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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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    It may seem unlikely, but throughout the passing decades of board, staff and mandate changes, artist-run centres nevertheless maintain their own "flavours" of exhibition or programming styles. For example, in Calgary, and forgive me if this seems a gross over-simplification but that's the point, the holy trinity of Truck, the New Gallery, and Stride stick roughly to tendencies of, respectively: pop-like, visually exciting, highly crafted work; conceptually-driven and text-saturated work; and somewhere in between the visually enticing and conceptual. You may disagree with these identifications, but I would argue that certain "brands" of programming form, unconsciously or otherwise, in the minds of ARC patrons; they are generalizations that shape memories of a place more strongly than written mandates, and hence ideas on which to base our affiliations or affinities.

    Nicole Kelly Westman, Penny Sister

    It is fitting, then, that a show like The Travelling Light, curated by The New Gallery's young and prominent programming director Steven Cottingham finds itself at this gallery. The exhibition, which "seeks to understand the effects of political and bureaucratic machinations in and upon one's personal life" gives me a sense of this particular 39-year-old community's continuity and raison d'être as a gallery committed to socially and politically engaged contemporary art. In form as well as content the show seems oddly consistent with the visually reticent, textually prolific exhibitions I remember from the early 2000's when TNG resided on 9th Avenue and Tomas Jonsson, an artist included in The Travelling Light, was programming director.

    Works by the five participating artists are occupied with themes of loss, displacement, and dispossession, which feature prominently in the rapidly expanding city of Calgary and perhaps contribute to this sense of rarity or surprise surrounding a gallery's stability and survival. The collective feel of the works and curatorial voice is one of retreat and capitulation, verging on apathy (Cottingham's essay reads, "Sometimes I don't feel like doing anything at all.") Resulting from this stance of abandon, the exhibition is so physically light and vacuous that it threatens to disappear altogether, toying with the outer limits of minimalism. Two works hold together what might otherwise blow over or collapse: Nicole Kelly Westman's emails and enlarged photograph detailing her imaginative childhood and Jillian Fleck's hilarious zine which mocks what she perceives as an apathetic yet persistent community of artists. Both works offer something remedial in addition to outlining the problem of capitalism's social mores.

    The New Gallery:
    The Travelling Light continues until April 5.

    Andrea Williamson is a Calgary-based writer and artist. Her reviews have appeared in C magazine, Swerve, Color magazine, esse arts and opinion and FFWD. In January 2013 she initiated a critical theory reading group that meets monthly in a collective attempt to approach academic texts in peripheral and humble ways. She can be followed on Twitter @andreawillsamin.

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    The Textile Museum is one of the stranger places to see art in the city. Phenomenologically, at least. It's located somewhere within the base of a condo tower hidden away on a side street near a non-descript section of Dundas West you would only visit if you were leaving town (the bus terminal is a block north). Measuring out the size of the museum is always disorienting since you rise up from the entrance before heading out into stacked galleries that meander in circular mazes through windowless rooms. Part historical institution, part education centre, it is also, in part, a contemporary art space that regularly features living artists who twist fabric into their own unique fabrications.

    Heather Goodchild, And his countenance fell, 2013, porcelain, linen, wool, aluminum, wood, sisal

    Currently on view, Heather Goodchild and Jérôme Havre's Fictions and Legends is a small, but layered (literally) exhibition of two very different artists who both create theatrical environments to frame their figurative work. Goodchild divides her space with painted canvas tent flaps – quasi-Biblical passages printed on their walls – to give the impression of a travelling religious revival. On bowing your head to enter each dimly lit alcove, you face ambiguous Christian parables played out either as hook rug scenes that congeal into battles between darkness and light, or morality plays acted out by porcelain children who are disturbingly lifelike despite their expressionless faces. The obsessive order and implied discipline in this work reflects an austerity that is both comforting and oppressive. It also contrasts dramatically with Havre's patchwork creations. Their obsessive accumulation of colour and stuffed-to-bursting physicality are grotesque caricatures of the human body, reflecting cultural prejudices more than anatomical ideals. By pairing these artists, the possible narratives alluded to in the exhibition's title are more than doubled, thus making the combination even greater than the sum of its parts.

