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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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    Wake up adrift in a canoe on a clear night and the reflection of the stars will make it feel like you’re flying through space. We are all, at 1000 miles per hour, in canoes, asleep in our beds, or awake, on what we take to be firm ground. This is the enchanted insight Cree playwright Tomson Highway draws from a childhood experience on a lake in Nunavut. Benjamin Klein’s Shifter Bender Striker at Pierre-Francois Ouellette art contemporaine also scrutinizes the line between how nature is given directly in child-like reverie, and how it’s mediated through names, grownup habits of mind, and learned interpretive frames.

    Benjamin Klein, Diver (eclaircie pastorale), 2018, oil on canvas

    During my visit, Ouellette gleefully recalled finding residue from pressed palms and foreheads at waist height on the front window of his gallery. Kids had evidently leaned in for a peak at the blue tortoise sailing between a sky crowded with bulbous, candy-coloured stars and planets, and a body of water imperfectly reflecting the heavens in Klein’s Navigator. Beyond the window, in Tracker, stars hang like drippy confections and the ground below is an elusive firmament. In the cosmic soup of Klein’s landscapes, solids, liquids, gases, scales, and directions undergo a series of “dislocations” across shifting physical, metaphorical, and epistemological boundaries.

    For art critic John Bentley Mays, Klein’s 2014 solo show invited the contrasting perspectives of a little girl in a Kafka story with a meandering vision, and the rational views of a modern man who casts a shadow over her as she moves “absent mindedly” down the street. Here too, the trained eye picks out ponds and gardens like Monet’s at Giverny, and stars and sunflowers like Van Gogh’s (with a touch of psychedelia). However, these references are less compelling than the meandering “sense memories” that give rise to them. For Klein “any hard distinction between Dana Schutz, Dürer, Miyazaki and the TV shows Stranger Things and Twin Peaks” (all interests at one time or another for the painter) “can’t be sustained” in imagined worlds that are ultimately more felt than comprehended.

    Diver, one of the busiest canvases, shows a leaky sun and a shaft of light pushing through the jet-black and bejeweled sky. The time of day is uncertain as the sky mixes fire-red tones of sunset and the pale blue of high noon. Up front, a scattered gang of cartoon creatures, including a crazed giraffe and a see-through tortoise, awaits whatever fate the sky will deliver when it finally falls. Stratocumulus clouds just above the horizon harbour a repeated pattern of fish outlines. If they are meant to be clouds, they aren’t so distinct from the pond in the foreground. They are that water summoned into the sky and collected there, rather miraculously, though we tend not to see them that way in our hurried day-to-day lives

    Benjamin Klein, Caller, 2018, oil on canvas

    In Caller, the same sky glows behind an arched glade in a dark forest. The usual characters reappear with inconsistent shadows. A flat blue and yellow giraffe-icon pokes its head above the horizon casting a twisted shadow forward. The tortoise, now filled-in with purple, casts its shadow backwards. At the front edge of the canvas, blue bees can be counted among flowers that echo their shapes – or vice versa. One looks for originals and copies of these forms in vain. A symbolist reading might cast the giraffe as a sign of vulnerability and the tortoise as a sign of defensiveness. Klein has acknowledged the psychodrama in his earlier paintings of insects that surely continues in these works; but there is more at stake in his selection of motifs than anthropomorphism.

    A key to Klein’s signs and wonders might be available in his ladybug paintings from 2012 to 2016. This subject proved to be an “adequate” motif for Klein when he realized its figure/ground arrangement of dots was a synecdoche for painting itself. The tortoises in the new works are morphed ladybug structures (and the giraffes are based on a cartoon fridge magnet the artist saw at a friend’s place). But the adequacy of these figures consists in their relationship to the paintings’ otherworldly horizons. Klein moves beyond a figure-ground tension to probe more fundamental structures of both painting and experience. Appearing on wobbly horizons, the giraffe and tortoise, with their long and hemmed-in low views, call attention to the artifice of the perspective construction in painting, and to the full range of our situated points of view that convention was meant to symbolize.

    Horizons in Klein’s paintings are both pictorial and philosophical. They are lines from which the thinkable world advances and into which it recedes. They turn liquids into solids and masses into vapour, or, as in Highway’s canoe ride, both earth and sky into the enchanted container we are lucky enough to call home.

    Benjamin Klein: Shifter Bender Striker continues until June 16.
    Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporaine:
    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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    Àdisòkàmagan/Nous connaître un peu nous-mêmes/We’ll all become stories, curated by Rebecca Basciano, Jim Burant, Michelle Gewurtz and Catherine Sinclair for the Ottawa Art Gallery, has a trilingual title in Anishinābe, French, and English that doesn’t exactly translate word for word. Instead, it signals that the artworks on display are culturally distinct. With a deliberate focus on art-making in the Ottawa-Gatineau region, this exhibition encompasses a vast span of people and time – from a copper point made about six thousand years ago to eleven new commissions that debuted at the opening in April.

    Henry Kudluk, Shaman Legend, 2002, stone (photo: Justin Wonnacott)

    Both historical and contemporary works are grouped by four overarching themes (Bodies, Technologies, Mapping, and Bridging), and there are contrasts and connections within and across the sections. The juxtapositions can be revelatory: for example, with its depiction of a wigwam in sight of the Parliament Building, Dean Ottawa’s Kabeshinàn from 2000 offers a corrective to the colonialist depiction of Indigenous people in the adjacent work, Entrance of the Rideau Canal from 1833, by Henry Pooley. Incidentally, Kabeshinàn translates from Anishinābe as Gathering Place, which aptly describes the exhibition, as well as the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin people where it is located.

    This exhibition inaugurates the new five-storey Ottawa Art Gallery building, which has instantly been recognized as a welcoming gathering place too as it greatly increases the accessibility of the Arts Court complex. The incorporation of elements of the O.J. Firestone residence into the building design, including a brass and marble staircase (as well as the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art), give the ambitious undertaking a human scale and a homey feel. This hominess carries over into the exhibition design, where the curators often deploy salon-style hangings that enable them to achieve an incredibly diverse and inclusive selection ranging from A. Y. Jackson to Meryl McMaster.

    Barry Pottle, I,U,A (from the Syllabics Series)(detail), 2015, digital photographs

    Ultimately, the exhibition presents a portrait of Ottawa composed of the artists who have roots here, including both well-established names and those who are lesser known. It gives visitors a chance to get reacquainted with old favourites and to make discoveries. Someone who doesn’t live here might be surprised to learn that the city has the largest population of Inuit outside of the Canadian North. This is well reflected with works by artists such as Mattiusi Iyaituk, Henry Kudluk, and Annie Pootoogook. Barry Pottle’s photographs I,U,A isolate the shapes of Inuktitut syllabics found within the concrete angles of the streets and strongly assert an urban Indigenous presence. Àdisòkàmagan/Nous connaître un peu nous-mêmes/We’ll all become stories contains not only a wealth of stories but also different ways to tell them.

    Àdisòkàmagan/Nous connaître un peu nous-mêmes/We’ll all become stories continues until September 16.
    Ottawa Art Gallery:
    The gallery is accessible.

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

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    I Don’t Get It includes an array of olfactory sculptures, inkjet prints, a beach towel, a multi-channel sound work that transmits from motorcycle side view mirrors, and an edition of embroidered sweatshirts. But the centrepiece of Aleesa Cohene’s exhibition at Western Front is the two-channel video Woah (1 and 2). Both channels show scenes of women from Hollywood movies as they meander interiors, answer phones and doors, and unload their vehicles. The screen on the left shows black women; the screen on the right, white women. Their actions are roughly synced in the sense that both women on screen are conducting approximately the same activity. This gives the impression of parallel universes. The sound is arranged with two mono-channels – the action from the left video is heard from the left speaker and vice versa – to frame the work as one divided space.

