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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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    Dusty sparkles that cover and muffle the city have been falling for the last three days. This is about as aesthetically magical as Calgary gets in the winter. Well timed for the season, Earthlings at the Esker Foundation is a welcome companion to these particular environmental conditions. An exhibition of contemporary artists from Nunavut – Roger Aksadjuak, Shuvinai Ashoona, Pierre Aupilardjuk, Jessie Kenalogak, John Kurok, and Leo Napayok– plus Toronto’s Shary Boyle, it is appropriately strange and wonderful in both quality and circumstance.

    Pierre Aupilardjuk & Shary Boyle, Facing Forward, 2016

    At first glance one might think that the wildly surreal ceramics, carvings, and large-scale drawings on display could be an absurdly ambitious collection by a single artist. The lack of tombstone labels perpetuates this feeling; the gallery instead opts for commercial-style number pins. As one moves through the exhibition, distinct visual vocabularies emerge and it becomes apparent that this gathering isn’t a monologue but a conversation between artists. The works were all developed collaboratively starting last fall when Boyle, Kurok, and Aupilardjuk went to Medalta in Medicine Hat (Alberta’s fascinating, yet little know “historic clay district”) for a residency to develop a collective body of art. Boyle and Ashoona have also drawn collaboratively (the former in black pen, the latter in colored pencil) to produce compositions that are among the most affecting images in the exhibition.

    The results are spectacular and suggest a kind of surrealist baroque. It’s easy to get swept away in the delicious weirdness of it, but with sustained attention to the figuration and endless narrative play the art turns poignant and pointed. It addresses memory, trauma, loss, family, and cultural difference. While individual works might at first appear otherworldly, the artists are all wrestling with issues that are very much of this all-too-real world.

    The public programs associated with Earthlings look especially good: film screenings, talks, and tours promise to dig deeply into the extremely fertile ground laid by this exhibition. And then there’s the mystery of Medalta. Road trip, anyone?

    Esker Foundation:
    Earthlings continues until May 7.

    Sarah Todd is a curator currently based in Calgary. She has previously worked at Western Front, InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, XPACE Cultural Centre, and The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. She has also produced projects with a range of organizations including Vtape, Kunstverein München, The Goethe Institute, The Pacific Cinematheque, Glenbow Museum and The Illingworth Kerr Gallery. She is Akimblog’s Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Twitter @sarahannetodd.

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    The trio of artists currently exhibiting at the Art Gallery of York University are perhaps better addressed as a series of solos than a three-part composition. They are all from Toronto, roughly at the same stage of their careers, and probably shop at Home Depot more often than at Curry’s, but any further comparisons run the risk of muting their unique attempts to make obdurate material express something akin to poetry. Miles Collyer and Maggie Groat are two of the three most likely to be mistaken as a duo. He riffs on rebar, cinderblocks, exhaust vents, and the detritus of destroyed architecture through aluminum reconstructions and photocopied representations. Sculptural scaffolding supports these signs of a somewhere else only hinted at in cryptic titles, but their sterile decontextualization leaves one wanting a little levity.

    Maggie Groat, FIIIPC ) FLWWMDYCRPT ) PWRIMG ) CLRFLD ), 2017

    Groat supplies this with her actual (not simulated) junk. A series of her assemblages fill the shared gallery space not unlike Collyer’s objects, but she works with a magpie’s eye for found fragments and has just the right sense of humour for someone who repurposes the gallery’s own rejects for her big show. She also has an appreciation for colour that comes through to optimal effect in her pastel grid of carpet swatches on the AGYU’s project room floor. In fact, there is a general sense of optimism in her work that stands in stark contrast to Collyer’s mute metal. The process hinted at in the exhibition’s catch-all title (Illusion of Process) is the artist’s improvisation with the things that surround us to somehow create meaning where before there was none. She’s the type to make it look easy, like it’s just a matter of throwing up some haphazard wallpaper offcuts and arranging the knick-knacks from the back of your garage in a grid; however, this impulse to bring order to the modern world’s trash is both rare and necessary for those of us haunted by remnants of relentless renovation.

    Marvin Luvualu Antonio, Death is a Tunnel, 2017, detail

    Marvin Luvualu Antonio’s contribution is concerned with both literal and metaphorical remains. He’s an artist who moves comfortably between painting, sculpture and installation, but here the focus is on a performance that took place at the exhibition’s opening. The props, soundtrack, and accompanying video projection are all that’s left and the sense that something is missing is inescapable. Since the work is concerned with death and the video documents the artist’s mother’s funeral, that absence shouldn’t be surprising. When I finally got a chance to see some footage of the performance, the jarring intensity of the music (heard through wireless headphones supplied on entry) finally fell into place. There was smoke, rhythmic noise, and a shadowy figure dancing, pacing, and writhing through sand piles lit by images of a burial procession for someone who died far too young. The exhibition text explains that this work was the “most unscripted” and Antonio’s himself says in his recorded monologue: “Death is a tunnel will be an in between space.” Process is everything and the twinned acts of creation and destruction, with all their ties to life, death, ceremony, matter, and spirit, while alluded to elsewhere, are central to this final act (though, it should be noted, the first part you see) of the AGYU’s seasonal trilogy.

    Art Gallery of York University:
    Illusion of Process continues until March 12.

    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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    Circle, Sphere, Horizon Line, Lyndl Hall’s solo-exhibition at the Burrard Art Foundation, is a continuation of her critical inquiry into the iconography of place making – from wanderlust to cartography. Her work has been described to me as quiet, understated, discrete or something that treads the line between docile and minimal. Although they aren’t meant as terms injurious to the dignity of the work, such characterizations undermine the robustness of her project, which grapples with the tumult that drives the practical discourses of way-finding.

    Lyndl Hall, Spheres I and II

    The two-channel video Birds/Boat abuts footage of an albatross’s flight and a boat’s bow combatting Antarctic waves. As we watch the shape of the bird waver in a sky framed by the camera, it at times seems trapped. The animal is free, but remains a subject for observation, even while the scrutiny is so deployed so aimlessly. The epic journey that reaps the shaky and quaint footage of a bird makes for a satisfying irony.

    A deeper consideration of how we are socially affected by spatial orientation and the pursuit of direction, and how these impulses are sublimated into rational discourse is given through the process of abstracting the signifiers of geography. Spheres I and II are a pair of white plaster balls nested in individual steel supports. Structured like standing globes, their surfaces are considered “blank terrains.” However, even though they impose a void, the inexplicable landscape isn’t erased. The distinction between land, sea and territory might be abolished, but the blankness tempts the intrepid to redraw lines.

    Arrow is a nine-foot arrow sand-casted in bronze. It is positioned in the gallery to point north. This work began with Hall drawing a long and decisive line in the sand and then she poured molten metal into that mark. By articulating a literal “line in the sand,” one creates a boundary, and by pointing in another direction, this heavy object bluntly tells you where you could go.

    Burrard Art Foundation:
    Lyndl Hall: Circle, Sphere, Horizon Line continues until February 18.

