to mellow him out.

    Marc Séguin, Paysage nordique No. 11, 2014, oil on canvas

    The exhibition marks a homecoming of sorts: Séguin was born here and you might say that at present his chickens have come home to roost. His gallerist in Ottawa, Jean-Claude Bergeron, has organized a small retrospective in Gatineau to coincide with Nordic Landscapes by gathering together a range of works from 1996 to 2014, the majority of which are on loan from collectors in the region. The title of the exhibition at Galerie Montcalm, The Trophy Room, plays on the collectability of Séguin’s work but also underscores the artist’s approach to painting as a form of hunting, and from the looks of it he is only interested in big game. A rogue’s gallery, the room is populated by portraits of artists, writers and political figures both reviled and revered that take on iconic status in Séguin’s mythos. His treatment of portraiture resides somewhere between adornment and defilement. F.B. 8 (Francis Bacon) is sketched in like a graffiti stencil with a crude handgun in red pointed at the subject’s ear, his eyes hollow red circles. The whole surface is varnished and cracked like a shattered pane of glass. In Portrait Degenerate Art (Hitler) the entire profile has been effaced by impasto globs, with streaks of red oil spewing from the subject’s mouth. Peevish mark-making common to all the work suggests a disdain for the void. Hommage à Mark Rothko (Isabelle Huppert) is a stark circumscription of color field painting divided into zones of supplication and desecration. In it, a masked figure kneels below and supports on her head a dark mass of tar in which an actual taxidermied heron is immobilized. In Gatineau, the etchings produced to date from Séguin’s Ottawa Suite are also on display. Inspired by Picasso’s Vollard Suite, Séguin’s series of prints for Bergeron reproduce his compulsive collection of trophies on a smaller scale.

    Marc Séguin, Paysage nordique No. 6, 2014, oil on canvas

    The proximity of both exhibitions affords visitors the opportunity to get caught up with Séguin’s work and discern a continuity in his aesthetic strategies that suggests there is a darker side to his Nordic Landscapes. In the same way that I suspect there is a calculated agenda behind Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s seemingly benign arctic tours, I can’t but think that Séguin is playing the wolf in sheep’s clothing with these new paintings. These are not paintings of unspoiled wilderness. Paint itself becomes an intrusive element like other refuse starkly offset by the landscape. In Paysage nordique No. 10, sheds left abandoned by a mining company are foregrounded with the childish outline of a house roughly painted in white. In Paysage nordique No. 6, the serene muted colour of permafrost is disrupted by a riot of thick swirls of paint. Though appeasing and softly appealing, here and there the tranquil surfaces of these paintings roil with great gunky blobs of oil paint. I’m led to speculate about the oil below the surface by the amount of it on top.

    Galerie Jean-Claude Bergeron:
    Marc Séguin: Nordic Landscapes continues until September 28.

    Galerie Montcalm:
    Marc Séguin: The Trophy Room continues until October 5.

    Michael Davidge is an artist, writer, and independent curator who lives in Ottawa, Ontario. His writing on art and culture has appeared in BlackFlash, Border Crossings and C Magazine, among other publications. He is Akimblog’s Ottawa correspondent and can be followed on Twitter @MichaelDavidge.

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    The Source, emerging in part from Immersion Emergencies and Possible Worlds (an artist research group who met during two residencies starting in 2012) includes work by Nadine Bariteau, Raymond Boisjoly, Elizabeth Chitty, Soheila Esfahani, Gautam Garoo, Patrick Mahon, Colin Miner, Lucy + Jorge Orta, and Gu Xiong. This exhibition looks at the complex and shifting contexts and issues around water, including states of being outside of the rational or linear, water as perceived via culture and habits, through ways of taking water in (who owns or governs it), water as a cultural “flow”, and encountered through practices which emerge in relation to water as something that exceeds our knowledge of it. The exhibition includes a wide range of media, including photographs, video, performance, sculpture, drawing, and multi-floor installations which extend throughout the interior and exterior of Rodman Hall’s historic house and gardens.

    Soheila Esfahani, Wish on Water, 2014, 120 glazed porcelain bowls, water

    Gu Xiong’s trail of white boats, starting across grass and hill leading up to Rodman Hall and trailing throughout the main and second floor, visually suggest the stealthy pathways inherently made by water. They overlap with other work near ceiling height like a flock of birds, crossing invisible thresholds or mimicking others. As another kind of mimicry, Soheila Esfahani’s large grid of ceramic bowls (in reference to the prevalence of public fountains in her native Iran) both resemble and re-appropriate Rodman Hall’s original, colonial use of Oriental decorations. As both a translation into and gesture of containment, the idea of keeping hold of water is fleeting as water levels in the bowls will inevitably evaporate.

    The daily ritual of retrieving water is the subject of a video by Gautam Garoo. In the day-to-day lives of people in Varanasi, India, the repeated, laborious gesture of moving and accessing water creates a community of interactions with its own logic and rhythm. In another video work by Garoo, the camera moves steadily in water filled with chunks of ice, materialized in the all-encompassing sounds of moving forward and through. In both works, labor through or with water is a seemingly never-ending state.

