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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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    The connecting tissue in the assembled works from InDigiNous Aotearoa: Virtual Histories, Augmented Futures at Urban Shaman is right there in the stylized title. These form-diverging artworks by seven Māori artists take the digital expanses as material for thinking about alternate pasts and desired futures. Situating this exhibition outside of New Zealand not only generates a compelling conversation with contemporary Indigenous practices in Canada, but it also parallels an ongoing thread by North American artists envisioning possibilities that are mindfully utopic. However, the artworks here address dystopian themes of colonization, loss of Māori sovereignty, and repressed cultural histories.

    Rachael Rakena, Te Karakia o Mahoranuiatea, 2009-17, two-channel HD video

    By way of video games, augmented reality platforms, 3D printing, avatars, video projections, and virtual reality headsets, we are tossed into enveloping visuals and sounds that bring us into the middle of their fantasies. But more so, we find ourselves in the fraught histories and personal anxieties that undergird those imagined fantasies. Maybe the latter would be lost on the casual visitor, and perhaps you could say that’s where the show succeeds the least. By the time you go through the process of downloading the app to view the other half of the show virtually, you’ll likely be distracted by the arcade-like gaming screens plastered on the gallery walls. Once you do have your app ready to go, you might find yourself locked in the allure of the forms that shoot out of the blended physical and augmented reality. Others might be on the skeptical side and grow tired of its flash.

    But there are multiple ways to receive, experience, and think through the show. One thing it does best is its participatory aspect. There is something for everyone to grab on to and appreciate. Be it Johnson Witehira’s interactive video games and giant drawing prints, Kereama Taepa’s gravity-defying sculpted virtual ecosystems, sister duo Rachael and Hana Rakena’s moving image projections and ceramic pieces (from which visitors are invited to take a piece), or Suzanne Tamaki’s photographic works with additional augmented images – kids, parents, and teenagers will find something to engage them.

    Taking a revisionist approach to a heavy past with an equal measure of historical revenge is a way of reclaiming a new political imaginary, which is what the artists in this show are essentially in pursuit of. As the digital world continues to make it easier to broadcast our desires, there’s a flippancy that arises from our engagement with the medium. It reduces complex cultural histories into a mere game or another mixed reality app, and that can be problematic. It risks too easily writing off stories that are already at the fringes.

    InDigiNous Aotearoa: Virtual Histories, Augmented Futures continues until January 20.
    Urban Shaman 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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    When Jessica Bradley closed her gallery two years ago, there were two artists in particular who I was worried I’d miss: Tricia Middleton, who unfortunately hasn’t had much play in this neighbourhood since, and Sarah Cale, who fared much better with solo shows at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery and the Varley Art Gallery. She now has a home at Clint Roenisch Gallery (though she lives and works in Brussels) and her current exhibition there gathers work from the past year – a year she describes as a period of upheaval. The tumult of that time (when she occupied five different studios, according to a wall text) can be contrasted to the uniformity of her subject matter: vases, sometimes with flowers, often without.

    Sarah Cale, Potpourri, 2017, installation view

    I like to think of Cale’s paintings as time-based work because they reveal more the more you look at them. True, this could be said of any painting worth its salt, but the impression is heightened in the way she suspends her work halfway between creation and dissolution. There’s a material aspect to this sense of fragile unity because she makes her art with charged material like reclaimed paint shrapnel and packaging debris. She takes what’s already been used and discarded, and then reanimates it like Frankenstein’s monster so it has the appearance of life but the seams holding it together are showing. Which sounds like the way to describe any failed painting, but Cale’s particular talent is to make this potential collapse look good.

    These aren’t, in truth, paintings of vases. They are paintings of paintings, less obsessed with a love of flowers and more enamoured with the way a picture can establish itself on the precipice of existence. There’s even a psychedelic tinge to the work, a trippy rendering of the real into elusive colours and shapes. Nothing is as it seems, but it’s actually a blast if you can let go of your uptight need for order and embrace the frantic stimulus.

    Sarah Cale, Weird Sister, 2017, 
adhered acrylic and oil on linen

    Some paintings are a joy not because they create the illusion of the object but because they reveal the humanity of the painter. Cale’s work does just that as it skilfully comes apart in places like a masterful jazz solo that somehow retains the shape of its intent even on the distant fringes of expression. I recently tried to explain to my nephew that what makes Benicio Del Toro’s performance in The Usual Suspects so great is that he barely seems to be acting. He doesn’t even care. However, the barely caring is a carefully calibrated effortless effort at effortlessness that succeeds in somehow convincing us that he’s the shifty con he’s pretending to be.

    There is a spectacular collage of a massive bouquet included in this exhibition and it will draw a lot of attention, but it is the sore thumb amongst a fistful of more intriguing canvases that provide less certainty and more intrigue. Those other works – their reason for being is harder to discern, so your heart goes out to them – which is a wild response to a painting of a vase.

    Sarah Cale: Potpourri continues until February 24.
    Clint Roenisch Gallery:
    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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    On the occasion of their collaborative exhibition Ghost Spring at grunt gallery, mother and son artists Dilara Akay and Derya Akay present a cohort of sculptures that portray the iconography of mourning. Their assemblages take the shape of shrines or memorials that would be installed in homes, in graveyards, or at funerals. The works mounted on the wall have white cloth draped over personal effects and other talismans. The thresholds and windows of the gallery have been obscured by cloth as well, rendering the exhibition a definitively recoded space of contemplation. Flowers, fruits, and vegetables surround plots and caskets of various sizes and degrees of ornamentation populate the exhibition room.

    Dilara Akay & Derya Akay, Ghost Spring, 2018 (photo: Mitra Kazemi)

    When Derya told me he was making a graveyard, I asked, “For whom?”, and he responded, “Everyone.” By everyone, I don’t know if he meant anyone (though I am certain he would not discriminate) other than the many forcibly “disappeared” in Turkey as the political conflict between the Kurdish, the Turkish government, and the Islamic State persists. If you are not aware of this situation, the gallery provides a dossier of articles explaining context, the political motivations that inform these object-expressions and funeral practices, and that the offering of a graveyard attempts to defy the erasure of the unceremoniously missing and murdered.

    In the public programs facet of Ghost Spring, the artists cite the Saturday Mothers. Every Saturday in the Galatasaray district of Istanbul, mothers and family members congregate in a silent protest-vigil for loved ones whose disappearance remains dismissed by the state as isolated incidents. Over the course of the exhibition, a few Saturdays have been scheduled to visit an Armenian Genocide memorial, host a Turkish game night, and have Dilara conduct Turkish coffee readings.

