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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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    In a career that spanned four decades, the artist Alootook Ipellie combined aspects of southern Canadian colonial culture with Inuit culture in a complex process that he described in a poem as “walking on both sides of an invisible border.” A retrospective exhibition at Carleton University Art Gallery takes its title from that poem, which is displayed along with other published and unpublished material by the artist to provide a well-rounded portrait of Ipellie and his achievements. Curated by Sandra Dyck, Heather Igloliorte, and Christine Lalonde, the exhibition presents selections of Ipellie’s output as an accomplished journalist, author, poet, illustrator, cartoonist, and artist from the 1970s until his death at the age of 56 in 2007. The title poem’s description of Ipellie’s process places it somewhere between a method of torture and a choreographed dance routine, and demonstrates the seriousness and sense of humor that the artist brought to his work.

    Alootook Ipellie, Self-Portrait: Inverse Ten Commandments, 1993, ink on illustration board

    Surveying the exhibition, it would not be incorrect to say that Ipellie was a storyteller who carried on a family tradition. Born in a hunting camp near what is now known as Iqaluit, he spent his childhood on the land with his family. Ipellie was profoundly influenced by his grandfather, Inutsiaq, a renowned sculptor who shared traditional stories and myths with him. However, Ipellie’s methods of storytelling were also inspired by comic books from the south. He came to Ottawa in the late 1960s for high school, and afterwards began working as a translator for the Ottawa-based Inuit Today magazine, eventually becoming a full-time journalist and editor of the publication. Within its pages, he realized a childhood dream of becoming a cartoonist, contributing editorial cartoons, cover illustrations, filler drawings, and the ongoing comic strip Ice Box, which ran from 1974 to 1981. The original drawings for these and other illustrations are included in the exhibition, along with drawings for Nuna and Vut, another comic strip he produced for the Eastern Arctic newspaper the Nunatsiaq News between 1994 and 1997. Also included are posters and other materials advocating for Inuit political autonomy, land rights, and the preservation of Inuit culture. Ipellie’s spare black and white drawings have a strong graphic style and combine a comic lightness of touch with serious political issues. Moreover, they incorporate Inuit myth, including its darker elements, especially in the drawings he made for anthologies of Inuit writing and collections of his own work.

    Alootook Ipellie, Canadian Government Laboratory, 1981, ink on paper

    The exhibition succeeds in representing the breadth of Ipellie’s activities as a visual artist, a literary artist, and more. It fittingly spills over into a satellite exhibition in Centretown at the Manx Pub where a further selection of drawings for Nuna and Vut, curated by Danielle Printup, is on display. Ipellie did not have gallery representation or belong to a co-op, and the Manx, a hub of Ottawa’s artistic community, was one of the few places that exhibited his work in his lifetime. In a tribute on September 30, as part of the Manx’s Plan 99 reading series, Ipellie’s friends and colleagues Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Mosha Folger, and Armand Ruffo read selections of his poetry and reminisced about their relationships with him. Akiwenzie-Damm acknowledged that Ipellie would have been pleased by the recognition he was receiving. His work remains highly relevant and, as the exhibition tours to Iqaluit, Hamilton, Winnipeg, and Canton, New York, it is sure to reach a growing audience.

    Alootook Ipellie: Walking Both Sides of an Invisible Border continues until December 9.
    Alootook Ipellie: Nuna and Vut (at the Manx Pub) continues until November 4.
    Carleton University Art Gallery:
    The gallery is accessible. The pub is not accessible.

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

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    Artist Arjuna Neuman and UBC prof Denise Ferreira da Silva were prompted by author and academic Stefano Harney to make “a film without time” and they replied with Serpent Rain. While Harney’s challenge may be a provocation to remove temporality from the medium (or to use the medium without invoking temporality), I think all parties knew this was not the project. Serpent Rain actually includes sustained shots of combustion, trees, and waves. There is a distinct rhythm to the editing and succession of sampled and original footage. There is a deeply satisfying, stern but focused score. Formally, time is heaped on. What has been excised is canonical time, which is to say, visible time (or a chronology of events). What we get is time descending upon us from all angles.

    Arjuna Neuman and Denise Ferreira da Silva, 4 Waters, 2018, video

    The video, currently on view at Or Gallery in the exhibition 4 Waters – Deep Implicancy, begins with a statement on slave labour and a long take of a combustion tower. The visuals evoke the process of “forced” decomposition involved in natural resource extraction. This acceleration of the perishing of life is especially concentrated in distinct and racialized sections of society. The suggestion of timelessness charts a consideration of slave labour as primitive accumulation, that is outside of history. Raw materialism is part of the persona of the elements, which, when encountered by the rationality of capital accumulation, is rendered into information, that is within history, within time.

    Sometimes, I wonder if these things can be said or shown more directly, simply, and without relying on audiences readily willing to unlock metaphorical wizardry. These interrogations of dominant time and narratives – dominant ANYTHING – are important to make visible, to be conveyed as possibilities. However, at this time, I don’t think they can be simplified without making things sound purely apocalyptic – which is to say, imprecise, yet didactic, an idea rushed to conclusion.

    4 Waters is organized into four sections – air, water, earth, and fire – and presents embodied research conducted by Neuman in the Marshall Islands, Haiti, Lesvos, and Tiwi. He describes this research as “distilled” into a few images. Sampled imagery, aerial footage, and animations are focused by a full-bodied score and the voice of Ferreira da Silva among other oral testaments. This method of writing the intelligence of elements through image, sound, and voice weaves together the ways of seeing links between capital and human flow.

    Both 4 Waters and Serpent Rain are works that emerged from an experiment in collaboration. Spending time with both videos, one can see how the former departs from the task of attempting to make a “film without time.” Through the interlocking of Neuman and Ferreira da Silva’s research practices and poetic thinking about visibility, the unadorned delivery of image, text, voice, and sound accentuate their collage strategy. In editing a range of high and poor images – aerial footage of land formations, sampled footage of lava, Tarkovsky, and military strikes – their collation evokes a spectrum of speed. In the primordial slowness of capital, which was baked into our future millions of years ago, and the hyperactive, human-driven resource extraction that offends geological time, I see the planet, and wherever capital touches the elements, it winces.

    Denise Ferreira da Silva and Arjuna Neuman: 4 Waters — Deep Implicancy continues until November 3
    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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    A couple weeks ago many of us bundled up, grabbed a hot chocolate, and made our way east for Nuit Blanche’s Scarborough debut. One of my favourite parts of the night, and certainly the most memorable, was a panel discussion between Scarborough-born artists Anique Jordan, Erika DeFreitas, and Rajni Perera at the Civic Centre’s public library. Each spoke candidly about the city’s influence on their work, its future in art, and the culture-producing qualities of Toronto’s suburbs. Perera, in particular, flagged what she called the Scarborough aesthetic, and its increased visibility in galleries downtown and throughout the GTA. I immediately knew what she meant as I considered the work of the other women on stage and as a list of Scarborough artists began running through my mind. They are not linked by style, palette, medium, or even ideology but, I believe, by their ability to create mythologies, wield spirituality, and materialize imagination. This is especially evident in Perera’s new solo exhibition (m)Otherworld Creates and Destroys Itself currently on view at Project Gallery.