    Colin Miner, Afterimage #21 & Afterimage #22, 2014, neon

    The constantly shifting states of water appear in Colin Miner’s furry frost of noise in a chromogenic color print on black corkboard. In other works in video and photographic material, Miner creates situations where these states continue to transform via the mediation of photography. In two neon works whose titles reference the phenomena of afterimages, these nebulous forms coalesce into the veins of breaking ice. Raymond Boisjoly links the mediated qualities of his images with displacement and alienation from origins. In digital scans from video of Jericho Beach in Vancouver (originally the site of the Musqueam village of Ee’yullmough), granulated resolution produces strange sightings captured in flight over icy landscapes.

    Patrick Mahon’s large-scale wall pieces of ink on wood reference submersion and shipwrecks while resembling whale skeletons with bones covered in waterlogged imagery from the past. The warning, groaning sound of chainsaws accompanies moments of Nadine Bariteau’s performance on video in which gestures of pulling, reaching, and dragging attempt to unearth or dislodge her body from the surrounding landscape. She strains for a foothold, slides in place, or hangs at a sharp angle, her body one half of a drawing stretched across the reflective water.

    There is a lot more to consider in The Source, such as Elizabeth Chitty’s aerial video over nearby Twelve Mile Creek and her exploration of its life amidst a web of boundaries tied to ownership and governance, Gu Xiong’s photographic documents of a Niagara community of migrant workers, and Lucy + Jorge Orta’s dual-screen video, passport office, and life jacket as emblematic remnants of an expedition to Antarctica in 2007. Additional programming such as artist talks, panels, additional film screenings, and lectures attempted to cover more ground related to discussion of environmental and global issues around water. In the context of such a broad, complicated subject, it’s a relief to also ground these issues in the presence of artworks. What does water itself propose, as a state that we’re already in the midst of? Moving with and through pathways, using gestures of mimicry, shared access, temporality, community and restraint, and manifesting water’s shifting states of transformation: The Source suggests these might be ways to feel out a strategy or, more pragmatically, ways to be honest about our messy relationships to, habitual use of, and partial knowledge of something so iconic and monumental.

    Rodman Hall:
    The Source: Rethinking Water Through Contemporary Art continues until September 28.

    Kim Neudorf is an artist and writer currently living in London, Ontario. Her paintings have shown widely in Alberta and at Susan Hobbs Gallery in Toronto. She has contributed writing most recently to Susan Hobbs Gallery, Cooper Cole Gallery, Forest City Gallery, and Evans Contemporary Gallery. She is Akimbo's London correspondent and can be followed @KimNeudorf on Twitter.

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    David Harper is an artist who takes few shortcuts. On entering his solo exhibition at Saint Mary’s Universi-ty Art Gallery, the viewer stands face-to-face with I Tried, and I Tried, and I Tried, a wall-sized diptych of paintings based on two versions of Jacques-Louis David’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps at the Saint-Bernard Pass (1800–1804). In both reproductions, Harper has erased the horse Napoleon rides on by drawing over it with embroidery. The embroidery is meticulous: one is a subtle and shimmering gradient of very fine detail and small stitches that create depth and a rich surface; the other is a vibrant blue tumbling block pattern.

    David Harper, Rhopos V

    Into the Fall, and The Fall is a pair of seventeenth century Dutch paintings on which Harper again em-broiders over a central figure: in this case, a dead hare. He uses the same tumbling block pattern from I Tried, and I Tried, and I Tried, but this time in bright green and yellow. Paired with the paintings are framed pieces of patterned rabbit pelt, as if to confirm the authenticity of the paintings. The lush colour palette creates a sense of extreme flatness, creating a disconnect between the image and the physical presence of the artefact. The rabbit, all along, has been an illusion.

    Rhopos I–VIII is another collection of images that feature the character of the rabbit or hare, again both conspicuously absent and simultaneously extra-present. Ghost-like, the white embroidered rabbit shim-mers above the surface of the paintings, appearing again and again, dying over and over: the hunter’s prize, kitchen grocery. The rabbit becomes a cyclical presence, mythical, religious.

    This exhibition, titled Entre le Chien et le Loup, explores the line between the mundane and the profound, creating flatness to explore nuance. Harper goes to lengths to navigate constructed mythologies, death, and colonization, and the resulting experience is many-layered and rewarding.

    Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery:
    David Harper: Entre le Chien et le Loup continues until October 5.

    Daniel Higham works in a butcher shop where he’ll talk to you about art, food, and life. He writes for Visual Arts News, is Akimblog’s Halifax correspondent, and can be followed on Twitter @highamdaniel.

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    Curator John G. Hampton hits the nail on the head when he confesses to finding Minimalism funny. What with the preponderance of plus-size children's building blocks and the habit of relying on as-is building materials (bricks, railway ties, etc.), the school of thought has always left itself open to the honest question: "Is this a joke?" There is also an inescapable element of the absurd in pushing art to an extreme. However, whereas Samuel Beckett at least identified the clowns in his frontier theatre, visual artists of the first generation remained, for the most part, straight-faced (though Tony Smith must have been smirking when he titled his iconic big black metal cube Die). In the intervening years, a younger crowd have taken on the task of poking fun at their elders’ pretensions or playing them up for purposes and parallels outside the traditional scope of the standard form.