    It would be too dour to refer to these works as memento mori, as visual prompts to check our mortality, because they do not inspire a self-centred notion of a slipping lifespan. In their sedate objecthood, the sculptures offer a site for projected mourning, for an expanded notion of lamentation that dissuades from crippling sorrow or individualistic existentialism. When a grave is for no one in particular, it supplies a gap in the narrative of martyrdom or hero worship that widens for collective actions taken in response to systemically erased fatalities.

    Dilara Akay and Derya Akay: Ghost Spring continues until February 17.
    grunt gallery:
    The gallery is 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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    Do other countries regard artists who establish themselves abroad with a mixture of awe and disdain? Or is that just a Canadian thing? Or maybe it’s just a Toronto thing? Those independent spirits who ditch the local labour and start their careers in far flung locales before returning to town at a higher rung than an emerging sort would normally deserve receive a rightful measure of respect, but there’s also a hint of resistance in their reception. Part of it is the stark reminder that Canada (and especially Toronto) is far from the centre of the universe when it comes to the art world.

    Allison Katz, kidding, 2018, wall painting

    Allison Katz doesn’t necessarily merit that response, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear it directed towards her. After finishing her undergraduate degree at Concordia University, she headed to Columbia for her Master’s and then decamped to London to set up base. Her CV has far more references to Europe than Canada and even though her work has appeared in a couple Toronto group shows at commercial galleries her new exhibition at Oakville Galleries is her biggest effort to date on our national scene and could be construed as a homecoming celebration.

    In a bold move, she has taken on both of the gallery’s venues and stocked them with a collection of work that covers such a disparate range of media and styles that her solo exhibition feels like a group show. From Photoshopped posters to ceramic plates to a sand drawing to the paintings she is best known for, Katz makes it clear that she is less interested in the material she works with and more obsessed with the ways in which meaning is generated through different combinations of elements. It’s no secret that she thinks of painting in terms of language and a semiotically-inclined vibe infuses the exhibition as it regards representation revealed through identity and difference.

    Allison Katz, Diary w/o Dates, 2018, installation view

    At the Gairloch Gardens site, there is a wall drawing based on a pun while the floorwork made of sand riffs on the artist’s signature (a motif that regularly appears in her practice). Recombinant posters address the advertising of art – specifically this artist’s art and this particular exhibition – in the public sphere (but they work best when they are actually out in the world, as with one that appears outside the gallery’s other venue at the city centre) and a collection of painted plates interlaces the kind of classical imagery you’d expect to find on a set of ancient dishes with the artist’s personal iconography as it has developed over her years of being an artist. Suffice to say, a certain degree of visual literacy is required to navigate the whole.

    Just like the way words only make sense within a sentence (hence the inclusion of sentences as examples in dictionary definitions), there aren’t any single paintings in the exhibition. For Katz, each painting is linked to the others in a chain of signification. She makes use of the architecture of the gallery space at the Centennial Square location to emphasize this. Twelve paintings are hung on the sides of a dodecahedron in the centre of the room so the viewer’s relationship to the works is inverted: instead of standing in the middle and taking in the entire series, one has to circle around the column and slowly piece together the whole a painting or two at a time. Calendars and clocks are evoked, but any overarching order is circumvented as often as it is invited. The challenge of reading this puzzle parallels the possible reception of the artist herself: does one respond with awe as to the exhibition’s success at holding itself together or with scepticism as to its consolidated meaning? That’s exactly what you’re supposed to wonder.

    Allison Katz: Diary w/o Dates continues until March 18.
    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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    The Jackman Humanities Institute is one of the stranger spaces to view art in the city. The lobby of the building has been restored to its Art Deco heyday right down to the brass Brooks Brothers nameplate above one of the interior doors and the illuminated glass wedge that announces the elevator has arrived. Entering the gold and mirror chamber feels like you’re cast in an episode of Mad Men or about to ascend through the phallic Chrysler Building of Cremaster 3. The impression of this particular historical phase is all encompassing until you reach the top floor and transition into an immaculate, modern-design office zone that resembles a law firm more than any academic department that I experienced during my years in university. But place of scholarship it is and with it comes the whiff of ivory tower isolation that renders academia even more removed from the real world than the art world. However, this is a place dedicated to the humanities and as such the scholars here are presumably engaged with the texts of life. While art is just one aspect of what gets studied here, it serves as a provocative and appealing entry point for the JHI’s annual thematic concern.

    Joi Arcand, ēkāwiya nēpēwisi, 2017. Neon channel sign (pink) (photo: Paul Litherland)

    For the 2017-2018 school year, the theme is Indelible Violence: Shame, Reconciliation, and the Work of Apology. Jason Baerg and Darryn Doull have curated a selection of works by Indigenous artists that “renounce naïve impressions of (re)conciliation” and instead make Indigenous agency visible through vernacular means. A small painting on paper by Alex Janvier (whose ceiling mural at the Canadian Museum of History lends this exhibition its title) sets the stage with its non-linear, abstract psychedelia that suggests cultural codes while also refraining from any explicit message. Then again, it depends on where you’re coming from and how much you’re willing to reconcile. Joi Arcand’s neon text translates from the Cree to read “don’t be shy” and invites the viewer to step forward and bathe in its far-from-demure glow. The light alters the institute’s interior intellectual environment and allows for something other than the heads-down analysis that presumably goes on in the surrounding cubicles.

    Adrian Stimson, Calling My Spirit Back, 2017, nine black and white digital prints, inkjet text on paper

    Adrian Stimson’s dream diary from Calling My Spirit Back invites a reading of the evidence that emerges from his unconscious. Homes are threatened and fellow artists appear and each night follows the next with no clear progress. Stimson’s photo essay from Burning Man has an equally dreamlike/nightmarish quality. You don’t have to be a Freudian to know that our sleeping minds reveal things our conscious selves don’t want to process. Bracken Hanuse Corlett’s silent, animated short film Ghost Food tells the story of two siblings searching for food in a post-apocalyptic landscape. It too has the quality of a dream as one sibling falls asleep and is tempted by the ghost king. However, when discussing the apocalypse, colonized people can say it has already happened for them. Future is shifted into past and the order of history is upended. 