    Rajni Perera, Dancer 4, 2018, mixed media on board

    I arrived at the gallery early enough to be the only one there and was surprised to find the room peppered with palm-sized sculptures, some shaped like little spaceships, others like horns, one decorated with a gold appendix, another lightly painted, all of them sitting atop plinths. I followed them around the room, crouching to read their names and noticing the red dots beside their prices before I straightened back up to view the drawings and paintings on the walls. On unassuming brown board, four figures dance along the east wall, each sporting Perera’s signature angular heads, and nude except for a minimal or maximal midriff adornment (Dancer 1, 2, 3, 4). If you get close, little galaxies appear in the dark corners of a crown, and the girdle of one of the dancers gleams as though it were Aphrodite’s, “into which all of her charms were wrought: love, desire, and sweet flattery” (to paraphrase the Illiad). But these goddesses do not belong to Homer, nor do they belong to the past. These dancers are creating a world that must be adjacent to this one, coexisting and contemporary.

    In the furthest room, there are two extraordinary paintings with detail unimaginable. One (Neighbourhood Watch) depicts a fuzzy creature (whose fur seems to bat like eyelashes if you stare long enough) sitting atop an apricot planet with a reddish-orange ring. The other is another woman (yes, this is definitely a motherworld) with a motorcycle tire for a butt, holding modified NASCAR flags in three of her four hands, each with pink and purple lacquered nails (MOTO). More paintings continue along the walls, culminating with Traveller, which had the most impossible shade of teal and a texture that was begging me to touch it (I didn’t).

    Rajni Perera, (m)Otherworld Creates and Destroys Itself, 2018, exhibition view

    (m)Otherworld Creates and Destroys Itself not only reasserts Perera’s superlative painting ability, but also the true power of mythology. As I left the gallery I thought of what it had meant for nineteen year old me to read Ovid or Homer for the first time, to be transported to another world of possibility and beauty. And now I wonder what it would have meant to have Perera’s mythologies as well, to witness something so improbable as a woman with a pocket in her stomach (Pocket), only to find comfort in her familiar features: a wide nose, full lips, a crown that looks almost like a du-rag. To know that I could be a part of an imagined world, that someone had me in mind as they considered the impossible could have been life altering. During the Nuit Blanche panel, Perera laughed before admitting the landmark that influenced her practice was Pacific Mall. But, as she says, for a brown girl from Scarborough interested in manga, discovering P Mall changed her life. Here’s to (m)Otherworld being somebody’s P Mall.

    Rajni Perera: (m)Otherworld Creates and Destroys Itself continues until October 27.
    Project Gallery:
    The gallery is accessible.

    Letticia Cosbert is a Toronto based writer and editor, and is currently the Director of Koffler.Digital 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 Gardiner Museum, YTB Gallery, Xpace, and Trinity Square Video. She can be followed on Instagram @prettiletti.

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    Walter Phillips Gallery’s exhibition THE CAVE by Los Angeles artist Young Joon Kwak is a visual cacophony of delicious imagery. It ushers the viewer through waves of sexy, oozing objects and a colour field of mermaid tears, French lilac and purple dragon, mint and chartreuse. The colours seep from corners while a glittering moon casts her shadow down upon the viewer from inside a “glamping” tent.

    Young Joon Kwak, Trans-Creation Relic, 2017, cold-cast aluminum, resin, soil, rocks

    Orifices in walls reveal tiny snails. Orange vagina-shaped lamps glimmer and silver shapes emerge from the ceiling and plinths cast from within a sex toy. One of the central metaphors of the exhibition is the snail, featured in works titled Snail Leg, Aggregate Snail Hangers, Aggregate Snail Vaginis, and VIEW “INNER”. Placing this seemingly insignificant creature at the forefront of this hot and messy exhibition is subversive in its inflections and meanings. The snail is a protected species in the cave and basin area of Banff National Park (the gallery is part of the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity) but is also a symbol of balanced androgyny. The snail holds both sexual organs and thus is able to reproduce singularly. It unambiguously represents the masculine and feminine, slipping along surfaces and into tiny beautiful crevices across the exhibition space. Like the snail, THE CAVE slides through the viewer’s imagination, instilling a stance of perfect harmony for a non-patriarchal position within the gallery space.

    Tourist culture is another central motif and the exhibition explores this phenomenon while poking fun at it. In Maternal River of No Return Kwak and collaborator Kim Ye perform a medley of activities in character as a mommy and baby girl visiting Banff for a family vacation. There is a sado-masochistic element to the three-channel video that features the two exploring the site in what could be seen as both a dreamy performance and an uncomfortable and even disturbing narrative of a family vacation gone wrong. As a whole, the exhibition unwraps stereotypes surrounding queer identity and explores the tourist mystique through a playful and slightly weird lens.

    Young Joon Kwak: THE CAVE continues until December 14.
    Walter Phillips Gallery:
    The gallery is accessible.

    Maeve Hanna is a writer and curator who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Honours in Visual Art and Literature from York University and the University of Leeds and a Master of Arts in Art History and Icelandic Studies from Université du Québec à Montréal and the University of Manitoba on location in Iceland. She has previously written for Black Flash, C Magazine, Canadian Art, esse arts + opinions, Frieze, Sculpture Magazine and the Senses and Society. She is Akimblog’s Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Instagram @mcbchanna.

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    I've never seen the Kenderdine Art Gallery so full. Hundreds of pieces, from framed drawings to painted hides to "image-poems," comprise Mixing Stars and Sand: The Art & Legacy of Sarain Stump. It's a lot to take in, and I think that's the point. Sarain Stump's influence wasn't just that of an artist but a teacher and an activist. Along with co-curator Gerald McMaster, he spent a year traveling to reserves teaching Indigenous Art to children at a time when no one else was. He was a social practice artist decades before this was acknowledged as an art form, and a number of his students have gone on to become notable artists themselves, including Edward Poitras and Raymond McCallum – both of whom have works included in this exhibition.

    Sarain Stump, Untitled, no date, marking pen on paper (collection of Linda Jaine. © Linda Jaine)

    In his art Stump also shares Indigenous stories, often difficult ones. In one of his image-poems (combinations of drawings and short form text) Stump writes "Sometimes I'd like to fall asleep to close my ayes (sic) on everything / but I can't / I can't" across three images: the first an Indigenous person lying face down, holding their head in their hands; the second an Indigenous person dancing while a man in a cowboy hat watches; the third a man leaning against a wall, a bottle of what appears to be alcohol having fallen at his feet. One of Stump's untitled drawings shows an Indigenous man playing guitar while in the background a body, hands and feet bound, hangs from a utility pole.

    Stump's work is firmly rooted in Indigenous culture, yet his own Indigenous heritage is less understood. He was born in Italy in 1945 and moved to Canada before he was twenty (he passed away in 1974). Importantly, he is accepted by the Cree community, and numerous Indigenous artists refer to him as a mentor. From his art and the artists who choose to be shown alongside him, it is clear he worked to share Indigenous stories, and to encourage Indigenous artists to do the same.

    Mixing Stars and Sand: The Art & Legacy of Sarain Stump continues until December 15.
    Kenderdine Art Gallery:
    The gallery is accessible.

    Michael Peterson runs Saskatoon’s Void Gallery and the city’s annual Nuit Blanche festival as well as managing programs for AKA Artist-run and the Saskatchewan Craft Council. When he has time he is also a printmaker, currently serving as Artist in Residence at his old high school Aden Bowman Collegiate. If you would like to see pictures of his friends’ dogs, you can follow him on Instagram @michaelprints.

