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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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    Staying out of the sun seems to be the main operation in Julian Hou and Sylvain Sailly’s exhibition Mucking around at the beginning and the end at Spare Room. It opened in the midst of a heat wave and extends into our overcast autumn. Hou’s single channel video Stupid Sun and Sailly’s animation and comic Shelter both identify the sun as an antagonist or, at the very least, an irritant.

    Julian Hou

    Sailly’s animation is set in a Google Sketch-Up no-man’s land. Tools and body parts – symbols from this ubiquitous software – hover over a rudimentary shelter. It has perfect Swiss cheese holes drawn in its roof. They are slowly removed by tools that suddenly have sentient appeal as they "repair" the holes by deleting the lines that illustrate them. Against a flat taupe ground, this animation calls to mind a desert dreamscape that carries forward from Walt Disney’s John Hench and Salvador Dali collaboration Destino. However, if this is a dreamscape where hand, eye, pencil, and eraser are assigned roles like conservationist, architect, or user-as-divine-intervention, Sailly’s Shelter presents a digital workspace as the arena for a daydream interrupting design work.

    In another motif that illustrates an attempt to stay out of the sun, Hou includes a mannequin borrowed from the legendary, but now closed, vintage boutique Burcu’s Angels. The materials list for this work tells me that its name is Hank. His striped costume refers to the colours of Spare Room’s office and gallery floor (periwinkle and aqua-rapids). The use of mannequins in contemporary art (see Isa Genzken, K8 Hardy, or, if you consider humans to be mannequins, Vanessa Beecroft) is a tried and true idiom in the critique (or embrace, not really sure which it is anymore) of consumption and commodity culture that re-enters the fashion industry anyway. Hank is a citation wearing a citation. Bordering on a relic, sitting in what seems like a half-assed cage covered in unravelled tape, his technocratic circus bonnet seems very far from any attempt to coyly subvert. Hank is rather resigned and prepared to be forgotten; yet he still tries to remember everything beneath a metaphorical hot sun.

    Spare Room:
    Julian Hou & Sylvain Sailly: Mucking around at the beginning and the end continues until October 20.
    The venue is not accessible.

    Steffanie Ling's essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada, the United States, and Europe. She is an editor of Charcuterie and co-curator at VIVO Media Arts Centre. Her books are Nascar (Blank Cheque, 2016) and Cuts of Thin Meat (Spare Room, 2015). She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao.

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    Wavelengths has always provided the best bet for contemporary art heads looking for a fix at the Toronto International Film Festival. Now that the Lightbox has shut down their gallery and the festival’s installation program is kaput, the screening program named after Michael Snow’s classic single shot cinematic statement is where names familiar to us from the art circuit as well as moving pictures celebrated in exhibitions and biennials are apt to be found.

    Sarah Cwynar, Rose Gold, 2017, video

    Increasingly high profile artist Sarah Cwynar converts her heady meta-photography into heady meta-video that puts her studio-bound practice into motion and adds a voiceover that blends assorted philosophical thoughts in an onrush of images and words that overwhelm and then cohere in what must be a reflection on our post-internet visual culture despite so much of what she uses being sourced from a pre-personal-computer 20th Century. If you like her stills, then you’ll like her movies.

    As an antidote to such a speedy onslaught, you can’t go wrong with Kevin Jerome Everson’s unflinching gaze. Tightly framed on a pair of hands consolidating alcohol by refilling bottles, his short explains nothing as it abandons us in the moment with only a few clues to guide us: the title (Brown and Clear), the faintly heard older male voice that probably belongs to those hands, and the scattered details that occasionally come into focus. This video is worth watching if only as a flag post on the far end of a spectrum that stretches in the opposite direction toward whatever mega-budget action epic opens this weekend.

    Xu Bing, Dragonfly Eyes, 2017, video

    The equivalent of a blockbuster in the world of Wavelengths might be a feature like Xu Bing’s Dragonfly Eyes. There’s plenty of action and drama in this thriller, but all the cinematography is supplied by surveillance camera footage that Bing has edited together in a feat of labour that boggles the mind. It’s of a piece with collage films constructed from Hollywood scraps, but shifts the status of what you see as you keep remembering that these are real people suffering horrific car crashes or getting beaten up in parking lots in the middle of the night. It is, in a sense, the most authentic movie in the festival because it captures actors oblivious to the presence of cameras while at the same time maximizing the viewer’s (and the world’s) voyeuristic impulses. The most primitive appeal of watching is felt as we hunger for something – anything – to happen. Bing gives it to us in spades.

    The tastes of programmer Andrea Picard are so catholic that it’s impossible to identify any overarching themes other than her continued adherence to pushing the envelope in how meaning can be generated through visual means. As a necessary counterbalance to the relatively straightforward narratives of everything else at the festival, Wavelengths continues to demonstrate the full range of what’s possible in the medium.

    Toronto International Film Festival:
    The 2017 Festival continues until September 17.
    Information about venue accessibility can be found here.

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

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    The photograph as memory is the point of departure for At Pelican Falls. Now on display at Platform Centre for Photographic and Digital Arts, this exhibition is attributed to Rebecca Belmore, but is, in essence, a collaboration with the artist’s sister Florene Belmore, as well as John Macfie, Latrell Whiskeyjack, and Scott Benesiinaabandan. A trio of propped up photographs followed by a vinyl wall text welcomes visitors. However, before those subtler pieces are noticed, a widescreen projection taking up a significant chunk of the gallery wall and illuminating the otherwise low-lit space is encountered. The daylight bouncing off the waving water in the video draws our attention. We see a figure with the build of a child or a young adult centered within the frame. Their back is to us. They appear tranquil like the water. The figure’s head is postured as though they are looking meditatively into the distance. At certain points, they dip in and out of the water, scooping it towards their body as though to bathe or cleanse.

    Rebecca Belmore

    Across from the projection is an excerpt from Belmore’s sister’s response to the exhibition. This text piece gives access to a wider narrative that the tightly framed video fails to convey. Near the text is the aforementioned trio of photographs. Photographer John Macfie took them in 1955 at the Pelican Falls residential school. Belmore, her sister, and Benesinaabandan visited the site of the former school in Sioux Lookout where their collective family histories are linked. The exhibition arose from ruminations on this place, the photographs, and the histories surrounding it.

    The images feature seven boys all in identical denim overalls like that of inmates. They attentively watch an older man, likely a school instructor, as he fishes. In some ways, the figure in the video echoes the boys in the photographs. However, unlike them, he has unshaved hair and appears rather unrestrained and liberated from the denim uniform. The wearing of uniforms and the shaving of hair are some of the countless ways Indigenous identity was assaulted and erased in residential schools.

    Rebecca Belmore

    As poetic and graceful as a lot of Belmore’s work appears, she also challenges us to locate the realities behind the pleasant foreground. The objects in this exhibition are accurate instances of this. The video imagines an alternative history where these boys were just being carefree boys with a future unburdened by the past. The fourth sculptural object installed separately in the second gallery reverberates with this idea. It mimics the size of the figures in the photographs and is entirely made from denim. It starts with the bust of an overall or the uniform and cascades into fabric covering the entire gallery floor and flows like the waves from the video – flowing freely rather than restraining the body. Florene Belmore’s response furthers this alternate imagining. Line by line, she catalogues the tiniest fleeting details of a summer day in the life of two brothers as they have breakfast, drink sugary beverages, and play in a nearby lake. Again, this suggests an alternative to what the figures in the photographs possibly endured under the control of the residential school.

