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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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    Cornelia Parker's practice provides aesthetically demanding, insightful interruptions of the familiar. Once described as a "waste product from conservation" (a pertinent compliment, to my mind), her work plays with peripheral debris of the everyday. Her enquiring appropriation of found objects is not superficial, nor is it wholly reliant on the governing command of the gallery space. It is through her multifaceted exploration of the ubiquitous, be it a garden shed (Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View) or collated and crushed silver objects (Thirty Pieces of Silver) that she challenges her viewer to think, and look, again. Embryo Firearms, a notable work from 1995, presents a pair of flat moulds of an American Colt 45: a poignant piece which, in the artist's words, conflates "the idea of birth and death in the same object." Here, the emergent pistol appears uncertain – as if the viewer still has time to stop its membrane mounting, its cell-wall from solidifying, into its deadly, adult form. Guns and people are inseparable, it quietly reminds us.

    Cornelia Parker, Unsettled

    Parker's latest work, currently on show at Frith Street Gallery, once again showcases the artist's preoccupation with movement, process, and the unseen, creating intriguing dialogues between abstraction and representation. Through a combination of intricately positioned found objects, and deftly juxtaposed photographic works, the one-room display showcases encounters with the street in London and various sites in Israel. The first work, Unsettled, is a disquieting and poetic piece. Easily disregarded as a stack of abandoned wooden fragments piled up against the wall awaiting collection, the viewer slowly becomes aware that the various wooden forms are neither touching the floor or wall, but are intricately suspended on multiple vertical wires. When we learn that the wooden structures were found and collected by the artist on the streets of Jerusalem, the "unsettled" assembly becomes charged with suggestion. Other key works include a series (presented in a grid) of photographic works entitled Prison Wall Abstract (A Man Escaped). Again, the viewer is initially challenged, and the rich, textural digital prints of images of the filled-in cracks on the prison walls of Pentonville appear as beautiful painted abstractions. Here, purposeful, decaying walls for the containment of social menace become (when detached from their context) platforms of gesture and freedom.

    A major new book – Cornelia Parker by Iwona Blazwick (with extensive commentaries by the artist, and an introduction by Yoko Ono) – accompanies this engaging show and in which the artist again proves with humour, acumen, and discerning observation to be an artist of substance and relevance.

    Frith Street Gallery:
    Cornelia Parker continues until July 27.

    Stephanie Hesz is a graduate of the Courtauld Institute of Art, where she specialized in art museum history and theory, contemporary public art, and memorials. She has worked and lectured at a number of art institutions including The Royal Collection, the National Portrait Gallery, and MoMA, New York. Currently living in London, she works as an art history educator and writer. She is Akimblog's UK correspondent and can be followed @stephaniehesz on Twitter.

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    Silent movies have never been truly silent, as most films back then were accompanied by the sound of the projector and a live score that helped carry the dramaturgy into crescendos and diminuendos. A silent film in the purest sense, Brian Jungen and Duane Linklater's collaborative film project Modest Livelihood is composed of long, slow takes shot over two hunting trips in the Dane-zaa Territory otherwise known as Northern British Columbia and Alberta. Silence has been employed to flatten the dramaturgy, to make the affect of the film stand on its own as an uncompromised representation of their hunt. In a darkened soundproof room, the digitized 16mm film acts as a reprieve and a reminder of Indigenous identity and the right to self-representation.

    Brian Jungen & Duane Linklater, Modest Livelihood

    The title references the ruling of The Supreme Court of Canada vs. Donald Marshall that eventually saw Marshall cleared of all charges for fishing out of season due to his Mi'kmaq rights under treaty law. The court decision emphasized that he could exercise his rights so long as it was not for monetary gain, but to cover the basic necessities of a "moderate livelihood."

    Through the cinematography of Jesse Cain of Dead Horse Films, the fifty minute film captures Jungen and Linklater as they are first led by Doig River First Nations elder (and Jungen's uncle) Jack Askoty, and then later as just the two artists embark on a subsequent winter trip. Their treks are not dramatized and the expected climax (i.e. the kill) is neither seen nor heard.

    First premiered at The Walter Phillips Gallery as part of an offsite dOCUMENTA (13) (and exhibiting at the AGO this fall), Modest Livelihood is now screening at Catriona Jeffries along with four short loops taken from over fifty hours of footage shot on 16mm. While the film proper is screening as a Blu-ray disc, the filmic components become sculptural installations in the rest of the gallery as the space is filled with the whirling rattle of loopers and projectors. Jungen and Linklater use this film about their hunt within the legal confines of Treaty 8 to provoke the parameters of a "moderate livelihood" and all of its patronizing connotations, challenging what that definition could mean in the 21st Century context of contemporary art.

    Catriona Jeffries:
    Brian Jungen and Duane Linklater: Modest Livelihood continues until July 20.

    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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    Given the torrential downpour that beflooded Toronto last week and kept me checking my basement every couple hours for encroaching dampness, I couldn't resist a trip to Olga Korper's summer duet exhibition to see a work by American artist Jeremy Everett titled Most of My Fiction (flooded). In this as well as other book, newspaper, and poster-based sculptures, he submerges the texts in a chemical bath and allows the forming crystals to buckle and colour the now unreadable objects. As an avid bibliophile I am both horrified and intrigued by this process, curious to see what originals have been destroyed in the name of art, and pleasantly surprised by the legibility of the resulting metaphors: age, change, growth, nature, infection, mortality, learning, knowledge, and so forth. As gravestones for the books they once were, they serve as evocative reminders of the fragility and resilience of the word.