    Jon Sasaki, A Minimalist Cube Shipped With Minimal Effort and Expense, 2012, powdercoated steel cube, accumulating shipping labels

    The works in Hampton's Curatorial Studies thesis project exhibition, currently on view at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, are split down the middle between an inside joke on the art world and a riff on the interplay between Minimalism and the outside world. The former includes John Baldessari's lacklustre musical reading of Sol LeWitt's instructions for artists, John Wood and Paul Harrison’s six video variations on the empty white box played out as deadpan action art performances, and Ken Nicol’s obsessive observance of Carl Andre’s direction to repeat oneself. The latter add an additional layer to the art historical intertextuality by introducing impure elements such as Coke Zero in John Boyle-Singfield’s transparent cube and shipping tags to John Sasaki’s Minimalist Cube Shipped with Minimal Effort and Expense. The full import of Minimalism’s influence is best seen when it’s reflected in the oppressive forms it takes in architecture and design. The clean lines and flagrant essentialism is full of both hubris and pathos, be it in Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins’ jitterbugging Big Blue or Liza Eurich’s less than perfect Bad Rainbows. As Homer Simpson is wont to say, “It’s funny because it’s true.

    Nadav Assor, Ophan, 2014, custom-made hexacopter, control, power and sensing equipment, speaker, lights

    The mixed media works in Pardes, currently on view at the Koffler Centre of the Arts, are neither funny nor minimal, but they delve into the recesses of truth telling - with more of an emphasis on the telling. The quartet of Israeli artists who make up this exhibition all draw on sound and recontextualizing found material in order to rethink tradition and question inherited knowledge. Amnon Wolman imbeds speakers into a prayer shawl and a history book to literally change the message. Ira Eduardovna blends a TV sit-com with an avant-garde choir and reveals the apocalyptic narrative within each. Nevet Yitzhak screens a fascinating remix of archival footage of the Israel Broadcasting Authority Arabic Orchestra (who ever knew there was such a thing?) that is unfortunately marred by the competing sounds from the other installations. Sound bleed is a chronic problem in this crammed show and the worst culprit is also the most compelling piece. Nadav Assor’s drone-flown speaker blasts a call to prayer from the heart of the whirling, windy, droning (now I know it refers to the sound it makes) device that is so intimately tied to our understanding of 21st Century warfare (no matter how far into the past those conflicts stretch). The works in this show are maximal in both form and content, leaving one with lots to chew on even after the noise dies down.

    Justina M. Barnicke Gallery:
    Why Can’t Minimal continues until October 19.

    Koffler Centre of the Arts:
    Pardes continues until November 30.

    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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    There’s a different kind of gravity at work in the McMaster Museum of Art, a defiance of the hard weight of human clay that abounds in Graham Todd: Imaginary Spaces– a posthumous exhibition in tribute to McMaster University’s beloved sculpture professor of nearly thirty years. As one of his pupils, it’s an exhibition fraught with fondness and melancholy, a shrine I cannot approach with any objectivity even as I recognize the very best of what he conveyed to me and many others: a tireless exploration of material made to speak in tongues, a compulsion to work that runs thick with fierce delight.

    Graham Todd, Imaginary Spaces, 2014, installation view

    That lingering fire, that inescapable shadow extends itself by chance across the MMA’s other ongoing exhibitions. Workingman’s Dead: Lives of the Artists bears its own share of ghosts gleaned from the MacLaren Art Centre’s archive of Soviet photographs. Leopold Plotek’s large, moody canvases slip between the cracks of these photographic memories of a troubling Stalinist era as unreliable witnesses that draw upon imagination and the velvet blur of oils to depict the ambiguous truths of this era that elude the camera’s lens.

    Despite its sharp thematic about-face, Ian Johnston’s The Chamber is both a part of and an antidote to so much heaviness. An unfathomable mountain of household waste is concealed within a white nylon shroud that expands to test the gallery’s limits before contracting in a great, prolonged inhalation that clings to every contour it contains. At the tightest chasm of that so-slow gasp, the translucent white shell pulls taut over the strange shapes and pleasing colours of common goods in a jagged embrace before this massive lung expands once more to a blank fullness of being. As those colours and their wonderful shapes disappear, it’s almost – though never quite – like saying goodbye.

    McMaster Museum of Art:
    Graham Todd: Imaginary Spaces continues until April 25.
    Workingman’s Dead continues until October 25.
    Ian Johnston: The Camber continues until October 25.

    Stephanie Vegh is a Hamilton-based visual artist and writer whose criticism has appeared in Scotland's Map Magazine, Canadian Art, C Magazine, and Hamilton Arts & Letters, in addition to her own blog. Her drawings and installations have shown most recently at the upArt Contemporary Art Fair and Nathaniel Hughson Gallery in Hamilton. She is the Executive Director of the Hamilton Arts Council and a member of the Curatorial Committee for Hamilton's annual Supercrawl. She is also Akimblog's Hamilton correspondent and can be followed @Stephanie_Vegh on Twitter.