    Aleesa Cohene, Whoa (Pineapple Nails), 2017, red cedar, acrylic nails, acrylic paint, scent

    Requisite to editing this together would include watching all the films, selecting the right frames, and rewatching them in the editing process. Cohene was thus subject to hours of media portraying women conducting mundane acts, engaging in melodrama (on the right), and sublimated emotion (on the left), before dealing with the task of making distinct the actors’ race and then structurally recomposing the footage. This gesture of pulling-apart followed by critical reassembly resonates as a labour of confronting the dominant and unequitable images of our time.

    At one point in the video there is an interruption to the flow of Hollywood pacing. On the left screen, we are shown a woman listening to a voicemail. She hears the voice of Christina Knight reading from her text Black Joy in the Hour of Chaos: ”We remake the world each day in tiny, often forgettable actions. It might seem, in this schema, that there is no outside to ideology, no way to alter a system that is always reproducing itself through our quiet consent.”

    Aleesa Cohene, Whoa (Need a Towel?), 2017, inkjet print, beach towel

    Initiated with a “declarative naivety,” the exhibition offers tricks, prompts, logics, and dialogue through the images and works. Woah (Diary of a Young Girl) gathers a paperback copy of the titular book, a hard drive storing all the unused scenes including men from the source films for Woah (1 and 2), and an invitation to Trinidadian filmmaker Michèle Pearson Clarke to collaborate on a future project using the aforementioned heap (I’m certain it’s a heap) of excised footage. For Woah (Need a Towel?), a still of a pineapple getting sliced was reproduced on a beach towel. The pineapple is also a referent for the scented sculpture Woah (Pineapple Nails). The formal choices behind the singling out of these particular moments that appear in Woah (1 and 2) for sculptural translation are not explicit, but indicate some visual prompts and tricks given in lieu of a political answer to proceeding from the aforesaid declarative naivety.

    In the exhibition’s literature, it states that “white people have a lot to answer for in the acceptance and perpetuation of the reification of ourselves as a norm.” The other side of quiet consent is the position the artist and co-curators, all white women, are striving to reckon with. The title of each work prefaced by the onomatopoeic “woah” expresses a need for momentum (power) to be halted, but beyond the contemplative pit stop of interfacing with art, what remains is the intent to engage with the uneasy confrontation of the racialized power structures white women are all implicated in. That has yet to be materialized, and is therefore yet to be halted.

    Aleesa Cohene: I Don’t Get It continues until July 27.
    Western Front:
    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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    Within moments of visiting the Art Gallery of Alberta exhibition Li Salay, you find yourself falling into step with the deep, rhythmic drumming emanating from Casey Koyczan’s installation Naet’a; The Sun Keeps Coming Up. Once you’ve entered the installation, you are subsumed by an immersive video projection depicting images of celestial landscapes as they fluctuate between discernibility and abstraction. Interlaced with the projection are a number of white sticks that point towards the center of the image, drawing your eye to the experimental, yet intuitive, compositions that depict the cyclical geo-cosmic narratives of the earth, sun, and moon.

    Li Salay at the Art Gallery of Alberta, 2018, exhibition view

    Curated by Amy Malbeuf and Jessie Ray Short, Li Salay is an exploration of the myriad ways that Métis artists represent and express their relations: with themselves, their families, friends, the land, the sky, the water, and countless other instances of reciprocity and interconnectedness. Li Salay (Michif for ‘the sun’) brings these diverse representations of inter-relation and co-constitution together through an emphasis on how all things hold relations with the sun. Through this embrace, the curators create space for a heterogeneous articulation of contemporary Métis artistic practice that acknowledges Métis peoples as always already whole.

    While Koyczan’s mesmerizing video installation invites celestial contemplation, Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill’s sculpture Orinoco Note– featuring a flag crafted out of tobacco and thread – cuts through the room, leaving faint olfactory traces of tobacco throughout the space, out of reach but detectable. The flag’s delicate stitching – occasionally resulting in a tiny tear – alludes to a deep and complex intimacy with land. Hill’s flag doesn’t sway with allegiance to any state, but instead it complicates the relationship between identity, land, and nation.

    Sheri Nault, Entangled Bodies 4, 2018 (photo: Charles Cousins)

    This focus on complexity and complication is echoed in Sheri Nault’s Entangled Bodies 2, 3, and 4, which weave together wood, human hair, and beeswax to form a series of human/more-than-human assemblages that tell stories of porous bodies and permeable boundaries. Investigating the complicated interpersonal dynamics of sexuality and gender, Dayna Danger's digital video Bebeschwendaam reveals intimate explorations: the playful, awkward, tender, pleasurable negotiations of interacting with strap-on antlers.

    In addition to the above, the exhibition includes work by Lori Blondeau, Katherine Boyer, Rosalie Favell, Tim Moore, Audie Murray, Sherry Farrell Racette, Les Ramsay, Jewel Shaw, and Amanda Strong. Together, the thirteen artists in Li Salay complicate, connect, reveal, critique, love, persist, and expose. They swell together, yet remain distinct.

    Li Salay continues until September 9.
    Art Gallery of Alberta:
    This gallery is accessible.

    Jessa Gillespie is an artist, writer, and curator residing in Edmonton. Most recently, they collaborated on the curation of the exhibition material™ at Latitude 53, as well as interviewed Cindy Baker on her performance and solo exhibition Crash Pad, which can be found on the dc3 Art Projects website. Gillespie currently holds a Gallery Assistant position at dc3 Art Projects and a Research Assistant position with Dr. Scott Smallwood at the University of Alberta.

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    The camera pans over hands lazily kneading dough and minimally stocked white kitchen shelves, then down past fine wood railings to the hardwood floor. Montréal filmmaker and media artist Andrée-Anne Roussel’s solo exhibition -Pathie at TRUCK Contemporary Art in Calgary is a series of cinematic micro-observations acted out in four films, one kinetic sculpture, and a lush soundscape. Using the predictable palette of a minimalist lifestyle blogger – white, grey, coral, wood, ceramic, coffee, and wool – she creates controlled environments where unpredictable, almost science-fictional movements, become significantly mind-bending.

    Andrée-Anne Roussel, -Pathie, 2018, installation view

    In an otherwise curated environment, the kinetic energy of objects creates Kafkaesque deviance, anarchy, science, and spirituality. In one film, a butter knife mysteriously rotates clockwise on a countertop, then counter-clockwise. Coffee laps in its cup on an unmoving table. Eggs roll back and forth for no apparent reason. Objects are slow, and move in a shallow field of focus, gently enacting the unseen like dowsing rods. In another film, characters and rooms are spun upside-down by the camera; aesthetically perfect, isolated, and peaceful scenes are transformed into a chaotically rolling but hypnotizing and placated reality.

    The two final films, identical except for their actors, mirror each other on facing walls. Creating an entrancing duality of gender, narrative, and perspective at all times, the films focus on the expressionless gaze of the actors observing kinetic energy. From various languid positions – sitting on a bed reading, unenthusiastically kneading dough, putting on a nice wool sweater, thoughtfully drinking coffee – actors pause to observe with a gaze that could be bored, depressed, apathetic, thoughtful, or entranced. The privilege of having time to think in such languid positions becomes apparent, and parallels itself with my own ability to attend this art show and spend time in contemplation.

    Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition from 1958, first on Roussel’s reading list for the exhibition, comes to mind. The book outlines Arendt’s argument for the discrete equality rather than hierarchy of the vita activa (the “active life,” made of meeting biological needs, fabrication, design, artificiality, and relations between people) and the vita contemplativa (“contemplative life”). With Arendt in mind, the entire exhibition could be an exploration of this balance between vita activa and contemplativa– alluded to by the repetition of food elements, the artificiality of the set, and the relational and contemplative elements in the work.