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    Gesticulation is often done naturally, without much calculation, but when Steven Leyden Cochrane does it, it feels intentional – as though he needs to motion or utter in order to know the physicality of something imperceptible suspended in the air. Putting feeling to words never satisfies what ends up being communicated, let alone interpreted. Cochrane knows this intimately and, as paralyzing that can be, he attempts it anyway. For Shining Tapestry, his recent exhibition at aceartinc., he presents a labyrinthine new body of work for which turning inward becomes the modus operandi. Mining the personal isn’t new in the Winnipeg artist and former Akimblog contributor’s work; however, instead of a buffet of images, forms, and disparate artifacts sprawled throughout the gallery, this exhibition eschews the busier eclecticism of past installations. At first scan, the assembled art is formally downcast and largely monochrome – something we aren’t used to seeing in a Cochrane install. Even the deep blue and orangey yellow light boxes that punctuate the show are rather melancholic.

    Steven Leyden Cochrane

    The works that line the walls come off as pensive and withheld. The images we see are barely perceptible. They are either broken up and pixelated to the point of being featureless, or made unidentifiable through the ornate crochet work the artist adopts throughout the exhibition. Crochet lacing is a form of rendering Cochrane has employed previously in making sculptural objects, but here they come in text reliefs on stretched fabric and drawings of found digital images that are then mutated through a streaming video, acrylic tablet, or as images for the light boxes to beam through.

    Previously Cochrane presented scrapbook-like parsing through his foggy years growing up in Florida. If those installations were meandering, Shining Tapestry is not any more plainspoken, even in its minimalistic presence. It's every bit as visceral, complex, and sensitive. Cochrane’s internal monologue here feels like scraps from a letter washed ashore. Fidelity is never crisp with whatever utterances he makes. He turns to language and it doesn’t help. What we get instead is a gushing waterfall of muddled words. In essence, he lip-synchs the words of other writers and artists for a kind of definition that never comes into any suitable focus. Language is never enough, so it is held suspect. Cochrane’s engagement with it says as much. He waxes and wanes with the declarative and sterile lettering you’d find at the principal’s office. His often unintelligible texting is signaled through lace patterns and corroded digital formations. Legibility is not easily summed up here. It stalks and contorts underneath, only intermittently making clarity possible.

    Swerving legibility and embracing abstraction is a tactic countless artists have historically latched onto as a brace from the expected sensationalistic images audiences have in their heads. Artists, musicians, and writers like Chan Marshall – a singer Cochrane has previously referenced – whose work gets reductively accused of being confessional are often thought of as outputting a content concerned with catharsis or "the after.” The after is never nestled within any kind of cathartic release for Cochrane. In fact, the after never arrives. It is the beginning of what was before, only in a different tint. Perhaps more muted than before, perhaps just as strident as it first was.

    Steven Leyden Cochrane

    This reoccurrence is evident in the form Cochrane produces. This recursion is also an engaging complement to Cochran’s installations. His work thrills the mind to see where an image begins and where he takes it. In Wall Garden and Screen Wall, he has several objects that migrate in and out of different mediums and incarnations. Typical of this are his decorative concrete breeze blocks that recall architecture from his formative years in Florida. At this point these memory fragments have become monumental entities in their own right. They have seen innumerable permutations of their shapes and design. They’ve been presented as gelatin silver photograms, encaustic rubbings on paper, prints on fabric, colouring books, foam rubber – the list goes on. They have become the equivalent of repeating a word until the meaning bottoms out. Except, in Cochrane’s hands we still see the trace of its origins. In Shining Tapestry, it’s no different. An image of light piercing through rows of tree branches gets morphed and looped throughout the collection of work here. In some renditions, it becomes something else altogether. Something completely non-referential, only discernible through proximity to its origin. In these cycles, any descriptive language becomes unfeasible and, as such, Cochrane simply reproduces it through poetic means.

    As much as personal narrative permeates the surfaces throughout the gallery, Cochrane is in tune with the larger realities and histories that bring the work into form. He makes references to the dire conditions in which the act of crocheting came to be invented, and also the deceptive qualities of making metaphors through surfaces. As much as formally subdued works like Cochrane’s can be mapped towards one logical representative end, they don’t wholly submit to clean associations. Not everything we see here can be deciphered with a one-to-one link. Cochrane is a gradual worker who frets on the details and produced this body of work over serval years. The toggling between meanings and referentiality saturates every interlocking loop of thread he applies.

    Steven Leyden Cochrane: Shining Tapestry was on display from September 7 to October 14.
    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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    In a version of Michael Snow’s film Wavelength called WVLNT (Wavelength for Those Who Don’t Have the Time), a tedious 45-minute zoom across a New York City loft in the 1967 original is mercifully shortened. Three senses of the term “wavelength” are still given – light from a window intensifies as the camera zooms, a low hum turns piercingly high-pitched, the view finally settles on a small photograph of waves in the ocean – all in a manageable fifteen minutes. Ismaïl Bahri, James Benning, Miriam Sampaio, and Ralitsa Doncheva’s works at Dazibao use the devices of overly ponderous films like Snow’s to convey the historical experience of eccentrics, dissidents, cultural hybrids, and margin-dwellers.

    James Benning, Two Cabins, 2011, video installation

    A low-fi “Strawberry Fields” interlude and the highly unconvincing death of a man at halftime are my favorite parts of Wavelength– signs of the heady moment in which the film was made. Bahri’s Denouement also shows history intruding on a tightly controlled film structure, but the times have changed. It opens on a shot of a black string dividing a wintery backdrop. With one end fixed under the camera as the other is wound around the fingers of a slowly approaching figure, Snow’s priority of apparatus over subject is reversed. Bahri closes the gap with creeping fingers rather than a disembodied zoom. The slip from a bisected abstract space to an uncomfortably interpersonal one points to a “rapprochement between all things” – a cautiously optimistic message about postcolonial relations given the artist’s Franco-Tunisian identity.

    In the next room, Montreal-born Sampaio’s I am the Daughter of Dead-fathers shows images of a Lisbon detention centre where her father was likely held for anti-fascist activities in the sixties. The Jewish-Portuguese family history she commemorates is under threat of being lost since the prison was converted into luxury apartments. Grainy images of the prison’s daunting walls and stairs and hopeful windows are projected in spectral form throughout the gallery, suspending us between the positions of heroic political prisoner and anonymous condo tenant.

    Of all the works in the exhibition, Benning’s Two Cabins comes closest to the structural film tradition in its rigorous composition and near total lack of incident. Like Sampaio’s work, Benning’s exploits the gallery’s nooks to lure, then crowd us in, but the point of view we assume is neither heroic nor anonymous, and more circumscribed. The two films projected into a corner were shot through windows in replicated cabins of the American writer, naturalist, and anti-segregationist Henry David Thoreau and the infamous “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski. Stuck in an archetypal American hermit’s room, we’re left to meditate on the common cause of a murderous luddite and a poet-philosopher.

    Ralitsa Doncheva, Baba Dona Talks with the Wolves, 2016, video

    Montreal-based, Bulgarian artist Doncheva’s films are the most generous in the show. Warm, textured, and attentive to environmental detail, these films are carried forward by images of tiny and epochal change. At every turn, the filmmaker’s implication in a fraught cultural history is clear. Where Benning and Sampaio use windows to signify absent points of view, hers are floodgates or portals. The force of attraction in her images of shimmering caught flies in a Bulgarian monastery (Baba Dona Talks with the Wolves), a Soviet monument taken over by wild horses (Desert Islands), or a forlorn girl at a folk-dance studio in Kiev (Unfortunately it was Paradise) is felt in weighty presence and testimonial value.