    Jeremy Everett, Most of My Fiction (flooded), 2011, crystallized ink, paperbacks

    Paired with Kristina Burda's paintings of irregular shapes, they also serve as the opposite extreme of abstraction – the organic, random, chaotic, and unintentional creation to her precise, careful (barely a brushstroke is visible), inhuman (those missing brushstrokes again), and (despite the soft colours) cold canvases. I can't help but be drawn to the former for reasons that are psychological as much as they are aesthetic.

    As I make my way over to Christopher Cutts' summer show, I struggle to figure out just what I'm missing in Burda's work. There's just not enough there for me to latch on to and I've never been comfortable with (or trustful of) silence. Amidst the selection on view, I find more confirmation of what I'm looking for in Andrew Rucklidge's equally non-representational work as he adds unexpected elements – asymmetries, incompletions, incompatibilities – that keep this viewer off balance. I'm looking for art that gets in my face and challenges me; there's too much noise out there to be polite.

    Derrick Piens

    I find a clamorous crew down in Parkdale at General Hardware's summer group show ('tis the season) with Matt Crookshank's ill-behaved resin paintings refusing to stay on the paper, belligerently ignoring the rules of the form. Derrick Piens' sculptures also capture the process of becoming, resembling handcrafted versions of the elemental crystals that started my day. I bow before the forces of nature.

    Olga Korper Gallery:
    Jeremy Everett & Kristina Burda continues until August 3.

    Christopher Cutts Gallery:
    Summer Group Show continues until July 31.

    General Hardware Contemporary:
    Skipping Stones 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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    Currently on display at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Kader Attias' Repair. 5 Acts extends his Documenta 13 project The Repair from Occident to Oriental Cultures in which he displayed multiple objects, images, and artifacts in order to draw parallels between the concept of physical repair and cultural re-appropriation. For this exhibition, Attia has re-staged some of these works and added new ones with varying degrees of success.

    Kader Attias, The Repair's Cosmogony

    In Sound of Re-appropriation, a soundtrack accompanies a slide show of sixties and seventies Afrobeat album covers, illustrating the influence of Afro-American funk, jazz, and blues on burgeoning African music. This compilation serves to exemplify a certain resilience of marginalized cultures that, through creative agency, perform their own repatriation and reparation. The Repair's Cosmogony constructs a culturally relative comparison of beauty and disfiguration, rendering the act of repair as interpretive and ambiguous. Teak wood busts, carved in a vaguely "African" style, of faces disfigured in war, are juxtaposed with carved Italian marble busts of tribal Africans, proudly displaying body modifications indicative of beauty within their respective cultures.

    These works were presented in Documenta 13, and remain the strongest in this exhibition, except for The Debt, a graphically provocative new work examining the unpaid debt of European countries to enslaved soldiers and their descendants. Most of the new works on this show, unfortunately, lack the depth and investment of these pieces. Mimesis as Resistance (a single channel video produced in the style of a television wildlife series) and Nothing Has Changed (a triptych of iconic stills from 2001: A Space Odyssey) are missing the complexity and overt political contention of the previous works. This exhibition is therefore uneven, though perhaps most rewarding for those not afforded the opportunity to have seen the artist's thought-provoking contributions to Documenta 13.

    KW Institute for Contemporary Art:
    Kader Attia: Repair. 5 Acts continues until August 25.

    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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    Maurits Cornelis may not be the most recognizable name in art, but the drawings, woodcuts and lithographs of M.C. Escher now on view at the Glenbow Museum remain some of the most distinctive images circulating in the collective memory of myriad audiences. More than fifty of his works are currently featured in a touring show organized by the Art Gallery of Alberta via their increasingly prominent memorandum of understanding to exhibit works in collaboration with the National Gallery of Canada. As the show's title suggests, The Mathemagician highlights Escher's exploitation of geometry, perspective, and relativity: visual riddles and conceptual conundrums abound. But for any of you that had a poster of Waterfall on your bedroom wall, be prepared to meet the more modest size of the original imagery. Certainly, I was impressed with Escher's fascinating and fastidious renderings, although I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel challenged with how to fully appreciate each work, when confronted with dozens of images vying for space in the same gallery.

    Made in Calgary: The 1970s, installation view

    More impressive perhaps is the parallel programming underway that enables the crowds coming for Escher to also take in a new Glenbow commission by Kent Monkman, and the second in the series Made in Canada, this iteration being the 1970s, curated by Ron Moppett. The latter is another good example of circulating work from broader collections, with many of the holdings coming from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts extensive acquisitions. Monkman's Big Four is a response to his experience of the Calgary Stampede, and a departure from his better-known paintings (his solo show here in 2010 also had a major installation). Be sure to check out the four automobiles, videos, and life-size dioramas for a take that's different than Escher's approach to flipping reality on its head

    Glenbow Museum:
    M.C. Escher: The Mathemagician runs until August 18.
    Made in Calgary: The 1970s runs until August 11.
    Kent Monkman: The Big Four runs until August 18.