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    I first stumbled on the work of Faith La Rocque and Morley Shayuk five years ago when they were sharing the two sides of Katharine Mulherin’s old secondary space. Her algae fountain and hanging plants threw me for a loop and his Construction Site Conceptualism (as I dubbed it) intrigued and confused me in equal measures. What united them – aside from their concurrent displays – was a well-developed personal iconography with roots in an art history that lead back significantly farther than the last five minutes. Both artists have continued to show around town and, while they aren’t shoulder-to-shoulder this time around, they once again have simultaneous exhibitions that provide some indication of how far they’ve come. I’m no longer dumbstruck by their originality, but I still find myself pleasantly perturbed by their particular practices.

    Faith La Rocque, chisel to carve light thoughts, 2014, Georgian marble, feather, motor, metal tube

    The most striking thing about La Rocque’s exhibition at De Luca Fine Art (in the gallery hinterlands of Avenue Road north of Dupont) is the classical quality of the material she uses in her sculptural installations. She mines an elemental yet august ore that is uncommon amongst the standard downtown artists tropes tied to urban beachcombing, a modest budget, and blinders set on pop culture. Her use of obsidian, brass, marble, and bronze might be tied – as the gallery statement suggests – to alternative health therapies, but it could just as well reflect the resilience of base matter as well as its incorporation in human attempts to achieve immortality by mooching off the minerals’ easy access to eternity. However, when they are combined with organic components like hemp, feathers, or bear bile (or treated like flesh as with the endless electric massage trigger in Conduit) a more complex alchemy emerges. What it all adds up to is beyond me at present, but the feather that mechanically and endlessly brushes a hunk of raw marble in the titular piece chisel to carve light thoughts is a good guide to how persistent one must be both in creating timeless art and in coming to grips with it.

    Morley Shayuk, Four Seasons, 2014, acrylic on pine

    Shayuk hews to a singular path in his exhibition at Paul Petro. He has spent the last couple years teasing out variations of abstraction that retained something of the Canadian landscape as it appears in paintings of the past as well as the built environment, which – whether you like it or not – defines our home and native land. This means stucco and plastic window frames. It means the kind of geometric patterns that decorate the concrete dividers paralleling the highways from which we too often limit our views of the land around us. It means a smattering of coloured glass and gravel embedded in his gritty surfaces like sparse mosaics of the night sky. And it means these “paintings” are hard to love – which is more of an objective description than a subjective judgement. As such they draw one in to figure out their logic just as much as they probably repel. In the end, I’m won over by the pale colours that highlight the straight lines zipping across some of these large (as in imposing) works, along with the delicate patterns curving around the sole off-the-wall sculpture Four Seasons. Shayuk makes do with media that have fallen from nature, but do what they can to approximate that lost grace. It’s an unsettling place to be and one I’d be happy to revisit time and again.

    De Luca Fine Art:
    Faith La Rocque: chisel to carve light thoughts continues until October 11.

    Paul Petro Contemporary Art:
    Morley Shayuk: Lotus continues until October 4.

    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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  • 09/30/14--08:53: Candid at Platform Centre
  • Portraiture arises from exchanges – however short-lived or unequal – between artists and their subjects. Each of the four Winnipeg-born photographers featured in Candid, which opened several weeks ago at Platform Centre, has a distinct means of relating to the people she photographs: the exhibition offers a nuanced and occasionally tense survey of the varied outcomes.

    Early documentary works by Laura Letinski provide a starting point. Photographing presumed strangers in semi-public environments, the photos are implicitly unpremeditated. A 1987 Miss Nude Manitoba contestant opens her cloak, gaze locked somewhere in the middle distance; at a dog show, one awkward girl hides her face behind a Pomeranian while another minds her collie, eyeing the camera doubtfully.

    Maya de Forest

    If Letinski’s images serve to crystallize provisional relationships, Maya de Forest documents the approaching breakdown of one that’s well-established. Ten years ago, de Forest’s mother was in her mid-seventies and experiencing something of a personal revival (she took up flamenco) while simultaneously beginning to retreat into her native Japanese, widening a communication barrier with her daughter. Unsparing and expectant, de Forest’s photographs reveal little about the older woman, who appears alternately oblivious and leerily indifferent to the camera. Instead, her own anxious attention becomes the work’s main subject, the camera serving as both a fulcrum and a barrier to understanding.

    Karen Asher

    Karen Asher also knows her subjects, but her approach is to concoct unfamiliar situations for them to grapple with, documenting the results. Though situated outside the frame, Asher is more an active participant in the ensuing pandemonium than a catalyst or conductor, an approach that unsettles the performative hierarchy of the typical photo shoot. In her recent portraits, paired subjects navigate one another’s physical presence as if operating their bodies for the first time, or else they seem to slip their boundaries, collapsing into one another. Shot in close quarters, the flash capturing unresolved movements, the images are bracing in their intimacy, strangeness, and unexpected tenderness.