    Offering “what if” possibilities of the past allows us to move our thinking towards a different desirable future – a future where there’s a restoration of agency in contrast to past atrocities and intergenerational trauma. Belmore has consistently pointed to the fraught legacies of Aboriginal and white relations, and the consequences that still play out. Here, thinking about a “what if” is not to overlook; rather the artist and her collaborators present us with a thoughtful working-through, a quiet reflection, and images of remembrance for subjects whose stories are often untold and remain at the fringes.

    Platform Centre for Photographic and Digital Arts:
    Rebecca Belmore: At Pelican Falls continues until October 21.

    Luther Konadu makes things such as photographs, paintings, and prints which he occasionally calls art. He self-describes as a transcriber. He contributes content to a publication called Public Parking. Most days his favourite colour is green and one of his goals in life is to never be an art brat. He is Akimblog’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed on Instagram @public_parking.

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  • 09/20/17--07:49: Dana Buzzee at The Lily
  • We’ve descended into a 1970s leather session: grainy black and white posters curling at the edges, leather strap-ons, chokers, O-rings entangled. Leashes hang from black screws. Harnesses hold pointy and twisted black tree branches erect. Sessions – BDSM and Ouija – are conducted with a certain ritual and specific vocabulary: safe words, commands, spells to access this shared trust-state. Dana Buzzee writes with this vocabulary a chucklingly occult spell. Adopting the Canadian landscape into lesbian art history, FEMME TOP OF YOUR DREAMS, now on display at The Lily, introduces the artist’s new series of sculptures as a sort of consensual craft.

    Dana Buzzee

    Erotic fetish illustrations (gleaming wet leather, chains) hang off the gallery wall. They are rough black-and-white prints taken from Coming to Power: Writing and Graphics on Lesbian S/M, a 1983 anthology published by the San Francisco-based lesbian-feminist BDSM organization Samois. Photographs of ponds reflecting treed landscapes and starry skies hang nearby; one is paperweighted by a Sculpey clay (the cheap man’s marble) planchette on a plinth by our feet. Two landscapes appear simultaneously in the images – that of the pond itself and the reflected landscape in it – a shared state of consciousness between two unique scenes: dry and wet, above and below, top and bottom.

    Branch appendages, extended in places with horn-like accoutrements, sit in Buzzee’s meticulously and beautifully handcrafted harnesses. The branch (and by extension the landscape) is presented as an unlikely penetrator – jagged, brittle, spray-painted scraps of a fallen tree. Implicating Calgary’s geographic and cultural present as FEMME TOP, the exhibition initiates a session, a ritual exchange, with nature. The female-ness of our landscape is empowered; maybe Mother Nature is a dyke.

    Dana Buzzee: FEMME TOP OF YOUR DREAMS continues until October 31.
    The Lily:
    The gallery is partially accessible.

    Lindsay Sorell is an artist and writer who recently collaborated with the Advanced Toastmasters of Calgary for the IKG Live 1 performance festival and completed two solo exhibitions of new work: Exercises in Healing at Contemporary Calgary and Buddha, Why Am I Alone? at AVALANCHE! Institute of Contemporary Art. She is currently working on a large-scale watercolour painting of food and is the editor of Luma Quarterly. She is Akimblog's Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Instagram.

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    The exhibition of Annie Pootoogook’s drawings now on display at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection is both a celebration and an elegy. It’s a confirmation of her place in Canadian art history as it puts her not only amongst a group of Inuit artists who have garnered greater attention in the wake of her recognition, but singles her out to stand amongst the likes of the Group of Seven in this bastion of national narratives told on canvas and paper. With this exhibition, she has made it.

    Annie Pootoogook, Family Gathering Whale Meat

    Sure, some might point out that she made it with her solo exhibition at The Power Plant over a decade ago, or with her inclusion in the international art Olympiad that is Documenta, or with her winning the Sobey Art Award that same year. But that’s just the contemporary art scene and our world is tiny. The McMichael is a family-friendly, school-bus ready, tourist-trapping institution that curates populist fare like a collection of art-inspired guitars alongside more idiosyncratic attempts to deal with the art of the problematic latter half of the 20th Century. One example of this might be the current pairing of G7 hero Tom Thomson and feminist conceptualist Joyce Weiland. A less ungainly attempt is the proximate intimacy of Zachari Logan’s close-up landscapes, which are also on view. Pootoogook fits right in with her immediately legible scenes of everyday northern life rendered in pencil crayon and presented in a straightforwardly illustrative fashion like panels in a children’s book. The twist that she introduces is to depict her world in an uncensored and brutally honest light that speaks to the adults in the room. There is sex and violence, but more importantly there are no illusions or fairy tales. There are mundane activities like watching daytime television and social realities like panhandling. These last images hit hard because the artist spent her final years on the streets, fighting addiction, giving up a child, and ultimately dying there.

    Annie Pootoogook, Breaking Bottles

    Pootoogook’s death and the trajectory from her sudden success in the contemporary art world to that untimely end can’t be separated from the reception of her work. It’s no secret that some of the more harrowing scenes are autobiographical. It is also telling that only a few drawings after 2006 are included. Like all art that incorporates personal experience, it’s impossible to distinguish the artist from her art. This means our response has an ethical dimension as well as an aesthetic one. We aren’t just looking at pictures; we’re witnessing another person’s life. The unease that this elicits reminds me of the critical response to an artist like Richard Billingham’s early work. His photographs of his family’s abject poverty are both grotesque and beautiful. I find a similar contradiction in Edward Burtynsky’s hyper-aestheticized images of environmental devastation. The celebration and consumption of this work within the art world – the most elite, moneyed, and bourgeois of all cultural communities – further troubles the story of Pootoogook’s life and legacy. She did what all good artists do: she changed the way we see the world. She revealed truths about people in the North that many in the South would prefer to ignore. She knocked down more of the wall that keeps Indigenous artists from being curated as contemporary artists and helped enlarge our understanding of what it is to be contemporary. And she did this through art that speaks to historical crimes and social neglect that perpetuate to this day. To see this exhibition and celebrate this artist without at the same time feeling hopeless and responsible is beyond me. It is necessary viewing, but the glorification of the art goes hand-in-hand with the complicity of its reception.

    Annie Pootoogook: Cutting Ice continues until February 11.
    McMichael Canadian Art Collection:
    The gallery is accessible.