    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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    In a brief conversation with painter and first-time curator Jennifer Lefort, I asked her about the process of curating Perspectives Peinture at Gatineau's artist-run centre, AXENÉO7. She spoke of how she came to it organically, and that a kind of thesis emerged over time and was enabled by the kind of collaborative culture that, for her, characterizes ARCs. Her short statement accompanying this exhibition of exclusively women painters reads as a far more deliberate curatorial proposition that asks questions about the status of feminism within Canadian painting practices. Works by veteran, emerging, and mid-career artists – including Amélie Levesque, Kristine Moran, Jeanie Riddle, Carol Wainio, Janet Werner, and Jinny Yu– adorn the gallery's elegant, oasis-like space.

    Janet Werner, Genie, 2011, oil on canvas

    The show is at once quiet, contemplative, dynamic, varied, and immensely satisfying. It offers a refreshing and singularly focused counterpoint to the complex and multifaceted exhibition, Sakahán, just across the river at the National Gallery of Canada. The slow tinkle of piano keys echoes almost imperceptibly, lending a soothing and pleasantly surreal atmosphere to the galleries at AXE, where many of the spaces are punctured by windows or glass curtain walls offering bucolic vistas. The sound comes from a wall-mounted video by Yu, located in a tiny passage between rooms. On the screen a geometric abstract work is shown under lighting conditions that slowly change. The moving shadow created by the painting mimics the lines of the work itself and becomes a part of it. Whether the effect is artificially created or is simply a sped-up document of diurnal motion, it nonetheless foregrounds the rest of Yu's work in the exhibition which she dubs "non-painting painting." Primarily concerned with troubling the perceptual assumptions and long established conventions of rectangular pictures, Yu's installation of raw and at times barely painted aluminum panels is a rewarding shell game of grids, limits, reflections, and refractions that juxtapose gesture with industrial processes.

    Riddle's Spills are stacks of folded sheets of interior latex house paint and further thrust painting's flatness into new configurations of the sculptural. Other enigmatic sculptural objects are also included such as a plywood table whose top is made using a piece of white, painted gypsum – a wall laid horizontally. Wainio's paintings always both enthrall and confuse and seem to be the product of an almost magical and impenetrable logic. Figures and characters from fairy tales and the books that illustrate them appear in tumultuous stage-like scenes. Seemingly, the players' very thoughts evolve (or devolve) into impossibly luscious patterns and potentially offer us insight into their (or our) murky, fraught, fictional psyches.

    The largest works are by Werner. They all feature a single figure, always a woman, in front of a neutral ground. The torsos and heads are desperately out of proportion, yet the intensity and strength of their personae is arresting and grips you. The frontispiece for the exhibition is a work called Genie and it adorns the leaflet that accompanies the show. I can't remember ever seeing such a bewitching use of the "double frontal side eye." Even though the figure directs her gaze away from the viewer, the nagging sensation that she refuses to let you avert her reprisal or invitation lingers with both discomfort and promise.

    Painting Perspectives continues until July 31.

    Andrew Wright is an artist based in Ottawa and the Interim Chair of the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa. He has exhibited widely and is the recipient of numerous awards. He was recently elected a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. He is Akimblog's Ottawa correspondent and can be followed @AndrewWrightArt on Twitter.

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    There are plenty of reasons, both historical and aesthetic, for the white cube of the modern art gallery, but given the otherwise always resisting ethos of much contemporary art, one would think that more tampering with the standard would occur. This is not to say it doesn't happen and there aren't any number of excursions into domestic spaces or the public sphere, but it's a pleasant surprise when an exhibition productively interferes with the interface between viewer and art like the current exhibition at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery.

    Screen and Décor, installation view

    Screen and Décor is couched in a discourse on digital media and contemporary image making by curator Rosemary Heather, but I see it as a far more basic – yet rigorous and challenging – exploration of seeing and representation through a tough-minded selection of works by Canadian and European artists and a clever intervention by exhibition designers Louise Witthöft and Rodney LaTourelle (Akimblog's currently-on-sabbatical Berlin correspondent who also just opened a solo show at Diaz Contemporary). Their translucent coloured screens enliven the vacuum of the space between the walls, turning the experience of viewing the works into a game of overlapping options that demand an additional alertness to navigate the resulting maze. This would be a novelty if it weren't for how the value-added mediation complements works that also internally address questions of surface and illusion like Bernhard Kahrmann's trompe l'oeil laserprints glued right on the walls, Simone Gilges' framing and layering of images, and Kristine Roepstorff's large-scale fabric renderings of digital noise. This is one of the smartest and engaging exhibitions of the summer and well worth a visit.

    Screen and Décor, installation view

    A somewhat complementary examination of tradition is also on view at Mercer Union in a group show titled The Thick of It curated by York Lethbridge. This collection of artists is concerned with painting and the places you can go with it. It's straightforward compared to the Barnicke show and includes such classics as Eric Cameron's gesso-clad objects and a John Baldessari performance video. Sasha Pierce's mindboggling abstractions are as trippy as ever, but it's only Josh Thorpe's subtle placement of lightly coloured sticks in a couple corners that really get me thinking. Consider this the starting point and then head to the U of T campus to see how far things can go.

    Justina M. Barnicke Gallery:
    Screen and Décor continues until August 17.

    Mercer Union:
    The Thick of It continues until August 3.