    Morning Star continues until August 14.
    The Jackman Humanities Institute:
    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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    An angelic Monstera deliciosa lights up and ripples with a transcendent wind. A 3D animation loops on a monitor turned portrait-style onto its side and strapped to a beam with two black ratchet straps. Long curly grasses are scattered evenly on the floor, as if to create the semblance of a natural environment. But they’re too arranged – too intentionally placed – to feel convincing. Stephen Nachtigall’s current exhibition, lost in the meshes at The Lily, mixes animation, weaving, computer-generated collage, and print to create a chaos that is, paradoxically, sterile and organized. It descends into an uncanny valley of human creation, rather than human likeness.

    Stephen Nachtigall, lost in the meshes, 2018, inkjet print on mesh, plastic, and canvas textiles, UV print on acrylic, grass, steel

    A series of computer-generated pale green, purple, and brown collages of various forms produced by a program Nachtigall wrote himself are placed at different levels around the room. From afar, the collages look like a distorted foreign currency. The code randomly drew images from a folder of 150 high-resolution jpegs and treated them with various blending modes and alpha channels. Surprisingly, the resulting collages often take the shapes of human-like profiles and silhouettes, as if the code itself is fascinated by portraiture.

    Four of the silhouette collages have been printed on plastic mesh and stretched over metal drywall framing bars. At close range, blades of grass Nachtigall has hand-woven through the mesh in rectangular sections are visible. Other silhouettes have been printed on canvas, cut out, and hand-sewn into three-dimensional leaves that protrude from the gallery wall on black metal stems. In the corner, a collage printed on plastic lies in a heap with a sheet of unprinted plastic white mesh.

    A brown collage, UV-printed on thick acrylic, features human legs walking through nature. It’s an image that should be evocative, like the cover of a 1990s poetry collection, but the collage appears, instead, to be a manufactured romanticization. It reads as if Nachtigall’s program, personified, is imagining what a sensory relationship with nature would be like. By designing, then surrendering to, an automated collage-generator for this exhibition, Nachtigall considers automation, labour, and capital in present and future relationships with technology. He takes a backseat to his program’s algorithmic creativity, upending our nostalgic, human reactions to greenery, and eerily collaborates with the robot he himself created.

    Stephen Nachtigall: lost in the meshes continues until March 1.
    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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  • 02/07/18--18:02: Liz Knox at PAVED Arts
  • To be honest, there are few things I’d rather do than watch a trashy TV crime drama. So, I knew in advance that I’d enjoy Liz Knox’s exhibition Law and Order at PAVED Arts, since it is inspired by the long-running television series. Law and Order is the title of the exhibition as well as the three-channel video installation that chops up and rearranges the “cold opens” from the program from morning to night. A flickering barrage of the micro-dramas that begin each episode – explosions, gunshots, arguments, and corpses – lines one wall.

    Liz Knox, Law and Order, 2018, three-channel video installation

    The three decades of crime vignettes compiled here are peppered with delightful moments: current A-list celebrities in bit parts, amusingly spot-on recreations of other TV shows, and minor characters so efficiently sketched as to be instantly despicable. Law and Order (the work) manages to comment on the lurid nature of the show’s “ripped from the headlines” content without destroying the base pleasures of the pop culture mainstay.

    Knox’s single channel video All Persons Fictitious is more closely allied with the artist’s established text-based practice that mines user-generated posts as absurdist pop culture commentary. Similarly, it illustrates the ironic friction between (the TV show) Law & Order’s mirroring of real people and events, and the ever-shifting wording of the disclaimer that opens each episode: “The following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event.” Knox has superimposed three seasons of this text over each other, the blurred and dimmed lettering approximating a trace of the show’s dance with fact and fiction. Just like the program that inspired the exhibition, Knox’s Law and Order doesn’t break new ground, but it’s a compelling examination of an unlikely cultural touchstone.

    Liz Knox: Law and Order continues until February 23.
    PAVED Arts:
    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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    John Cage made the empty space of performance part of the composition with his “silent” piece4’33”. The impact of that revolutionary gesture might be more evident in art galleries than in concert halls these days where installation, interventions and sound art are among the experiential offerings. Two different evocations of emptiness can be seen (felt? sensed?) at Erin Stump Projects and Zalucky Contemporary right now. Both exhibitions have a distant ancestor in Cage’s invitation to turn our senses elsewhere, though these artists re-route his Zen mindfulness and focus it on physicality – either that of our own bodies or the matter that filters the stuff-which-isn’t-there around us.

    Lauren Hall, The Beats and the Shouting, 2018, installation view

    Glasgow-based Canadian Lauren Hall alters ESP’s gallery environs dramatically by switching the clear fluorescent lights out for two shades of blue and placing a slow cooker with simmering scents near the entrance. Immediately we are in the work and, as we inhale, the work is within us. Crossword metal text works hint at underlying themes of the body and nature, but they are literally full of holes. A large installation in the rear draws visitors further inside. Salt drawings of the astrological symbol for Cancer line the floor beneath the subterranean glow. Salt is loaded with associations to the body – both living and preserved. You taste it on skin and put it on meat. Saline solutions flush out the body, but the salt water created by melting snow mixed with road salt will run into the tributaries that line the city and raise the level of sodium to the point where it harms the ecosystem. Spaces within spaces – the body in the gallery in the city – and they are all connected. Scattered among the looping symbols are fragmented metal joints that resemble crab claws or bones. All that remains on this desiccated surface are these hunks of once living things. The result should be morbid, but there’s a sense of calm throughout. Accepting our part of a larger order defined by chemistry and the elements is one way to deal with the emptiness inside.

    Tegan Moore, Variations, 2018, installation view

    The circulation of air through space is Tegan Moore’s obsession, but she explores it through sculptures that subtly resist that movement. She collects air filters, mesh wrapping, and porous stone, and then turns them into minimalist objects where their newfound aesthetic value usurps their functional purpose and they shift from being unseen into the realm of the visible. For her exhibition at Zalucky Contemporary, she has even intervened into the gallery architecture to extend an air duct into a brief spiral that foregrounds the network of tubes and channels linking our living spaces and echoes our internal ventilation. Each of her smaller works is similarly perforated throughout. As with Cage’s composition, it takes a moment to see the spaces between and within as equal to the solid matter that surrounds them, but what’s not there is just as important as what’s there. The lava rock and styrofoam are both airy and solid; they encompass a contradiction just like our bodies. We too are equal parts nothing and something.