    Andrée-Anne Roussel, -Pathie, 2018, detail

    There is a physical coffee cup at the end of the gallery, sitting on a plinth high enough to let me look inside. With my every step around it, the coffee inside ripples. I do a little tap dance, it swirls inward; it tells me: your energy is never wasted. My apathy is played into empathy, and my passivity into subtle action. A bit of a tear comes out the side of my eye, and I think it’s because -Pathie, both ominous and sweet, validates the simplicity of presence and spiritualizes – or makes magical – inner life.

    Andrée-Anne Roussel: -Pathie continues until July 14.
    TRUCK Contemporary Art in Calgary:
    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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    Almost fifty years has passed since the police busted the Isaacs Gallery in Toronto for – according to a CBC radio report– “exhibiting a disgusting object.” Mark Prent was barely out of school at the time of this incident, but it cemented his reputation as a creator of extreme sculptures. Within fifteen years, he’d have a survey exhibition alongside David Cronenberg at the newly opened Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery. In the thirty years since then, he’s maintained a lower profile but continues to make work that merits a similarly visceral response. That gut feeling, which is not surprisingly elicited by depictions of guts and grotesque renderings of the body, has also fallen out of fashion in the art world. It’s present in horror movies and makes its way into galleries through boundary-crossing curation like the Art Gallery of Ontario’s recent Guillermo del Toro exhibition, but the secret history of exhibiting disgusting objects locally only recently broke the surface for the first time in a while with the unshuttering of John Vincent’s collection at his ENEMY PREY IGNORE museum gallery in the city’s west end.

    A brief conversation with the artist who now finds himself a gallerist and a tour of his workshop is all that’s needed to draw a line from Prent (whose work Vincent owns) through Toronto-based special effects specialist Gordon Smith to the contemporary artist Evan Penny (whose hyperrealistic figures owe something of a debt to his time making bodies for the movies) to the late Bill Jamieson (who almost had an exhibition at The Power Plant of his collection of oddities and curiosities). Before you get to the backroom of body art and artefacts, the main attraction at this low key venue (advertising consists of posters, postcards, and a nascent Instagram page) is a display of crime scene photographs that range from the intriguingly mundane to what I’d consider relatively graphic were it not for Vincent’s comments about the pictures he didn’t include.

    There is a risk in showing this type of material simply for the sake of shock value. Thomas Hirschhorn’s installation at The Power Plant in 2011 included far more disturbing imagery of the effects of violence. He tried to have it both ways by criticizing our attraction to abhorrent pictures while also reducing them to elements in a larger and highly theorized artwork. None of those games are evident at EPI where the appreciation of the photographs from various points in the 20th Century is inescapably bound to our familiarity with the same scenes played out in police procedural crime dramas and Hollywood/Netflix/HBO thrillers (Vincent pointed out that the set designers from those productions likely looked through these kinds of archival shots to get their desired look). However, even before those stylistic references, there’s a forensic aesthetic evident in the framing and lighting of every damaged body and a sliver of narrative captured in the theatrical poses of the nameless cops and bystanders who find themselves in these devastating, yet everyday circumstances.

    Once the initial Wow!/Ick! reaction has passed, there remains the documentary fact that these horrible events happened to real people. Critical distance isn’t possible when fellow creatures are at stake, and so there arises an unexpected tenderness in even the most harrowing pictures. A naked, headless, and handless body, probably the victim of a mob killing, left as a message on the side of a barren road in the middle of winter, the kind of corpse that piles up in action flicks and gangster stories, becomes unspeakably tragic when framed in black and white. Apart from the violence that preceded the pictures being taken, there is little that is disgusting about this collection and much to feel. That gut reaction, the one that keeps us from getting too close to the precipice, the one we tease by watching recreations of unthinkable acts on television, the one that reminds us how fragile we are and how easy it is to die, that feeling isn’t one of revulsion but of fear. It controls us and fascinates us and routinely saves our lives. Perhaps it's because we get it from other sources that we don’t need to find it in our galleries. But it’s been there before (well before 1972) and, like they say in the movies, IT’S BACK!

    A History of Violence: Crime Scene Photography continues indefinitely.
    ENEMY PREY IGNORE museum gallery:
    The gallery is located at 2057 Dundas Street West and 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 him on Twitter @TerenceDick.

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    Think of a prequel scene to Home Alone, one where Kevin McCallister is an infant and has barely been potty trained. All he knows how to do is giggle carefreely, make a huge mess, and occasionally mutter “ma-ma.” He still has the same beleaguered parents who are either preoccupied with his other four siblings or just too busy doing who knows what while baby Kevin brews up his future plans to take revenge on the home invaders he foresees visiting him when the same parents forget to take him along on a family trip years down the road. This won’t be a stretch of a comparison when you walk into Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa’s Shit-Baby and the Crumpled Giraffe exhibition at Plugin ICA. Except in Ramírez-Figueroa’s scene, Kevin’s insidious brain appears to transcend magic. We walk right into a physical projection of his otherworldly plot while also remaining firmly rooted in a tangible reality.

    Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, Shit-Baby and the Crumpled Giraffe, 2018, installation view

    As you happen upon the gallery space, everything seems unhinged, haphazard, and charmingly cartoonish. Ramírez-Figueroa meticulously sculpted the idiosyncratic props that comprise the set he built for us to imagine along with him. We see fecal matter whimsically sprouting and floating in air. We see the white geometric titular giraffe with its tongue sticking out as though to mock us for not being as tall. We see a stork/human hybrid wearing white sneakers and we also see poop all over the floor. They come in vivid oranges, greens, and purples, which makes you wonder what the baby is ingesting. And we finally see the magical baby in question hanging out nonchalantly in the corner, blissfully unconcerned by our presence.

    Ramírez-Figueroa uses Styrofoam to achieve the convincing theatre he’s staged to visualise his sporadic and euphoric vision. Shit-Baby can be understood in multiple ways, which is one of its strengths. It sets a scenario for us decipher how we wish, and pulls our brains and emotional responses along a number of tangents. Considering Ramírez-Figueroa’s biography only enriches this experience. The Guatemalan-born artist’s own entanglement with the conditions that uprooted his family into foreign lands is a gravitational pull towards his pervious work. And like many who work in the art environment where an artist’s foreignness become a point of contention to the extent that you fall into the default role as an ambassador, you get exhausted and start to find ways to push your work away from that assigned burden.

    Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, Shit-Baby and the Crumpled Giraffe, 2018, detail

    Here, Ramírez-Figueroa just wants to make art, not give you a history lesson. And he’s done just that. He has flooded the gallery with a sunny dreamscape – however bizarro it comes off. Although he may mine fractured memory to create manic hyperbole, at the end of the day, he cuts more inward than he has before. He relies on the past for feedback without seeming mawkish about it. He indulges in fantasy to pronounce his own fragmented thoughts and malleable memory. It’s unhurried, optimistic, and defies logic in equal measure.

    Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa: Shit-Baby and the Crumpled Giraffe was on display from March 31 to June 10.
    Plugin ICA:
    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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    A 1963 LIFE Magazine photo shows two little girls crouching in front of an air vent at the San Francisco Museum of Art. Flanked by abstract paintings, the vent holds possibilities for the girls that Modern art seems to both shut down and occasion. The picture anticipates the demands of audiences to come for work that exceeds the bounds of the gallery and supports a more playful, embodied, and less strictly visual engagement with art. In Laura Acosta and David Jaime’s exhibition Ser/Viniendo – Be/Coming – De/Venir at TAP Art Space, the stalemate between art-on-the-wall and life-beyond-it is recast in a tightly curated dialogue between a VR piece, some orange sculptures, and a live performance.