    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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    Anyone who has lived near a river knows how a waterway can affect your daily routine, your sense of space, and your relationship with nature. Lyndal Osborne's exhibition Rivers at the University of Manitoba School of Art Gallery brings together two rivers that hold meaning for her: the Shoalhaven River in Australia (where Osborne grew up) and the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton where she has lived since the 1970s. The large installation features an impressive amount of natural material collected from each place and arranged into the form of a flowing, bubbling river.

    Lyndal Osborne, Rivers, mixed media

    The first thing to catch my eye is the light sparkling off thousands of glass mason jars, creating the illusion of fluidity. Among the jars are clusters of bowls, each filled with different materials. The bowls on the Shoalhaven River side are painted fiery red and contain items taken from the banks of the Australian river: lotus pods, bull kelp, urchins, fuzzy seed balls. One bowl contains dozens of dried cicada carcasses. On the Edmonton side, pea green bowls contain pieces of wood, shells, bones, seeds, a nest, agricultural tools, golf balls, and other things collected by Osborne on daily walks along the riverbank.

    The manner in which Osborne presents these items has the air of a ritualistic offering, and speaks to conceptual underpinnings in her work. She is interested in the way things are collected, classified, and displayed. In other projects she has explored connections the curiosity cabinet and the seed bank. Her knowledge of flora and fauna does not come from a formal or scientific understanding of botany, but from a deep connection with her environment and a desire to learn more about its composition. This installation demonstrates her interest in the diversity, complexity and abundance of nature, which are all being threatened by climate change in general, and more specifically, by tar sands development and suburban expansion surrounding her home in Edmonton.

    Rivers is an immersive, sensual landscape that demonstrates intimate ties between nature and culture, urban and rural space, and between oneself and the earth, the trees, the seeds, and even the detritus that litters the riverbank. The installation is a remarkable tribute to the complexity of riparian ecosystems and to the intimate bonds that can form between humans and their natural environments.

    University of Manitoba School of Art Gallery:
    Lyndal Osborne: Rivers continues until August 23.

    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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    I had bookmarked Kenneth Goldsmith's essay Being Dumb (from last week in The Awl) but hadn't read it yet when I visited Douglas Coupland's new solo exhibition The 21st Century Continues... at Daniel Faria Gallery. And then I went away for the weekend and wrestled from afar with how exactly to explain my reaction to the multi-talented Vancouver artist/writer/etc.'s combination of oblique and obvious in assorted canvases, a couple sculptures, and one thing that combines the two. My initial response was, "this is dumb," but knowing (or, at least, assuming) there was an awareness behind these works, I did my best to discern whether they were in fact smart. Goldsmith helped out in the end with his third path: smart dumb. As he points out, Andy Warhol is the king of (smart) dumb art, and Coupland, with his mixing of high and low, skilled and not, fine and commercial, is clearly in his debt, but ends up coming off as dumb smart dumb, which, for those of you getting confused, is probably not the point (unless, of course, it is, which means I'm confused).

    Douglas Coupland, Universal Luggage Bar Code Sunset: London to Berlin, 2013, acrylic on canvas

    As befits the exhibition's title, I'd like to update a 20th Century amateur art critic's rejoinder to "my computer could do that." Coupland's graphics are as precise as bar codes and Letraset transfers (except when he purposefully drips paint over a post-globalization selection of globes). His art historical references are equally targeted and reward those who can identify both the "original" and the ongoing semiotic chain it engenders. In this sense, they are history paintings more than anything else, and, as such, trace a history of surface that is worth considering. However, the Op Art effect of all those parallel lines and polkadots gives them an air of brattiness that might keep them from gathering dust, but also drives me out of the room. Mounted on the rear wall of the gallery is a grid of silver wigs flattened under glass. I take this to be a tribute to his ancestry; Warhol would never have been so obvious, but at least Coupland is acknowledging the master.

    Bridget Moser, Asking for a friend, video

    Dumbness as a rhetorical strategy has been around since the time of Socrates (though he would have claimed it was dialectical) and I confess to use it on a regular basis in my approach to the dumb (as in mute) art I often come across. The participants in Xpace's recently closed Yahoo! Answers exhibition demonstrate a similar knowing naiveté as Coupland did in his era-defining first novel Generation X by using contemporary technology as a sounding board for existential crises. Bridget Moser dances a duet with assorted objects while Joële Walinga and Diana McNally collaborate with the unsilent internet masses through comment threads, but they share an obliviousness that comes off as either inspired or insipid depending on where you find yourself along the smart-dumb axis.

    Daniel Faria Gallery:
    Douglas Coupland: The 21st Century Continues... continues until August 3.

    Xpace Cultural Centre:
    See website for current exhibitions.

    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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    Curated by Lesley Johnston for the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, whiteonwhite brings together the work of Brooklyn-based artist Eve Sussman and her collaborative team Rufus Corporation. The exhibition borrows its title from Malevich's seminal Suprematist Composition: White on White from 1918, and fittingly so; Sussman's body of work is infused with references and anecdotes from Russian Modernism. Its accompanying utopian ideals are continually usurped by the bleached-out impressions left in the wake of the artist's present day geographical realities.

    Eve Sussman • Rufus Corporation, whiteonwhite:algorithmicnoir, 2009-2011, video, unique programming code, code screen

    The works are interconnected by way of their shared derivation from the epic voyages the artist undertook through Russia and Central Asia. The central film whiteonwhite:algorithmicnoir, which was shot and accumulated almost exclusively in Kazakhstan, is composed of nearly thirty hours of footage. This is then randomly sorted through a computer to ensure that the film never ends or plays the same way twice. To add to this mix, the voiceover is similarly shuffled, providing a unique narrative sequence for each viewer.