    Steffanie Ling's essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada and the United States. She is the editor of Bartleby Review, an occasional pamphlet of criticism and writing in Vancouver, and a curator at CSA Space. She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao.

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    Explaining what you don’t like about an exhibition can be just as complicated as explaining what you do like. I initially thought I didn’t like Ed Fornieles’ third of the three solo shows currently on view at Division Gallery because he divorces himself from the art he makes. According to the video interview with the artist’s avatar that is displayed amongst his paintings and sculptures, the work is generated by a program that begins with a prompt (in this case, “friendship”) before providing the artist with a randomly calculated set of parameters that determine the final production of the art thing. It is meant as an exercise in transparency that Fornieles claims to find liberating, but the results – grey clay figures or grey acrylic people – feel soulless and incomplete. This makes sense since the art is in the programming, not the painting. The artist (or his stand-in) argues that painting is all about faith, but all I feel is the lack of inspiration that lead him to hand over the one thing that makes art worthwhile: imagination.

    Chloe Wise, If I were a flower, 2016, urethane, oil paint, marble plinth

    Chloe Wise is hardly lacking in inspiration or imagination. Like many young artists, her voluminous output crosses media to include painting, sculpture, installation, and video. Unlike many young artists, she gets interviewed by Vogue magazine. The coverage by a glossy fashion Bible makes sense because she is fascinated by fashion, commodities, luxury, and the pretty young things that advertising feeds on. This selection of her work is admittedly a reduced version of a larger project that was presented in full at Division’s Montreal HQ, but the elements – both tantalizing and trying – are here. Her use of simulated food (the kind of petrified meal models one might find in a diner’s front window) as a stand-in for flesh, consumption, and desire is effective in attracting and repelling the viewer as well as conceptually messing with the sanctified space of picture frame, pedestal, or architecture. Her video Feral and wide-eyed in the garden, on the other hand, annoys me to no end with its belaboured posing, pretentious soliloquys and bad sound. It makes me want to watch Jack Smith, Pipilotti Rist, Sue de Beer or Ryan Trecartin. They all dealt with youth, style, make-believe, and media with more verve. This just makes me feel old, but not in a bad way. I have accepted that the latest thing has passed me by, and I’m happy to be rid of the blinders of being in vogue. I’m much more interested in the wider view.

    Megan Rooney, A Wax Rose. A Soft Punch to the Ear, 2017, installation view

    Thankfully, the final part of the trio intrigues and opens up rather than plays games and acts coy. Megan Rooney’s major contribution is a mural spread across the gallery walls and made at night because she doesn’t like to paint in front of others. The ghostly landscapes and distended outlines of body parts, the squiggles and smears, the floor-to-ceiling ambition and the small details waiting to be discovered all resonate with the artist's presence – her arm and hand in particular. Her over-painted pinup portraits needlessly bind her images to mass media, but the one original canvas and the work that spreads across the walls feel outside of time. The scale reminds one there are bigger concerns – even if they are intensely personal. The exhibition envelops you and makes you feel the rare moment of connection to which all art should aspire. It stands in stark relief in this venue.

    (Final note: There is also a major installation of Jon Rafman’s work at Division that includes a swing-set, an Astroturf maze, and a virtual reality experience that is creepily transcendent. It’s definitely fun, but whether it’s any good will have to be addressed another day.)

    Division Gallery:
    Ed Fornieles: Stand By Me continues until March 4.
    Chloe Wise: Horrible Sound As Well continues until March 4.
    Megan Rooney: A Wax Rose. A Soft Punch to the Ear continues until March 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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    What is a material girl? More than a mere gold-digger, she’s a materials digger. She likes to roll up her sleeves and get her hands dirty. She is crafty, meaning she transforms her materials in subtle and cunning ways. This sleight of hand is exemplified in this group exhibition at the University of Saskatchewan’s College Art Galleries by Allyson Mitchell’s assemblage of lowbrow cast-offs. Two crocheted doilies and a scrag of macramé are arranged to signal the female form: two big, round nipples above a triangle of pink acrylic fluff. Voilà! Handcrafting demonstrates a relationship with the material, the process, and the product. In another example, Google Map images of traditional family lands are transposed, pixel-by-pixel, into a weighty cluster of beads. The immaterial and impersonal becomes real through Katherine Boyer’s investment of time and care.

    Deirdre Logue, Velvet Crease, 2012, three-channel video

    A material girl is also a girl. No surprise, then, that the female body is heavily featured as well. The unexpectedly romantic image of a wiry mat of pubes and glistening labia doused with the ultimate craft material – gold glitter – compels one to insistently peer at the titular Velvet Crease in Deirdre Logue’s three-channel video.

    “A teen girl’s bedroom” is the analogy that co-curator Wendy Peart offers for this exhibition. Bedroom and exhibition are both a mash up of symbols and signifiers, all simultaneously crying out to define identity. With twenty-five artists included in the show, identity is addressed in a million ways on the gallery’s walls and floors. Not contradictory, but many faceted. Groupings of works suggest general categories, calling to mind a multiple-choice quiz from Teen Magazine: ethereal, frankly sexual, maniacally pulsing, painstakingly detailed, and coolly restrained. Which one are you?

    Referencing pop music hits of our youth, Material Girls isn’t a regression to squeaky-clean teendom. Curated three years ago by Blair Fornwald, Jennifer Matotek, and Peart, and touring ever since, the exhibition harkens back to a somewhat more innocent time – a time when we never could have imagined the phrase “grab her by the pussy” coming from a head of state. Since it opened in Saskatoon the week following Trump’s inauguration, feminism and women’s voices have felt more relevant, important, and urgent than they have been in a long time.

    College Art Galleries:
    Material Girls continues until April 21.

    Sandee Moore is a nationally exhibited artist, arts administrator, and occasional art writer. She can be followed on Twitter @SandeeMoore.

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    The Talking Heads’ 1983 single This Must Be The Place is a breezy, slightly ambivalent love song. There have been a lot of love songs to Winnipeg from the art scene over the past few years and This Must Be The Place at Lisa Kehler Art + Projects is the latest attempt to pitch some woo at our ugly-lovely city.

    Scott Benessiinaabandan, Boy with a Fish on Main, 2010, digital print

    There is a scrappy nostalgia here and Erica Eyres’ video work nicely sets the tone with its vignettes of oddly outdated dioramas at the Manitoba Museum. Two pieces from Scott Benessiinaabandan’s black and white photographic series Boy With A Fish situate Indigenous identity around town – from Main Street to its very edge at White Horse Plains. Sylvia Matas, Kristin Nelson, and Cyrus Smith all examine the role of erasure or synthesis in some form; Matas with her piece Two days of rain that alters newspaper clippings to reveal sections about the weather, Nelson’s digital print Parking/No Parking that divides all the parking lots out of a satellite map of Winnipeg, and Smith’s collages running the gamut of content from the Golden Boy to a girl’s head grafted onto a tiny snowsuited body.