    Lauren Hall: The Beats and the Shouting continues until February 24.
    Erin Stump Projects:
    The gallery is not accessible.

    Tegan Moore: Variations continues until February 10.
    Zalucky Contemporary:
    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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  • 02/14/18--18:35: Adam Gunn at Art Mur
  • The first painting in Adam Gunn's solo exhibition, now on view at Art Mûr, is a riff on Courbet’s Origin of the World. With black and grey vertical brushstrokes bordering a glowing white void, Gunn goes for a deeper, more cosmic “opening” than Courbet’s. Titled Origin of the Universe, the painting sets the stage for a cheeky and philosophically probing show that sends up art-historical conventions at every opportunity. The collected works, all oils on finely sanded oval supports, show tangled, colliding, careening, swirling or falling things. Entangled tubes look like coats of arms for some Martian dynasty, and vaguely biomorphic objects in motion are blasted out of a thousand-year-old still life tradition like meat, stone, and bush salads in a Hadron collider!

    Adam Gunn, When the Bad Thing Happens, 2017 (photo: Mike Patten)

    The rules of the painting game are bent in Gunn’s work. His shaped supports are wonky tondos. Spaces and volumes are in correct perspective, but the views are properly out of this world. The images are hyper-realistic, but the artist doesn’t work with models. For all the rules he breaks, there are important ones he has set for himself too. First, the works are improvised. Gunn invokes Frank Zappa on this point. Like the musician (whose anarchist mantra was poached for the show’s title), Gunn directs his considerable technical skill at invention rather than imitation. As a second rule, the shaped and sometimes concave supports are safeguards against habits in the history of painting to imagine canvases as windows or screens. The usual terms of figure, ground, and contour are too clunky to describe the sheer activity of Gunn’s views. More nature vivante than nature mort, the works for him evoke an “unmediated visual field” or an experience of wide-open and wonder-struck seeing that lets in too much.

    Gunn’s paintings are excessive and entropic. A viewer’s instinct is to classify what comes rushing out of them or to box-in that “too much” and give it a name. Vegetal, mineral, animal, and particulate matter fly across or circle around the centre of unruly compositions. In Far Flung Forces a mess of leaves and stones orbit with comet-tails around a white ball of fur, and In The Deep finds a similar arrangement of tightly clustered things caught in a green-blue undercurrent. Other works like the triptych In The Remote Parts, Kicking Things Up and Sneaky Stuff, and Trickle Down catalogue the lines of force that pervade Gunn’s imagination. Dirt and leaves move back and forth in a blaze or creeping reeds are shown surging up and reaching down from the pictures’ curved edges. More abstract works like The Other Side of the Sky suggest a netherworld from which Gunn’s more legible protagonists are summoned.

    Adam Gunn, exhibition opening (photo: Mike Patten)

    Gunn leads us occasionally through more recognizable terrain. His landscapes recall the coastal skies of his home province of Nova Scotia or his memories of gathering polished stones on the beaches there. However, the works are not at all sentimental. A bucolic, warmly coloured glade in All, Always, Forever, Never and Only turns apocalyptic as some blocky shrubs are pulled up and right toward a bruised sky. In When the Bad Thing Happens that same sky is split down the middle by a dramatic twister. On one side a severed finger and loosed boards from barns are sucked into the storm and on the other side a couple of keys, a log, and a cinderblock are frozen in flight against a crowded-out clear blue sky.

    Gunn tells a story about his earliest feelings for the enchanted world these paintings describe. When he was ten years old he tried an attention management experiment while his mother was scolding him. He focused on her eyes, then her mouth, then her nose, and nodded to feign obedience. Gunn wondered what would happen if he were to study her face like an alien scientist who had never seen a face before. Thrillingly for the physics student and painter to be, things fell apart, as they so often do. The mouth moved into “inconceivably complex shapes.” The eyes communicated independently through brown/green/amber hues. Finally, as Gunn tells it, “there were pores everywhere, and hundreds of thousands of hairs (I estimate but numbers were also giving me trouble).” The exercise lead to a revelation – he could do this kind of “real looking” at will and make anything endlessly fascinating. Gunn began drawing obsessively around the same time and hasn’t slowed down since.

    Adam Gunn: Anything, Anytime, Anyplace, For No Reason At All continues until February 24.
    Art Mûr:
    The gallery is not 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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  • 02/14/18--18:51: In Our Nature at LANTERN
  • At first, it was a bit funny to find out the latest LANTERN show assembled four Canadian white dudes for an exhibition called In Our Nature. As it turns out, the show presents thirteen small to medium-size paintings, more than half of which include romanticized depictions of semi to fully nude female figures. The rest feature other tropes of traditional painting including meticulously rendered contemporary still life scenes and a male figure staring into a clean picturesque landscape. The paragraph written on the exhibition includes this explanation: “The title refers to, in a masculine sense, how the naturalism is depicted and the personal ownership of it: our nature, our world.” I’m still not sure exactly what that means, but I like to believe we live in a feminist and post-colonial-leaning zeitgeist and the demographic that holds the most privilege and is chief culprit of this nation’s violent history will not continue to be pampered for their skills in portraying their nature.

    Brad Phillips, Old Moise Kipling with New Rose, 2017, oil on canvas

    At a time when outrage and call-out culture is omnipresent, and audiences are growing ever so sensitive to those in positions of privilege/power, it almost seems redundant to point out In Our Nature’s blindness to this. And sure, on one level, LANTERN is a commercial art gallery with one of its missions being to present its market with sellable pieces – thus they prioritize that over being cognizant of a larger contemporary critical discourse. And sure, they are a private organization and shouldn’t feel obligated to bow to grant auditors for their political correctness. If the show indicates anything, it’s that there’s still a budding market and allure for the mastery of painting by white men. By the time I visited, the gallery had already sold a piece for upwards of $15K. This only highlights the narrow tastes and prejudices of its audiences more so than it does of LANTERN per se.

    Not to be P.C. policing or trivialize P. C. culture as some might argue political incorrectness favours a democratic society and eschews didacticism, and not to prolong the stale idea of art as a moral guide and place as victims of exclusion those whose voices continue to be shunned in preference for the white dudes of the art world, but perhaps for LANTERN, located in Winnipeg’s historic Chinatown, it might be profitable to think about working against an art world that fosters intentional marginalization.