    David Jaime, Layered Selves, VR view

    For curator Marx Ruiz-Wilson the exhibition asks basic questions that were likely on the minds of LIFE’s editors too: Why do we go to galleries? What do we expect to find there? And how do these experiences send us out into the world? With backgrounds in public performance and architectural design respectively, Acosta and Jaime are well chosen by Ruiz-Wilson as respondents. If debates of the sixties were organized around the relative merits of abstraction and representation, these artists look for links and gaps between those terms as they apply to social, mental, and physical spaces for artworks – spaces that are better understood as actual and inhabited physically, or virtual and projected imaginatively, or both at once, in different proportions.

    In a converted garage that opens on one side to an apartment courtyard and on the other to a back alley, we are given two colour coordinated prompts. In Jaime’s Layered Selves, a VR headset hangs on a wall in front of a swivel chair covered in emergency-orange vinyl upholstery. The performance container for Acosta’s Ser/Viniendo, sewn in the same material, hangs overhead, awaiting activation. The headset presents a mildly vertiginous 360-degree view of the gallery, but without people. Spinning slowly on the chair we marvel at gritty 3D-rendered details of a palimpsest, its scarred concrete and painted wood walls, exposed spray-insulation embellished by Jaime for an extra prickly effect, and faded graffiti from the garage’s former life. The nearly faithful simulation is interrupted by animated ribbons in green, blue, red, and orange that flash across the ceiling, along the floor, and in and out through the doorways. Primed by the virtual experience, when I took the headset off I noticed airborne poplar-tree fluff (Montreal’s ubiquitous summer snow) sailing through a wind tunnel formed by the gallery’s openings.

    Laura Acosta, Ser/Veniendo; performance by Michael Martini (photo: Morgane Clément-Gagnon)

    If people disappear in Jaime’s rendering, survived by the din of vernissage conversation and traces of a kind of VR spirit-photography, they rush back in for Acosta’s work. Performer Michael Martini climbs into the container suspended from the ceiling in flesh-coloured tights, made-up with orange nail polish and eye shadow. To an alternately scratchy and throbbing soundtrack, he unties a knotted rope, backing it out through grommets that hold the container’s segments together. With each slow revolution inside the distressed vinyl envelope he falls closer to the ground. Martini’s labour, registered in grunts and heavy breaths during pauses in the soundtrack, recalls endurance pieces by the likes of Yoko Ono and Francis Alÿs. More distant traditions haunt the performance too. Entangled in the sculpture’s lengths of rope Martini at times looked like the beleaguered Laocoon wrestling serpents, and in repose, sagging with spent arms and his head fallen to one side, I thought of the dying Marat in Jacques-Louis David’s neoclassical masterpiece. For Acosta, the work’s references are drawn from the Neo-concrete oeuvre of the Brazilian Lygia Clark, or from “bad interpretations of religious figures by colonized people in South American church decorations” or, further off the beaten art-historical path, from designer bootlegs, the improvised garbage bag raincoats of cyclists, and Reggaeton! But these interpretations of Martini’s image are, like his vinyl straitjacket, containers against which the struggle of the performance is carried out.

    The tug-of-war in the works between representation and abstraction, and virtual or actual experiences of a repurposed Montreal garage, recalls a paradox formulated by Jacques Rancière. For the philosopher, art has always insisted on the integrity of its institutions and materials, and pointed us past them to more encompassing social, political, and philosophical values. Art history for him presents various “plots” of the relationship between art’s self-reference or autonomy and its hetero-reference, or a promise that (in the more direct language of the LIFE picture) its testing ground lies beyond the gallery’s vent. The works in the exhibition turn on this paradox. Martini’s emergence from the sculpture lends a vitality to the performance that is obscured when read exclusively through art or cultural history. Freed from the artwork proper he drifts triumphantly out of the gallery along one of the paths marked by Jaime’s animated ribbons and into the summer snow.

    Laura Acosta and David Jaime: Ser/Viniendo – Be/Coming – De/Venir continues until July 21.
    TAP Art Space:
    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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    The peach paint strokes of Alison Yip’s mural at Monte Clark Gallery are not vying for trompe l'oeil; however, the thinly rendered landscape manages to produce the urge to enter this place where water doesn’t fall from clouds but is instead poured from a plastic electric kettle. A coffee table with crimped legs and a checkered surface hovers over the stream that flows from its spout. The size and placement of the kettle in the sky subverts my irreverence of it. Its shape and sound are so familiar to be almost forgotten, but Yip has dislodged it from some far flung cognitive landfill where I deposit banal spatial experiences.

    Alison Yip, Solar Upsetter, 2018

    Across the boiled stream, a plump mattress has become the rest-stop for a flat, tentacled shape. Bearing no identifiably lifelike attributes, it’s uncertain whether this shape is animal or vegetation. Realism doesn’t really factor into this to leap to another logic, and so the question remains whether the shape is an “it” or a “they,” and if the boiled river might not burn it/they because such compositions defy registered sensations.

    At approximately the same time last year, I reviewed a small group of Yip’s paintings in this exact space. They resembled thresholds with figures and flora as sentinels. Standing before this newly executed landscape, what anchors me in our dimension is a single medium-sized painting hung over top of it. This painting, portraying a sunflower against a stone wall lit like a poetry slam or amateur stand-up, is not meek or dwarfed against the mural. A sunflower’s distinct outline, with its slender body, leaves for arms, and big head, conjures the upright human form. The flower inspires an anthropomorphization that projects a face upon the round bed of seed florets. Yip’s sunflower seems to be resting or poised in thought, but rather than a face, the seeds’ surface hosts an image – like the surface of a crystal ball – of the same sunflower in its hunched, thinking pose. This Rodin sunflower, with the surreal capacity of The Arm, is a further textured sentinel that has the potential for the devious wisdom and peril we associate with the “becoming” sentient of a thing. Here, I am thinking of the insensitivity of the Venus flytrap in Little Shop of Horrors and its macabre bloom, but Yip is far less brutal.

    Her rogue placement of these objects gratifies a desire for fantastical arrangements and a re-inscription of familiar surfaces, but it can’t offer actual escape. Even the composition that hovers over the wall like condensation, is barely there were it not for her bewildering and burgeoning iconography. Much like reading lush poetry that aggregates satisfying and unexpected phrases by the end of the poem, I hold the book in a world that contains the possibility for articulation, but where boiled water will burn and an abandoned mattress is likely full of demystifying bugs.

    Alison Yip: Solar Upsetter continues until July 21.
    Monte Clark 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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    You Remained Dismembered, a multimedia exhibition by Toronto-based artist Helen Cho, features a single channel video and a collection of sculptural pieces (very neatly) scattered across Trinity Square Video’s gallery space. My thoughts about the show were more or less solidified by the time I left the gallery, until I got the idea to search for the origin of a quote I had screenshot from the exhibition. It is from Korean American writer Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee, a novel I own but never got around to reading until now, which is shameful because, as it turns out, it encompasses all the things I love. A tour de force if I’ve ever read one, Dictee manages to weave prose and verse with mythology and history, detailing the lives and loss of women across genre and doctrine. Suddenly, it became difficult to separate the artistic ambition of Cho’s exhibition and the literary ambition of Cha’s novel.

    Helen Cho, So Many Wind, 2018, video

    I began my tour of the exhibition with Cho’s newest video work, So Many Wind, an installment of the Tai Lam Trilogy– a series documenting the life of Tai Phuoc Lam, who arrived to Canada in 1986 seeking refuge from the Vietnam War. I took a seat on the low wooden bench (known as pyeong-sang, and usually found outdoors) in an area of the gallery sectioned off with a blackout curtain as the video began and these words appeared across the bottom third of the screen: “You remained dismembered with the belief that magnolia blooms white even on seemingly dead branches and you wait.” Lam begins narrating the story of his journey from Vietnam, what became of the family he left behind, and his life here now in Toronto. His English is broken and will be difficult to comprehend for the uninitiated, especially with the neverending floor creaks and sound pollution of 401 Richmond. We don’t see his face until the end, but throughout Lam tells a disjointed story punctuated with jovial conversations in his car (signaled only by the sound of his turn signal synched perfectly with Vietnamese traditional music playing from his stereo), small talk with customers at the pizza shop where he works, and tearful revelations at his home with his bird chirping in the background.