    A selection of paintings from Ian August is placed at various points around the gallery to create a thread throughout the show. His beautiful depictions of mundane objects – a pink shell-shaped soap pump, the colourful starburst on the back of a ski jacket – speak to the equivocal nature of this particular Winnipeg love letter-cum-art exhibit. I would like to believe that This Must Be The Place is in fact a side-eyed reply to the recent run of navel-gazing Winnipeg projects. Is this in fact the place? Maybe it’s time to let the Winnipeg mythologization lie dormant for a little while and take a cue from the Talking Heads: The less we say about it the better / Make it up as we go along.

    Lisa Kehler Art + Projects:
    This Must Be the Place continues until March 17.

    Jenny Western is a curator, writer, and educator who lives in Winnipeg. She can be followed on Twitter @WesternJenny.

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    There are some exhibitions where one work is enough to saturate the entire experience. The Power Plant has one such example on display right now and I could have watched it all afternoon when I dropped in on the weekend and still left happy (only to return another day to absorb what remains). Jonathas de Andrade's film/video O peixe (The Fish) allows for the gradual access that is essential for all great art. Too often contemporary work requires advance knowledge to even begin to get it. This precondition is a holdover from Conceptualism when the art was in the explanation. It goes without saying that meaning requires context and additional information can be necessary for a full reading, but if the art is restricted right out of the gate to an exclusive audience of insiders, then it only preaches to the choir.

    Jonathas de Andrade, still from O peixe (The Fish), 2016, 16mm/video

    O peixe is immediately legible to a variety of audiences. Kids, tourists, the curious, and wizened art critics all sat watching the video unfold last Sunday afternoon. The repeated narrative of fishermen searching for and catching their prey set up a familiar situation that took an unexpected turn as each fish was cradled and caressed until it died. The combination of tenderness and tragedy could be understood by anyone who had ever caught a fish, crushed an ant, put down a pet, or watched a loved one passed away. Each one of us is complicit in the destruction of others despite the frequency with which it occurs and however much it kills us to do so (and it doesn’t bother many of us at all). Those gasping fish are memento mori, links in the food chain, symbols of environmental devastation, and victims of consumption. Those empathetic piscators are indigenous cyphers, colonized subjects, and murderous humans. The fascination with which we watch living things expire is full of conflicted emotion in the same way we want to both look and turn away from a car accident. All these reactions were contained within the frame of this one work and the images of mortality stuck with me for days afterward. I couldn’t shake them out of my head.

    In comparison, de Andrade’s other work – documents of projects that engaged Brazilian communities with history, power, and identity – felt labourious. The danger in presenting one work that is so elegant is that it makes everything else seem clumsy. A similar misgiving is elicited with Maria Hupfield’s exhibition across the hall because her primary practice is performance and the works on display are normally activated as props. Presenting durational work in a gallery after the event is always a challenge and video recordings are a practical but not always ideal substitute. A consideration of the sculptural quality of her felt constructions will have to wait for another day when I’m not so entranced with dying fish.

    As for the upstairs installation by Kapwani Kiwanga, it illustrates some ideas about power and architecture (specifically interior design) but doesn’t go much farther than that. The video hidden around the corner delves into more detail, but after what de Andrade accomplished with such simplicity, I’m resistant to her heavier hand.

    Sarah Peebles, Leafcutter bee with nest underneath potter wasp nest inside Pollination Wunder Station at the Tree Museum, Ontario (photo: Robert Cruickshank)

    Elsewhere at Harbourfront Centre there is a fun exhibition of imaginative work clothes from thirty-nine designers (including Vivienne Westwood and Issey Miyake) and a vitrine display of artworks that includes the means of their own making. The revelations in the latter serve to demystify the process of artists working with everything from bees (Sarah Peebles) to electric circuits (Robert Cruickshank) to duct tape (Susan Campbell). In doing so, rather than reduce the wonder elicited by the work, another angle of approach is presented to enhance the viewer’s experience.

    The Power Plant:
    Jonathas de Andrade: On Fishes, Horses and Man continues until May 14.
    Kapwani Kiwanga: A wall is just a wall continues until May 14.
    Maria Hupfield: The One Who Keeps on Giving continues until May 14.

    Harbourfront Centre Visual Arts:
    Workaday continues until April 23.

    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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    Michelle Furlong and Dean Baldwin have plotted a narrative stroll through Parisian Laundry– from an over-lit and bustling piazza upstairs to a spotlit card room in the basement. On a crowded opening night, their double-exhibition generated as many narratives as there were strollers. The descent and resurfacing called to mind the importance of risk and transgression in both relational artworks like his and in more solitary studio practices like hers.

    Dean Baldwin, Fiasco

    Baldwin’s Fiasco includes eight colour photographs, two food stands, and a fountain made out of hacked foam blocks, ceramic heads, vintage Coleman coolers, bits of broken glass (to keep pigeons out) and bottles of red and white wine (to draw visitors in). One stray wine jug sits in the corner. A regular feature in authentic Roman fountains, this knock-off is decorated with skull-and-dagger-type skateboard stickers, roughly the same vintage as the coolers. The entire installation drips with nostalgia – the refined nostalgia of art historians, the carefully guarded nostalgia of a waning Italian tourist industry, and the barely earned nostalgia of ageing skate punks. Over the course of the opening, the fountain sprung several leaks. Made after a six-month residency in Rome and installed in the first excruciating days of our Trump-era, it captures what declining empires look like as they struggle to keep up appearances.

    The nearby photos are luscious and comical by turns. Prosciutto Melone, Hadrian’s Villa is beautifully layered with an arrangement of sun-kissed melons in the foreground, close enough to crave, and an enchanting ruin at the foot of some rolling Tivoli hills in the middle and background. All these offerings, culinary and touristic, sit vulnerably under a heavy grey sky. A Mound of Butter (After Antoine Vollon, 1885) glistens with verisimilitude, as it did for the under-recognized French realist named in the photo’s title. Baldwin, like Vollon, invites us to think about physical and social values that shuttle between food and art – from texture, colour, and shape to taste, manners, and decorum.

    Michelle Furlong, Divining Inflexions

    Upon entering the gallery’s so-called “bunker,” the first work you see in Furlong’s Divining Inflexions is Of a Sky– a crumpled canvas, lovingly painted with even clouds in a Super Mario-blue sky. It’s a signal that you’ve left Baldwin’s well-mannered, convivial space to plunge into a darker, private and brooding one, where the sky has fallen and sunglasses are for poker not tourism. The room is cluttered with oversized, painted playing cards in various configurations. Metaphors for artistic decision-making of both the tactical and the magical kind abound.

    Vaguely faceted hunks of cards hang in the centre of the room surrounded by dwarfed paintings of cards and black walking sticks. Standing alone, or huddled in conspiratorial groups, the sticks are capped with black and white balls that look like eight-balls without eights or, more creepily, eyes without pupils. The hanging Weaver’s Spindle shows a mess of cards on its surfaces – piled, scattered, and overlapped. Imagined flat on a table, freshly dealt before the game, or thrown down in exasperation after a fold, the cards encode hope and devastation. But dented, cinched, and strung-up, they are more than just symbols of chance. Decorative backs and readable fronts flow seamlessly into each other to make choppy volumes and impossible suits.