    In Our Nature isn’t the only example of an exhibition championing white male artistic prowess. It serves as a microcosm of what is wrought with the exclusivity that dominates the art world. If this is less of a review and more of rant, it’s because if you are anything like me, visiting the show and knowing the premise of it, you might be too distracted to even consider the work fully.

    In Our Nature continues until March 3.
    The gallery is 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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    Two Scores, Brent Wadden’s solo-exhibition at the Contemporary Art Gallery, was recently subject to a bit of a walloping by Andrew Witt in Artforum. He opened his review with “Wadden’s large woven geometric abstractions repel one’s attention,” and concluded, “Their appearance insists we consider this object not as a painting or picture, but as a dust collector.” Though Witt’s review was read as a negative one, he told me that the attention repulsion of non-complementary colours was like Bridget Riley (“a compliment!”) and dust collecting is part of an important tradition (Duchamp’s Large Glass). His praise comes from a fairly submerged knowledge of art history, but it is consistent with how Wadden frequently invokes his training in painting and conceptualism at NSCAD in order to provide a genealogy for his practice. So, it’s not as damning as we all thought.

    Brent Wadden, Score 1 (Salt Spring), 2018 (photo: Michael Love)

    Even though Witt wouldn’t admit to raking Wadden over the coals, I was excited by a deviation from the norm. Wadden is somewhat of a darling weaver-painter. The majority of responses to his work have lauded it based on the synthesis of three main ideas: 1) He is a painter who paints by weaving. 2) He is an unskilled weaver. 3) If it’s poor craft, it’s good art. The criticism I’ve encountered teems with empathy. The casual nature and improvised compositions of the weavings are imbued with endearing mistakes. By repurposing secondhand material, he speaks to his working class background of “making-do.” But my encounters with the large scale, geometric abstractions in Two Scores signify anxious middle class experiences with design.

    Score 1 (Salt Spring) is woven from yarn obtained in a single purchase from a Salt Spring Island weaver. At seven and half meters wide, it is described as monumental, but less so than the quad of long narrow panels that loom (no pun intended) over the viewer. Gazing up at the identical striped compositions, available in four muted palettes, evoked a sense of decision fatigue at the interior design showroom or vacillating before a table of sweaters at United Colors of Benetton. Score 2 (16 Afghans) exposes a fairly clinical lens on the soft surfaces of secondhand blankets that Wadden purchased and subsequently took apart and reincarnated as a larger-than-your-average-area-rug textile item placed on the floor. The requisite circumnavigation of this work brings it closer in operation to conceptual furniture (that which privileges looking at and thinking about over living with) than weaving or painting.

    In a comment to BeatRoute, Wadden remarked, “I usually just keep all the mistakes, as it’s a total pain in the ass to remove them.” In Canadian Art, it was noted that Wadden periodically changes his loom to destabilize any skilling taking place between him and the craft. This investment in remaining an amateur fixes a homely authenticity to a practice valued on the patina of human error. Wadden prefers to align this work with the history of painting rather than craft. As a painter, he continues to receive slaps on the back for conceptual merit drawn on his commitment to a passable craft.

    Brent Wadden: Two Scores continues until March 25.
    Contemporary Art Gallery:
    The gallery is 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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  • 02/21/18--21:28: Camilla Singh at A Space
  • Camilla Singh brings a refreshing "fuck you" attitude to the art world. In these polite times, work that literally gives one the finger or relies on bathroom stall humour to nail its point to the wall enlivens the dour moralism that threatens to reduce all galleries to lecture halls. From her band Mortified to her cheerleading performances, she has never been a subtle artist, but subtlety is a luxury for those who aren’t yet mid-scream. What is Singh screaming about? I missed the opening night performance for her exhibition Nothing is Ever Enough at A Space, so I’m going to have to hypothesize based on the evidence in the room.

    Camilla Singh, Candle and Candleholder, 2018, wax, wick, dye, plaster

    Work has always been her thing. In this case it’s women’s work, which means domestic labour and that includes childbirth. From the finger flipping candles to the phallic snakes (including the one subtitled the dick that sucked itself) to the bloody nightgown to the clay figure with the gaping vulva, the gendered nature of the conventional home front is on display. The main stage dining room scenario is set for two adults and a child, but the rage that simmers within that triangulation (even in the most functional of families) is expressed through a centrepiece of blood red middle finger candles melting down over hands directed outward at all angles (suitable for the cover of a thrash metal LP titled Feed the Family).

    Underneath the table is even more trouble: a dyed black bouncy goat that I know from experience is guaranteed to throw a toddler towards their first concussion. This scapegoat (for that is its title) serves as a bestial repository for all the sublimated ire that can’t be released lest one come off as a “bad parent.” Psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott gave generations of mothers a reprieve by proposing the possibility of the “good enough” mother. If Singh is exorcizing anything in this collection of haunted objects, it is the frustration of suffocating domesticity.

    Camilla Singh, Nothing is Ever Enough, 2015, plaster

    Such tropes might harken back a couple generations to stereotypical 1950s middle class America, but in a post-liberation world the struggle has simply become less visible and seemingly self-inflicted. The labour of a mother’s love is still bound in contradictions of expectation and competition. Outlets for the resulting resentment have been few and far between, but the music that Singh sometimes incorporates into her art practice subverts male dominated genres and turns that anger outward. Her Sheela Na Gig sculpture of the miniature figure with exaggerated genitals brings up another musical reference: PJ Harvey’s furious song of the same name from her first album. Her debut provided a new model, like Winnicott’s, of how a woman can be – artistically, emotionally, expressively. She raged with distinction. Singh maintains that tradition.

    Camilla Singh: Nothing is Ever Enough continues until March 10.
    A Space Gallery:
    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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    Through a call and response project spanning at least six years, Shary Boyle and Emily Vey Duke have constructed a narrative of a young girl coming of age in a wild, post-apocalyptic world. Their collaborative exhibition at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is comprised of thirty-two poems paired with illustrations to create a storybook that takes the viewer on an in-depth journey within a loosely defined dreamscape.

    Shary Boyle, Bloodie Writes an Anthem, 2005, ink, watercolour, and gouache on paper

    The project began with Vey Duke writing a poem and Boyle painting a colourful and detailed illustration in response. Then Boyle created an illustration and sent it to Vey Duke to write her next text, and so on. This correspondence was carried out by the pair from 2003 to 2009, and the show encourages a consideration of the inspiring process that bound their independent practices. More than anything, it’s a narrative of two artists developing in synch. They play with medium and thought, and have space to see what works and what doesn’t. Much of the imagery unnerves, but the looseness of the creative format allows the viewer to leave with unanswered questions, feeling unsettled but engaged.