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

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    In his 1846 review of Delacroix’s works Charles Baudelaire gushed: “My heart is full of serene joy… I am selecting my newest pens… so happy do I feel to be addressing my dearest and most sympathetic subject.” Gallons of ink were spilled in this 19th Century art-world “bromance” in love letters favouring the colourist Delacroix over “draughtsmen” like Ingres. For the critic, while “pure draughtsmen are philosophers… colourists are epic poets.” Drawing was a mere tool in the service of a truly imaginative art of colour and powerful feeling. The 28 artists in Time, Lines: Drawings from Concordia (1948 – 2017), currently on display at Foundation Guido Molinari, suggest an equally expanded scope for recent adventures in drawing. Co-curators Francois Morelli and Eric Simon cast drawing as a stand-alone discipline. For Morelli, the works on view are organized into three categories: the mimetic, the non-objective, and the inter-medial. For Simon, they testify to the durational and unpredictable aspect of the discipline. The exhibition also shows how nimble drawing has been in its responses to art-historical and pop-cultural movements, and in its shuttling between personal experiences of time and political experiences of space.

    Trevor Gould

    Upstairs, mimetic or representational works contrast sharply with non-objective or conceptual ones by Francoise Sullivan, Yves Gaucher, and Betty Goodwin. Beseeching, politicized bodies force their way onto the page in works by Marion Wagschal, Marigold Santos, Sophie Jodoin, and Trevor Gould. Wagschal’s Self-Portrait as Martha Raye casts a weary gaze through pools-for-eyes at naked, hooded, or tarred and feathered figures by Santos on an adjacent wall. Jodoin’s stunning picture is of a woman with achondroplasia who leans forward, as though out of a Diane Arbus photograph, to claim a bit of the viewer’s space and more dignity than the circus provides. Beside her, Gould’s watercolours reflect on the politics of race, gender and human-animal relations in post-apartheid South Africa. He calls the works allegories, part of a series in which “death, the devil and the fate of the world are explored” in fine, shaky and bleeding lines. In his Hidden Truth, a devil in slacks and a business shirt, and a slouching man wearing a Balaklava rest their hands Ouija-style on a globe showing the African continent.

    Downstairs Peter Krausz, and Matt Shane and Jim Holyoak create conflict-ridden spaces in sweeping landscapes, casting the viewer in an ambiguous position. Karausz’s 987 Sierra de Ronda shows muscular, craggy peaks and thick brush in an immovable scene. Shane and Holyoak’s collaborative drawing The Beasts of Lake Moeris is inviting by comparison, but not without its hazards. Between diminutive and faintly rendered beasts in the foreground, which pose no barrier to viewing, and darker clusters of buildings and pointy little volcanoes spewing ash clouds in the background, we linger in the middle distance with swirling lines of forest fires and twisted trees.

    Patrick McEown

    Patrick McEown’s Disenchanted shows a skinny longhair with an electro-conductive finger firing up a light sign that reads “DISENCHANTED” across a brooding and cracked sky. What the artist calls a “generic Teutonic anti-hero, updated for the 21st Century… half Sturm und Drang, half tongue-in-cheek… a little Black Metal and a little Dan Clowes” is in a familiar bind, either willing himself out onto a barren cultural and natural landscape or ejected from it. By way of these and other referential detours, McEown returns us in this work to the moment of Romanticism that so excited Baudelaire, but with the excitement severely curtailed. He casts a suspicious eye on unquestioned values placed by Romantics like Delacroix in France and Goethe and Schiller in Germany on the life of the emotions, on interiority as a source of spiritual and intellectual strength, and on individualism. McEown reminds us that the 1800s brought us the sublime in painting, poetry and philosophy, as well as the plunder of colonial wars and the concomitant rise of global capitalism.

    McEown’s strong note of disenchantment is echoed in the installation of Sarah Pupo’s inter-medial work. Her re-enchanting drawings and videos are set up in an old bank-vault with polished steel bars. What Was a Wild Night, a stop-animation music video made for the singer Nina Nielson opens and closes with spinning mandala-forms and paper-cut Mashrabiya patterns. Between these animated curtains a procession of creatures – from killer whales and magpies to black birds without chests or heads, and curly-fingered human arms cut off at the elbow – moves to Nielson’s lyrics, telling a cosmic tale in picture-fragments about the union and alienation, and the falling away and weightless rising of people and things. In a Rocking Chair, a music video made for the band tUnE-yArDs we hear rainsticks, primitive percussion, and ecstatic harmonizing as beings from Pupo’s world flit, hover, and spin through the frames. For a few seconds an Ouroboros winds like a plastic snake-toy through a grid of cut-out faces. Flashing red tongues in masks recall the crazed expressions of the Maori Haka. A face cries in reverse, black tears streaming up into the eyes instead of falling from them. Or, in another variation on the theme of tears, a Maritime scene, complete with flooding and a canoe in the shape of conjoined thumbs unfolds inside the eye of a Cyclops.

    Like Pupo’s stop-animations, much of the work on view conveys the choppy and discontinuous but unbound power of the drawn imagination. Perhaps nowhere more than in Pupo’s projections for the vault is drawing deployed in spaces that both house and threaten it. It provides access to the fractured space of post-apartheid South Africa in Gould’s works, to the troubled natural spaces of Krausz, Shane, and Holyoak’s landscapes, and to the dystopian space of a waning Romanticism in McEown’s picture. Simon approaches Baudelaire’s rapturous tone in a description of the temporality of these drawings, and of falling into them: “It is my hope that the exhibition will awaken… the desire to slow down, to linger and to let yourself be led by the nose with amazement as the unforeseeable unfurls around you.”

    Time, Lines: Drawings from Concordia (1948 – 2017) continues until December 17.
    Fondation Guido Molinari:
    The gallery is partially accessible.

    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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    Toronto is a city doomed to suffocate due to its own lack of imagination. As more people arrive and more buildings get built, one would hope creative ways to absorb the increased density would be entertained. Sadly, the same old glass towers and the same old denial of the need to invest in infrastructure (most drastically transit solutions that should have been enacted yesterday) rule the day. If this inevitability is getting you down (as it does Christopher Hume), then the forward (and lateral) thinking proposals of the Art Museum's Making Models exhibition will come as a breath of fresh air.

    studio junction, Intimare

    The result of an open call for experimental architecture collectives to create something for a grassy quad adjacent to the gallery, these nine displays all deal – with an eye that is more often ambitious than it is realistic – to the question of activating outdoor public space. Truth be told, this is an area that Torontonians have independently managed to change in creative ways (see Dufferin Grove Park, among others), but the spirit is there. So is the inclusion of many folks recognizable for their contributions to the local art scene. Mitchell Akiyama is a well-known musician who (along with Brady Peters) imagines human-scale parabolas to bounce sound long distances across the grass. Artists Nestor Kruger and Yam Lau come up with the most abstract of proposals with their linear sod cuts and displacements. Janis Demkiw, Emily Hogg, and Olia Mishchenko (aka Terrarea) add a needed imaginative whimsy to the proceedings with their dreamlike rearrangement of boulders, paths, and landscaping.

    The circular sitting room designed by Peter Tan and Christine Ho Ping Kong’s straight-up architecture and design practice studio junction struck me as one of the more feasible (and retro) of the models, and therefore likely to win the opportunity to be realized in full scale and on location. Instead, the jury picked architecture studio Uufie’s benign suggestion to sprinkle convex mirrors of various sizes in a rough circle around the chosen zone. The result is decorative and elicits a “meh” rather than the “wow” or “WTF?” that something challenging demands.