    The monastery is home to the elderly recluse Baba Dona, but she is no relic. Her lovingly recorded routines – chopping wood, preparing food, setting traps for flies that look more like angels than insects in the film’s ethereal light – are presented as ritualistic, assertive, and future-oriented. Buried under a layer of graffiti (including an ironic white-on-red “Enjoy Communism!” piece) and guarded by a mare feeding her young, the Soviet monument is encountered in a “road trip film” featuring Doncheva and her father. As the pair move through a changed Bulgaria, the binary logic of the Cold War is replaced by messier oppositions between nature and culture, and parent and child. The girl in the Kiev studio wasn’t supposed to look so out of place. This and other clips edited for Unfortunately it was Paradise came from an archive of 1970s communist propaganda films in which representations of community and industry were to dominate.

    The artist's reframed and slowed-down “portraits of peripheral characters” anticipate a more individualistic life after communism marked by lonely stares, hurried commuter walks, and occasional fugitive smiles. Born two days after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Doncheva engages with receding figures of “patriarchal authority” in a post-Soviet history to which she lays a tentative claim. The artists in the show owe a debt to a similarly male-dominated history of structural and experimental film, but make important steps beyond it, impatiently perhaps, in search of stories that Snow and his peers didn’t care to tell.

    Ismaïl Bahri, James Benning, Ralitsa Doncheva & Miriam Sampaio continue until November 3.
    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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    Hannah Rickard’s One can make out the surface only by placing any dark-coloured object on the ground at The Polygon Gallery depicts the movements of paper across a studio floor performed by two people. Their decisions are a combination of rehearsed actions and intuitive placements of black and white prints that depict photographs of geological events such as lightning strikes and typologies of waves. An obtuse black diamond shape is included amongst these otherwise naturally occuring textures and images. This shape is a product photograph displaying a black tarpaulin laid flat on the ground. The geometry of this image, alien among the lighter reproductions of horizon lines and water textures, distills the architecture of the set (black tiled walls and floor), but also reads like a textbook diagram that supplies a graphic for the universe of this work. These images function as “notes” for Rickard’s composition.

    Hannah Rickards, Once can make out the surface only by placing any dark-coloured object on the ground, 2018, video still

    A camera orbits the performers’ activity and follows a visual score that the Vancouver-based artist adapted from a combination of the lines and curves taken from the images in the composition. Within the space of the screening, a large print of this score is illuminated by the projection. We are privy to the map and the movement derived from these thin lines that connect the outline of geological activities and textures. Abstracted into the camera’s movements, the visual recording simultaneously captures the inherent sound of the material’s behaviour—the sound of paper slowly pulled along the ground and then dropped, each sheet folding onto and unfolding from itself, the whirring and clicking of the camera and its rig. This establishes a gateway from the site of primordial action to the stage of nascent naturalness summoned in the elements composed in the video.

    Outside of the video installation room is a vitrine displaying objects that Rickards describes as “footnotes.” There are bits of fulgurite (glass formations that occur when lightning strikes sand), a sourcebook for the images that appear in the video, and artefacts of intuitive shapes alongside examples of natural photography that attempt to petrify the movement (and thus time) of things that exist outside of measured perception. The rigor of a musically notated score combined with the conceptual conditions that produce experimental and incidental sound complicate how we receive the noise and image, which feels caught, then released, to its viewer.

    Hannah Rickards: One can make out the surface only by placing any dark-coloured object on the ground continues until January 13
    The Polygon 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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    Kelly Mark’s solo exhibition at the AGO’s Present Tense space in 1997 changed my life. When I walked into that room of crumpled paper and graphite covered objects, I didn’t consider myself an aficionado of contemporary art. I was just some doofus with a recently minted Master’s in nothing employable who wanted to play music that nobody wanted to listen to and maybe write about it. The “out there” music overlapped with other realms of “out there” which lead me to visual art, but I was still getting my feet wet in the local gallery scene and, in retrospect, I’m not sure why I was even at the AGO that day except maybe to look at Gerhard Richter paintings because I’d learned about him from a Sonic Youth album cover. Mark’s work was a whole other kettle of fish, but it made sense with its combination of pointless labour and undeniable outcome. I was hooked.

    Kelly Mark, Hello & Goodbye, 2018, video

    In the intervening decades, I’ve always made sure to follow what she was doing. Her public spectacles like Glow House and Horroridor ingeniously scaled her talents to large scale, but her drawings and text pieces were more than enough to maintain her ongoing efforts to produce a body of work that bound the labour of the artist (studio time, repetitive actions, caustic frustration, relentless output) with post-minimal and post-conceptual forms. As I write this, I keep thinking about Bruce Nauman (largely because his most recent survey exhibition is accruing press coverage right now). He provides a clear precedent for Mark’s nonspecific media and language-heavy practice (not to mention their shared interest in art defined as “what an artist does”). I much prefer her sense of humour with its acerbic tone to his cool reticence. You never get the sense with her that the joke is on you. Instead, you half-laugh at the absurdities of humanity she exposes in precise and measured glimpses.

    Kelly Mark, Today Was A Good Day, 2018, waterjet cut aluminum

    Mark’s current exhibition at Olga Korper Gallery is about time. It’s called It’s About Time and the play on words hints at the impatience of age. Twenty years after that first solo show, she’s shifted her concerns somewhat and established a familiar array of means for expressing them. Text-works that collect a slew of phrases containing the word “time” take time to read through and run the gamut from literary to cliché. Select sayings are isolated in LED panels and cut acrylic rings. The circular pieces with their rejection of time as a measure of progress (“another year older but none the wiser“) admit to the resignation of age but refuse to give in (“today was a good day tomorrow can go fuck itself”). As a measure of time, her wristwatch with the statement “it’s just one god damn thing after another” running around the circumference is as good a description as any of the one dimension that pushes us relentlessly forward.

    The one video included in the exhibition is another thing entirely. Hello & Goodbye has the artist perform an encyclopedic series of familiar hand gestures from “my mind is blown” to “I’ve had it up to here.” This work pivots from a focus on time to an appreciation of the endless minor moments of creative expression we all engage in as meaning-making humans. Mark’s genius here is to collect and display them in isolation in order to heighten their range. The undeniable outcome of this labour is a sense of wonder at how a pair of hands can say so much. This reaction is not so different from the sense of vertigo I felt when the floor dropped out from under me twenty years ago in that gallery at the AGO. She still manages to turn the mundane into something more and I’m still hooked.

    Kelly Mark: It’s About Time continues until November 10.
    Olga Korper 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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    Sound and how it is received was at the fore in the exhibition Wnoondwaamin | We Hear Them at Stride Gallery. Curator Lisa Meyers assembled a compelling collection of work by Autumn Chacon, Jeneen Frei Njootli, Melissa General, and Suzanne Morrissette that occupied both the material and auditory space of the venue.

    Jeneen Frei Njootli, Herd, 2016, mixed media

    Each work interacted with sound and the aural field in a different manner. Whether through radio frequencies, sound waves, or viewer interaction, the artists presented the viewer with an auditory medley. What might traditionally be encountered visually was instead perceived through active listening. On entering the gallery the viewer encountered Chacon’s Between our Mother’s Voice and Our Father’s Ear and Frei Njootli’s Herd – both of which employed radio waves transmitted through spiritually important objects: a feather and a caribou antler respectively. Utilizing these objects in the form of antennae, Chacon and Frei Njootli allowed sound to transmit knowledge and an understanding of land, memory, and sustenance through alternative means.

    Suzanne Morrissette’s one and the same involved both video and sound. Two videos were included in the work: one a close up of dry reeds swaying in the wind; the other a partially frozen bay. Both were scenes that shroud the urban environment within which they are found. The viewer is an active participant in Morrissette’s work. In order to activate the sound and movement in the video, the viewer had to interact through movement. Their body becomes an instrument and a receiver of sound, in effect acting out an overarching methodology of aural interaction.