    The canvases are prepared with just this violation in mind. Bearing traces of Furlong’s struggle with materials, surfaces, and content, the pieces call up a whole history of arguments with painting. Modernist protests against illusionism are condensed in the work – from the monochrome to Lucio Fontana’s slashed canvases and postmodern reckonings with figuration, from Janet Werner’s adventures in folding fashion photos to Joanne Tod’s misadventures In the Kitchen.

    After an hour or so in the basement, I walked back upstairs to find that the wine had run out. The fountain was leaking out of control. Curious stragglers had stepped over the pigeon fences to peer closely at details and do a sweep for more wine. A painter who had recently moved to Montreal from Toronto thought ahead. With a fitting display of bad manners and generosity, he served wine from the night’s last bottle. It had been tucked away in his black leather jacket for just this moment.

    Parisian Laundry:
    Dean Baldwin: Fiasco continues until March 25.
    Michelle Furlong: Divining Inflexions continues until March 25.

    Tammer El-Sheikh is a writer and teacher based in Montreal. His art criticism has appeared in Parachute, Canadian Art, ETC and C Magazine.

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    The task of the art critic is to identify things, so what is one to do when faced with an exhibition about fluidity? My usual recourse to definition, to establishing meaning, to making judgments is flummoxed in the face of a thing that is never simply one thing but a range of possibilities. FEMINISTRY IS HERE, currently on view at Mercer Union, is one such indefinite thing and its ambiguity isn’t even limited to the art on display. It is an exhibition but also a venue for a performance (by Marceline Mandeng that took place on the opening night) and the stage for a fashion presentation (featuring creations by Rebaie by Rebée scheduled for the closing reception). Mercer is the venue, but so are The Round (where a queer party took place last Friday) and The Holy Oak (where FEMINISTRY began as a monthly dance night for all who, in the words of DJ/host/curator Cameron Lee, “mingle fashion, music, art, and space”).

    Lido Pimienta, The hand that feeds 1 & 2, 2017, felt and embroidery thread on muslin

    Space is a central concern in this exhibition-thing and late local artist Will Munro is invoked in Lee's accompanying text as the progenitor for queer-positive spaces that maintain an ongoing critique of normativity. While they could be said to possess a degree of political rigour, Munro’s parties were also parties and this thing that’s happening at Mercer also has the tinge of chaos that memorable parties generally possess. As the gallery text admits, it’s messy so don’t expect otherwise. At least you can initially anchor your standard art world expectations with Lido Pimienta’s colourful felt wall hangings; they look like art and wield familiar representational tropes to invoke a sense of an infinitely variable self.

    After that bit of comfort, things get wild. Mandeng’s metal sculpture of a giant female symbol is decorated with decaying fruit (that was fresh and free for nibbling at their performance) and broken eggs litter the ground elsewhere. Holes hammered into the walls care of Buzz are twinned with vinyl stickers that double the damage. Victoria Cheong adapts the entrance with a hairy yellow curtain and rejects the expected antiseptic white walls of most galleries in favour of peach and purple. A mural of illuminated haze covers one side of the space and suggests both the unnatural atmosphere of a dance club and the gentle sunrise one finds on emerging from said venue.

    Jazmine VK Carr, Using TOR to Access Hades (detail), 2017, mixed media

    On the floor is a viewing station assembled by Zoe Solomon that matches trippy office-patterned cushions with an ambient video of distorted anime samples and performance excerpts set to the tune of a looped and distorted rhythm pattern. The soft edges of that workstation are set in stark contrast to the dirty messy remains of Jazmine VK Carr’s possibly autobiographical deep web diver. Her obsessive grid of empty cigarette packages and scattering of burnt out devices are simply the detritus left behind by the post-identity being who moves beyond the physical – at least temporarily and with a desperation bound to copious drug use – into the realm of the digital.

    These millennial artists shift categories with the ease of kids raised on constant communication and a never-ending flow of information both received and emitted. As they came of age, that flow came to characterize their sexuality, and as they grew into artists, it emerged in their practice. Art has always been somewhat fluid and it became increasingly so over the course of the twentieth century, which is why it has been and continues to be a space for the abnormal, eccentric, unconventional, and queer. FEMINISTRY is but one instance in a long history of momentary zones of identity through difference. It is an experiment and like all such experiments as interesting for the possibilities it entertains as it is for the answers it provides.

    Mercer Union:
    FEMINISTRY IS HERE continues until March 18.

    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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    After more than a decade reviewing art exhibitions, there are still only a handful of works I’ve ever wanted to buy. It’s partly because I see art most often in public places and that’s where I think it belongs. It’s also because I have a hard time committing to things (says the remaining member of his generation not to have a tattoo). And with some works, like Lili Huston-Herterich’s divine A Curtain for Clint (to funnel the sun), even if I had the money to buy it, I certainly don’t have the wall space. So, until the time comes when my lifestyle increases financially and architecturally, I’ll have to make-do with the private collection of memories I curate in my head.

    Lili Huston-Herterich, Men on Vacation, 2017, shirts, jewellery chain, porcelain, copper patina on steel rod

    Memory is a perfect segue into We of the Middling Sort, Huston-Herterich’s current exhibition at Zalucky Contemporary. She solicited donations of old clothes from people who live near the gallery and used these remains to refer in a roundabout way to the history of this strange neighbourhood called the Junction (due to the railroad stockyards along its northern border). Some of the worn fabric is used to make photograms (camera-less photographs) that highlight their seams and frayed surfaces. Just as each image is a record of the light passing through the clothing onto the paper, each piece of clothing is a record of the person who once passed through it. And just as the light-sensitive paper relies on empty space - the holes both big and small – to allow the light to land, Huston-Herterich relies on the openings (collars, cuffs, and tears) to indicate the missing people who haunt this story.

    To paraphrase Misha Glouberman, the holes are where the people go – or where the people were. Every piece of used clothing is a short history of whoever wore it. A frayed cuff is all that’s left of a lost childhood. A collection of dress shirt collars is all that’s left of years spent at an office. The seams are all that remains when everything is paired away, like the skeleton of a fossilized animal. The photograms resemble x-rays, and the small ceramic lumps hanging from some of the framed works look like bones. They were molded in gloved fists and represent another hole – this one the space within a fist. They could be tiny grenades or little hearts, but they also remind you that unclenching your hand reveals an open palm – changing a symbol of resistance into a gesture of greeting.

    Lili Huston-Herterich, Jean Leg, 2017, jeans, jewellery chain, porcelain, copper patina on steel rod

    When a piece of clothing is cut, isolated and reassembled, it becomes abstract. Huston-Herterich’s pushes her materials into this zone. Sometimes all that’s left is a faint outline like a rough sketch of an idea. Paired down to threads that link person to object to person, hers is an art of suggestion: lines and shape, light and shadow, but also shirt and fist and impress of living bodies that have worn these things and worn them down. Those particular people are out there somewhere. The donors have come by to visit, according to the gallerist, but they don’t always announce themselves, preferring to remain anonymous instead. Perhaps it has something to do with possessing things: our possessions are only ever temporary, but they remain with us even after they pass through our hands. The experience, more so than the object, is where the meaning lies.