    Amongst the experimentalists, Public Studio provides the most radical response in the form of a nightmarish maquette of quad-as-riot-site. If only it had been realized and they somehow managed to bathe the surrounding buildings permanently black and suffuse the grounds with charcoal dust. How else do you create the sensation of a public space ripe for uprising? Theatre aside, Elle Flanders and Tamira Sawatzky (along with additional collaborator Kyle O’Brien) make a lacerating model accompanied by archival footage of student demonstrations to highlight the historical precedents for these exact spaces, while also insinuating that the youth of today (and perhaps the citizens of this city as an amalgamated whole) are missing out on their political imperative to fuck shit up. The irony is that there’s no model for that.

    Making Models continues until November 25.
    The Art Museum:
    The gallery is accessible.

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

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    The perceptual play of Regina artist Zane Wilcox’s one-man show at the Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery is immediate. I catch myself miscounting the elements that make up the installation. I catch myself dismissing the twinned sculptures lined up on the other side of the room as immaterial mirror reflections. These three, as in a magician’s trick, have been sawed in half and made whole through a mirror prosthesis.

    Zane Wilcox, Perceptual Playground, 2015, reduction fired stoneware, plywood, varnish, mirrors, steel, paint (photo: Gabriela García-Luna)

    Wilcox’s materials evoke the school gymnasium and the physics lab. They are more robustly institutional than playful. Slabs of laminated plywood remind me of the bleachers in my junior high school gym. The varnished ramps of two of the sculptures could be borrowed from a marble-drop experiment demonstrating the forces of gravity and friction. Sandwiched between birch sheets balanced on their long edges is a ramp that rises from each end toward a cinder block balanced between the two walls. A more static utility is suggested by a form that appears to be two wooden pedestals each supporting a concrete block of the same dimension joined at the bottom to form a rough U.

    Although his sculptures are straightforwardly minimal on first glance, Wilcox makes his dedication to materiality clear: “Certainly, I’m taking some of the vocabulary of the Minimalists, but I’m after a much richer, less perfect, materiality – something that’s a little more grounded in the reality of our world.”

    He mimics the Minimalist taste for industrial products through carefully crafted surfaces. However, examination of the gritty grey blocks reveals the rich texture of fired ceramics masked by a flat coat of grey and a connection to craft and the famed Regina Clay movement. Distinctly lacking the funkiness of that 1970s ceramics moment, Wilcox’s forms are a contrarian homage – which adds yet another perceptual trick to the proceedings.

    Zane Wilcox: Perceptual Playground continues until December 31.
    Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery:
    The gallery is accessible.

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

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    I was among friends and about to launch into a diatribe against a film, when I quickly corrected myself: “I can’t even call it a film. It’s a movie.” Couldn’t it just be a bad film? No, I was adamant that it was a movie. At this point, the conversation shifted into whether there is an official distinction between what qualifies as a movie or a film, which then evolved into the question of whether there is a difference between going to the movies and attending the cinema. We reached a consensus that we don’t “attend” a “3D film” at the cinema; instead, we “go see” a “3D movie.”

    Blake Williams, Prototype, 2017

    Described in the Vancouver International Film Festival’s program as “an ambitious experimental 3D sci-fi film,” Blake Williams' Prototype depicts a reimagined aftermath of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane. The futuristic retelling of a natural disaster that occurred at the beginning of the 20th Century presents us with a highly truncated history of technological evolution. In this sense, portraying these circumstances in 3D is apt.

    Photographs of domestic objects and spaces (presumably destroyed in the storm) given stereoscopic depth produce a visual impression akin to the mystification of really looking at a Vermeer for the first time. However, rather than looking at a surface, we are physically subscribed to the space of the cinema as well as the interface of the glasses and the technology that supplies the experience. The more visually cryptic parts of the film are also quite physically demanding of the audience’s vision. Following a succession of said cryptic visuals, a rock formation on the seaside appears with immense clarity on the screen. It was then that I realized I did not have a permanent smudge on my glasses that obstructed my perception, but that Williams was pointedly obscuring my view.

    3D movies are generally associated with entertainment more so than experimental filmmaking. Williams salvages the format for the purposes of attending to the space of the cinema and embodied viewing. Prototype indicates a critical demonstration in how 3D filmmaking can transcend its mantle as merely visual surplus in Hollywood blockbusters.

    The festival continues until October 13.
    2017 Vancouver International Film Festival:
    Contact venues to confirm accessibility.

    Steffanie Ling's essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada, the United States, and Europe. She is an editor of Charcuterie and co-curator at VIVO Media Arts Centre. Her books are Nascar (Blank Cheque, 2016) and Cuts of Thin Meat (Spare Room, 2015). She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao.

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    The four artists who collaborated on the current exhibition at Katzman Contemporary could easily be considered a Canadian contemporary art supergroup. Marla Hlady, Christof Migone, Chloë Lum and Yannick Desranleau all have extensive exhibition CVs (as well as, not coincidentally, art practices that extend into the realm of sound). They have come together as the second iteration of Marianne Katzman’s in-house August artist residency (VSVSVS occupied the gallery last year). Like the concept of a supergroup (i.e., a bunch of old rockers who have gathered to try – but usually fail – to create something greater than the sum of their parts), there’s something nostalgic about this year’s result. Standing Under Mis harkens back to a past that isn’t simply historical, but also personal. The former rearward gaze results in a tendency towards art that looks retro, whereas the latter has more to do with how one might have first thought about art and its making at an earlier, more innocent time.

    Marla Hlady, Christof Migone, Chloë Lum, Yannick Desranleau, Standing Under Mis, 2017, installation view

    I’ve noted this before, but it feels even more evident now, that at a time when the most urgent artistic expressions are coming from those who have been historically marginalized, all that is left for the privileged of the past is to retreat into abstraction and formal play. This isn’t a criticism (though it could be interpreted as one) so much as an observation. Though, if I wanted to get hardcore, a case could be made that it perpetuates the so-called pure/timeless/ahistorical practices of past avant-gardes. Suffice to say, that this work – and Standing Under Mis is a good example of it – is a reflection of that history and an extension of it.

    Which means that there’s a lot that’s familiar in the large biomorphic shapes that hang off the gallery walls alongside and in combination with patterned paper, coloured tarps, and splattered combinations of the above. There are references to abjection and the body, and pop art. The sculptural components are shown to be open for recombination in videos where the black clad artists work silently, collaboratively and, one assumes, in an intuitive and improvisational manner. Kinetic works reflect that removal of individual intention with the foregrounding of random results generated from circular daises that rotate throughout the exhibition. There is no greater privilege than the freedom to relinquish authority.

    Marla Hlady, Christof Migone, Chloë Lum, Yannick Desranleau, Standing Under Mis, 2017, installation view

    Documents of the process of making become works unto themselves as they are incorporated as prints on vinyl that hang in folds off the walls and onto the floor. Image becomes object becomes material becomes art, as if everything is up for grabs in the creative process. Nothing refers to the outside world in this insular collection of creations seemingly generated by the quartet sealing themselves up in the gallery with a bunch of stuff and making what they will of it.

    There’s something innocent and exciting about that. Freedom and imagination are great, and play is a wonderful and essential mode of actively interacting with your world. But on a day when the real world seems to be going to shit (currently on my newsfeed: Las Vegas, Catalonia, Myanmar, Puerto Rico, North Korea, etc.), is art like this a necessary escape? A respite? Or is it an evasion? A denial? For those who can afford the luxury, it is the former. But for those who can’t, what else are they going to see here but child’s play?