    Vey Duke’s poems often weave long stories and Boyle’s illustrations invite careful consideration, so even the relatively small gallery space can be demanding to work through, especially given the absence of seating to take a brief reprieve. However, the world they’ve concocted is an imaginatively dark and tantalizing space for the mind to play.

    Shary Boyle & Emily Vey Duke: The Illuminations Project continues until April 29.
    Art Gallery of Nova Scotia:
    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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    A structure sits in the middle of Untitled Art Society’s main room: the standalone projection screen built for Anna Hawkins’ video work Fall Fell Felt for her solo exhibition of the same name. Blinds fill the screen and locks of hair weave their way through the slats. Behind the screen, similar blinds cover the gallery’s front window; its straight horizontal lines run parallel to those in the video. The structure, a similar size and dimension to the window, becomes invisible as I imagine it is the window itself.

    Anna Hawkins, Fall Fell Felt, 2018, video installation

    A collage of screams, beats, and shrill laughter provides the aural landscape to spliced found video and stills. Instances of feminine pain have been collected and represented with fetishized body parts – the pointed toes of a woman falling off a car, the leg of a woman who has fallen off a trampoline and lays face down. One leg is extracted and manipulated, scaled large, and then morphed into the legs of someone falling off a car, screaming.

    Keyed-out images and masked backgrounds taken from female fail videos are interwoven with the artist’s re-enactment of those moments or body parts. Experiences of falling are re-created, eyelashes blink over the footage, as if the viewer inhabits the sight of the female failure. The viewer becomes the blurry midriff moving in and out of focus, the butt cut out of its original video dancing on its own. The screen, now black, a tear of light comes through it. Fingers begin to reach through until hands emerge, tearing the rip even wider, something like the violence of birth, the tearing of woman’s body.

    Hawkins’s two-channel video How To Chop An Onion, a seemingly converse meditation on care, plays downstairs. The artist’s hands are keyed out and overlaid over instructional videos – how to chop an onion, how to blow dry your hair, tie a tie, do a French braid, massage your face, work with clay – all to the sinister, clownish sounds of snare and hi-hat. The artist’s hands touch the hands of their tutor, stroke their hair, massage their face, inadvertently caring for them. The hands reach out to connect, to feel, but receive no sensation. As in Fall Fell Felt, the empathy depicted has an underlying terror, a helplessness in the face of representations of the female body. The desire to feel lies crestfallen.

    Anna Hawkins: Fall Fell Felt continues until March 29.
    Untitled Art Society:
    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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  • 03/07/18--03:55: Performing Lives at OPTICA
  • After a conference in Paris this winter I headed to the Louvre to see the paintings by Delacroix, Gros, and Gericault that I’d only ever read about. Determined to make the most of my free day in the city, I stopped off at the Notre Dame Cathedral before the museum opened. On my way out, I passed through a throng of tourists to the nearby Pont des arts. A small pack of police officers surrounded a teenaged girl at the end of the bridge, lightly gripping their big guns. Unprovoked, one of them lurched forward with a Taser and plunged it into the girl’s side. She fell to the ground, writhing and sobbing as the officer released her from the charge. A passerby assured me that this was the only way to deal effectively with the Roma and “other” pickpockets in the area. Afterwards at the Louvre, Delacroix’s Turks, Gros’s Egyptians, and Gericault’s Mauritanians – racialized goons, menaces, and victims from the canon of French history painting, looked suddenly, and heartbreakingly, contemporary.

    Bertille Bak, Transports à dos d’hommes, 2012, video (photo: Paul Litherland)

    Performing Lives, curator Zoë Chan’s international program of videos now showing at OPTICA, remind me of the enormous range of possibilities for representing marginalized communities that lies between the sensationalism of French Orientalist painters and the insensitive reporting of that passerby on the “Roma problem” in Paris. Between the poles of making-things-up and pinning-things-down, the artists in this exhibition explore performance as a means of conveying the struggles of disadvantaged groups, as well as their strength, irreverent humour, and creativity.

    France’s Roma are the protagonists in Bertille Bak’s video Transports a dos d’hommes. Bak’s camera moves sympathetically through a railway-side Roma camp to document moments of ecstatic joy in the community’s spontaneous performances. A young dancer beside a pop-up trailer tears into grass underfoot with dazzlingly fast steps, tapping out an even faster beat on his torso. The tempo is slowed as Bak settles into a trailer-cum-recording studio for an accordion jam session. The musicians plug into amps and a fully operational Paris Metro map which adds a compliment of lights, dings, and announcements to their recording. As the sun sets, a less benign sign of French ingenuity appears on the horizon. A train comes to a stop beside the camp, not to pick up passengers but to scan for obstacles. Its headlights move in their sockets back and forth across the tracks with an eerie mix of engineered concern and robotic indifference. In another especially powerful scene, industrious Roma kids are shown sorting and weighing chopped padlocks bearing lovers’ inscriptions after gathering them from Parisian bridges just like Pont des arts. We, in turn, are left to imaginatively track a change of state from token of romantic commitment to scrap metal for sale.

    Yoshua Okón, Pulpo, 2011, video (photo: Paul Litherland)

    Other works in the program are more scripted or choreographed, but no less compelling. Yoshua Okon’s Pulpo features Mayan migrants performing military crawls and various techniques of dissimulation in a Los Angeles Home Depot parking lot. The work alludes to the Guatemalan Civil War in which they fought, but it also recalls performance-interventions like William Pope L.’s Crawl or, closer to home, Rebecca Belmore’s Vigil. In all three of these pieces, the aloofness of passers-by is telling. Okon’s audience at OPTICA is cleverly implicated in the installation, but also encouraged to watch. Upside-down Home Depot bucket-seats are fitted with thin foam cushions for our (limited) viewing comfort. In the exhibition’s remaining works, we’re kept in our seats by pop-culture references that suggest poignant parallels between, for example, residential school children and the dancing zombies of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video (in Lisa Jackson’s Savage), and Asian-Canadian women and the all-white male misfits of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders (in May Truong’s The Outsiders).