    Zalucky Contemporary:
    Lili Huston-Herterich: We of the Middling Sort continues until March 25.

    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 usually don’t write about exhibitions that are closing in the very near future, but with only ten days remaining to see it I’m compelled to mention Sarah Fuller’s solo exhibition at Christine Klassen Gallery. Fuller is currently finishing up an MFA at the University of Ottawa and she occupies that space of not-quite-mid-career but also not-quite-emerging artist either. Building on a site-specific practice that has a deep, nearly sentimental connection with the landscape, her new body of work, Camouflage (Hulinhjálmsteinn), is really onto something.

    For some time she has played with printing photographic images on linen and other textiles to create installation-based works. Here she uses this unusual format to create a series of costumes. She prints images of rock surfaces, lichen, and other elements of the landscape, and then wraps her body in these graphic blankets to imitate rock formations, rolling hills, and mountainsides in a surprisingly convincing fashion.

    Sarah Fuller, Eldey Island& Moss, 2017, archival inkjet

    The landscape costumes are deployed differently throughout this exhibition. The most immediately striking example is of Fuller as a rock located in stark studio-style photographs. Here it is clear that underneath the camouflage is a human body curled up beneath the fabric and stretching it into various inorganic shapes. This performance is both amusing and poignant. A second series sees the artist in situ, hidden in the barrens of Fuller’s ancestral homeland of Iceland. The island nation’s already dramatic landscape is subtly punctuated by a landform that at first looks normal but then reveals itself to be uncanny and ultimately human.

    These insertions of Fuller’s body, so carefully covered and hidden within the landscape, could be read as playful or tricky (like an Environmental Art-inspired Where’s Waldo? exercise), but they actually made me feel very calm. Perhaps it is the current political climate, but the idea of covering one's female body in a blanket and assuming the position of an ancient and unmoving landmass feels immensely comforting.

    Christine Klassen Gallery:
    Sarah Fuller: Camouflage (Hulinhjálmsteinn) continues until March 18.

    Sarah Todd is a curator currently based in Calgary. She has previously worked at Western Front, InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, XPACE Cultural Centre, and The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. She has also produced projects with a range of organizations including Vtape, Kunstverein München, The Goethe Institute, The Pacific Cinematheque, Glenbow Museum and The Illingworth Kerr Gallery. She is Akimblog’s Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Twitter @sarahannetodd.

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    Danika Vandersteen’s How Many Versions of Thyself is the first exhibition to occupy the crisp new white wall at Lost & Found. The shop-gallery-venue that sits on the corner of Agricola and Harris has long been host to exciting artists, pop ups and performances, but it has had a bit of a facelift recently. Now, with a few small changes, the space presents an opportunity to really showcase Vandersteen’s graphic drawings.

    Danika Vandersteen, How Many Versions of Thyself ‘Til You Reach That English Country Garden, 2016, ink, watercolour, acrylic, chalk pastel on paper

    Each drawing in How Many Versions of Thyself is a repeating pattern that unfolds as a narrative told through weird hidden objects and a regular cast of characters. Shapes morph and twirl around bodies in busy rhythmic movements. Coffee drips from cups then turns into wine splashing out of glasses around legs before dancing into dollar signs. Musical instruments surround wide-eyed faces. The pictures are alive and capture the many multiple talents comprising the life of just about any woman in the art world: musician, artist, organizer, administrator – a juggling act of doppelgangers holding together a lively scene.

    The five drawings that comprise this exhibition are made in pencil and ink over a grid. Remnants of this under-structure remain in faint imprint after being erased and make the drawings feel like sheets of a musical composition, even though they are laid out just like plans for patterned textiles. In the past Vandersteen has drawn her repeating patterns onto beautifully crafted leather objects, but seeing them larger and more detailed on paper is delightful.

    Lost & Found:
    Danika Vandersteen: How Many Versions of Thyself continues until March 26.

    Anna Taylor is an artist, crafter, and organizer sitting on the board of the Halifax Crafters Society. She is Akimblog’s Halifax correspondent and can be followed on Twitter @TaylorMadeGoods.

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    Gabriel Orozco’s Yielding Stone is a perfect metaphor for the experience of travel. As his soft plasticine ball is kicked around, it picks up grit and debris while also acquiring impressions of the ground it passes over. Whenever we journey, we experience the impact of all that we experience, some is retained, some leave marks, most is lost to time. And over time, those impressions are worn down or overrun. We remember our memories rather than the events themselves. Even the most indelible recollections lose shape as the years pass until we’re left with just an outline around that emptiness we’ve left behind. Memory is always and forever an absence.

    Stanzie Tooth, Moon People, 2016, plaster, felt and pigment

    On her recent travels through Europe, Stanzie Tooth discovered a similar method for representing that impending absence. Since she was moving around a lot she had to have a convenient and portable method for creating things while on the road. She took to making plaster casts in cardboard trays and the results – a selection of which are on display at General Hardware alongside some paintings and drawings – look just like canvases hung on the wall, right down to the illusion of folded corners on the edges. The smooth surfaces, however, are interrupted by swaths of felt cut into rough shapes or subtle indents carved into the plaster. Apart from those shapes – reminiscent of shadowy figures or faint landscapes – and the colour mixed into the plaster – either blueprint blue or a rusty grey-black that evokes a more distant past – the result is decided in the moment of pouring. The artist doesn’t see her work until after it is made.

    A few look like windows onto a milky sky blue day, but the darker series is reminiscent of Jean Dubuffet and there’s a surrealist bent to the not-entirely-intentional method and its relation to mental states. As with all casts, the work itself is made within an empty space and what you see is the inverse of what the artist started with. That distance presents yet another metaphor for travel and it is also evoked in the indistinct figures in Tooth’s drawings and paintings.

    Stanzie Tooth, Moon People, 2016, ink and gouache on water paper

    If you’re like me, even your best experiences are coloured by the knowledge that they soon will be memories. The works in this exhibition reflect the condition of those recollections. They melt like dreams that lose their definition as the morning wears on. They leave you with a combination of pleasure and melancholy that comes from having seen something wonderful and then lost it or left it behind. What remains is a shadow of what was once known.

    General Hardware Contemporary:
    Stanzie Tooth: The Distance of the Moon continues until April 8.

    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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    Standing before Walter Scott’s coloured pencil and acrylic drawings at Macaulay and Co. Fine Art, I gaze at many different pairs of droopy Snoopy eyes. In some drawings, they float like a league of Cheshire cats. In others, they belong to the body of a “protagonist,” the non-gendered or species-specific star of this suite of eighteen works titled A Small Metal Crow with Wings on the Way. These eyes negotiate musical tastes and fashion sense as much as enemies of the self, be it social pressure or all that swirls beneath a thick peach turtleneck, under the brim of a feathered hat, and within a pair of skinny black pants.