    Andrew Rucklidge, Salon at the Bottom of the Lake, 2014, oil, distemper, and acrylic on linen

    Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker's art critic, was in town last week to give a talk at OCAD on the occasion of MOCCA's Misled by Nature exhibition. Over the course of a rambling hour-long demonstration of his far-ranging critical faculties (and the debt he owes to his editor), he repeatedly attested to his love of art and, specifically, painting. In recounting how to interact with certain Baroque works, he explained how an appreciation of art is, on one level, tied to the pleasure of solving problems. Great works reveal new solutions at every age; their rewards grow with them. Andrew Rucklidge's new works, now on view at Christopher Cutts, devote themselves to resolving, in a number of instances, the problem of arranging units of colour on canvas. In doing so, they lean to an abstraction that is not about gesture and physicality, but a model for the architecture of intellect. Which is not to say they lack movement; each one shifts in a multitude of dimensions the more time you spend with it. Schjeldahl also said, "I look at art for an escape from myself." These paintings are just such an exit.

    Textile Museum:
    Heather Goodchild & Jérôme Havre: Fictions and Legends continues until April 13.

    Christopher Cutts Gallery:
    Andrew Rucklidge: Shifter^Hunter continues until April 2.

    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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    L'Occupation des sols is a text by the French writer Jean Echenoz, as well as the title of an ongoing project initiated by Jonathan Demers at AXENÉO7 in Gatineau, just across the river from Ottawa. (It will also be one of his last initiatives there as Director, as he was recently nominated to the same position at the Musée d'art contemporain des Laurentides.) In the spirit of open-ended experimentation and artistic research promoted at the gallery, Demers invited a number of artists to respond to Echenoz's text and to the site itself. Josée Dubeau is the first artist to participate in a project that, ultimately, stages the act of reading, implicating each reader, both artists and viewers, in a performance that gives body to the meaning of the text.

    Josée Dubeau, L'Occupation des sols (outside view), 2014, wall drawing in non-photo blue pencil

    The site of the installation is visible from the street outside: four large windowpanes open onto a gallery that, apart from a simple table and chair, appears empty. That impression is not changed greatly when you gain access to the inside, until you adjust to your surroundings and notice a web of faint blue lines that crisscross the walls and obliquely skew the structure of the room and its perspectival space. Resting on the table is a copy of Echenoz's text, published by Les Éditions de minuit, its short length inviting a reading in one sitting, in full view of passersby.

    Dubeau's intervention offers a sensitive and economical reading of the text, matching both its emotional weight and its slightness of form. In Echenoz's tale, the last remaining image of Sylvie Fabre, deceased, is on a mural advertising perfume on the side of a building. Her widower and her son habitually visit the site to see her, until a new building in the adjacent lot goes up and, as it is constructed floor by floor, gradually covers the mural on which she appears. Dubeau has drawn her design directly on the wall in non-photo blue pencil, evoking not only the colour of the dress that Sylvie was wearing, but also her disappearance. A further disappearance is effected by the displacement of Dubeau's customary practice of geometric wooden sculptures by a more Platonic schema that sketches in the space's potential, even as the faint lines break against the uneven surface of the walls.

    I was surprised to think that the readers/actors in this project are actually in a position that parallels the antagonists of Echenoz's text, with each new construction running the risk of scuttling the last. Diane Génier is scheduled to be the next artist, and, in light of recent work in which she burned sections of her drawings, who knows? She might set fire to the place.

    L'Occupation des sols continues until June 21.

    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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    Much has been written about the significance, both figuratively and theoretically, of the dot in art. Pointillism, championed by such greats as Pissarro and Seurat, used dots to convey a new way of seeing. A personal favourite work by Winnipeg artist Jake Kosciuk is minimally constructed of five coloured dots pulled down the canvas. Paul Klee once charmingly wrote that a line is a dot that went for a walk. In local painter Frank Livingston's work dots function formally and figuratively as expressions of memory from a self-described "childhood filled with silences, secrets, and gaps". The artist spent his early years moving through foster homes and CFS custody, and it was these experiences that acted as impetus for his current body of work.

    Frank Livingston

    A recent graduate from the School of Art at the University of Manitoba, Livingston marks his first solo exhibition, now on view at Zsa Zsa West, with Memory Maps. The work is ambitious and organized into several loose themes: teeth, creatures, landscapes, and – most intriguing – a series of five portraits (My hero mom, Brother devil/angel, Grandpa Snapdragon, Grandma Petunia, and My cowboy Dad). The portraits anchor the exhibition because the depicted characters make an overriding interwoven narrative possible. Multi-coloured dots augment raw drawings, some additionally adorned by thread sewn into the canvas. Cleverly installed, the five family members gaze upon eight canvases titled Into the Woods #2-9 on the other side of the gallery. Ranging in scale, the trees are brightly coloured and abstractly rendered. Imbued with the dots created from those stories revealed to Livingston, they suggest the old adage of not being able to see the forest for the trees.