    These performances, and the lives that give rise to them, are set in strange places – in dark city parks, alongside train tracks, in parking lots and residential schools. Helen Reed’s Twin Twin Peaks, featuring re-performances of scenes from the TV show scripted and played by fans, highlights the entire exhibition’s uncanny tone. Like the anonymous locale of David Lynch’s series, the spaces of Performing Lives are liminal ones, odd and inhabitable only through the videos’ part-fictions, but also a lot like the ones we take for granted in more routine performances of our day-to-day lives.

    Performing Lives continues until March 17.
    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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  • 03/07/18--18:41: Dagmara Genda at aceartinc.
  • In her latest exhibition, Everything That’s Lost at aceartinc., Dagmara Genda is, to some degree, playing “artist as documentarian” in her own backwards provisional way. The result makes for a tacitly misleading or rather incongruous presentation and premise. It’s hard to know what make of it or pin down exactly what it is. And perhaps that’s to Genda’s benefit. It starts with her meticulously traced cutouts of what look like magazine-size pictures of snow-covered fields akin to images you'd find in a nature documentary or a National Geographic. The cutouts are arranged in an orderly and careful way as though there's a potential purpose for doing so. It is like walking into a science lab and seeing various specimens methodically lined up for an esoteric study.

    Dagmara Genda

    Some of the cutouts are mere minimal incisions, but then others progressively become more fragmented into complete abstraction as your eyes moves from one to the next. They are all oriented vertically, like portraits, belying the landscape imagery they depict; instead, their irregular shapes resemble marked territories as if taken from an atlas.

    The other half of the exhibition is more or less a colossal book sculpture barred off from touching and only viewable from close proximity. The otherwise blank sacred white book is an amalgam of two thousand laser-cut shapes centered on each page. The shapes were sourced from the negatives of the aforementioned magazine cutouts. In essence, Genda transforms a seemingly inconsequential nature magazine into an untouchable monument of sorts. The book is a fully realized encyclopedic document of something she obsessively fabricated and then decided to distance from view by only making it accessible when the gallery attendant wears cotton gloves and flips eighty pages at approximately 4:30pm every day.

    It makes you wonder why she chose this seemingly ridiculous gesture? What’s with the weird rules? At the heart of the show is ultimately photography since all the cut landscapes are photo sourced. And it makes me wonder if this absurd undertaking is an illustration of how much photography plays into making an impenetrably objective and fixed historical record? Is it a knock to the arbitrary way history is sometimes neatly organized to close out some stories and emphasize others? Is it how images from media like nature documentaries help to perpetuate an idea of a culture or a perception of falsely pristine untouched territories like that of Canada’s North? Baudrillard said something about an image becoming more real to us that the reality of the thing itself. By cutting parts of the snowy landscapes, Genda packs on a new narrative to those initial images; now we start to wonder what was there before. We wonder what the photograph can’t show – who is outside of the frame and why are they omitted?

    Dagmara Genda: Everything That’s Lost continues until March 16.
    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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    Canada is a country consisting entirely of narratives of displacement. Whether you’re Indigenous, settler, refugee, or immigrant, you’re relationship to this land is fraught with instability. The real or perceived threat and/or experience of losing your home persists from the past through to the present, and while the state’s attitude to who belongs and who doesn’t hasn’t reached the extremes that it has with our neighbour to the south, we would be remiss to think we are free from either having to move or from benefitting from the forcible relocation of others. Perhaps our sensitivity to this precarity is what makes us more sympathetic to the notion of sanctuaries – places of safety and security.

    Noor Khan, before/after, still/here, 2017, mixed media

    Mitra Fakhrashrafi and Jessica Kirk, the curatorial duo working under the name Way Past Kennedy Road, begin their essay for the exhibition Sanctuary Inter/rupted (currently on display at Xpace Cultural Centre) by pointing out that the municipal government voted in 2013 to declare Toronto a “sanctuary city.” Despite those good intentions, a report from two years later by No One is Illegal states that the police are providing border services agents with information acquired through carding (and just this week a final consultation investigating the impact of this racially biased policing tactic took place). For the participating artists, this tension between acceptance and rejection is one they negotiate in life and work.

    Kaiatanoron Dumoulin Bush and Ryan Rice’s Tkaronto vs. Akwe:kon t-shirt (the Mohawk translation of a popular slogan that big ups the Big Smoke) roots this conflict in colonialism, but the remaining artists reflect a more recent history of having to wrestle with the notion of home within a prevailing culture of white supremacy. sharine taylor contributes a series of photo portraits of her grandmother who left Jamaica and arrived on her own in Canada in 1971. She had to work for a year as a domestic labourer before being able to apply for her infant daughter to join her and even now, decades later, polices her own language, restricting her use of Patois, so as not to expose herself to marginalization.

    Noor Khan documents a different history of prejudice through a Photoshopped picture of her young parents taken across the river from the World Trade Centre but time-shifted to appear as if shot on 9/11. The innocence of the original tourist pic is heartbreaking given how far America will go to vilify Muslims in the aftermath of that attack. Over fifteen years later, the emotions tied to the tragedy will be ruthlessly exploited to elect a President whose platform includes explicit bans on Muslims and immigrants.

    Samira Warsame, A Search for Hooyo (detail), 2017, photographs

    Samira Warsame’s images of young women who, like her, are the children of Somali refugees, appropriates both fashion photography and the art historical tradition of representing the Canadian landscape by placing her glamorous subjects within a backdrop of wintery ravines and suburban apartments. Their authoritative gazes make it clear they have asserted ownership of places that would otherwise consider them alien. Warsame’s work, like everyone else’s in the gallery, is accompanied by a soundtrack contained on an actual cassette tape (I’d forgotten the patience and etiquette required for rewinding and replaying these things). The fluidity and mobility of music has always provided the most dramatic and popular example of bordering crossing as uncontrollable cultural inevitability. The forces that aim to police such movement are powerless before art that reflects and embodies diaspora. Which is not to say the police will relent anytime soon, but to acknowledge the communities that resist dispossession in a city that has for too long been defined by it.

    Sanctuary Inter/rupted continues until March 24.
    Xpace Cultural Centre:
    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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    “Do you exist for my comfort?” This was the question asked by artist Juliane Foronda in the inaugural group show this will never finish at London’s project space Support. Her text was printed on folded paper and fit snugly around a tiny wooden ledge. Copies could be removed by pinching them away from the ledge. This practical yet somehow uncooperative design – the paper didn’t immediately give way – was a subtle but effective, even if accidental, trick to hold Foronda’s question in place a little longer.