    Marla Hlady & Christof Migone and Chloë Lum & Yannick Desranleau: Standing Under Mis continues until October 28.
    Katzman Contemporary:
    The gallery is partially accessible.

    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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    Bodies In Translation: Age and Creativity at MSVU Art Gallery is an exhibition about aging, and all seven of the contributing artists identify as seniors. Their work addresses institutional barriers to space and information by labouring under the surface to break the stigma that art is for a select few who have the particular physical, sensory, and mental capacities to access it through traditional means.

    Anna Torma, Red Fragments 1, 2017, Hungarian folk art, commercial and silkscreen prints, woman’s handwork, hand embroidery on North American quilt patterns

    As you enter the gallery Onni Nordman's sculpture Scarecrow Among the Chancellors stands sentinel with open arms and a friendly, aged face. His body is made from the unlikely but extremely effective medium of dried yellow burs. Hundreds of the prickly Velcro spheres stick to one another, and, on an audio tour provided by the gallery, the artist’s voice urges you: "Go ahead. Touch him."

    Touch is vital to the experience of Bodies In Translation as is audio description. The additional sensory information invites a deep and meaningful engagement. Another example of this is Anna Torma’s collaborative textile work – a call-and-answer piece created with the help of an aunt who made a series of cross-stitch works in the patterns she (and every woman in Hungary) would have been taught as a child. As the artist’s aunt ages (she has a stroke and eventually passes away), the patterns of the needlework fracture and peter out. They culminate in a mostly empty canvas with the still threaded needle left tucked in place. In contrast to traditional textiles, Torma has created a large, fractured and fraying tapestry that call to mind maps of both geographic and neurological displacement. All that remains is to navigate them.

    Bodies In Translation: Age and Creativity continues until November 12.
    MSVU Art Gallery:
    The gallery is accessible.

    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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    Floe Edge, currently on display at Urban Shaman, is an eclectic compilation of contemporary works coming out of the expanses of Nunavut territory. For the Winnipeg stop of this touring exhibition, we get to see approximately twenty contributions by artists and art collectives that live and work in the region. Art making is just one facet of their multidirectional practices. In fact, very few of them work exclusively as artists. They are educators, organizers, facilitators, seamstresses, former mayors, authors, community activists, and hunters. What unites them is their use of the document – be it photography, object making, garments, drawings, video, and/or sound – to map stories of people, place, and culture.

    Nicole Camphaug

    As viewers enter the gallery, they are greeted by Shuvinai Ashoona’s life-size drawing of an intimate domestic scene with three women draped in colourful attire. Their eyes are cast downward as they perform household chores. There is an economy in the line work that adds to the delicacy of the figures and forms, but they nevertheless appear methodically rendered. Around the corner are Ningeokuluk Teevee’s contorted and surreal colour pencil drawings and Tim Pitsiulak’s realist depictions of wildlife and the land.

    Multichannel video projections by the five-person art collective Gauge document the temporary paintings they compose on natural walls of ice. Working through extreme temperatures and shifting tides, the collective creates epic gestural colour markings that disappear within a twelve-hour cycle as the frozen floors gradually rise and cover the painted surfaces. Accompanying the video is an audio component by another collective – PA System. You can hear a stream of field recordings from the site of the paintings as the ice walls disappear and reappear. Both pieces are presented through time-lapse playback and the shift makes them more than mere documents. They become art objects themselves.

    In a separate room Mona Nester’s sculpture is suspended atop a base in the shape of a colossal iceberg. Her figure is a hunter adorned in sealskin and holding a kakivak as though to strike a hunt. With an added spotlight, the piece monumentalizes the importance of hunting in Northern communities. Other sculpture-oriented pieces include Nala Peter and Nicole Camphaug’s inversions on contemporary apparel as one embellishes underwear and the other footwear with sealskin to preserve their traditional garment making while imprinting these traditions on modern consumer goods. Lavinia Van Heuvelen, Jamasie Pitseolak, Mathew Nuqingaq, and Igah Hainnu all contribute palm-sized sculptures that highlight their inventiveness and technical skill in using disparate but local materials (ivory, silver, muskox horn and soapstone) to create objects that are as whimsical as they are functional.

    Niore Iqalukjuak

    Lastly, Niore Iqalukjuak offers luminous colour photographs of a number of sites in his Nunavut community including Nattiqsujuk and Nilaktarvik. In addition to making the allure of the landscape visible, he provides an intimate glimpse of the land from the perspective of someone who is a part it as opposed to a visitor.

    Floe Edge succeeds purely as an amalgam of documents of a people by the people they document. Although Nunavut has a widespread population of creatives and this exhibition outlines only a few, it chronicles trends in a community that are divergent, nuanced, and beyond the generally accepted view of art coming out of this part of the world.

    Floe Edge continues until October 14.
    Urban Sharman Contemporary Aboriginal Art:
    The gallery is not accessible.

    Luther Konadu makes things such as photographs, paintings, and prints which he occasionally calls art. He self-describes as a transcriber. He contributes content to a publication called Public Parking. Most days his favourite colour is green and one of his goals in life is to never be an art brat. He is Akimblog’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed on Instagram @public_parking.

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  • 10/12/17--02:11: Deanna Bowen at Mercer Union
  • Deanna Bowen’s exhibition at Mercer Union is like a hall of mirrors that refracts into a dozen different angles each time you think you’ve oriented yourself. It begins with the fabrication of a missing fiction: a television drama that was shot live to air and broadcast on the CBC in 1956 but never recorded. All the remains is the script and some production notes. The artist has turned the gallery into a studio to reshoot the tale of a Black legal aid lawyer struggling with the implications of his defence of a white athlete who assaulted one of his Black teammates. However, rather than simply recreate the drama, she has documented the public rehearsals that she’s conducted each Saturday over the course of the exhibition and replays the raw footage as it has accumulated in the set that fills the space. You are in that space as you watch what unfolds.

    Deanna Bowen, On Trial The Long Doorway, 2017, installation view (photo: Tony Hafkenscheid)

    Bowen has taken the title of the drama – On Trial The Long Doorway– and used it as her own to amplify and multiply the concerns about racism that were originally expressed in a script that sounds dated but resonates with an immediacy that the actors remark on as they figure out how to navigate their roles. In one session Shaista Latif, the consulting director, points out that the theatre of the courtroom within the story is echoed by the theatre of the teleplay. Both are places where drama – that is, conflict – is played out and a judgement is expected in response. The judgement isn’t predetermined and it is up to the jury/audience to come to a conclusion. Was the attack racially motivated? Is the lawyer prejudiced against the accused? Should he side with the victim’s father? Can he be objective?

    That last question is the one that keeps coming back at the protagonist, the actors, the artist and her audience. Bowen and her collaborators provide their own commentary, inserting their own experiences, reminding the viewer of the real experiences that remain under the fiction. The exhibition deploys art in a variety of ways (theatre, installation, found documents, video) to unpack and explore ideas within the script while confronting everyone involved – including, of course, the implied audience of viewers at home in the 1950s as well as visitors to the gallery – with the politics of race, its history in Canada, the ways in which it is represented, and the politics of that representation.