    The most poignant work in the exhibition, How to Tell the Future from the Past v2, consists of a three-channel video projection documenting a train journey through Russia. The artist mounted a set of cameras on opposite train passenger windows to create a stereoscopic view of the passing landscape. When these images become juxtaposed, the film expands not only on notions of sequential time in relation to narrative structures, but also acknowledges the inherent complexities of representing foreign histories. The same landscape is depicted as simultaneously moving forward and backwards. The camera catches the grit and reflections on the glass windows, and it is here we most feasibly glean the poetic schism of multiple layers.

    Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal:
    Eve Sussman - Rufus Corporation: whiteonwhite continues until September 8.

    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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    The Royal Academy of Arts' Summer Exhibition, now celebrating its 245th year, has presented – in recent years at least – an aesthete's endurance test of sorts. This time, however, I propose that we overlook some of the disappointing selections that fall into this year's theme (obscuring boundaries between architecture and sculpture), and focus instead on the absolute show-stealer: an artwork that has not made even made it inside the building.

    El Anatsui, TSIATSIA – Searching for Connection

    Effortlessly cascading down the Palladian façade of Burlington House hangs a monumental, beguiling work that shimmers and glows with the effortless patterns of Klimt. Constructed from thousands of interwoven bottle caps (as well as printing plates and roofing sheets), this immense canopy, poignantly and playfully entitled TSIATSIA – Searching for Connection is the work of Ghanaian artist El Anatsui.

    It is a site-specific work of delicacy and strength that speaks far beyond the sum of its many parts. As the artist himself explains: "I use discarded bottle tops woven together with copper wire. They are easily overlooked, easily seen as rubbish, but which have at the same time a huge historical significance. They are about the relationship between Europe and Africa in the sense that is was the Europeans who first brought bottles to Africa. Gin, schnapps and whisky were imported by traders for bartering. Now these drinks are manufactured by local distillers. They have names from Nigeria, where I now live. And when you collect them from the streets – and it's important to me that all these caps have been used, touched and so loaded with what I think of as human charge – they give you a sense of the sociology of and the history of a place. A material that looks commonplace and ordinary is loaded with a new significance and meaning."

    Oscillating between resonance and a fluttering lightness, El Anatsui's work presents a bold, audacious opener to the 2013 show. Despite being crafted out of waste, this frieze of glowing abstraction is the richest work on show, not only for its complexity and beauty, but also for its human narrative and social discourse.

    You may want to sneak a peek inside to see a few highlights by the likes of Grayson Perry (who, through the medium of tapestry, presents a bold, contemporary interpretation of Hogarth's Rake's Progress), Sean Scully, Ron Arad, Anthony Caro, and David Nash, but I wouldn't judge you if you wanted to wait – gazing upward – just outside the doors.

    Royal Academy of Arts:
    Summer Exhibition 2013 continues until August 18.

    Stephanie Hesz is a graduate of the Courtauld Institute of Art, where she specialized in art museum history and theory, contemporary public art, and memorials. She has worked and lectured at a number of art institutions including The Royal Collection, the National Portrait Gallery, and MoMA, New York. Currently living in London, she works as an art history educator and writer. She is Akimblog's UK correspondent and can be followed @stephaniehesz on Twitter.

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  • 08/06/13--00:30: Shine at the Textile Museum
  • There's a particular kind of emotional despair that arises amongst those of us stuck in the city over a holiday weekend. While it certainly isn't the case that everyone else has a cottage (or, at least, access to one) but me and, to be perfectly honest, there was this massive Caribbean cultural event going on just blocks from my house on Saturday, but by Monday, it did feel like tumbleweeds were blowing down the street and all my usual art haunts were shuttered. Lucky for me the Textile Museum makes a point of staying open seven days a week and one of their current exhibitions brings together three contemporary artists with a slew of historical fabrics. Unlucky for me, this juxtaposition cured one despair only to replace it with another.

    Ghost of a Dream, Blazing Bucks, 2010, found objects and discarded lottery tickets

    Curated by Natalia Nekrassova and Sarah Quinton, Shine is, on the surface, about shiny things. The clothing from Japan, Syria, and Afghanistan (among other places) shows a remarkable care and vibrancy in the creation of both commonplace items like headscarves and more ceremonial garb like wedding gowns. It was my hope on entering the exhibition that I would find an innate human artistry crossing eras and nations made evident in the anonymous weavers and beaders of the old stuff by the self-identified artists of the new stuff. I thought it would all come together in one jubilant collection of creativity and make me feel good again.

    However, as I made my way, all I could do was admire what people had once done to dress themselves and think how depleted, homogeneous, and disposable our current duds are. The three contemporary works only underscore the emptiness of our present age: discarded lottery tickets lining a dim chandelier care of American art duo Ghost of a Dream, a fast food tapestry woven from beer cans by Toronto's Carmelo Arnoldin, and a chain of aluminum husks of assorted junk from Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky. United by their origins in the refuse of mass-market capitalism, these three works set a disturbing counterpoint to the handcrafted work they accompanied.