    In Melissa General’s video Kehyá:ras, what resembles mythic sounds emanate from the artist’s footsteps. The ceremony of being one with the river opens the piece as she washes herself and begins to laboriously move through the current collecting the enriching substance of that space. The river acts like an instrument in the world playing sounds often overlooked. As General moves through the river we are one with her and can feel the water through reverberations in the gallery space. The work becomes a bridge between the visual and auditory in a bodily sense. Overall, the exhibition is, as Meyers states, an occupation of space that is vital to defending communities: the occupied and unceded territories of this country.

    Lastly, I would like to acknowledging that I write from the position of a settler on Treaty 7 territory and Turtle Island. As such my perspective is that of a non-Indigenous individual and I use language and interact with the work from this position. I humbly acknowledge this place that I hold and extend my gratitude to the Indigenous peoples of this land.

    Wnoondwaamin | We Hear Them was on display from September 14 to November 3.
    Stride Gallery:
    The gallery is accessible.

    Maeve Hanna is a writer and curator who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Honours in Visual Art and Literature from York University and the University of Leeds and a Master of Arts in Art History and Icelandic Studies from Université du Québec à Montréal and the University of Manitoba on location in Iceland. She has previously written for Black Flash, C Magazine, Canadian Art, esse arts + opinions, Frieze, Sculpture Magazine and the Senses and Society. She is Akimblog’s Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Instagram @mcbchanna.

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    Every time I visit my great aunt Ivy’s place in Grand Prairie, Alberta, I am struck by the amount of life and laughter in the house. It brings me great joy, but also sadness. I don’t get the jokes. I am left out because I do not speak my family’s language and experience intergenerational trauma through the absence of my maternal ancestor’s tongue. My auntie’s friend once told me the jokes are better in Cree and therefore I must learn the language.

    Rosalie Favell, Voyager, 2003

    Walking into Nanabozoh’s Sisters, curated by Wanda Nanibush for the Dalhousie University Art Gallery, I am surrounded by women I have looked up to for the past decade. Artists Rebecca Belmore, Lori Blondeau, Dana Claxton, Thirza Cuthand, Rosalie Favell, Ursula Johnson, Shelley Niro, and Anna Tsouhlarakis were all brought together for this exhibition centered around the half-spirit, half-human shape shifting Anishinaabe Nanabozho. Their stories are told through the Indigenous narrative of a trickster that uses rebellious humour and parody to break down colonial narratives and stereotypes.

    The first works I see on entering the gallery space are Ursula Johnson’s Between My Body and Their Words, life sized digital prints of Johnson’s body and text from kin performance artists Niro, Belmore, Blondeau, and Cheryl l’Hirondelle on vinyl banners. This collaboration uses Johnson’s body and the collaborators’ words to challenge stereotypes and colonial narratives of Indigenous women’s bodies and material culture. On the opposite end of the gallery is Blondeau’s Lonely Surfer Squaw and Cosmosquaw, two works that subvert the squaw and princess stereotypes that are so often attributed to Indigenous women. In a time when The Spunky Squaw, a boutique featuring t-shirts using Navajo designs and owned by a woman who doesn’t see the harm in her colonial settler body using the term “squaw” (despite being told repeatedly that it is a racial slur with a hurtful history), it is more important than ever to have strong Indigenous women showing the humour and resilience of our people.

    Through the lens of Nanabozoh, these artists’ works join together to create an exhibition by, for, and about Indigenous women. The language of humour is one I completely understand. Through my artistic education and through my lived experience as an Indigenous woman, I am at ease, strengthened, empowered, and inspired by the presence of Nanabozoh. This exhibition shows people that while you use these terms to hurt us and while you use these narratives to break us, we will survive, we are resilient, and damn we are funny.

    Nanabozoh’s Sisters continues until November 25.
    Dalhousie University 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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    Wade Avenue is a strange place, to say the least. It’s a neighborhood I often frequented to buy coffee beans by the pound and for studio visits with artists at Akin Collective. It’s also where I worked briefly one summer sleeving vinyl records into jackets, next door to an auto body shop and an industrial design studio. On my breaks I would head across the street, braving the stench of the adjacent gelatin factory, to visit 87 Wade’s galleries: Darren Gallery on the third floor and Franz Kaka/Towards Gallery in the basement (read this for an explanation of the gallery’s doubled name). How did this bizarre combination of ordinary establishments end up on such an unusual street? Perhaps we will never know the answer, but Franz Kaka’s current exhibition perfectly illustrates Wade Avenue’s allure in its simultaneous familiarity and out-of-place-ness.

    HaeAhn Kwon, Ceiling Muscle, 2017, found and altered umbrella

    The world according to Generalized Axiom of Revealed Preference takes its name from an economic equation derived from analyzing choice behaviour. The equation is quite complicated (if you’re curious or a math nerd: < L + → < if u(x t ) ≥ u(x) for all x ∈ B(p t , p t · x t ) and t = 1, ..., T), but the notion is straightforward: if two things are the same price and the consumer chooses one over the other, the producer assumes you have done so in accordance with a personal preference. The curatorial statement builds on this to ask: how do you quantify a preference in the first place, and what about choice behaviours that occur outside of the purely economic sphere? While the premise is intriguing, the show appears to work just as well (if not better) without the unduly specific curatorial concept. (Or is my choice behaviour showing?)

    Walter Scott, Narratives from Home, 2018, fabric, plaster, wood, wire, string

    On entering the gallery, I notice an umbrella standing in the corner, threadbare and tattered. “Does that belong to someone?” I wonder. Looking up, there is another umbrella, this one turned inside out, its material dangling as it spiders over a fire engine red pipe. Both are the work of South Korean-born artist HaeAhn Kwon, who has found a way to suspend (literally) the familiar frustration and absurdity of carrying an utterly useless umbrella during a rainstorm. A little further into the gallery, interdisciplinary artist Walter Scott shows two sculptural pieces. One is a piece of cloth tinged with red, hanging on a wall with two disembodied, comical white hands reaching from behind, cinching the material at its waist. Directly opposite is a pulley structure (of sorts) supported, somehow, by a tote bag. Two white circles of paint are on the ground, mirroring the cloth-clasping hands before it. Even further in, Jeremy Laing’s giant hangers are partially woven with yarn, and equally oversized ceramic buttons hang from their thread.

    The world according to Generalized Axiom of Revealed Preference is a stunning exhibition. Familiar objects like tote bags, hangers, and umbrellas are transformed by each artist in unassuming ways. Each object, as the curatorial statement suggests, possesses “[its] own seductive agency,” yet keeps its viewer at arm’s length, perplexed and inquisitive - much like the building in which they can be found.

    The world according to Generalized Axiom of Revealed Preference continues until November 24.
    Franz Kaka:
    The gallery is not accessible.

    Letticia Cosbert is a Toronto based writer and editor, and is currently the Director of Koffler.Digital at the Koffler Centre of the Arts. She 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 Gardiner Museum, YTB Gallery, Xpace, and Trinity Square Video. She can be followed on Instagram @prettiletti.

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    Soft Kaur, Mia Sandhu’s first solo presentation as a recent and welcome addition to The Assembly’s member roster, features the paper assemblages that first caught my attention in past group exhibitions here in Hamilton – fluttering tableaux of strange communal rites beating at the heart of exquisitely contour-cut leaves and fronds, painted with a miniaturist’s care and held in precarious suspension by tiny brass pins.