    Accompanying the video work in the second half of the gallery is Materiality Reconstructing a Desire for Auspicious Life. Pale pink and blood red vinyl petals are assembled into free standing flowers (magnolias?) atop another pyeong-sang – this one gilded in gold vinyl. Rocks anchor some loose “petals” that have “fallen” from the magnolias, clinging to the edge of the pyeong-sang. The rocks appear again on the other end of the room, here wrapped in Korean newspaper and flanked by two plants potted in yogurt containers. Cho creates and stages objects that are ill matched: synthetic with the natural, interior with the exterior, and private with the public.

    Helen Cho, So Many Wind, 2018, video

    I first came across Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s work through This Bridge Called My Back, an anthology of writing by radical women of color. In it, there is a photo of Cha squatting on a sidewalk dressed in all white. She wears a white blindfold with the word VOIX printed in black, and just below her face she holds taut another strip of cloth with the word AVEUGLE printed across it: Blind Voice. I have it on my desk as I am writing this review, and I’m reminded of Tai Lam’s voice, which we heard without seeing him, and when we did see him, he did not speak. I also think of Cha herself, who was murdered one week after the publication of Dictee; she suffered unspeakable violence, not unsimilar to the women in Lam’s story of home. As he tells this story, the last words Lam speaks are: “A lot of people die, you need to accept it. You don’t know where you go.”

    Helen Cho: You Remained Dismembered continues until July 28.
    Trinity Square Video:
    The gallery is accessible.

    Letticia Cosbert is a Toronto based writer and editor, and is currently the Digital Content Coordinator at the Koffler Centre of the Arts. Letticia studied Classics, earning a B.A. from the University of Toronto, and an M.A. from Western University, where she specialized in erotic Latin poetry. Her writing and editorial work has been featured in Ephemera Magazine, Sophomore Magazine, The Ethnic Aisle, and publications by Katzman Contemporary, Younger Than Beyonce Gallery, Xpace, and Trinity Square Video. She can be followed on Instagram @prettiletti.

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    Antiques, Blush, Character Home, Desire, Exotic landscape, Fainting, Garter, Heathcliff, Iron Gate, Jewelry, Kisses, Loss of Control, Matriarchy, Old Hairstyles, Protest, Robin’s Egg, Seduction, Titanic, Unconscious Mind, Vase, Waist: the alphabet as imagined by RBC Emerging Artist Award winner Natasha Jensen. Her exhibition Honey Pot, currently showing at Five Art & Merchandise is a visual découpé of selected terms from her master list of muses exploring the semiotics of the constructed female fantasy.

    Natasha Jensen

    Honey Pot takes from the inter-cultural and trade-related history of vase-making, porcelain, and the popularity of Orientalism in Western Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque art. Jensen has drawn three decorative Delftware-esque vases, not in the traditional cobalt blue, but in shades of pink pencil crayon, and on rose pink paper. An amphora is adorned with symbols of duality – a cameo of swans, leaves, strawberries. Swans, mates for life, are often the symbol of true eternal love; however, in the context of the bestial Greek mythological tale of Leda and the Swan, they are also a symbol of sexual desire. Strawberries too – traditionally locally used in Indigenous teachings and women’s fertility medicine, and a symbol of the righteousness of Mother Mary in Medieval art – are, somewhat less righteously, a symbol of sexual temptation in Hieronymus Bosch’s famous Garden of Earthly Delights.

    A vase the shape of an elongated Greek oil vessel, the lekythos, is nearly obscured with an enormous desert willow flower, its petals both enveloping and making up the body of the vase, echoing and elaborating female sexual organs. The third is a multi-shafted tulip vase encrusted with flowers and ornamented with leaves, rising up out of the flora like a fantastic castle on the horizon, an untapped fantasy in all its femme fatale mystique. Each vase has a waist-like fillet that echoes the traditionally gendered, worshipped, and belted hourglass female shape, one even contained inside an oblong pencil crayon halo like an Edwardian cameo. Tacked to the wall with metallic gold push-pins, each vase is lustrous, decoratively obscuring its hidden contents, a vessel alluding to a secret sensual compartment, a catfishing honey pot, a pink vagina, a trap.

    Standing brilliantly off the wall and casting a hard, contrasting shadow behind it, is also a pencil crayon drawing of none other than Alberta’s provincial flower: a thorned rosebush intricately cut out and hovering off the wall like a magic illusion of dimensionalities. The wild rose, used for nourishment, teaching, and ceremonial medicine by Indigenous people for centuries, can now be found on Alberta license plates as the provincial government flower. It is both a symbol of the pre-colonial and colonial.

    Jensen’s work abides in duality and imitation; she imitates three-dimensionality, the body, and blockbuster femininity with an ironic softness. Her imitation Dutch Delftware, which historically began as imitation Chinese porcelain, and her faux-gold pushpins, catfish us with their glint, and then point to the trade-related valuing of objects, nature, and the female body. Honey Pot is an ironically soft representation of materials originating in colonialism, sexism, and cultural appropriation – the results of attacks, disempowerment, and excommunication. Jensen painstakingly renders these terms too, pointing to personal and the broader social fetishization of symbols of perfection or femininity detached from harmful contexts.

    Natasha Jensen: Honey Pot continues until July 15
    Five Art & Merchandise:
    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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    Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery has a large parquet floor and high ceilings that make the single room an open and breathable space. Jane Kidd’s tapestries hang on the walls and rest, upright and flat, on shelves. Her exhibition Curious, organized by the Kelowna Art Gallery and curated by Liz Wylie, is an assemblage of four bodies of work from the last decade: Phenomena, Wonderland, Curiosities, and Land Sentence. These hand-woven images explore the relationship between humans and nature, and the endless questions concerning our impact on the earth, the environment, and its organisms.

    Jane Kidd, Curiosities Series: Pairing #4, 2016

    The brightly coloured tapestries feature images such as shells, leaves, bones, and wings surrounded by more ambiguous forms. Organic shapes juxtaposed with geometric constructions, such as grids, complete the compositions of both the Land Sentence and Phenomena works. Both these series look at the effects of human activities on the earth and address issues such as climate change, pollution, and deforestation. Curiosities creates pairings of both human-made objects and elements from the natural world. Kidd combines a human rib cage and a shell on a bright red background, or a piece of machinery and a thistle-like flower. Curiosity is an eagerness to know or learn something, and this series reflects just that: the artist creates images of wonder and magic. This is also beautifully depicted in her Wonderland works where she explores bioengineering and human tampering with the natural world.

    By combining the human-made with earth beings – as well as through using computer-generated images of the landscape that surrounds us – Kidd questions the precariousness of the world we live in. Within these interconnected fibres and threads, this exhibition magnifies the web of interconnections between our lives as humans and all the other beings in this world, while also depicting the horrors of the human condition.

    Jane Kidd: Curious continues until August 26.
    MSVU Art Gallery:
    The gallery is accessible.

    Carrie Allison is an Indigenous mixed-race visual artist born and raised in unceded and unsurrendered Coast Salish Territory (Vancouver, BC). Situated in K’jipuktuk since 2010, Allison’s practice responds to her maternal Cree and Metis ancestry, thinking through intergenerational cultural loss and acts of resilience, resistance, and activism, while also thinking through notions of allyship, kinship, and visiting.