    Upstairs, an exhibit of Mayan textiles took me down a similar path of idealizing the past until I read about the devastating effects of civil wars and cultural oppression in the wall texts. Once again I had moved from a celebration of beauty to yet more despair for the present. It wasn't the shiny, happy ending to my three-day weekend that I thought I was going to get; it was something more sobering and it better prepared me for the working world that holidays are just an imaginary respite from.

    Textile Museum of Canada:
    Shine continues until September 2.

    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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    Subtlety has its advantages. When faced with, say, several exhibitions aggressively clamouring for attention, the subtle can sneak right on past all the showy aesthetic sound and fury, and smack you upside the head before you realize it. Okay, maybe it helps a bit if the exhibition occupies choice gallery real estate, but truth to tell I wasn't expecting much out of Into the Woods: Etchings by George Raab at the Art Gallery of Peterborough. Don't get me wrong – I am a fan of printmaking, and Raab is unquestionably one of the best in the field. But I arrived with a set of preconceptions, anticipating little more than the ho-hum of printmaking convention. Quality stuff, to be sure, but nothing to get all worked up about.

    George Raab, Into the Woods

    However, the very first thing that catches your eye as you descend the long ramp to the main exhibition space doesn't have much to do with convention. Rather, it's an installation. Into the Woods is mounted in a corner space and comprises a series of curtains – much like theatrical legs. Arranged two layers deep, they're transparent fabric overprinted with monochromatic images of a dense forest of birch trees. Gaps between individual legs leave room to walk into the space, to meander between the trees to the back wall, which is itself one solid image of dense arboreal forest.

    This is what a printmaker can do by setting foot outside the conventional parameters of the medium while simultaneously bringing them to the fore, all so as to installationally reshape a space simply, meaningfully, even poignantly. The latter adverb is necessary, for with Into the Woods– and I mean the exhibition as a whole, and not just the titular installation – Raab would have us experience what are in fact representations of another world, a world that once comprised the Real and which has now become little more than a virtual ghost of itself. I mean the forest, the defining natural phenomenon of our planet and now so incredibly rare as to be a truly endangered species, now almost solely the preserve of the photograph, painting, print, and, increasingly, digitally wrought sur-reality.

    The rest was primarily a show of Raab's framed prints hung salon-style and largely comprising long, narrow images of dense forests – images of a bygone thing – with nary a living being to be seen. The triptych Pine Forest exemplifies the artist's approach to his subject: we are given to see a dense stand of pine trunks, though never the forest canopy itself; trees rising from the ground, the image a dense thicket of verticals abruptly truncated by the upper edge of the print, as if Raab was echoing the equally truncating devastation of a logged-out forest.

    And it is devastating. Truly. Oh, there are prints here like Fire in the Sky that comfort with the arboreal beauty of a dawn or a sunset, or Field Line, a print comprised of five overlapping images depicting a lovely wintry field looking toward the edge of a forest in the background.... Yeah, there's the stuff of the picturesque to be found here. And it's good, to be sure, but Raab also gives us the better. It's not showy. It's not aesthetically noisy and insistent. It's just better.

    Art Gallery of Peterborough:
    Into the Woods: Etching by George Raab continues until September 1.

    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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    There is a certain clinical beauty in order. In his 1919 essay "The Study of Mathematics," Bertrand Russell describes the "supreme beauty" present in mathematics: "a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show." Artist Kristiina Lahde uses measuring instruments to craft an aesthetic experience with much murkier underpinnings than those Russell praises, exploring the tension between utilitarian design, aesthetics, and obsolescence. She explores an aesthetic geometric beauty that lies, not in accuracy or functionality, but in ambiguity, chance, and illusion.

    Kristiina Lahde, Metric System (blue and double white), 2013, altered measuring tapes

    For her artist residency at Anna Leonowens Gallery, the Toronto artist returned to Halifax, where she completed her BFA at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, to create a site-specific work. "What I've done is used a surveyor's measuring tape that's used for measuring great distances, and I've used it here, creating this kind of squared off spiral formation," explains Lahde. She has hand-folded and nailed each corner into the wall, using the tape to create a continuous line that spirals into an intricate geometric pattern. "As the pattern becomes more and more established there's an optical illusion – I hope – that begins to happen," she says. Indeed, Lahde obscures the functionality of the measuring tape to create a pattern in which the distance between two points appears ambiguous to the viewer, prompting doubts as to the accuracy of the measuring units marked on the tape. The artist explains: "There's this reliance on measurement but then a distortion of measurement at the same time."

    Lahde's work, unlike the measuring tape, doesn't purport to be universal in its ability to describe the points between objects in our world, but rather embraces its specificity. She created the piece to fit snugly into the gallery walls at Anna Leonowens. "I'm really happy to be back in Halifax," she says. "For me the highlight has been to work in the gallery and create this piece that's site dependent, that I made specifically for the space."

    Anna Leonowens Gallery:
    See website for current exhibitions.

    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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    Jeremy Shaw's Variation FQ, recently exhibited at Schinkel Pavilion, is a study in duality, ultimately seeking transcendence through material transformation. Using seminal Canadian filmmaker Norman McLaren's 1968 experimental ballet film Pas de Deux (which can be viewed on the NFB's online archive) as a conceptual and aesthetic framework, Shaw has replaced the Canadian ballet duo Margaret Mercier and Vincent Warren with transgendered New York underground vogue dance legend Leiomy Maldonado (whose repertoire is widely available via YouTube).