    Walter Scott

    Clothing is actually a way in. Nostalgic hipster fashion iconography is deployed like a costume study, yet succeeds as a moody caricature: it conveys an aching self-awareness and willingness to parody the pop cultural aesthetic the artist and his milieu participate in. I covet the shoes in the protagonist’s wardrobe. When pointy black boots or the dramatic tread of an ankle boot is drawn in a thick acrylic and dries to the sheen of patent leather, the shoe becomes a shoe-shaped hole. I bet that hole leads somewhere I’ve been – perhaps my early twenties. The ticking of a neon sign piece titled Headbangs (for Shelley) croons as different sections light up to illustrate the path of hair that whorls to the sound of the silent Metal.

    This many drawings so formally connected by imagery can’t help but feel like an evolution of the panels that structure Scott’s much beloved Wendy Comics. Each cosmetic consideration of a figure resonates as character development, but here, the artist can be less beholden to narrative and attend to an experimental pursuit. His drawings vacillate between technical proficiency and gestural whispers of pencil crayon. Although vacillation implies indecision, this indecision feels true to the depiction of the personal tumult and performativity that these works uphold as fluid but apparent subject matter. Scott gives us someone simply referred to as the protagonist who is a hero of personal unraveling. What heroics are to be had, though? The everyday heroics of lasting the day with our wits intact? With our vulnerability tested just enough?

    Macaulay and Co. Fine Art:
    Walter Scott: A Small Metal Crow with Wings on the Way continues until April 15.

    Steffanie Ling's essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada and the United States. She is the editor of Bartleby Review, an occasional pamphlet of criticism and writing in Vancouver, and a curator at CSA Space. She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao.

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    Is it serendipity or zeitgeist that the same week I visit an exhibition on the limits of language, the New Yorker runs a piece on the death of criticism? Like cab drivers, pay phone manufacturers, and the music industry, I have become irrelevant because of the internet. In an age of charticles, clickbait, and Twitter, the written review has gone the way of the dodo bird. No one reads them, I am told, and the unimpeachable metrics of online journalism (as well as the evaporating advertising revenue that previously kept such obscure endeavours as art criticism afloat) defeat any argument to the contrary. Despite this, I keep writing them. Like an aging rocker who won’t admit his time has passed, I still think they mean something. I’d even argue they are necessary. More than any other media, contemporary art first appears in a vacuum – it is inexplicable, ineffable, unknown – and then words rush in to make sense of it, to begin the conversation that continues throughout the work’s existence, and to draw it into the history that ends just moments before the new thing’s conception.

    Chris Curreri, Red Vase Collection

    Rui Amaral was wrestling with the vacuum in his role as curator at the privately owned exhibition space Scrap Metal Gallery (perhaps art criticism will also have to rely on wealthy patrons if it is to survive its extinction in the social media market?) when he assembled the five works currently on display in a group exhibition titled We are safe and all is well in our world that makes excellent use of the volume in the venue by not filling it up. In a pamphlet that accompanies the exhibition, he begins with a reminder of “art’s potential to illuminate what’s left out by language” and explains the scene from Todd Haynes’ film Safe that gives the exhibition its title before proceeding with his own written responses to each of the four artists’ works. These narratives tell the stories behind the objects, but before I get to them I start piecing together my own impressions based on what I know and what I see.

    Paul P., Untitled, 2004, oil on canvas

    I begin by finding connections that tie the exhibition together. All the artists are gay men and their work has at one time or another dealt explicitly with the body; however, there aren’t bodies per se in this show (but, then again, there are). Instead there are holes or openings in Robert Gober’s drawing of one of his sinks and in both Chris Curreri's collection of red glass vessels and the three concrete sculptures that sit heavily on the plastic sheets that carpet the floor. And there are two flowers – one a painting by Paul P., the other a photograph by Robert Mapplethorpe– but the flowers are also stand-ins for the beauty of youth caught in the moment of full bloom. They require the water that’s missing from the sink, the water the vases contained and wait for with their mouths pointed skyward. That life-giving fluid is also blood and Curreri’s encased ceramics simulate the crimson liquid that also passes the infection so inextricably linked to Mapplethorpe’s biography and P.’s subjects.

    From there my story gets personal, which is not so relevant for criticism but is essential for appreciating art, for turning it from something inert into an electric charge that illuminates. Words are all I have to contribute to the circuit; they are my means to bring the experience of a darkened room hidden at the end of an industrial strip on the west side of Toronto into the light of day. That’s all I do. Enjoy!

    Scrap Metal Gallery:
    We are safe and all is well in our world continues until April 15.

    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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    At first glance, the Darling Foundry’s double-exhibition of works by Dineo Seshee Bopape and David Arseneau seems utterly divided in tone, technique and content. What might a South African mixed-media artist sorting through the politics of settler-colonial conflict and a Canadian painter riffing on images from the slasher film franchise Friday the 13th have to say to each other? A great deal, it turns out. Both draw our attention to the psycho-social effects of violence as it is endured on the ground and as it is consumed in screen culture.

    Dineo Seshee Bopape

    Bopape’s works reprise the visual language of land and body art associated with mostly the American rights movements of the sixties and seventies, but her energy is focused on South Africa during and after the apartheid era. Visitors circulate, keeping vigil, past casket-sized mud-bricks and small clay sculptures laid out in grids. The bricks are decorated with bundles of partly burned sage, candles, petals in warm colours, and white feathers stained with yellow wax. Ceiling fans move loose gold-leaf flakes on several uterus-shaped sculptures. The golden wombs are placed on top of the mud-bricks or nestled into their faults along with seashells and clay sculptures describing the inside of a closed fist. With these smaller works, Bopape draws us inside the raised fist of the Black Power Movement and beyond what art historian Lucy Lippard called the “vaginal iconography” of 1970s Feminist art. The struggles of artists like Hannah Wilke and Ana Mandieta are honoured in Bopape’s work and opened onto a global and post-colonial horizon.

    A towering, egg-shaped adobe brick structure looms over the exhibition. Surging up through the Foundry’s concrete floor or eroding into it, the mound is ambiguous, caught in geological or mythical time. Another small gold-leaf womb rests on a patch of sheepskin at its peak. Here and there, the object catches the light, but its precise shape is hard to make out from the ground. The work reads as a monument, or perhaps an anti-monument to South Africa’s coveted gold mines. Dust and petals scattered around its base give it a funerary feel. It is a gold mine turned inside out. If the world were to just quit on us and bury itself, this is where we might gather to mourn and say our prayers. Or perhaps it’s where we’d be summoned to try again.

    David Arseneau, SF 13 Super Map

    David Arseneau’s DIY museum for the Friday the 13th franchise in the next room is darkly playful. Post-internet in its attitude, but pre-internet in its imagery, the work carves out a space between the historical terms of painting and the Millennial’s habits of scanning, roving, filing, and classifying. Crystal Lake, the fictional setting for the films, is rendered in a large canvas titled SF 13 Super Map and in a primitive video game of Arseneau’s own design. Panoramic and topographical views are fused vertiginously in the map, and the video game leads players from choppy, low-flying bird’s eye views of the town into claustrophobic crime scenes. Our cheeriest feelings about Google Street View and VR collide in these works with a darker history of technologies, disorders, and abuses of looking. Looking, however deeply, Arseneau suggests, is reducible to a kind of consumer choice. And with that choice comes a responsibility we don’t often acknowledge. What do we choose to look at and where do the pictures we consume leave us once we look away?