    Deanna Bowen, On Trial The Long Doorway, 2017, detail: Dresden Story, Dir. Julian Biggs, 1954, (courtesy: National Film Board of Canada)

    The fictional trial begins as the drama ends. You get the court's opening statements and then the script fades to black, so the verdict is left unresolved. The exhibition makes the same gesture each time it pulls back the frame to reframe the content and question any conclusions that might be made. Bowen opens up the work to include her audience, placing them literally in the set and stretching the duration of her creation over the full run of her exhibition. She pulls in archival material that expands her scope across generations and multiplies the simple black or white dichotomies of the past to include the layered, intersectional identities of the present. But she takes it further, adding to the resonance and relevance of the work by linking her trial to that of Emmett Till’s murderer and by extension Dana Schutz’s painting from this year’s Whitney Biennial. On top of that, you can’t read the script and not think of the Black athletes who are currently facing trial in the court of public opinion for their stand against state-sanctioned violence.

    The implication that envelops you as you immerse yourself in the exhibition is that there is no objective position. There is no getting outside the art, just as there is no getting outside of race. We are always already in it. Bowen shows us this at every turn, but provides no easy answers in response because there are none.

    Deanna Bowen: On Trial The Long Doorway continues until November 4.
    Mercer Union:
    The gallery is accessible.

    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 am greeted by an alligator eating a goose. Miniature plastic figurines swimming in a pool of grey paint enact the bloodthirsty scene. They share a makeshift plinth of foraged skids with a holiday snowman, his jolly figure nearly unrecognizable, grotesque in layers of dripping paint. A dropsheet hangs on the wall tucked behind a water pipe. Titled Across the Border of British Columbia, it is a utilitarian parody of abstract expressionism and the Jackson Pollocks of a patriarchal capital-driven global system. Fake fruit, plastic plants, and paintings on dollar store canvases are all players in Filipino-Canadian artist Patrick Cruz’s venomously humorous, brightly patterned material-scape. Limp plaster lies flaccid over the rungs of Gerard, a piling of Calgary’s detritus: some sort of easel, an unopened package of acrylic paints, a gift bag with a fluffy white dog printed on it. A cigarette hangs from the puppy’s mouth.

    Patrick Cruz, Other-portraits, 2017, installation view

    As I turn the corner of Other-portraits at Stride’s horseshoe-shaped gallery, Métis artist Gabrielle L'Hirondelle Hill’s half of the collaborative exhibition comes into view. While Cruz appropriates the capital object by seizing it as Other – brandless, role-less, unrecognizable – Hill does so by making it recognizable, humanized, endeared. She anthropomorphizes garbage, turning it or returning it into caricature. Materially sparse characters with crumbling little concrete balls for feet, a round circle of wood and strands of blonde and brown hair for a head, a stuffed pink glove for a hand – they point to empathy, recycling, and re-capturing as currency. A sun-bleached flag printed with “WE FINANCE” extends from another teetering concrete base; its rips are patched with traditional Indigenous social and ceremonial currency: tobacco leaves. Recalling the cigarette in the dog’s mouth, Other-portraits hinges on the precipice of colonial and non-colonial forms of currency, disgust for Capital-driven material vomit, and the knowledge that empathic object-relationships do exist.

    Patrick Cruz + Gabrielle L'Hirondelle Hill: Other-portraits continues until November 3.
    Stride Gallery:
    The gallery is partially accessible.

    Lindsay Sorell is an artist and writer who recently collaborated with the Advanced Toastmasters of Calgary for the IKG Live 1 performance festival and completed two solo exhibitions of new work: Exercises in Healing at Contemporary Calgary and Buddha, Why Am I Alone? at AVALANCHE! Institute of Contemporary Art. She is currently working on a large-scale watercolour painting of food and is the editor of Luma Quarterly. She is Akimblog's Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Instagram.

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    Stephen Appleby-Barr is moving to London. This isn’t surprising. He must be hard pressed to find art that is old and European enough to inspire his own old European paintings here in Toronto. This city is too young and fresh faced. The buildings don’t carry the weight of centuries. There aren’t walls that date back to a previous millennium. That kind of history can only be felt in the cobblestones of a city like Berlin, where he spent last year working on the crop of paintings, etchings, and sculptures currently on display at Nicholas Metivier Gallery.

    Stephen Appleby-Barr, View of Corvidae, Two Riders, 2017, oil on paper

    European cities also provide access to a greater selection of Old Masters whose eye for sublime backgrounds and regal figures is echoed Appleby-Barr’s surreal aristocracy posing before illuminated clouds of indiscernible origin. There is, in fact, nothing contemporary about his work. This is not a criticism, but an observation. He’s an aficionado of the past, but evokes it with a sometimes dreamlike, sometimes simply playful twist that makes him more than just an aesthetic contrarian like Odd Nerdrum. Rather than replicating a historical past, his paintings capture a past vision of the past. There is a “dress-up party” quality to his posed figures – particularly those without human heads – that place them in the realm of make-believe. His old world is a product of his imagination and has grown over the years to take on a life of its own.

    Stephen Appleby-Barr, The Prince, 2017, clay, wire and wood

    The gallerist mentions a book titled Gnomes and I’m instantly thrust back to the seventies, curled up on a couch and pouring over the detailed drawings that describe the physiology and habits of these fantastical creatures with the precision of a naturalist. It was one of those strange books that seemed to be in every parent’s collection. Appleby-Barr has joined the ranks of these inventors of entire societies who combine ancient civilizations of our past with imagined races a couple degrees removed from what’s possible. His portrait Nicholas could be a character from Game of Thrones, but all the others are far too dandyish to survive in that world. The battles they partake in might never happen, occupied as they are with proud displays that suggest only a modicum of menace. Some of the paintings – like the puppet-headed portraits of the protagonist called Scutifer – are slightly creepy, but they’re never nightmarish. Instead, there’s an innocence to them reminiscent of children’s stories from less modern times.

    Appleby-Barr fetishizes an earlier era’s fascination with an even older past, like mid-century Tolkein immersed in a time before recorded history. The appeal of such an era is its promise of escape, however temporary, from the burdens of the present. There is romance and adventure back then, and only banal drudgery now. The fantastical past lacks the criticality we’ve come to expect from contemporary art; our current climate demands it, but this exhibition engages instead the imagination in spades. The smaller landscape paintings included amongst the full-scale portraits are the most inviting example of this. Hidden beyond their fogbound horizons are the fields of reinvention. They provide the setting and the cast of characters has been established, so all that’s left is for the story to begin.

    Stephen Appleby-Barr: Corvidae continues until October 28.
    Nicholas Metivier Gallery:
    The gallery is not accessible.