    Jeremy Shaw, Variation FQ

    McLaren's film presents the two classical dancers clad in white, evocatively lit in the deep space of an all black set and appearing as ghostly spectres. The formal tropes of black and white, male and female, physical and spiritual take on allegorical overtones as their interactions and steps are dissected and re-spliced, thus creating a slow-motion study of the poetic lyricism of the human body, enhanced by a haunting soundtrack of pan flutes and synthesizer loops.

    Variation FQ presents a lone dancer who embodies the essential or allegorical qualities of these two dancers in a singular subjectivity. Rather than the refined, regimented steps of classical ballet, Maldonado's movements demonstrate vogue dancing's aggressive erotic display. Vogueing is often performed in a dance battle, whose parameters of performativity and violence seem to take cues more from the sport/entertainment hybrid of WWF than classical dance.

    Here, the urgency of the vogue battle is replaced by a formal gravitas, heightened by an atmospheric soundtrack and Shaw's choice to output the digitally shot and edited video onto 16mm film. Viewing this mesmerizing image on a large heat and noise-producing film projector, replete with flickers and scratches, leads one to question appropriation, the role of materiality, and the location of the avant-garde and/or subculture in relation to contemporary artistic production. As with much of Shaw's previous work, this installation deals with the slippages between high and low, insider and outsider, perception and reception, while skillfully employing sound and image to dramatic effect.

    Schinkel Pavilion:
    See website for current exhibitions.

    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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    It's a given that art doesn't belong solely in galleries and equally accepted that our built environment (i.e. architecture and design) is at home in the everyday world around us. But what about when architecture or design seeks an exhibition venue? Take a look at Twenty + Change, a non-profit organization dedicated to producing an exhibition and publication that promotes "Canadian designers working in architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design." Their current show presents a diverse mix of projects via info-graphic panels and public programming, and makes use of pro-bono, pop-up gallery spaces in Art Central. Sadly, it's taken two years for this work to see the light of day in Calgary and ironically it was recently announced that the venue (a ten-year-old custom architectural renovation housing art and design) is slated for demolition to make way for a corporate tower.

    Matthew Soles Architecture, Victoria Public Urinal

    Returning to the positives, Twenty + Change 03 is the third, nationally juried iteration, profiling approximately twenty new works (either built or proposed) brought to town by the gestational initiative Design.Talks. Known colloquially as D.Talks (it sounds like detox), they perhaps personify an undercurrent to detoxify Calburbia of its sprawling reputation for lower common denominator built design. Their desire to spark discussion about design and the built environment is well reflected via a public urinal created by Matthew Soules, based on the European plein air pissoir; a Henry Moore-meets-Sol Lewitt arts pavilion at UBC designed by public; and a Winnipeg public stage sheathed in a flexible metal membrane by 5468796 Architecture. But will Twenty + Change stage an 04? For inspiring debate on 03, there's a free panel discussion tonight at 7pm at Art Central's deVille Coffee.

    Twenty + Changel:
    Twenty + Change 03 continues until August 24.

    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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    Anyone who thinks contemporary art relentlessly masters technology (and, perhaps, no one thinks this), should consider how long it has taken us to figure out photography and the challenges that remain when we look through the camera. There are two very different exhibitions currently on view on Queen West that both explore this legacy, and in doing so, remind us that in our pursuit of the new, the past, even as it inevitably slips from our minds, should not be forgotten.

    Vivian Maier, Highland Park, IL (Self-Portrait, Bedroom Mirror), January 1965, gelatin silver print

    The story of Vivian Maier's photographs, now on display at Stephen Bulger Gallery, is well known (here's a good précis if you don't have the full scoop). The initial and enduring appeal of her work is the romance of undiscovered artistic genius. To have worked one's entire life without an audience is something both to admire and to mourn. We idealize the purity of her intentions – she definitely never "sold out", but we also wonder what might have been. As the proverbial tree falling in the forest that no one hears, Maier raises questions about the nature of art and what it means to be an artist (for example, do you need an audience?). Because so little is known about her, the standard critical tide is reversed and we look to her pictures for clues as to who she was and what she was thinking with each snap of the shutter. Her self-portraits in particular focus our attention on her eyes and expression; while the street scenes and still lives reflect an awareness of any number of celebrated 20th Century photographers, the photos of her face – always in mirrors or caught in reflections – are inscrutable. Despite the wonder of mechanical reproduction, the camera still only leaves us fragments to sift through for meaning.

    Dorian FitzGerald, Drummond Castle Gardens, 2103, installation view

    Even though it consists of just one really big painting, Dorian FitzGerald's exhibition at Clint Roenisch Gallery ends up eliciting its own reflection on seeing and reproducing through mechanical means with the inclusion of one simple device: a mirror. Due to the size of the canvas and the space of the gallery, the artist's studio mirror has been included to provide a means of regarding the work from a distance. This, a local artist explained to me, is standard practice, but given the type of painting FitzGerald does – a large-scale paint-by-numbers realism that is both technically and visually overwhelming – leaves one with two different experiences of the same image. Trapped in front of the looming painting, one sees the detail and abstraction of poured pigment on a symmetrical field. Stepping back from the reflection one is surprised by the trompe l'oeil depth of an image that could easily be mistaken for a photograph, if not a window. Truth be told, it's not just cameras that confuse us; it's our own eyes.