    Elaine Stocki’s hand-coloured silver prints attempt no such tenderness. Using strangers as props in harshly-lit studio compositions, Stocki reduces her subjects to anonymous art-historical, formal, and tonal (which is to say, racial) signifiers. She invokes the medium’s uncomfortable social history – photo chemistry and equipment was and largely still is calibrated to Caucasian skin tones – and questionable artist-subject dynamics pulled from art history (Edward Curtis, Yves Klein), but seems less interested in interrogating these than in exploiting them for aesthetic impact. The work’s prevailing mood of entitlement and feigned disinterest, though perhaps honest (and even interesting), is remarkably unpleasant.

    The installation intersperses the four bodies of work, inviting comparison, reconsideration, and (as with any treatment of human relationships) judgment. This even as it reminds us with photography, we’re only ever getting half the picture.

    Platform Centre for Photographic + Digital Arts:
    Candid continues until October 25.

    Steven Leyden Cochrane is an artist, writer, and educator based in Winnipeg, where he contributes weekly exhibition reviews to the Free Press. He is Akimbo’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @svlc_ on Twitter.

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    Currently on view at Esker Foundation and curated by Christine Conley, Terms of Engagement is an exhibition featuring work by three previous participants of the Canadian Forces Artists Program (CFAP): Dick Averns, who was deployed with armed forces to conflict zones in Egypt and Israel in 2009; nichola feldman-kiss, who was situated as part of a peacekeeping mission in Sudan in 2011; and Adrian Stimson, who was in residence with Forward Operating Base Ma`sum Ghar and Kandahar in Afghanistan.

    Adrian Stimson

    Calgary based-artist (and former Akimblog correspondent) Averns’ video Fervent Prayer includes footage shot from a taxi that reveal masses of religious practitioners crowding a contested site in Jerusalem. The black-clad individuals were unmistakably as uniformly dressed as the military personnel depicted elsewhere in the gallery. Stimson rendered a massive Chinook helicopter with charcoal on a nearby wall. The vehicle’s designation (and the work’s eponymous title) recalled numerous other arrogated location or brand names. In Calgary, we have Chinook Mall and Deerfoot Trail, Cherokee Jeeps and Crowfoot Liquor Store. I always find it difficult to determine if these naming conventions occur out of respect for indigenous culture or if they’re furthering colonialist appropriations and completely obfuscating the context of the original namesake. A similar confusion must arise when considering the Canadian military presence in countries thousands of kilometers away.

    nichola fledman-kiss

    At the crux of the cochlearly-shaped gallery, nichola feldman-kiss’s until the story of the hunt is told by the lion / facing horror and the possibility of shame sprawls throughout the final room. Hugely elaborate, the installation consists of sixty-one digital photos displayed on the floor and walls. Discarded ammunition, vulture carcasses, and several human skeletons can be made out in the images; however, they mostly feature subjects lying upon dead grass. I feel like I have never seen a skeleton portrayed this way outside of a video game. Behind me, and part of a separate work, a computer-ish voice quietly states the number of estimated casualties in various unfamiliar foreign lands.

    I leave the gallery feeling almost completely desensitized but not unaffected by the overwhelming display of militarized murder and neo-colonialist activity: so many dusty ruins and unintimate uniforms blurring together across disparate political boundaries. However, there are also poignant moments that append the clichéd ways we are fed world news. It occurs to me that ignorance – more so than carpet bombing and forced national borders – is still humanity’s greatest sin, and artists (like these three) should continue take it upon themselves, as ambassadors to the public realm, to work in whatever ways they can to expel that ignorance.

    Esker Foundation:
    Terms of Engagement continues until December 14.

    Steven Cottingham is another artist. Based in Calgary, he studied in New York and has recently exhibited in Havana, Glasgow, Fredericton, and Vancouver. Currently he is writing, as so many have done before, a book about love and art. He can be followed on Twitter @artcriticsm.

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  • 10/07/14--03:47: Nuit Blanche 2014
  • Toronto’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche is a beast of an art thing to think about (it’s even a mouthful to say). Each year, shortly before I put my kids to bed and head out on my bike to navigate most of the downtown core in an uninterrupted three to four hour gallery hop, a wave of exhaustion overcomes me and I entertain the idea of just staying home. The possibility of a singular, not-to-be-missed aesthetic experience the likes of which I’ll never see again (such as a stadium football field full of team mascots or a marathon tennis match in the shadow of Bay Street) eggs me on, and fuelled by coffee I hit the road. I know that much of what I see will be forgotten, and a lot of the evening will be spent frustrated and annoyed at the teeming masses of snarky partiers, but I will be heartened by the curious and encouraged by the possibility that the next epiphany is just around the corner.

    Choirs every hour at Hart House

    I start, as I try to do every year, with the exhibition program at Hart House curated by Barbara Fischer of the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery and the University of Toronto Art Centre. Their choir-centric theme is appropriate for an evening defined by large gatherings of people, and, in addition to a collection of video works that I could have enjoyed all night (including Paul Walde’s impressively installed and epically rendered Requiem for a Glacier), there are choirs performing every hour on until morning. Each one demonstrates in its unique way (I watched the Common Thread Community Chorus spontaneously create a doo-wop groove) the way in which individuals can contribute small parts to a greater whole.