    Juliane Foronda, The first thing I look for in a party is a chair, 2017, paper, wood

    Co-organized by Liza Eurich, Graham Macaulay, Tegan Moore, and Ruth Skinner, Support occupies the same location as Carl Louie– a previous exhibition project that moved to a residential house last year. The new gallery’s programming is meant to be similarly informal, inclusive, and occasional. Its website includes a litany of definitions for its namesake: carry, reinforce, suggest the truth of, to keep going, and, in droll dictionary clarity, a thing bearing the weight of another thing. This loose mandate, Eurich and Skinner have explained, oscillates between ideas of display, formal structure, and holistic ideas of support and community. For their first show the exhibiting artists both lightly and obliquely responded to the idea of support.

    Kristine Mifsud’s varied materials, laid out like studio surplus, avoid preciousness when surface, substance, and orientation appear not just as weathered objects of former use, but as the result of a visual code emerging in dialogue with the surrounding space. Emily Geen’s photographs imagine a simultaneity of temporal space suggestive of the cropped, peripheral reflections of windows, rear-view mirrors, and the collage-like slats of billboards. Lauryn Youden’s SSS: a place to retreat, when I am sick (of you), with its tightly demarcated zones of salt, candles, and blankets, hints at how personal conceptions of rejuvenating space can also be uncomfortable sites of static ritual.

    In a reading at the opening by Faith Patrick based on a non-hierarchal collection of poems and photographs, words were addressed directly to the audience as Patrick performed from memory. The poems described a kind of continual divergence in co-existence, with images slipping in from an angle that was hard to grasp, yet impossible to avoid. I think of Foronda’s question from another angle: who exists for whose comfort, benefit, indeed support, and where do we go when it’s gone, dead, over? Foronda’s last line is innocuous, then obvious: I begin to lean, rest. I look up, and notice a few more stars in the sky.

    this will never finish was on view from January 28 to February 25.
    The gallery is partially accessible.

    Kim Neudorf is an artist and writer based in London, Ontario. Her writing and paintings have appeared most recently at DNA Gallery and Forest City Gallery in London, Paul Petro and Franz Kaka in Toronto, and Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre in Kingston.

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    Each of Jamie Hilder’s prints in Landmarks, now on display at Malaspina Printmakers, tells a story we’ve heard before but can never understand. Each of the ten framed intaglio prints pair two accounts of human disaster. Blocks of red text describe bombings with a corresponding Richter scale reading of the rupture in black ink. The text weighs heavily on the paper, contained in its rectangular field, while the thin, spiked lines of seismic activity register in our consciousness with far less empathic potential. The tension produced by putting together these two abstractions of the same devastating event demonstrates how language can be molded to resonate coldly; however, the magnitude reading has no faculty to distinguish between natural phenomenon and the nexus of political turmoil, desperate measure, and human toll. There’s still human agency in language.

    Jamie Hilder, Bishops Gate/4.3, 2018

    Each of the written descriptions is delivered in the basic journalistic format – who, what, when, where, with a glaringly absent why: “When, concerned about the relationship between a university and a national military culture, 4 student activists exploded a 900 kg anfo bomb in a Ford Econoline van outside of a building housing an army-funded think tank. 1 postdoctoral researcher was killed and 3 students injured. 26 nearby buildings were damaged.” This particular passage resonates for citing the make and model of the vehicle used in the attack. Perhaps it’s an indication of journalistic thoroughness, but the relentlessness to detail works against our capacity to fathom the conditions the led to the the van’s use.

    The exhibition includes a modified seismograph that detects and records the surrounding movement of the gallery’s visitors, street traffic, and adjacent print studio onto a rotating drum. The machine is loaded with red ink and superimposes the measurements over images that depict a history of riots, raids, and murders. The drums are changed daily and alternate between a set, so each day of the exhibition, a new reading is added. At times the needle even retraces the path of the previous day. The framing of quotidian activity rendered as this ritualistic scarring of a visual history of violence (in red ink no less) is formally rather heavy handed, but, if it offends sensibilities, it only advances the point.

    When art includes a participatory element, it often indicates a kind of optimism or sense of belonging in the accumulative gestures that become part of the work. Contrary to this, Hilder treats our encounter as evidence of a prevailing passivity in the collective reading of disaster news. It’s neither a pointed finger or a useful call to action; after all, they are ten artworks exposed to a fraction of the audience for whom this information usually circulates. The slowness operating in this work – the necessary technical caution of producing prints, the sluggish revolutions of the drum – counters the momentum of these events, the speed that news travels. Though the work critiques the dehumanizing factor of measurement and language, there is also a delicate awareness of the potential to sensationalize.

    Jamie Hilder: Landmarks continues until March 18.
    Malaspina Printmakers:
    The gallery is 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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    Ghost and God, the first piece in Regina artist Kevin McKenzie’s exhibition Resurrection at The Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery, is so transparent that it is almost immaterial. A violet circle of electrified gas rings a bison skull cast in clear resin and affixed to a large Plexiglas crucifix. It’s a provocative assemblage. “I wanted the viewer to come away thinking whose God is stronger: the Indigenous God or the Christian God,” explains McKenzie, “But it became a fantastic marriage or union of spiritual icons.”

    Kevin McKenzie, The Triptych is Father, Son and Holy Ghost II, 2017, liquid plastic, carbon fibre, neon

    The spiritual icons of the bison skull and the crucifix became a personal language for the artist to explore his hybrid identity. In her essay accompanying the exhibition, Daina Warren argues that the works are self-portraits, reflecting McKenzie’s spiritual education in the Catholic school system followed by an exploration of his own background and Indigenous cultural practices.

    McKenzie’s decision to work with modern materials like plastic is a challenge to the notion of authenticity. Plastic, whether employed by the artist or in mass-produced kitsch, reflects neither the glory of God nor that of nature. The 12 Apostles, a sculptural installation comprised of twelve polyurethane cast bison skulls, introduces a third culture to the dichotomy of European culture and Indigenous culture: sub-culture. McKenzie’s skulls are adorned with metal crosses, paint splatters, mesh, glow-in-the-dark Jesus figurines, and black paint. He recasts the salvation-seekers as young proselytizers of punk and Goth bedecked in dangly earrings, oversized jewellery, nail varnish, and all-black ensembles. Glowing with red and blue LEDs and fluorescent paint, these sculptures literally and figuratively light the way with their radically non-hierarchical inclusion of the sacred with the profane, crude, and cheap.

    Kevin McKenzie:
continues until April 29.

    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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