    Arseneau cuts a path through F13’s gory image-repertoire, organizing it into a painter’s categories: still-lives, figures, and portraits. An inventory of props from the films hangs across the gallery’s front wall. Narratively unimportant items are recorded as hastily as decisive ones – guns, switchblades, handcuffs and severed heads. Sartre’s No Exit is painted face down in the middle of the canvas, between a ghetto blaster and a bloodstained kitchen knife. The book is a precarious philosophical anchor in this swirl of violent and banal images. Graphite portraits of the films’ minor characters are arranged in a grid on an adjacent wall. Thrown up unceremoniously with tacks, they recall mug-shots in a detective’s office and grainy missing-person pictures at highway rest stops or on milk cartons. They hover in a grey zone between guilt and innocence, between the positions of victims and perpetrators of violence. The remaining space is given to more carefully presented drawings of all twelve iconic F13 posters and a first-person shooter game called STUDIO Doom Multiplayer. Modeled on Arseneau’s own studio upstairs, the game bids us to participate in a painter’s existential struggle with images of violence. Players are invited to take aim at digital renderings of the pictures in the exhibition – to do violence to the images of violence just seen.

    The works at the Darling Foundry expose cycles of violence and remind us to “stay woke” in the face of them. Bopape attends to the forces of political and economic violence in settler-colonial situations. Arseneau probes the surface of screened violence to get at the technological conditions of its normalization. Bopape began an artist’s talk at Concordia University the night before her opening with a clip from a 1976 Nina Simone performance. In it, Simone interrupts her song Feelings with an agitated question for the audience: “What are the conditions that make it necessary to write a song like this in the first place?” Bopape and Arseneau pose the question again for our times.

    The Darling Foundry:
    Dineo Seshee Bopape: and- in. the light of this._____ continues until May 21.
    David Arseneau: Super F13 Part 1 to Part 12 Redesign Studio Doom continues until May 21.

    Tammer El-Sheikh is a writer and teacher based in Montreal. His art criticism has appeared in Parachute, Canadian Art, ETC and C Magazine.

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    Is there a correlation between what goes on in an MFA program and the amount of writing that appears in an artists’ work? Does it have something to do with what goes on in school or do the type of artists who gravitate to writing end up applying to – and getting accepted by – Master’s programs? The evidence at the University of Toronto 's exhibition of their Master of Visual Studies cohort implies that something is going on. Two of the four featured artists include book length texts in their installations. A third includes a binder of documentation and text tags all over her sculptures. And the remaining artist holds back on the supplementary texts but includes a text work amongst her computer-generated faces and figure. Words have always and will always orbit the experience of art. No argument here. Text also has a place in visual art. Fine. But what is one to make of the wordiness in this exhibition? Also on view at U of T’s Art Museum is an exhibition of undergrad work that runs the gamut from Seo Eun Kim’s untitled abstract paintings to Denyca Decaen’s quietly devastating messages hidden in wooden drawers that implicate the (male) viewer in the instant of reception. But there’s nothing as rhetorical as what’s going on with the grad students. What to make of all their words?

    Evan Tyler

    Evan Tyler's installation is engulfed in a swirl of verbosity, both on the page and through speakers. He's set himself up as a familiar character whose spiel consists of a vaguely convincing, largely comedic pitch for the kind of self-help program that used to populate late night television before the advent of the internet. Tyler plays up the nostalgia with cassette sermons and a VHS-taped performance (on a giant CRT monitor, no less) to make his advice available on a variety of platforms. Also included is a book of stories that extend his multi-referential cultural frenzy for turning the past into a palette for play.

    Sandra Brewster's relationship to the past, on the other hand, is sincere and personal. Her book details the story of her family's move from Guyana to Toronto and is full of the kind of anecdotes that make for compelling memoirs (she should shop it to a publisher). She describes her parents' mysterious basement parties where the children were relegated to the main floor while the adults congregated around her father’s rec room mini-bar. The visual accompaniment falls on the other end of the communicative spectrum by relying on faded photographs blown up to poster size and hung from floor to ceiling. Whereas the stories are about people, these are about landscapes with the exception of one plastered in strips directly on the gallery wall that has female figures from a long lost past posing for the camera. The disparity between the precision of the writing and the ambiguity of the images effectively describes the limits of memory.

    Léa Grantham

    Sona Safaei-Sooreh presents the trickiest installation in which to disentangle words from objects, but I think that’s the point. Her geometric pipe sculptures are created within a global-political context revealed through plastic tags that identify the provenance of the component parts while a binder contains all the documentation of purchase and shipping that allowed her to put these things together in the first place. The simplest summary of the rules that govern this project is that the joints have to come from Iran, the tubes from the country of exhibition, and the straps and flanges from the US, but the subsidiary rules regarding transport turn the whole thing into a metaphor for the web of alliances and conflict that tell the true story of how the world works. The art in this case is the artist’s navigation log with the gallery housing the evidence of her work.

    Finally there’s Léa Grantham’s series of faces expressing a range of emotions and her featureless toy figure encased in a mirrored display box. The silence that engulfs this display is dramatic, particularly in this context of this exhibition, and it highlights her interest in the loss of individuality and emptying out of self. A text piece derived from Asperger’s tests and a loneliness scale flickers subtlely in the darkness, otherwise not a word is heard.

    Whether serendipitous or intentional, the thread of text that runs through this show is inescapable. While it is essential for all these artists’ works, it is also worrying in that it risks dominating the visual elements on display. It’s already too easy to walk through a gallery and spend more time looking at labels than regarding the art, and as a writer I’m loath to discourage reading, but there’s something to be said for keeping quiet.

    The Art Museum at U of T:
    2017 University of Toronto MVS Studio Program Graduating Exhibition continues until April 15

    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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    Christopher Campbell Gardiner is a magician. He transforms anxiety into serene objects through his meticulous artistic labour. His retrospective exhibition at the Dunlop Art Gallery's satellite venue, the Sherwood Gallery, is at once ascetic and opulent. Drawing on minimalism and conceptual materialism, Riddance contains a spare five pieces that occupy the middle space between painting, sculpture, and reliquary.

    Christopher Gardiner Campbell, Cancer-Ivan August Sellers, 2004-2008, wood, lead elements, beeswax, brass screws, industrial felt, grommets, brocade cotton fabric, thread, gesso, gold latex paint and shellac

    The title placards, whose listings read like an incantation or poetry, hint that these are not merely experiments in texture and pigment. The materials – "anxiety-based (undeclarable) contents"– and processes detailed on these labels offers a glimpse into what drives the artist to labour over his creations. A troubling object is placed in a hand-made box fashioned from reclaimed, "contextually significant" wood, then shrouded in a canvas slip cover, stitched closed, and finally sealed with a skin of paint and varnish. The impenetrability of these objects is underscored by the inclusion of felt baffles or lead linings.