    Maria Ezcura, Made in China

    Individuals can also contribute small parts to a greater hell as I found out when I tried to make my way down Spadina into the heart of the first official zone and the exhibition The possibility of everything. The programmed portion of NB has moved west and south this year with one ventricle landing squarely at Queen and Spadina. In another era this might have been significant in connecting the art centre of the city to the expansive event, but the city has changed and this intersection is now the heart of a club district that has its own nightlife to turn the darkness white. My ideal vision of NB has always been how it makes unfamiliar parts of the city magical and leads one on a journey through the night. Putting works on a main drag just crams crowds like at a midway. That said, some works like Maria Ezcura’s Made in China made clear references to the neighbourhood and hopefully elicited some reflection amongst the jostling.

    Chélanie Beaudin-Quintin, Screaming Booth

    Given my frustration, a couple Screaming Booths by Chélanie Beaudin-Quintin were definitely tempting but the line-ups turned me off and, not surprisingly, more than a few young dudes demonstrated that you don’t need a booth to scream.

    Máximo González, Walk Among Worlds

    Line-ups were again an issue with Máximo González’s Walk Among Worlds, but I’m willing to bet it was just as, if not more, effective seen from behind the chain link fence where dozens of us gathered in order to see what the dozens gathered here were looking at.

    David Brooks, Gap Ecology (Still Lives with Cherry Pickers and Palms)

    The peace of mind I’d achieved at Hart House was lost as I walked my bike through the folks wandering Queen West. I heard later that crowds even gathered at Dundas Square even though nothing was programmed there. This night has become something of an opportunity for teenagers to roam free under the parental assumption that they are enlightening themselves. One hopes that something of the wonder seeps through. David Brooks' suspended palm trees would, at the very least, encourage city dwellers to look up and away from their cellphones.

    Tony Conrad & Jennifer Walshe, THE SIGNING

    Given the contained design of Nathan Phillips Square, the crowd situation felt less hectic and there were lots of people watching and waiting at the various performance pieces that made up the Performance Anxiety zone. A couple artists were on breaks when I got there and, since I planned to get home before breakfast, I couldn’t wait to get inside city hall to see what was there, but I was pleasantly surprised to find Tony Conrad patiently playing away behind the shadow puppet play that was THE SIGNING. Conrad was participating in extended art happenings (with the likes of La Monte Young) before most of the audience was born and he leant some historical gravitas to the proceedings (even if I was the only one to notice.)

    Luigi Ferrara, The Garden of Renova

    Lacking in gravitas, but making up for it with colour was Luigi Ferrara’s brave attempt at toilet paper-made interactive sculpture. It was surprisingly still in one piece when I passed by at one in the morning.

    Diane Landry, Icebreaker

    I was happy to escape the crowds, but sad to see that the business district had been left alone this year, as I biked south to check out the scattered works in (Oh, Canada at MASS MoCA curator) Denise Markonish’s The Night Circus. Diane Landry’s rower invoked the close connection of land and water as the edge of the city approached the lake. Her endless sculls gave me the strength to go on.

    Early Morning Opera & Lars Jan, HOLOSCENES

    The aquatic performances in HOLOSCENES were the things most hyped this year and they did not disappoint. The slow moving actors were submerged at intervals and went through a series of gestures that highlighted the incremental movements that make up our everyday moments. I stood alongside, watched, and thought, “neato,” but knew that this wasn’t the epiphany I was looking for. It was a bit of a gimmick, though admittedly a well executed one.

    Derek Liddington, The sun will always rise and fall from east to west

    I was nearing the end of my journey and had yet to have my mind rattled. The props for Derek Liddington’s performance lay on a field awaiting a condo to be seeded there. I couldn’t make out much from the fence that marked its limit and was about to go when the performers marched out and began. The score was provided by two post-rock guitarists intertwining their chiming chords. The dancers were dressed in black and carried three large shapes to make a series of symbolic arrangements. It only lasted eight minutes and I’m not sure what it had to do with the story described on the title card attached to the fence, but it was perfect. I felt blissfully alone in my home town, staring at this strange grassy patch below an unstoppable eruption of construction, and this thing that could have been nothing but art intrigued me and stilled my thoughts for a short time, and then I carried it with me for the next couple nights, trying to figure it out and enjoying the feeling of being pleasantly confused. This was what I had come for. This made it all worthwhile.

    Wilfredo Prieto, Ascendent Line

    After that, it was hard to be wowed by anything in the final zone (Before Day Break at Fort York), but I was excited about the location and hope to see it – and other unexpected parts of the city – used to similar effect in the years to come. I followed Wilfredo Prieto’s red carpet through the gates and, with Liddington’s sun in my heart, headed home.

    Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2014:

    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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    Recently I was watching a preview copy of the new TV show Les Contemporains wherein the “mentor” of the week – mainstream media and collectors’ favourite – Marc Seguin declared that the Quebec art milieu has an inferiority complex when it comes to painting. My mind filtered through the refreshingly multidisciplinary beast that is the Montreal contemporary art community and quickly came up with a slew of recognized and rising painters based in Montreal: from Seguin’s fellow “mentor” on the show Cynthia Girard to past RBC Canadian Painting Competition winner Colleen Heslin and this year’s finalist Nicolas Lachance, not to mention all those in Galerie de l’UQAM’s Painting project from 2013. Another name that could be added to that long list of painters is the artist Jean-Benoit Pouliot, who is currently showing at Galerie Hugues Charbonneau.

    Jean-Benoît Pouliot, Sans titre, 2013-2014, acrylic on canvas

    The exhibition title, Counterpoint, references a “compositional technique based on the layering of several independent melodies.” The ten paintings on view are singular – not a series – but for the artist they remain closely connected. They were made simultaneously and explore the process and internal dialogue of his studio practice. Following this methodology, many canvases consist of built-up, often semi-translucent, layers punctuated by hard-edged shapes and lines. The more successful works are executed with the most simplicity. One standout painting is comprised of misty grey layers and a fading lattice grid sprinkled with small vertical black and white lines (reminiscent of Magritte’s falling faceless men in bowler hats). In another painting, hazy larger versions of these black and white lines are tumbling through space, while a crisp black dot in the centre of the painting casually focuses the viewer’s eye. The visual tension in these individual larger works is delicately heightened. In contrast, four small paintings shown together in a row seem overly finicky. That said, this is Pouliot’s second show at Galerie Hugues Charbonneau and he is proving himself to be consistently diverse in his exploration of abstraction.

    Galerie Hugues Charbonneau:
    Jean-Benoit Pouliot: Counterpoints continues until November 8.

    Susannah Wesley is an artist and curator living in Montreal. She has been a member of the collaborative duo Leisure since 2004 and from 1997-2000 was part of the notorious British art collective the Leeds13. Formerly Director at Battat Contemporary in Montreal, she holds an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art and an MA in Art History from Concordia University. She is Akimblog's Montreal correspondent and can be followed @susannahwesley1 on Twitter.

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    After one hundred years of motion pictures with most of the eggs thrown into the basket of linear narrative, it’s relatively hard to watch one of Mark Lewis’ short films and not expect some sort of payoff in the final frames. It takes a couple of viewings to recalibrate your visual-cortical pathways, stop looking for causality, and start paying attention to simultaneity. Which is not to say they don’t happen in time, but the duration between the start and the end has more to do with the moments spent intently studying a painting than it does with the minutes that pass while watching a movie.

    Mark Lewis, Observation in Cheorwon County, 2014

    The comparison with painting also holds sway over the point of view he – and therefore, we – take. At times making use of what must be gargantuan camera cranes, Lewis provides the God’s eye perspective of an omnipotent, though focused, narrator. His pan from a collection of pebbles on a tin roof in Observation in Cheorwon County lifts up and over a forest of bare trees and a strangely desolate landscape to land above and behind a crowd of tourists looking off into the distance. Only the title tips you off that this is South Korea’s view of the demilitarized zone that splits both the county and the country in two. What on one viewing is purely formal, concerned with natural patterns and the slight and severe incursions made by human hands, is the next moment suffused with ominous geopolitical overtones, not to mention historical significance.

    All of Lewis’ works currently on view at Daniel Faria Gallery sneak up on you like that, rewarding the patient observer with added layers and new details as time slips by. Some, like the epic for him at eleven and a half minutes Above and Below the Minocão, are as full of rich contrasts, peripheral interactions, and all-over complexity as any history painting. While his tendency to depict the relentlessly undramatic everyday can be trying on occasion, he makes up for it in this exhibition with a global reach – from Beirut to Brazil – that adds a further layer of cosmopolitanism to the stew.

    Hannah Epstein, Official Cock Fight Score Sheet

    A different kind of historical art is currently on display and under consideration at InterAccessMean Time to Upgrade exhibition. The gallery that is known for pushing the boundaries of what is sometimes called new media is turning its gaze backwards to exhibit old new media art for the practical reason that the preservation and remounting of this history is increasingly complicated by the very advances it contributed to. Examples of this run the gamut, from the archiving of works based on hacked operating systems that are now routinely updated (often without the option for users to resist) to the question of improving the primitive technology used in an artwork because it is subject to failure with more reliable devices that sometimes provide only an illusion of the original process rather than replicate it from the innards out.

    And then there is Hannah Epstein’s VHS tape-based combat game, which is so obscure a sub-cultural phenomenon that I’d never even heard of it. (Having been a teenage nerd-boy in the eighties, that’s saying something!) The tapes and gear are already tainted with a manufactured predetermined obsolescence at odds with any notion of artistic longevity. It’s inevitable that only so many rounds of these pause/play battles that use crappy analogue video footage to bring the excitement of battling roosters into the comfort of your own rec room can be played before the whole system becomes landfill. Such a limited lifespan certainly adds another aspect of aesthetic connotation, but the possibility that we could only ever read about it or imagine it as opposed to actually interact with it is really the whole big idea behind this somewhat nostalgic, somewhat elegiac trip down memory lane.