    Mia Sandhu, Soft Kaur, 2018, installation view

    These scenes are populated by a very specific type of black female silhouette, the sort that leave their Victorian predecessors in the dust with their fertile proportions and proudly conical breasts. Between their pinkly parted labia and the surrounding outbursts of menstrual red, these scenes bear the universal simplicity of an unapologetic feminism. The ornately patterned cloaks that obscure many of these figures tell a different, more complicated story of the uneasy territory these bodies navigate on feet too small to bear their weight.

    The paintings accompanying Sandhu’s cut-outs feature the same iconic figure writ large in a world of soft colonizing hues, partly hidden from view by a physical drapery attached to the canvas. This gesture performs the same self-conscious blush suggested by Sandhu’s cut-outs while actively frustrating the viewer’s gaze – the rest of the painting is tantalizingly close for any who may be tempted to violate the stillness of that thin, striped drape.

    Venturing upstairs to the Assembly’s mezzanine reveals a third figurative painting whose lack of drapery creates the jolt of entering a private realm of playful abandon. A final punctuation of a work in the exhibition’s deepest reach places one more of Sandhu’s figures – this one threateningly close to life scale – behind a suggested door of hand-painted vertical blinds that tilt aside to offer a flick of hair here, a glimpse of breasts there, and the bloodied tips of fingers, pointed as talons. While these bodies might be soft and even vulnerable, the hand that made them is razor sharp, tempered by battle.

    Mia Sandhu: Soft Kaur continues until the end of November.
    The Assembly:
    The gallery is not 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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    A narrative in blue emerges from the exhibition Refugio by Winnipeg-based artist Sarah Fuller at the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery. It maps a tale of both place and time, covering islands and mountains, and recounting the life of two insect species in different locales. The exhibition consists of a series of blue-tinted photographs set in Ball’s Pyramid, Australia and the Athabasca Glacier in Banff National Park; a series of sketches of spaces and research drawings; and a video exhibited within a small-scale theatre based on the Paris diorama invented by Louis Daguerre. Through her work, Refugio examines a nuanced vision of still and moving images drawn together through the story of two places.

    Sarah Fuller

    Visiting these remote locations, Fuller investigated the lives of two near extinct insects: the Lord Howe Stick Insect, thought to have been eradicated but found to be living on Ball’s Pyramid, a small outcropping of rock in the sea off the shore of Lord Howe Island in Australia; and Rock Crawlers, discovered in the Canadian Rockies, a species of insect that has adapted to extreme cold temperatures, so much so that the warmth of a human’s touch can kill them. Through weaving their stories into both the video and photographs, Fuller relates her work back to an overarching theme of climate change.

    The photographs, awash in blue, open up to the viewer a vision of lands through a circular lens. Perhaps intended as an ocular effect, as if seen through a peephole, binoculars, or a periscope, the photographs are replicated in the video, but the image is seen to be moving slightly, making the hand of the artist visible and apparent. Aside from colour and texture (both intriguing elements), this aspect of performativity engages the eye and mind in a phenomenological sense, offering an alternative way of seeing.

    Sarah Fuller: Refugio continues until January 10.
    University of Lethbridge Art Gallery:
    The gallery is accessible.

    Maeve Hanna is a writer and curator who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Honours in Visual Art and Literature from York University and the University of Leeds and a Master of Arts in Art History and Icelandic Studies from Université du Québec à Montréal and the University of Manitoba on location in Iceland. She has previously written for Black Flash, C Magazine, Canadian Art, esse arts + opinions, Frieze, Sculpture Magazine and the Senses and Society. She is Akimblog’s Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Instagram @mcbchanna.

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    Frank Cicansky, a Romanian immigrant folk artist, and his son Victor Cicansky, a senior artist and one of the founders of the Prairie Funk movement, document their lived experiences in artworks that are collected and currently presented together in the exhibition Frank and Victor Cicansky: Keep on Going at the Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery.

    Frank and Victor Cicansky, Keep on Going, installation view

    In placing Vic’s ceramic, bronze, and mixed media sculptures alongside folk art paintings and wooden objects crafted by his father, a clear lineage is defined between folk art and the anti-elitist, regional goals of Prairie Funk. Wonky perspectives, an exuberant colour palette dominated by Prairie gold and dusky green, and an earthy humour unite both the elder and junior Cicanskys’ works.

    Keep on Going encompasses Vic’s bulging ceramics of the 1970s and the finely crafted porcelain and bronze of his mature work. Through the years, armchairs, fruit, vegetables, and pantries laden with jars of preserves are revisited – more a cast of characters than mere subjects. Ordinary, delightful, and imbued with a faint absurdity, these are the elements around which life revolves. The cabbage is particularly emblematic of the Eastern European immigrant experience: pungent, coarse, and an indispensable food source for many on the verge of poverty in Regina’s East End.

    However, while Vic’s sculptural memoirs reflect lovingly, almost nostalgically, on identity and community forged by food, Frank’s paintings depict hardships he experienced in the Dirt Hills area south of Moose Jaw during the depression years. The drought-ravaged prairie dwarfs moonshiners, loners, farmers, labourers, and dead horses. The text panels that accompany Frank’s paintings are particularly captivating and informative; transcribed from recordings in Frank’s spoken vernacular, they give a wry and plainspoken account of notable folks being cheated by farmers and the resulting punch-ups.

    The importance of this exhibition lies in its ability to reflect the lived experience of people in this area, making sense of migration, violence, and the establishment of community identity through an authentic voice.

    Frank and Victor Cicansky: Keep on Going continues until December 30.
    Moose Jaw Museum & 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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    Given the amount of scepticism directed at the contemporary art world, maybe it wasn’t such a great idea for the title of the premiere exhibition at the new and very hyped home of Toronto’s Museum of Contemporary Art to be a play on words that highlights the “lie” in the middle of “believe.” South African artist Kendell Geers’ titular text piece emphasizes the fiction at the core of every belief system. That accusation of fabrication can refer to art or deception (or both). It’s ostensibly directed towards religious and political structures that have endured throughout history, but it could just as easily apply to the personal and social investment we make in the arts. Be it the faith we have in the meaning of art or the assumptions we accept in the market for art, there is always an element of “make believe” that expands from artist to audience and beyond.

    Carl Beam, The Columbus Suite, 1990, photo-etchings on Arches paper

    The uncertain status of the image is front and centre when you step out of the elevator on the second floor of the gallery and take in Carl Beam’s suite of found photographs wrenched from their historical contexts and arranged in pairings that interrogate their iconic status. In an exhibition that feels unquestionably of the moment, Beam’s decades-old art is prescient and perfect as an opening gambit. (However you choose to navigate the thesis of this curatorial endeavour, the blessed diversity of the artists included make it a statement of belief in its own right – one that reflects the real face of this city and a de-centred art world more than any group exhibition I’ve seen at a major local public institution basically ever.) What follows is a smorgasbord of works that link belief less to transcendence and religious institutions and more to material experience and our personal identity.

    Maya Stovall, Liquor Store Theatre, 2014, digital video

    From Nep Sidhu’s collaboratively-created tapestry, pinball computer, and ritual costumes, to Dineo Seshee Bopape’s earthy, organic assemblage that dominates the third floor, a refreshing presence of sensually engaging stuff distinguishes this exhibition. Even the selection of video works, from Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen’s documentary surveillance to Jeremy Shaw’s sci-fi found film, is rooted in human narratives and leave any abstracting conceptualism to the subtext. Transcendence, or leaving the world behind, is too often a means of perpetuating a depoliticized take on the nature of our being, one that functions in art and the church to remove us from the matter of our lives. If there’s a lie at the heart of BELIEVE, it’s the one that tries to mollify us into relinquishing our selves in service of an assumed greater good – maybe even the greatest good. There’s none of that here. Instead, as dramatized in Maya Stovall’s Detroit-set Liquor Store Theatre, community is our church and art is what grounds us, what makes us who we are. As an introductory statement on its next phase of existence and its emergence as a flagship gallery for the art of the present, the MOCA has made its position known and given us good reason to have faith in what’s to come.