    On one red canvas construction among the gold ones, a damask pattern is discernible under the paint, suggesting a previous life, perhaps as a chair in his grandparents’ home. The label tells the story of the painting’s making and glosses over the real story: "5 layers of gesso, 10 layers of gold latex paint, 5 layers of black latex paint, 5 final coats of red latex paint / concealed painting made for my Grandfather who died before getting to see it / Final coats reinitiated in late 2010 when my Grandmother passed away." The repetition of each brush stroke building a thick gloss of paint or each stitch in a smooth run of embroidery is like a prayer counted off on a rosary.

    Over the course of the exhibition, the artist will be onsite to complete Riddance – Part I, which will encase handwritten letters submitted by the public. One can imagine him carefully mending the Fontana-like gash in the canvas through which the letters are inserted, row upon row of stitches forming a sturdy seal, raised like a scar from the surface of the canvas. This is the art of a healer.

    Dunlop Art Gallery:
    Christopher Campbell Gardiner: Riddance continues until June 7.

    Sandee Moore is a nationally exhibited artist, arts administrator, and occasional art writer. She can be followed on Twitter @SandeeMoore.

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    There are some works of art that trigger – much to the consternation, I imagine, of the creator – only a sliver of the possible interpretations. The artist’s intention could encompass history, philosophy, and physics, but all you see is a something that reminds you of your grandparents or a metaphor for neoliberalism or a picture of a galaxy exploding. And then that's all you see because it's sufficient, because it means something to you. Responding to art in this highly personal way does a disservice to the work because it locks the reading down to a singular perception, but it’s also a tribute to the degree to which art can pierce through the noise of all that surrounds us and mark a moment of unambiguous connection. Great literature, according to David Foster Wallace, makes you feel unalone. He was talking intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, but any art has the potential to take you out of yourself, however momentarily, when you recognize something you’ve known or felt or sensed hanging there on the wall in front of you.

    Gunilla Josephson, Mommy’s Crystal Tears, 2011, HD video

    Gunilla Josephson’s mini-survey exhibition at Prefix ICA, titled Houses and Whispers and curated by Stuart Reid, contains a couple such moments for me and it is difficult to think of it otherwise – in part because the impressions are so strong, but also because I want to savour those impressions and not dilute them with an impersonal (that is, professional) account of what the exhibition has to offer. The Big Goodbye is a wall-sized video projection shot from a hot air balloon as it travels over Stockholm. Nestled within the half-hour ride are a couple brief angel sightings and a few gentle explosions. It might be the artist’s hometown and the voiceover hints at some kind of reverie, but all I see is the characteristic urban planning of Northern Europe and I’m transported back to the summers I spent with family in Germany when I was a kid. Perhaps it’s the bike paths or the low-rise apartments. Either way, it’s enough to send me down memory lane. Which, serendipitously, is not too far from what the artist wanted to evoke.

    There’s more to remember in the expression and skin tone of the crystal-eyed matriarch in Mommy’s Crystal Tears. Something about her cheekbones resembles my own mother and so the die is cast. Once again I’m bound to one vision and it is memory combined with intimacy that compels me. I usually divorce myself from such exclusive readings, but for this show I’ll indulge myself if only to prove a point. I pass over the other works with a cursory glance and return to these two for further reminiscence and reflection.

    Gabriela Jolowicz, Houseboat, 2016, woodcut

    After leaving Prefix behind, I wander over to Open Studio only to be reminded again of those summers in Europe. Gabriela Jolowicz’s masterful woodcuts are comprised of dense imagery sourced from the consumer culture and city life of her home in Berlin. Maybe other places around the world are like this and I am missing the universality of it, but Germany is the only country I’ve visited without being a tourist and that’s all I can think of here. Stuffed in amongst her busy black and white lines are cellphones and cigarette packages, buildings and people, Deutschmarks and newspapers. There’s so much to be found that my memories are pushed out and I get lost in tracing all the details woven into the whole. Dimensions are distorted, scenes overlap, and layers impinge upon each other. Whereas Josephson isolated moments of clarity, Jolowicz’s introduces an all-over barrage of stimulation. Both evoke something familiar and bring up parts of my past that were long forgotten. Once I’ve refreshed my memory, I’ll have to go back and see what I see with clean eyes.

    Prefix ICA:
    Gunilla Josephson: Houses and Whispers continues until April 22.

    Open Studio:
    Gabriela Jolowicz: Church Playground continues April 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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    Tom Richardson’s exhibition Rehearsal for a Synthetic Theatre, currently on display at Field Contemporary, is built on a composite of historical, biographical, cinematic, and musical sources that revolve around the life of T.E. Lawrence, a military liaison during Britain’s Sinai and Palestine Campaign who was also known as Lawrence of Arabia.

    Tom Richardson, Curtain Call from the Ruin of High Hope, 2017, video still

    In Richardson’s film for the exhibition, empty uniforms signify the characters: desert attire for Lawrence, military regalia for General Allenby, and a tailored three-piece suit for Mr. Dryden. Their dialogue is edited from Robert Bolt’s screenplay for David Lean’s 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia and is performed by voice actor Mark Oliver. The scenes with all three at British headquarters in Cairo are interrupted by brief interludes showing Lawrence lounging under a palm tree and chilling on a dune, as well as a shot of a ringing phone (which refers to a passage in Lawrence’s book Seven Pillars of Wisdom).

    Richardson portrays Lawrence’s moral arc from a loyal agent of the British Empire to a man disillusioned with his post when he learns about the Sykes-Picot Agreement – “Not a treaty, but an agreement” wherein Arabia would be “emancipated” from the Ottoman Empire and then subsequently shared between their “liberators” the British and French. In reality, Lawrence was aware of this backroom deal the whole time, so this fictionalized element has served to generate moral tension between the man and his duty.

    These uniforms-without-bodies depersonalize the perpetrators of this particular episode of imperialist greed and suggest that their roles are not unique to this particular military “experiment.” Several more men have since worn the same uniforms. As comedian John Oliver put it on late night television, “Every global flash point can be traced back to a mustachioed British man drawing a straight line on a map and saying, ‘There we go, learn to live with it.’”

    So, what is synthetic theatre? We know that military arenas are often referred to, with rhetorical flourish, as “theatres,” and we also know that theatre is inherently a fabrication or spectacle. However, in this work, there is no breaking of the fourth wall, unless a fracture can be found in some of Richardson’s extremely embedded references to actual events. On the contrary, the film takes bureaucratic violence, re-enacts and dramatizes it again, adding to this layer cake of historical material. Rather than rearticulating what we already know, the work goes deeper into the construction. See how the threshold between actual political violence and the simulated, representational violence, often classified as “drama” or “entertainment,” thins before our eyes?

    Field Contemporary:
    Tom Richardson: Rehearsal for a Synthetic Theatre continues until May 13.

    Steffanie Ling's essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada and the United States. She is the editor of Bartleby Review, an occasional pamphlet of criticism and writing in Vancouver, and a curator at CSA Space. She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao.

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