    Daniel Faria Gallery:
    Mark Lewis continues until November 1.

    Mean Time to Upgrade continues until November 22.

    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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    In Eat-All, Andrea Carlson's searing, cinematic exhibition of works on paper at Plug In ICA, content washes in and out like shipwrecked cargo or tide-borne garbage. Against an unrelenting backdrop of vacant seascapes, the drawings throw up a haul spanning human and natural history, a debris field of marooned artifacts jostling incongruously with text cribbed from 1970s B-movie posters.

    Andrea Carlson, Cannibal Ferox

    Carlson repeats these seemingly disjointed motifs with rhythmic insistence even as she complicates the picture by every means available. Moiré patterning and psychedelic bands of colour amplify her detail-oriented, cut-and-paste aesthetic. Each large drawing comprises between four and sixty unframed panels, and textural grid-lines of torn paper provide structure even as they confound already tenuous pictorial spaces. At one point, four works run together in an unbroken frieze folded into a corner of the gallery.

    The show examines how broad cultural narratives take shape and take hold, and incoherence, shaky pattern-forming, and dubious equivalences are central to its logic. Marble figures devour one another on apocalyptic vistas littered with fossil skulls and heavy machinery, while stylized movie titles (Cannibal Ferox, Eaten Alive) drift in and out of view. Carlson frames both in terms of culture devouring itself: Is it the museum’s tomb cache of stolen objects or the exploitation film pandering to bias and base enjoyment that better reflects how we regard ourselves and others?

    The work’s formal and conceptual backbone is the ocean horizon, which sets the stage for narratives that unfold spatially and temporally in all directions. It also locates the imagery within specific histories of “exploration” and conquest, uniting twin models of cinematic and geopolitical exploitation.

    Andrea Carlson, Ink Babel (detail)

    This is most evident in Ink Babel, a monumentally scaled, bewilderingly complex ten-tier tableau of fraught cultural exchange. In one quietly blistering passage, the gold-plated record album sent along with the Voyager spacecraft (designed as an introduction of our species to any alien intelligence that might discover it) twirls in from stage left, echoed several rows down by an Aztec obsidian mirror. Originally used to tell the future, we see the black disc mounted for display in its current context, the Museo de América in Madrid. Over four frames, a reflection of Columbus’s ships glides mutely across its surface.

    Curated by Jenny Western, Eat-All is a rare, perfect instance of an artist finding forms innovative and expansive enough to sustain a critique that, by sheer necessity, embraces ambivalence and ambiguity. That resourcefulness is key if you’re going to survive to make work in a postmodern, postcolonial Cannibal Apocalypse.

    Plug In ICA:
    Andrea Carlson: Eat-All continues until January 11.

    Steven Leyden Cochrane is an artist, writer, and educator based in Winnipeg, where he contributes weekly exhibition reviews to the Free Press. He is Akimbo’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @svlc_ on Twitter.

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  • 10/21/14--04:08: Agathe Simon at Nocturne
  • One of the standout works of this past Saturday’s late night art festival Nocturne 2014, Agathe Simon’s Nova Antarctica at the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative presented the tragic story of the legendary Gabriela Conti. An acclaimed author, Conti was the first Argentine woman to reach the South Pole.

    Agathe Simon, Antarctic Music

    Submerging the viewer into Conti’s story, a multi-channel audio installation titled Antarctic Music sets the context. A dense roaring field of sound surrounds and fills the room: rumbling engines, radio chatter, birds, and a score of voices reading and performing Conti’s travelogue in various languages. The story of her expedition is revealed through her fragmented diary entries that have been scattered throughout the space out of chronological order.

    The viewer wanders through the narrative as Conti begins to feel the weight of the landscape that surrounds her, the weight on her body, the weight on her mind. In her journal, she begins to question the meaning of the expedition. She feels compelled to leave the group, to wander off to certain death. When she reaches the South Pole, she writes that she is too tired to feel anything. The audio is both chaotic and hypnotic, lost in the snow. However, while it was well executed and created an appropriate sonic landscape for the story, the exhibition space itself did not seem integral. The presentation of the journal entries (printer paper stuck to the brick walls) felt rushed and the lighting didn’t add anything to the experience.

    Down the hall was Antarctic Spectrum, a video installation based on Conti’s final journal entry: “Flames of colours raise above ice and burn my manuscripts: the ash mingles with snow…” The video is a searing collage of colour fields drawn from a spectrum analysis of audio Simon recorded in Antarctica, along with quick clips of ice, sea elephants, and wind. Despite some rough edges, the overall work left a heavy impression. With its strongly emotional content, Simon’s carefully crafted non-linear fiction is compelling and engaging.

    Agathe Simon is presenting an artist talk at the Atlantic Filmmakers’ Cooperative tonight at 7pm.

    Nocturne 2014:

    Daniel Higham works in a butcher shop where he’ll talk to you about art, food, and life. Daniel writes for Visual Arts News and is Akimblog’s Halifax correspondent. He can be followed on Twitter @highamdaniel.

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