    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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  • 10/25/17--19:46: Field Guide at Remai Modern
  • “Picasso’s new home on the Prairies” proclaims a roadside billboard. I am aghast, ready to join the legions of complainers and naysayers. It seems natural to be sceptical about Remai Modern, the ambitious new international museum of modern art in, of all places, Saskatoon (though the precedent set by Bilbao might make this setting prescient). But then Picasso’s new home on the Prairies gave me a gift: a book containing UK artist Ryan Gander’s meticulous copies in felt pen and corrector fluid of each of the museum’s 406 Picasso linocuts. Remai Modern has been making much of their gift – the largest collection of Picasso linocuts in the world – furnished by the museum’s namesake: Ellen Remai. She also contributed the lion’s share of funds for the construction of its riverside glass and steel building into which the masses flooded a few days ago for opening weekend.

    Stan Douglas, The Secret Agent, 2015, video installation

    It would take my entire word count to list the names of all of the artists included in the inaugural exhibition. Grandiose, expansive, and largely excellent, Field Guide plants a flag for the museum’s envisioned place in the world. Recent acquisitions such as Stan Douglas’ non-linear, multichannel video installation The Secret Agent, Anton Vidokle's captivating video exploring the history of Russian cosmism The Communist Revolution was Caused by the Sun, and Gander’s remarkable conveyor belt-powered sculpture peep show rub shoulders with modernist works inherited from the collection of the Mendel Art Gallery (the gallery out of which Remai grew). Vibrating with hopeful shades of pink and violet, Eli Bornstein’s Quadraplane Structurist Relief, No. 15 is a hopeful talisman for this new museum. Now in his nineties, he bridges past and present, having participated in the first exhibition at the former Mendel Art Gallery as well as this one.

    One final note: while Saskatoon might yet become a destination for art, I doubt the same could ever be said for fashion; therefore, I recommend you eschew style in favour of comfort when choosing footwear for your trip to Remai Modern. Those concrete floors are hard on the feet.

    Field Guide continues until February 25.
    Remai Modern:
    The gallery is accessible.

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

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    Anjuli Rathod and Vanessa Brown’s work, currently on display at Projet Pangée, is whimsical and inviting. Reoccurring icons in the former’s canvases (footsteps, creeping paws, serpents, spiders) and leading gestures in the latter’s sculptures (outstretched hands, sealed lips) are all cryptic promises. As with surrealism, they call up the viewer’s associative thinking powers on the spot, but they also connect critically with the past and productively contaminate the conservative, gendered, and exclusive spaces of abstract art’s vaunted history.

    Vanessa Brown, Cosmic Screen, 2017, oil on steel

    In the 1950s and 1960s, on the cusp of an explosion of practices that make up the present contemporary art scene, critics like Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried (if not the artists they championed) launched a heavy-handed appeal to “save art” from losing itself in the everyday world of mere objects and entertainments. This was to be done by policing the boundaries between traditional disciplines (like painting versus sculpture), “entrenching them firmly in their areas of competence,” and riding them of any literary, theatrical, or illusionistic values.

    Rathod and Brown make putty of these outmoded distinctions between mediums. The curators’ decision to pair their work in fact reverses it: the canvasses conjure deep spaces from flat, mutely coloured expanses, while the sculptures shrink back from three-dimensions into flat, silhouetted images. Both artists are also tuned to the enchantments of the everyday. They blast through Greenberg and Fried’s rigidly sense-based division of the arts to call forth a full range of sensual experiences from the tactile and visual to the olfactory and the auditory.

    Anjuli Rathod, Better Now, 2017, acrylic and flashe on canvas

    The sense of touch is evoked most often and most eerily. In Rathod’s Dissolution two arthritic hands encroach over blue folds on the edge of the canvas to a hot orange center. In her Night Scene, the same hands find their visual echo in spiders and a floating knife obscured by translucent curtains. In Brown’s wiry, totemic sculpture Attic Light, an outstretched hand sets up to catch a falling orange. In Cosmic Screen the same elongated hand sprays a vintage perfume atomizer through a starry partition. Senses shade here from touch to smell, elsewhere from sound to taste, or from taste to sight.

    The works are crowded with sensual lures that, every now and again, turn to threats. Many of Rathod’s canvases are haunted by evocations of footsteps in the night, and Brown’s mostly playful sculptures harbour jagged hooks and prickly flowers. In Rathod’s Better Now the show’s invitation to a cheery world of multi-sensory experience takes on a cautionary tone. Bent and oversized American pennies are hoisted up on golden thread past a sign that reads “better now”, and then lowered down through a black hole in a padlock past one that reads “so long.” Her painting Waiting trades lures for threats as a sickly green dreamer drops carrots printed on a cozy blanket onto a night table beside a lurking spider.

    Referring to the Cubists’ paintings and the death-blow they dealt to illusionism in Western art, Greenberg wrote: “A vibrating tension is set up as objects struggle to maintain their volume against the tendency of the real picture plane to reassert its material flatness and crush them to silhouettes.” For Fried, sculptors like Anthony Caro and David Smith would later take up their I-beams and spot-welders in this ongoing modernist fight for purity in what he called “a war against theatricality.” Rathod and Brown seem well past this now comically gendered-male drama. Their works reanimate the silhouettes that Greenberg was so intent on seeing as a last gasp of illusionism. And they find theatre everywhere – in the life of the senses, on sleepwalking adventures, and in dreams of everything from falling carrots to pennies from heaven or hell.

    Anjuli Rathod & Vanessa Brown: The Far Off Blue Places continues until November 11.
    Projet Pangée:
    The gallery is accessible.

    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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    We are all artists when we dream. Every one of us fabricates incredible visions in the depths of our slumber. We imagine a world both familiar and unexpected that haunts us through our just-risen haze as it fades faster than we can recall it. Sometimes we obsessively recount those images and events to whoever is around because their import is so undeniably compelling. However, if you’ve ever had to listen to someone regularly describe their dreams every morning at the breakfast table, you also know that one person’s revelation is everyone else’s bore. We are all artists when we dream, but that doesn’t mean we’re any good.

    Tamara Henderson, Seasons End: Out of Body, 2017, installation view

    Tamara Henderson, on the other hand, successfully mines the unconscious realm for strategies and material to create something uncannily familiar out of what is essentially idiosyncratic. She has joined a tradition of searchers who’ve found a way out of the ordinary through the subversive logic of ritual, magic, creative metaphysics, and good old imagination run wild. Her specific flavour of the fantastical is, in this case, established by filling the Centennial Square venue of the Oakville Galleries with twenty-five unique uniforms created from or equipped with talismanic objects like pencil pouches or patterned fabric that somehow connect to titled positions like Galactic Garment Healer or Editor in Suitcase. Each one has a handcrafted passport strapped to its foot, so they are costumes for travellers, which is to say they are meant to cross borders, but those borders divide (or link) artistic traditions more so than geographic regions. The free flow of ideas that runs rampant through the assembled figures culminates in a hybrid car that (on a good day) screens Henderson’s films on an endless loop and an infernal machine that wheezily pumps air and magnifies light as if it were the driver for this delusion we find ourselves deep within.