    BELIEVE continues until January 6.
    Museum of Contemporary Art:
    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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    Reflecting on the signage of Las Vegas in 1965, essayist Tom Wolfe trades in the “helpless language of art history” for more appropriate terms: “Boomerang Modern; Flash Gordon Ming-Alert Spiral; Mint Casino Elliptical.” James Gardner’s Syzygy tests the limits of disciplinary language as well. Among the twenty-three works currently on display at McClure Gallery are sculptures and paintings composed by the bendy rules of collage and assemblage. In some, beach debris and organic matter burst out of voids recalling the readymade tradition, but found objects are hard to isolate from their rough-hewn latex, board, spray-foam and polystyrene armatures. For Gardner’s creations, we need new words.

    James Gardner, PAW, 2018, mixed media

    His imagination is kindred with Wolfe’s, but the artist’s sources come from well beyond US commercial strips and way before the 1960s. Many of the show’s materials are scavenged from the Toronto Portlands where Gardner and the members of the collective VSVSVS occupied a warehouse from 2010 until 2017. And the images are taken from his archival research on pagan symbols in Medieval and Renaissance iconography. By Gardner’s lights, beach-combing for debris and flipping-through illuminated manuscripts – scavenger’s work and monk’s work – are intimately related meaning-making activities.

    Packed with insulation and studio detritus, a stout, concrete tube sculpture titled Core Sample #1 mimics the anthropogenic rocks of Toronto’s land-filled lakeshore. Call it “Leslie Spit Cylindrical.” The curved lattice sculptures in the FRNKS Lung series are made from wax, latex, and a supply of caramel-coloured spray-foam that the artist weathered on a city rooftop and moulded around balloons. The spaces left by the balloons are like cavities in an oversized toffee treat. Call it “Toronto Rooftop Honeycomb.” For both works, industrial and cultural artifacts are formed into ancient and post-industrial shapes, charged with symbolism, and forgotten to time. While the language of art history is stretched to account for these works, concepts drawn from earth-science or biology seem apt. By name and shape, Core Sample #1 recalls an environmental testing process used to measure atmospheric CO2 in ice from Greenland and Antarctica, and the FRNKS Lung pieces look self-generated or autotrophic – gnarly algae or bacteria sprung-up from the froth of Lake Ontario.

    More distant shores are evoked in the paintings. A close look through their bright coloured layers reveals traces of an ongoing study of astrological and alchemical imagery. In the works, historical materials are freed from European archives where Gardner found them languishing in dusty books, and revived into Instagram-friendly primary colour schemes. After years in the Portlands it’s not surprising that he’s drawn especially to maritime imagery. An image of a boy-sailor amid wobbly geometric forms in a seascape titled First Decan of Sagittarius is taken from the medieval astrological “Sloane Manuscript”, and a pair of embracing bathers from a 17th century illuminated manuscript are surrounded by red liquid in Old Lovers. This last melancholic picture for Gardner combines an obscure historical image with a still-vivid personal memory of lost love.

    James Gardner, Latest Ladder, 2018, mixed media

    The merging of esoteric and personal signs is apparent as well in the exhibition’s most striking works (PAW and Latest Ladder) – hulking assemblages that, like the sculptures, are best described in terms for natural processes. In them, images of a Sumerian or Mayan-type pyramid and a ladder are cobbled together in sedimentary layers. And an accretion of meaning compliments the works’ structure – the ladder is at once a studio tool and a symbol of spiritual ascension, and the block-pyramids oscillate between a necropolis and a stack of construction materials. Both works picture Gardner’s studio environment and the force of the imagination that transforms it from a physical into a symbolic space.

    How does all this patient gathering, arranging, concealing and revealing of materials communicate beyond the walls of Gardner’s studio? If the work escapes the language of recent art history, where does it escape to? Into the planet’s geological past or simulations of it on Toronto beaches? Into image-banks of fin de siècle art historians like Aby Warburg and Alois Riegl whose methods Gardner reanimates with marble dust, pigment, and power tools? Despite its archaic and academic references, the work in Syzygy seems very much of our time too. If Warburg and Riegl found evidence of a universal will-to-form (Kunstwollen) in the recurrence of serpent and vegetal iconography across cultural traditions and art historical periods, Gardner asks where that same will might lead nowadays, in our era of unlimited access to a glut of unclassifiable images. Following the artist’s example, we might answer: to the library, the studio, and finally the beach.

    James Gardner: Syzygy continues until December 21.
    McClure Gallery:
    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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  • 12/12/18--03:08: 2018 Critic's Picks
  • Thinking about the past year as a new resident of Calgary is, in some respects, a difficult endeavor. What comes to mind first and foremost are the various instances when support for trans-visibility and a discussion around gendered-violence arose in the city. This began when Jordan Peterson was booked to present a talk at Arts Commons, one of Calgary’s largest arts organizations. The transphobic professor’s rhetoric creates an unsafe space for those who fall outside the heteronormative patriarchal spectrum. When the city’s artist-run centres, including The New Gallery, Marion Nicoll Gallery, Stride, Truck Contemporary, and Untitled Art Society, came together and penned an open letter requesting that Arts Commons reconsider hosting the talk, both Peterson and Arts Commons shut them down in the press, offering the line that they “… support and fight for free speech…” whether it is in support of minority views or with those that disagree with them. What was really outstanding about this event was the momentous movement with which the people within the local arts community came together to support one another in this fight against oppression.

    Beck Gilmer-Osborne, A Thousand Cuts

    Concurrent to this, the exhibition A Thousand Cuts by Montreal-based trans artist Beck Gilmer-Osborne was on display in the New Gallery’s +15 gallery space – a venue hosted by Arts Commons. The three-channel video features found-footage of cisgender actors performing in transgender roles in both film and television. It also includes a list of all documented cases of transgender people who have been murdered in the past two years. The title itself is weighted with meaning, both literally and figuratively. Imagery is spliced together from many sources but it also points to the enacted and reenacted violence on transgender bodies. What compounded the erasure and violence against trans bodies highlighted in the work was Arts Commons decision to remove it. In September, the institution pulled A Thousand Cuts from the +15 window gallery, claiming it was inappropriate for audiences due to obscene language and nudity ( Again the artist-run centres in the city came together in support of one another and the artist to further the discussion on the censorship of this artwork. In an act of solidarity, Truck Contemporary, The New Gallery, Untitled Art Society, Marion Nicoll, and Stride all pulled out of hosting exhibitions in the +15 window galleries – a space that has been part of the artistic cultural scene in Calgary for decades.

    In response to these events and to support the issue of censorship, particularly surrounding transgender artists, violence, and censorship, Untitled Art Society invited transgender two-spirit artist Dan Cardinal McCartney to perform Misgendering Mouthfuls. McCartney was set to exhibit and perform in the +15 window gallery space with Untitled Art Society until the partnership between Arts Commons and the artist-run centres was cancelled. In a moving and poignant act, the piece performed at Untitled’s main gallery space spoke deeply to the violence that these acts of censorship create and have historically created within the LGBTQ2+ community, while also provoking if not resolution, internal support that was needed.

    I am often asked why I made the move to Calgary. If anything, this year of support within the city’s arts community is reason enough. In choosing Calgary to be my new home, I had an idea that the city’s arts and culture community was a unique one in Canada, but I had no idea it is as supportive as it has proven to be this year.