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    Masculinity in visual art is cool as long as the artist is critiquing it, but what happens when a male artist uses traditionally masculine tropes in his work? How much ambiguity or criticality is needed to merit a pass? When Matthew Barney gets dismissed as “bro” art, isn’t the appropriate response: “Well, duh.”? All of his work is conscientiously engaged with representations of maleness in the process of being dismantled and/or celebrated through exaggeration and dissection. What is it to refer to something as “bro” art other than to dismiss it as endemic of a kind of male supremacy that leans toward the tiresome edge of offensive? It’s not sexist per se, but it perpetuates an exclusive fraternity that maintains itself as and through a bastion of culturally determined “male” qualities, characteristics, and contexts in an age where feminism is (hopefully) a given.

    This isn’t a prelude to a men’s rights plea for a little respect and airtime despite the last couple millennia of hogging the spotlight so much as a prolegomenon to an as yet unwritten inquiry into what cis-gendered dude artists are to do when they want to make art about being dudes. Which, according to the directives of the day, is what they’re supposed to do. So the real question is: when they do do it, what are we supposed to make of it?

    Maskull Lasserre, Truth of Fiction, 2017, twig, steel, paint

    Which brings us to Maskull Lasserre’s exhibition at Arsenale’s Toronto branch. How does one negotiate the implications of gender in this selection of large (as in heavy) sculptures and assorted drawings? The overall dynamic at work is the undercutting of strength or power or, dare I say, virility by combining it with fragility. A small bird makes a huge dent in a steel door. A suspended log weakens in the middle like a fraying rope. Delicate musical instruments are made from hammers and anvils. And a backhoe claw crumples under the tension of a spider’s web. Each of these objects presents a binary inversion that refutes the assumptions of the dominant material by forcing it to act otherwise. At the same time, it’s hard not to see the tree trunks, tools, and phallically-pronged anvils as references to masculinity.

    When Cassils hammers away at a surface and emphasizes the hardness of a body pushed to its limits, the artist’s transmasculine identity makes this action new and intriguing. When Lasserre drops a boulder onto a metal piano or hangs a massive piece of wood in the gallery, his effort inevitably resonates through the tradition of creative machismo that has long been endemic in art world boy’s clubs. He risks being a cliché. And yet, the defining force he dramatizes with each sculpture is not the standard model of stereotypical male power, but the underdog in each confrontation. It’s a familiar twist on expectations that prods the viewer to rethink their assumptions. A tree branch barely thicker than a twig makes its impression on yet another anvil as if the metal is as soft as skin.

    Maskull Lasserre, Study of cord progression, 2017, ash tree trunk, chain hoist, gantry

    As the despotic villain Thulsa Doom in the 1982 movie Conan the Barbarian, James Earl Jones presents the Riddle of Steel to a not-so-clever Arnold Schwarzenegger. The answer: “Steel isn’t strong. Flesh is stronger.” This enlightening reversal of bodies and matter is manifest poetically in Lasserre’s sculptures and literally in his drawings of anatomy morphing with material objects. Here the artist takes another page from the post-human aesthetics of Barney and his ilk. However, his works are second-order metaphors built on existing objects (tools, musical instruments) that evoke associations with other existing objects (actual bodies). The result is a clinical distance that appears authoritative but leaves one cold. At the risk of even more essentializing, perhaps this is what makes it masculine.

    Maskull Lasserre: Immovable Objects, Unstoppable Force continues until October 6.
    Arsenale Contemporary:
    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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    Poetry clings to the streetfront windows of Hamilton Artists Inc. in writer tunchai redvers’s poignant contribution to their current group exhibition:

    They press forgiveness
    Onto our souls with
    Each new life that
    They create

    Inscribed in English rather than Chipewyan, these words render colonization as an intrinsic fact, inevitable as breathing. (Res)idual’s five Indigenous artists, assembled by curator Chelsea Brant, subvert this atmosphere with intricate craft and cunning resistance.

    Thirza Jean Cuthand, Just Dandy, 2013, video

    Can I Squish Your Face?, Audie Murray’s grayscale grid of iPhone photographs, gives endless assent to its own question as the unseen artist’s hand squeezes each subject’s face in a gesture that is simultaneously affectionate and invasive in its proprietary scrutiny. Reactions are similarly conflicted between those who gleefully indulge with bulging eyes and others who refuse the camera’s gaze, eyes averted in world-weary acceptance. (See more on Murray's work on Akimbo Connects.)

    Tania Willard’s The Combo offers up fast food trays whose familiar containers and 3D glasses are crafted with fragility and care from birch bark and cedar root yet hollowed of anything of even unhealthy sustenance. KC Adams’ seductive array of snow-white leather accessories for personal electronics, exquisitely trimmed in crystalline beads and white fur, are held in a plexiglass case that taunts the viewer’s frustrated desire to possess these familiar fetishes, subconsciously triggering the settler’s covetous drive.

    Attraction and rejection endure in Thirza Jean Cuthand’s video Just Dandy, in which the artist confides their crush on an Evil Queen enlarged as a Playmobil toy symbolizing the plaything in the artist’s delightfully graphic descriptions of their erotic tryst. The Queen’s parting gift of a dandelion overwhelms the land following her departure, which the artist laments as “Turtle Island’s equivalent of contracting an STD.” Cuthand’s attempt to return the favour by bringing a native plant to Europe is slapped down by customs officials and a hefty fine. Reciprocity fails in this curtailed courtship but it’s the Queen’s loss, given the diamond-sharp gems that come of embracing new ways of life with such fierce resilience.

    (Res)idual continues until August 11.
    Hamilton Artists Inc.:
    The gallery is accessible.

    Stephanie Vegh is an artist and writer who has exhibited her work in the UK and Canada, and publishes art writing and criticism both locally and nationally. She maintains an active profile in regional arts advocacy, and currently serves as Manager, Media and Communications at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. She can be followed on Instagram @stephanievegh.

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    Breaker of Horses is a video essay directed by Pernille Lystlund Matzen and Nanna Rebekka that has genuinely taught me something. The work, currently on view at Or Gallery, hinges on two bronze public sculptures by Thomas Vinçotte. What begins as a Belgian art history lesson – a formal and symbolic reading of the two monuments – eventually shifts into a colonial history lesson that reveals one man’s ruthless and flippant pursuit of beauty.

    Pernille Lystlund Matzen & Nanna Rebekka, Breaker of Horses, 2015, video

    The video opens with close-ups of the patinated surfaces of a bronze Greco-Roman sculpture portraying Hector of Troy (also known as Hector the Horse Breaker) flanked by two horses that he is reigning in. Wider shots with tracking movements emphasize the musculature of the hero and his horses, but behind them we see some demystifying asphalt and power lines. The melodrama of the mythic scene contradicts the banality of its contemporary surroundings: a T-Junction in the Sydhavn district of Copenhagen. Since this reproduction is a copy of an original located in a park in Brussels, it suggests that the mythology is more precious than the object. A subsequent stream of representations of the battle between Achilles and Hector – as animated dramatizations, shadow puppetry, amateur theatre, sports field reenactments, and cinematic adaptation – only reinforces this impression. Clearly worthy of repetition, the story is untouched by time. The video attends to the materialism neglected in the ongoing adulation of this myth.

    An ethereal voice sing-narrates throughout and is accompanied by a staggered and spacey rhythm. This odd strategy effectively conveys the video’s lesson, while it also evades slipping into didacticism and even manages to deliver the phrase “the surface of the horse breaker is greenish” in a captivating way. The singer-narrator introduces the sculpture’s location near a cemetery and points out the connection to that site: “Like the cemetery where the dead have left marks in the ground, so history has marked the patinated bronze.” The parallel identifies the surfaces of these monuments with death sublimated into their materialism, but the Eurocentric canon often eclipses death with glory.