    Fastwürms, #Q33R_WTCH_P155, 2017, installation view

    Fastwürms take a different angle on the subconscious and offer up an alternative history that replaces the mathematical reasoning of Alan Turing with the unscientific methods of witchcraft. Having renamed the galleries’ Gairloch Gardens site “Warlock Gardens,” they stocked the cottage with a plethora of powerful objects (from unicorn horns and Darth Vader busts to Whizzinators and E-Plastique charges) to serve as tools in the wartime code-breaking that famously took place in England during World War Two at Bletchley Park. Along with the prescient genius Turing who would go on to hypothesize the possibility of artificial intelligence as well as commit suicide due to the drugs he had to take to avoid jail time for his crime of being gay, Doreen Valiente worked there as a translator before becoming a leading authority on Wicca and, according to some, the “Mother of Modern Witchcraft.” The serendipity of these coincidental lives suits the queer-allied, Witch Nation-identifying Fastwürms who have gone gloriously overboard in envisaging a secret service that trades primitive computers for scrying bowls in fighting their war against war. If that sounds like another silly dream, then it’s just one more reason to go back to sleep.

    Tamara Henderson: Seasons End: Out of Body continues until December 30.
    Fastwürms: #Q33R_WTCH_P155 continues until December 30.
    Oakville Galleries:
    The gallery is accessible.

    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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    Abstraction is a way to make audiences work a little bit harder. It is a way for an artist to own their agency and deny specificity for a more buoyant and sophisticated representation of a discursive self. For Charlene Vickersaceartinc. exhibition Accumulation Of Moments Spent Under Water With The Sun And Moon, abstraction is a language that comes from the body – a body rooted within specific histories and cultural traditions. Here, Vickers highlights these histories and traditions through her choice of material, with performative application of paint, and by leaving her resonance on the surface as a way of being present in abstraction.

    Charlene Vickers, opening night performance

    Gallery visitors who missed Vicker’s two opening night performances can see props and the remains of her activities. These traces are also intoned on her suite of watercolour and gouache abstract paintings, beaded moccasins, and felt ovoid embroidery. The props include arm-length cardboard megaphones that she uses as a tool for sight, amplification, and hearing. During her performance, she stomped in rhythmic patterns as she moved around the gallery and stared through the megaphone as though the audience were spectators witnessing her presence from afar. Her voice reverberated as she spoke through the megaphone, bringing to mind Rebecca Belmore's Ayum-ee-aawach Oomama-mowan: Speaking to their Mother.

    The second half of her performance saw her fiddling with a synthesizer pad while two-channel footage was partially projected onto her. In one of the videos Vickers holds a sign that reads: OCCUPY ANISHINABE PARK 1974. It’s a reference to the contentious 1974 occupation of Anicinabe Park, a territory of the Ojibway Nation that is near the artist’s place of birth. This is juxtaposed with what looks like a home video of Vickers taking part in a band practice. The music gets louder as she layers up a live, reverb-drenched ambient soundscape that gradually envelops the gallery. Her languid voice enters into the mix, it rises above the surrounding sound textures and, in the end, you are transported.

    Like the sweeping wordless vocals that filled the gallery, Vickers uses formal cues throughout her colorful and rhythmically patterned paintings that read like an ever-unfolding kaleidoscope. Her embroidered felt ovoids echo the colour-filled painted surfaces. The patterns allude to life by the sea – a nod to Coast Salish peoples on whose territory she has resided for the last two decades.

    Charlene Vickers, installation view

    At the center of the gallery floor is a circle of beaded moccasins stitched out of cardboard beer boxes and made in the size of the artist’s feet. This gesture points to the infliction of consumerist goods on cultural traditions. Across from the circle is a shelf lined with carefully folded blanket-like cloths with more of the beaded moccasins stacked atop and, for the first time in the show, we get direct hints into Vickers’ inner thoughts through a series of text beadings. We see phrases like: PAID LESS, CONSUMER TIPS, NATIVE WOMAN SEEKS ARTISTIC EMPLOYMENT, and THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT. She is addressing the commodification of her heritage and the social disparities she experiences as an Indigenous person and as a woman.

    With the assorted collection of work in this show, Vickers signals the ability for Anishinaabe cultural production to be interdisciplinary. The artworks here move back and forth between sound, visual and performative traditions allowing for an expansive way to think about at what an abstract practice could be and how the body can present itself therein.

    Charlene Vickers: Accumulation Of Moments Spent Under Water With The Sun And Moon continues until November 24.
    The gallery is not accessible.

    Luther Konadu makes things such as photographs, paintings, and prints which he occasionally calls art. He self-describes as a transcriber. He contributes content to a publication called Public Parking. Most days his favourite colour is green and one of his goals in life is to never be an art brat. He is Akimblog’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed on Instagram @public_parking.

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  • 11/01/17--16:32: Transcendence at InterAccess
  • Searching for transcendence in the age of search engines might not be as optimistic an endeavour as curator Stacie Ant makes it out to be, but her exhibition Transcendence at InterAccess certainly presents a provocative assortment of evidence for the integration of technology and theology. Perhaps my atheist’s scepticism is the problem rather than the artists’ attempts at digital spirituality, but the exhibition isn’t simply there for the believers amongst you. Even within its aspirations to salvation, there is a critical undercutting of techno-dogma that serves as a lesson for all – especially the faithful.

    Ryan Cherewaty, Static Glow, 2017, video

    The opening gambit is Kara Stone’s straightforward combination of electronics and divination. Her Techno Tarot is an iPad app that converts the age-old prognosticating tool into an interactive source for past, present, and future advice. Slipped into the readings by the AI fortune-teller are subtle passive-aggressive retorts that chastise the user for mistreating computers and warn of potential bad karma ahead. This shouldn’t be surprising given the homepage announcement: “Your technology will revolt.”

    Alienation is the more likely form of damnation according to the uncanny valley modelling of Nathaniel Addison and Ryan Cherewaty. The former has created a holographic companion named Sonya who flickers like static and rotates through a sequence of gestures to approximate glimmers of lifelikeness. The latter contributes a short video populated by avatars who acquire a vivid, yet animated agency through motion capture and speak in the manufactured language of self-help infomercials. There is something tragic about them both as they replace what is directly human with virtual, lesser versions. The posthumanists out there might call me naïve for retaining an out-dated notion of authentic experience that has been all but erased over the past century of advances in electronic media and they probably have a point, but the capital-induced dehumanism that Marx identified in industrial processes is still part of our relationship to technology and it shouldn’t be ignored.

    Cat Bluemke, Spiritus Sancti (detail), 2017, mixed media

    However, if you’re going to ignore it, there isn’t a more joyous rejoinder to the blissful transcendence of the present than Kevin Holliday’s RIP. Their installation cocoons the viewers in a nest of vibrant cushions and a curtain of LCD screens looping ecstatic dancers sourced from YouTube nobodies and Second Life stand-ins. The ever-ascending rhythms of happy hardcore music turns the space into a relentlessly life-affirming isolation booth that promises an afterlife party that never ends.

    Cat Bluemke, on the other hand, has assembled a chapel that treats online chats and viewer-sourced videos as religious artefacts for the coming rapture. There is both a galvanizing sense of community and a pathetic desperation evident here. The number of searchers shown in view tallies is offset by the questionable documentation of their purported angel sightings. In the end, despite all that technology offers us, our hope for transcendence still comes down to faith. Whether it’s found in a burning bush or a video screen, the divine is always at a distance and can only be reached by leaving the material world behind. These works don’t provide answers, but they can act as jumping off points.

    Transcendence continues until November 18.
    The gallery is not accessible.

    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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