    Stephen Bulger Gallery:
    Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows continues until September 14.

    Clint Roenisch Gallery:
    Dorian FitzGerald: Drummond Castle Gardens 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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    Andrea Slavik's strikingly sparse installation The Things We Cannot Live Without triggers a subconscious uneasiness even before its meaning is revealed. The Victorian gallery of the Workers Arts & Heritage Centre is moodily lit and spanned by an oppressive black net that casts shadows across the walls and sags low enough at its centre to brush incautious heads and breathe down the back of one's neck. This setting appears at odds with the bright QR codes arrayed on the walls, each a friendly burst of inviting colour. Only by scanning the codes with one's smartphone – or an iPad Mini available from reception – does the narrative behind that net unravel itself in links to news stories of the suicides that have plagued Chinese factories where Apple and other manufacturers produce their popular consumer technologies.

    Andrea Slavik, The Things We Cannot Live Without, installation view

    The staggering human cost of our insatiable appetite for gadgets is delivered with a complicit punch to the gut. By making the QR code the sole means of gleaning the work's meaning, Slavik emphasizes the viewer's dependency on the devices that have wrought these miserable labour conditions. For those like myself who enter the gallery with our iPhones at the ready, the personal dimension is immediate and damning. The net overhead – not so much a metaphor as an exact replica of the suicide prevention barriers mounted outside Foxconn factories – looms heavier still. Slavik has succeeded where much political art falls flat by camouflaging an activist heart in a muted space for engagement and eliciting a reflection that demands knowledge before action, and rightfully so.

    Workers Arts & Heritage Centre:
    Andrea Slavik: The Things We Cannot Live Without continues until August 30.

    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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    Taking the form of an independent video store, Under New Management intertwines our expectations of value and commerce into a forum of audience engagement. Part exhibition of video art titles, and part exchange library, UNM ask its audiences to determine their value of art. Curated by Toronto-based Suzanne Carte and Su-Ying Lee, the show operates as a functioning pop-up video store carrying 205 titles from a largely Canadian roster of just over 100 artists. Customers don't have to become members, nor do they have to use money to take out the titles. Working from an honour system, forms of exchange are open and flexible, ranging in the past from objects, tasks, and even feedback. By removing money as the principle currency, each exchange for art occurs in the hope of expanding our value systems.

    Under New Management at Access Gallery, installation view

    Looking through the rows of titles along the walls before a programmed screening, I could not discern a catalogue system or a theme. While an attempt was made to showcase more Chinese-language titles to reflect Access Gallery's location in what's left of Vancouver's Chinatown, that intention was not palpable from the open-call selection. I liked the hand painted signage the best.

    Perusing a physical wall of video art titles, each carrying the gravitas of private home or office consumption, I wasn't surprised in my lack of interest in the selection. Especially due to the nature of video art, which circulates en masse across festival screens, databases like Vtape, and as shareable links, most of these works have either been seen before or remain a click away.

    While admittedly my position as reviewer does deviate from a passer byer who may by chance come in and experience video art for the first time, the context is still within a gallery, where unfortunately, the majority of attendees are artists, curators, critics, and other arts professionals. Under New Management is a welcome engagement, but would have fared better if it remained a pop-up store outside of the gallery context.

    Note: A selection of programmed screenings accompanies the exhibition. See the gallery website for more information.

    Access Gallery:
    Under New Management continues until September 7.

    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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    The last half of August is truly the dead zone of the local art scene – not in the Stephen King sense, just in the inescapable fact that the galleries who can't afford to take the whole month off, squeeze in their two weeks of holiday before the fall onslaught begins. There are those who can't afford to shutter their windows at all, and I'll be relying on them for the next couple reports. The two shows I'm covering today are mere hours away from closing but worth a boo if you're in the neighbourhood of Dundas and Ossington.

    Soft Turns, St. Helena Olive Tree, Extinct 1884-1977, 2013-, 2010, video projection

    Sarah Jane Gorlitz and Wojciech Olejnik make up the artist duo Soft Turns. The four short videos they are exhibiting at O'Born Contemporary fall into the moving pictures camp (as opposed to the short movies camp). Each in their own way introduce a dynamic element into a seemingly innocuous scene to elicit a reflection on change and all that entails. The movements are often indirectly presented – such as the shifting shadows in St. Helena Olive Tree, Extinct 1884-1977, 2013- and the reflection of a passing train in A Passage. Both require the viewer to extrapolate a world beyond the frame and, in doing so, construct a narrative. In this summer of floods, Just Add Water's slowly submerged subterranean passages offer a tragic layer to its exploration of space. The collection of work invites a restrained but rewarding opportunity for reflection.

    Jen Stark, Glow, 2013, aluminum, powder coat paint, acrylic paint

    Jen Stark's use of colour is anything but restrained. Her selection of works at Cooper Cole is all about pleasing the eye, dipping into Op Art territory and coming out in three dimensions. Her wall installations are all trippy, multicoloured swirls and drips; each in its own way also suggests movement. After the initial appeal of her vortex installations wears off, it's a ceiling hung mobile of concentric rings that play with our expectations of volumes of space and an abstract sworl mounted slightly off the wall to allow a subtle glow of colour to emerge beneath that sustain my curiosity.

    O'Born Contemporary:
    Soft Turns: Movement Never Lies continues until August 21.

    Cooper Cole:
    Jen Stark continues until August 24.

    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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