    Through an unexpected and affective accumulation of electronic-score-as-storyteller, archival footage, split-screen streetscapes, and digital animation that inhabits museum spaces, the film’s more pertinent subject is the second monument of King Leopold II who privately colonized the Congo and violently extracted resources that largely went towards fabricating sculptures and building museums in Belgium – including a Belgian Congo Museum inspired by Versailles. Leopold treated colonization as a decorative pursuit involving minimal political legwork or economic brokering. The first sculpture in Breaker of Horses suggests that myth can overcome material history; however, while the Horse Breaker sits awkwardly on a T-Junction, Leopold II’s equestrian monument stills stands on Throne Square in Brussels.

    Pernille Lystlund Matzen & Nanna Rebekka: Breaker of Horses continues until July 30.
    Or 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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  • 07/19/18--02:00: Resilience presented by MAWA
  • As its title suggests, the basis for this nationwide outdoor exhibition of Indigenous women artists is resilience. Resilience addresses the word openly and considers not only its interrelatedness to the participating artists but also how it is rooted in their collective identities, memory, and customary practices.

    Mary Anne Barkhouse

    Spearheaded and administered by Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA) in collaboration with long-time curator Lee-Ann Martin, the coast-to-coast exhibition has been over two years in the making. It brings together fifty artists working in a variety of visual practices and presents their contributions on over eighty Pattison billboards along major Canadian highways as well as on large-scale posters adjacent to or in reserves.

    In the way that Félix González-Torres thought of his Untitled (Billboard Poster) as "a visual reference, an architectural sign of being, a monument for a community that has been ‘historically invisible,’” Resilience, in its intentions, shares a similar dialectic. It sets out to elevate and make known these artists who interweave the constellation of Indigenous histories, identities, and experiences they all hold. The exhibition works as an opportunity to recognize these selected artists' unyielding creativity while it also symbolically functions to promote the ceaseless efforts of Indigenous women to never stop defending their sovereignty and land.

    KC Adams

    Unfortunately, as much as these billboard artworks intend a collective elaboration of meaning, any messaging becomes diluted through the project’s production and presentation. Aside from images by Ursula Johnson and KC Adams that clearly exploit the language of advertising, it's easy to misinterpret the presence of works of art blown up with their respective labels next to them against a distracting computer-bluescreen backdrop.

    Although they are meant as public art, an uninitiated eye would be at a loss as to the purpose of the overhead graphics. Are they auctioning off the work for a fundraiser or is this one of those ad campaigns where you’re not sure what they’re selling? What complicates things is how the art is interlaced with other ads in some of the electronic billboards. Do we now have to somehow install an ad blocker in order to appreciate what we came to see? Viewers shouldn't have to sit through commercials or view the work in relation to them. Unless, I suppose, that's just another tragic symptom of our capitalist bubble.

    It's always hit or miss when art attempts to intervene in the noise of outdoor advertising. Public works often only get noticed when they are the subject of controversy. It is also hard to shake off the sight of any billboard as a canvas free from the residue of commercialized images that perpetuate violence and unattainable luxury.

    The impact of Resilience's undertaking feels less like a guerilla art project and more of a potent idea sunken by its own form. The exhibition’s endeavor to forebodingly pronounce the nuanced endurance at the core of these artists and their diverging but collective communities only works in theory here. In practice, the administrators’ and curator's fertile thinking processes appear misguided, if not confused.

    Resilience continues until August 1.
    The project is presented by Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art.

    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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    The latest exhibition from the curatorial team at the Dunlop Art Gallery is every bit the overwhelming, Baudriardian hyperreality suggested by its title: URL:IRL. Curators Blair Fornwald, Jennifer Matotek, and Wendy Peart have filled the gallery’s virtual and actual exhibition spaces with artworks by nineteen artists in media ranging from virtual reality experiences and websites to videos and ceramics.

    Kaley Flowers' pastel-glazed, decal-covered ceramic works are a compellingly corporeal examination of money, value, and worth. A playful reimagining of the traditional piggy bank, her slug-bodied web-surfers or creepy arachnids squat on top of treasure boxes enclosing cryptocurrency keys. To access the online funds, one must shatter these exquisite porcelains.

    Sarah Rothberg, Touching a Cactus, 2017, virtual reality (photo: Don Hall)

    The premise of Sarah Rothberg's instructively-titled virtual reality work Touching a Cactus is straightforward. When simulated digits brush against a 3D rendering of a cactus, the whole scene lurches and is replaced by one with an entirely different visual style. After a few touches, the artist ups the ante from "touching" to "being" a cactus: my virtual limbs turned green and sprouted spines. I swatted a balloon that appeared from nowhere and popped it. To experience something I had never thought to imagine – cactus hands – was a revelation and the core of this work's unexpected appeal.

    Monumentalisms by Scott Benesiinaabandan is a sombre counterpoint to Touching A Cactus. A lump of melted metal, roughly the size and shape of a TV remote control, is recast as a landscape to be explored by the disembodied virtual explorer. The digital realm has opened the door to find wonder and nobility in a piece of junk.

    Other exhibition highlights include Maya Ben David's ironically sexy cosplay videos in which she poses as an Air Canada jet and a popcorn ceiling, Barry Ace's Métis beadwork patterns fashioned from electronic resistors and transistors, and Nandan Ghiya's framed images deformed to reproduce the look of a computer graphics glitch.

    URL:IRL continues until September 16.
    Dunlop Art Gallery:
    The gallery is partially 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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    Design has to be one of the most nebulous fields of study. If you don’t believe me, take a look at its Wikipedia entry and the nearly forty disciplines included – not to mention the many related philosophical principles, approaches, and methods. Onsite Gallery’s latest exhibition, Diagrams of Power, presents a number of these categories in various forms of data, diagrams, maps, and digital media. The exhibition features fascinating and thought provoking research projects revealing imbalanced power structures throughout the world, but fumbles an opportunity to explore the ways in which design can be engaged with, for, and by marginalized people.

    Margaret Pearce, Coming Home to Indigenous Place Names in Canada, 2018, map

    The list of artists, designers, and researchers in Diagrams of Power is overwhelming, as is the presentation of data, diagrams, maps, and digital visualizations dispersed throughout the space. On nearly every wall there is either a floor-length vinyl map, a moving or static projection, or a mounted screen belonging to a television, tablet, or smartphone. Everything is intriguing and impressive, though you will not be able to absorb very much of it before your attention is drawn to another wall decal teeming with data, a blinking screen, or a voiceover heard from the other end of the gallery.

    Everywhere I turned, I saw data that quantified oppression, beginning with cartographer Margaret Pearce’s commissioned map of Indigenous place names across Canada. It effectively communicates the scale at which this land was plundered by colonization. Another display of oppression, this time predominantly economic, is in the form of an interactive map of Detroit revealing the amount of land owned and controlled by speculators, and the cause of the city’s inordinate rate of property vacancy and abandonment. I was only able to touch a few things on the screen before it quickly went out of service, but I walked away from that HTTP 404 error thinking about our obsession with Detroit’s so-called urban decay, and whether this exhibition itself indulges the same.

    Forensic Architecture, The Ayotzinapa Case: A Cartography of Violence, 2017, video

    On a wall behind Pearce’s map is a pruned reproduction of W.E.B. Du BoisAmerican Negro, an exhibition first mounted in Paris in 1900 comprised of images and research data about the cultural, economic, and social conditions for the Black American in the state of Georgia. While I enjoyed spending time reading the data and looking at the graphs coloured in with marker, I couldn’t help but recall Theaster Gates’ use of these very images in his 2016 AGO exhibition How to Build A House Museum. In Gates’ exhibition, Du Bois’ research becomes the praxis of a larger political, social, and economic project for Black Chicagoans and, by extension, Black Americans. Here, Du Bois’ images are simply part of an ethnographic study on marginalized people.