    Maeve Hanna is a writer and curator who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Honours in Visual Art and Literature from York University and the University of Leeds and a Master of Arts in Art History and Icelandic Studies from Université du Québec à Montréal and the University of Manitoba on location in Iceland. She has previously written for Black Flash, C Magazine, Canadian Art, esse arts + opinions, Frieze, Sculpture Magazine and the Senses and Society. She is Akimblog’s Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Instagram @mcbchanna.

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  • 12/12/18--03:09: 2018 Critic's Picks
  • My round-up last year included an exhibition I wanted to write about, but for whatever reason, never managed to. There is always something that grasps my attention and then disappears through the cracks. In the case of Derya Akay’s Green Grocer at Unit 17, I contacted the gallery a couple of months ahead of time to ask when the show was on so I could get a sense of when and where my writing might happen. Described as “part fictional grocery store, exhibition, studio, kitchen, a basket, a garden, a wall and a window” and a “framework” for the artist, I wanted it to be all those things (especially a basket). While the gallery space itself displayed text, 3D-printed objects, fermentation, floral arrangements, fruits, and other things to be eaten, Unit 17 was also uniquely outfitted with a kitchen and garden that was as integral to the exhibition as the gallery was to the display of art. Cooking and gardening informed the activities and socializing energies that permeated the duration of the project. Dinners and birthdays were hosted, people seemed happy to be there most of the time. My idea of a successful summer show! Despite my full intention of writing about it, why didn’t it happen? The exhibition had a utility and eventfulness to it that felt more legible as a sincerely nice life than as art, and I wanted to steep in that feeling for a bit longer. Now that some (but not all) of the writing is happening, my attachment to it as a critic commands that I encounter it through the languages of art. So, thinking of Akay’s exhibition as a sourcebook of hospitality, invitation, and nurture, the context of art provides an opportunity for pause and a foil to see Akay’s directness and pleasure towards food and plant realized with a poetics of subsistence via low-key gathering.

    Derya Akay, Green Grocer at Unit 17, 2018 (photo: Unit 17)

    The Writing Table was a series of writing workshops hosted at the Or Gallery and organized by curatorial resident Weiyi Chang. I think we are in agreement that art writing requires some demystification to broaden the field and encounter perspectives unhampered by the pressures to perform a certain discourse. Meaningful art writing is not simple contrarianism, evasive poetics, or superficial critiques of capitalism (or critiques of critiques of capitalism!). The series included workshops led by practicing artists (Tiziana La Melia, Lucien Durey, Maryse Larivière), curators (Nasrin Himada), poets (Shazia Hafiz Ramji), and editors (Sky Gooden) who elaborated on their approaches to writing as both freedom and task. This diverse arrangement was apt in illustrating the largely decentralized tendency of art writing practices, especially in Vancouver. It is one thing to read and write well, another to contribute discursively, texturize a field of voices with one’s own, and at once amplify others while sustaining more than one practice. It’s a necessary interdisciplinarity. The Writing Table carved time and space to reflect on the strains of production and how they influence the landscape of text.

    Artworkers and their work can be seen at every exhibition, public program, workshop, reading group, screening, and performance. It is visible in the semi-polished, yet still imperfect seams and attitudes of institutions that rely on their labour, and in the overworked energies of arts administrators, art handlers, development coordinators, communications liaisons, and curatorial assistants on short-term contracts. Awareness of the limits of labour being pushed, boundaries being circumvented for means of living, and abuses of power and influence is way past burgeoning. However, the material realities of working in art institutions require mobilized articulation. I can guarantee that critics and art theorists will publish more anthologies on Post-Fordist art economies or protest aesthetics, but it has gone much, much further when art workers directly communicate, advocate, organize, and protect one another from abuses of power, neoliberal work environments, and rental injustices.

    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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  • 12/12/18--03:09: 2018 Critic's Picks
  • What a year it’s been. I won’t waste any time recalling the crimes of the administration to the south or spotlighting our recently elected provincial leader (both devoid of brains or backbone). Instead I’ll focus on all the friendships that blossomed, the quiet conversations I had while waiting for the Dundas bus after an artist talk, or me screaming at the top of my lungs about “palette” at a gallery opening – two glasses of wine deep. This year was all about community – seeking, building, and, once it’s been found, holding on for dear life. Here are some of the best things I attended in the city with the best of friends throughout the year.

    After hosting Michèle Pearson Clarke for a yearlong residency, Gallery 44 presented A Welcome Weight on my Body, Clarke’s exploration of the possibilities of analogue photography in response to and alongside Black presence. I will never forget the beauty of the gallery’s walls spangled with framed portraits of Black people I knew well, others I was suddenly curious to meet. Some photos overexposed, others taken mid-blink, but even more devastating than their beauty was Clarke’s vulnerability. On the topic of Blackness, OCAD Onsite Gallery’s multi-sensory exhibition The Sunshine Eaters wove diasporic identities through palette (!), texture, and sound with Nick Cave, Jessica Patricia Kichoncho Karuhanga, and Ebony G. Patterson (alongside several other outstanding artists and their works). And in one of the smartest exhibitions of the year, Figures of Sleep at the UofT Art Museum explored sleep under various global circumstances and its use as a motif in the work of Rebecca Belmore, Louise Bourgeois, Sophie Calle, and others to address political, cultural, and social concern. More of this and less Gordon Parks, please.

    Arthur Jafa, Love is The Message, The Message is Death, 2016, video

    The most memorable artist talk of the year has to be Arthur Jafa at the AGO’s Bailie Court, where the Mississippi-born film director, cinematographer, visual artist, lecturer, and writer screened his acclaimed video masterpiece Love is The Message, The Message is Death (2016), which brought me to tears. Refusing to prepare a lecture, Jafa engaged in casual, bashful conversation with the audience and shared sneak peeks of projects he was currently working on, including akingdoncomethas (2018), a 100 minute-long video chronicling Black American worship ceremonies. Months later, another worship ceremony was led in the basement of the Drake Hotel by “tattooed occultist” serpentwithfeet, whose gospel vocals set to romantic lyrics and bombastic instrumentals swept us off our feet. And I am unable to forget Nasrin Himada’s lecture at Mercer Union, where she so generously shared stories of her home in Palestine, real and imagined, in her curatorial and writing series For Many Returns.

    Dionne Brand, Teju Cole, and Madeleine Thien met at the Toronto Reference Library to discuss the politics of exploring a city by foot, the architecture of colonization (not to be confused with colonial architecture) and the acoustics of various traveled cities. Inspired by their conversation, a friend and I walked and talked all the way home from Yonge Street to Lansdowne. While the blisters were tragic, the journey shifted my view and experience of the city in ways that I am still discovering. Some months later at the same venue, Rebecca Traister visited to discuss her latest monograph Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger. Traister did not to fail to disappoint, and spoke furiously and intersectionally about the many transgressions women have endured at the hands of patriarchy. Still confounding is the decision to have a man moderate the conversation, no less one who was clearly out of his league and gradually dulled in the presence of Traister’s brilliance.

    I have no parting optimism to offer you for 2019, aside from the admonishment to squeeze your friends tighter, take them to an exhibition or two, RSVP for that artist talk, go to that lecture, read that book, and hold onto those moments when you feel seen, heard, understood, and a little less alone.

    Letticia Cosbert is a Toronto based writer and editor, and is currently the Director of Koffler.Digital 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 Gardiner Museum, YTB Gallery, Xpace, and Trinity Square Video. She can be followed on Instagram @prettiletti.

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