    What could have been an exhibition about design and how it interfaces with marginalized people, turned out to be only a presentation of design about marginalized people. Police brutality in America is reduced to an innumerable amount of dots on an iPhone 5 in Josh Begley’s ongoing Archives + Absences. And you can experience the shift in political ideology of oppressive regimes through AR technology if you have a credit card to offer up at the front desk for the Department of Unusual CertaintiesA Type of Political Map. As for the exhibition itself, Diagrams of Power answers the question “Are marginalized people oppressed?” with the obvious response: “Yes. Quite a bit.”

    Diagrams of Power continues until September 30.
    Onsite Gallery:
    The gallery is accessible.

    Letticia Cosbert is a Toronto based writer and editor, and is currently the Digital Content Coordinator at the Koffler Centre of the Arts. Letticia studied Classics, earning a B.A. from the University of Toronto, and an M.A. from Western University, where she specialized in erotic Latin poetry. Her writing and editorial work has been featured in Ephemera Magazine, Sophomore Magazine, The Ethnic Aisle, and publications by Katzman Contemporary, Younger Than Beyonce Gallery, Xpace, and Trinity Square Video. She can be followed on Instagram @prettiletti.

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    Handpic’d 2018 is the fifth annual invitational exhibition of emerging and newly graduated artists at Viviane Art Gallery. This iteration features three award-winning artists capsizing ancient or craft-based artmaking techniques: bronze, woodwork, intaglio, chine-collé, silkscreen, and graphite. Drawing the three artists together seems to be the desire to make tactile some virtual reality sensibility. Envisioning absurdist fictions with traditional artmaking techniques, each rigorous work is a means for understanding loss – loss of tradition, of experience, of material.

    Sean Taal, Sun Blisters, 2018, graphite, pencil crayon, paracord, paper

    Sean Taal’s intricately drawn graphite drawings of cave-like hairy tents and cloaks – both comforting and haunting, awe-inspiring and horrifying – are pierced and hung with paracords and chains, and secured with zip-ties. Sighting at Horne Lake is a graphite drawing of a cave or rock-structure with a speech bubble coming out of it, inside of which is another cave. The drawing hangs from a camo carabiner clipped to an O-ring screwed into the wall – an O-shape that persists throughout his work. An avocado-shaped hole is cut in Troglophile, a drawing on black paper mounted perpendicular to the wall like a flag, with a white drawing of the hole next to it. A rock also hangs from the frame from a string, as if the key to the yawning hole. Taal plays with absence and presence as the key to each another. The practical and ornamental meet in his strange collaborations between romance and Home Depot – both inviting and apprehensive, intimate and penitentiary.

    Megan Feniak, Self as Large Hadron Collider, 2018, silkscreen on paper

    Megan Feniak’s staggering multi-disciplinary practice of silkscreen and handmade sculptural works showcases a playful and complex investigation of the metaphysical. Drawing from Shaker ideology and carpentry, her hand-carved cherry wood daggers lay side-by-side next to her Metaphysical Gloves, a pair of green gloves made of raw canvas and painted with pigmented silicon, and Clasps, a bronze sculpture of pliers, its jaws replaced by a pointer finger and thumb. Several silkscreens of mythical roles such as Self as Large Hadron Collider or Dust Walker are also scattered around the room, one of them printed on the fir planks of what appears to be broken pieces of an old toboggan. Goggles carved of redwood with lenses made of rough cut fluorite rest on a small wooden shelf with gloves so the viewer can look through them. Her work feels like literal and figurative graspings, consciously futile attempts at holding onto the invisible, as if in pursuit of that feeling of impossibility.

    Kellen Spencer, Disassembling an Illegal Suite, 2018, intaglio, chine-collé

    Kellen Spencer’s thematically strong black and white intaglio and chine-collé prints similarly render the absurd narrative, but with a further introspective and almost surrealist sleight. One print titled Disassembling an Illegal Suite depicts the frame of a house in a treed landscape stripped of all drywall, roof, and furniture, save for an outlet and one clock on the wall that reads 11:47. A sofa sits out on the grass and a door lays on the floor. I’m surprised the clock is not melting. In another print, Six Foot Basement and a Pile of Dirt, a pile of dirt and garbage spills down over the unfinished foundations of a building that has not yet been built. A dotted outline of the planned building can be seen faintly in the background, as if drawn with computer-aided drawing design software. A desolate prairie scene, the landscape is completely flat behind the foundation, punctuated by a flat fence on the horizon. “Home” is something desolate, dreams yet unmet, a maquette of projected lives in space.

    For each of these emerging artists, craftsmanship, whimsy, and an undercurrent of aloof aggression plays a role. Using absurdist and mythical narratives as a lens, they explore the familiar and abject with alarming but energizing uses of new craftsmanship.

    Handpic’d 2018 continues until July 28.
    Viviane Art Gallery:
    The gallery is 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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  • 08/01/18--13:42: Gabi Dao at Blinkers
  • In all the ways poems are unconcerned with telling a story and have an imperceptible relationship with cause and effect, a show like Gabi Dao’s A knife to wither your petal fingers at Blinkers reverberates with unexpected possibilities. More than just another immersive installation, it disorients with cacophony-laden affect before you become absorbed. Criss-crossing computer-generated beats and samples, frazzled moving images, an assortment of vestigial objects, and the artist’s own voice, the exhibition produces a labyrinthine terrain.

    Gabi Dao, A knife to wither your petal fingers, 2018, video still

    Dao has touched on a few of the thematic elements swimming through this exhibition before. Here she magnifies them and leaves them out to breathe. Her previous experiments with recording sound effects were a way to think through the fictions behind our understandings of representations. In Open Sesame from 2015, she took Hollywood’s sweet tooth for other cultures to task and managed to simultaneously unpack and converge James Turrell’s Ganzfelds, misappropriation in relation to Angelia Jolie’s Tomb Raider, and the archetypal authoritative voice associated with narrating and broadcasting ostensibly objective information through mediums like nature documentaries.

    With her current exhibition she successfully bridges a multi-directional line of sight into a conglomerate and frees it to play out. Dao’s continued interest in cinema sees her keying into its negation of perception specifically as it relates to conflict á la Paul Virilio’s War and Cinema. Referencing and juxtaposing family photos with Hollywood movies on the Vietnam War like Apocalypse Now (which was made the same year Dao’s family moved from Vietnam), she susses out the division between personal memory and cultural history. The Vietnam War is also a point of decentering for families like hers who are now part of the diaspora. The dissolution of the war during this time became a contributing factor to the insurgence of North American suburbia when those returning from war and wanting to start anew were dispersed outside the metropolitan centers. Aptly, Dao positions the suburbs as a site of dislocation by filming the video in her parent’s backyard in the Vancouver suburbs – an area that also became a common site for movie productions relocated from LA.

    Adding to the already complex intertextuality of the video, the cold digital debris and techno-informed beat spasms that zigzag across the screen furthers the thematic discontinuity and breath-halting collisions we see, hear, and feel throughout the gallery. Dao’s crisp announcer-y voice cuts through the video and grabs your attention as she recites carefully considered diction like: “Cinema is a cool gel that glosses over my eyes.” Her voice is every bit as authoritative as those seemingly objective voice-overs in the style of David Attenborough except Dao finds a way to make it personal and intimate.

    Gabi Dao, A knife to wither your petal fingers, 2018, video still

    The heap of garden soil that contours the gallery floor and her trellis-like sculpture furthers the randomized headspace of the exhibition. It reaches for an articulation of the paradoxes distinct to the ontological experiences of a diasporic identity. Dao’s work in the past has been an additive process of collaging. It’s no different here, though it's more inward in a piled-on abstracted way and both structurally intricate and manifold in its self-referentiality.

    Gabi Dao: A knife to wither your petal fingers continues until August 3.
    The gallery is partially 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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