    The effects of trauma can be lasting: periods of time confused, blurred, or lost altogether. This exhibition is, in essence, the record of an attempt at reconstructing a life through the stories that are not one's own. While each dot is a signifier of a particular moment or place in time, as a collective they assemble a new narrative. Livingston is undoubtedly working through and with intense memories but his art conveys a sense of fragmented healing.

    Zsa Zsa West:
    Frank Livingston: Memory Maps continues until March 29.

    Lisa Kehler is a writer and curator from Winnipeg. She most recently co-authored the forthcoming publication Art Tomorrow: 40 Years of the Future Now (Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art 1972 - 2012). She holds a Masters in Cultural Studies: Curatorial Practices from the University of Winnipeg and is currently the Special Projects Director at Border Crossings. She is Akimblog's Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @LisaKehler on Twitter.

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  • 03/10/14--22:14: Barn Swallows at Artspeak
  • One of the most prevalent species of the globe-spanning swallow, the barn swallow has adapted and thrived by using human-made structures to nest and breed in, thus growing in number with human expansion. Keeping this in mind, the spread and adaptation of this bird speaks volumes about human populations, their migratory patterns, and the inevitable cross pollination of ideas, references, and contexts.

    Devin Troy Strothers, A Black Joan Jonas in, "Nigga I'm a coyote", 2012, acrylic, paper collage on canvas

    Translated into the visual realm as the unifying theme for Artspeak's three-person group exhibition this ubiquitous bird speaks to a form of visual hybridity. While hybridity itself is a complicated and loaded term, specifically in the context of colonial disturbances of balance and power, the commingling of disparate influences come to a head in Barn Swallows.

    The histories of Coast Salish cosmology intertwine with Modernist formal preoccupations in the sculptures and paintings by Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun. The silkscreened collages by Caroline Monnett question how an image can subvert, if not create new realities and cultural identity. In her Anomalia series, each collage print consists of found photographs of varying gradations and textures, creating a world within a world, exploring the creation, destruction, and reconstruction of identity making.

    Similarly, the small and dynamic wall works by Devin Troy Strother are damning and sarcastic interventions into the visual representation of race and vernacular language in art history and language. In A Black Joan Jonas in, "Nigga I'm a coyote", multiple layers of meaning are at play in bringing to mind the vernacular use of coyote signifying a person who smuggles immigrants into America and to some degree, the coyote in the form of the trickster in popular Native American mythology stories.

    As a series of works and images that are a conflation of multiple histories, yet belong to no one in particular, Barn Swallows speaks to the unsettling convergence of realities and representations into a new world order.

    Barn Swallows continues until March 29.

    Amy Fung is a writer and organizer who publishes nationally and internationally in journals, magazines, catalogues, and monographs in print and online. She is the Programs Manager at Cineworks Independent Filmmakers Society and her ongoings can be found at and on Twitter @anotheramyfung. She is Akimblog's Vancouver correspondent.

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    For a week in which the US and Russia made threats and held the whole world in suspense as they battled over a previously insignificant piece of the world that was suddenly centre stage in the theatre of global politics, it was only appropriate that I found myself confronted by works that turn the clock back to Cold War narratives and show, among other interpretations, that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen, 1967: A People Kind of Place, 2012, video

    The pairing of one work each by Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen and Juan Ortiz-Apuy at A Space makes for as simple and effective a group exhibition you're going to find all year. The former's short film 1967: A People Kind of Place uses found footage from sixties' television broadcasts to first tell the story of St. Paul, Alberta's Centennial-celebrating UFO landing pad (a real thing, it seems) before blasting off into a riff on the idea of alien visitors as immigrants and Canada's system of quotas for newcomers. It ends meditating on the first people to land on this land thus turning us all into travellers. Beside Nguyen's black box theatre, the next gallery abruptly shifts from darkness to light as motion sensors are triggered to switch on three powerful freestanding lamps that illuminate what at first appears to be a collection of framed blank white posters. There seems to be something printed on them, but they only become visible when you stand still long enough for the lamps to switch off. Then, as long as you don't move too quickly, you can read the glow-in-the-dark pages from a "freedom fighters manual" produced by the CIA and airdropped over Nicaragua in 1983. The dynamic between viewer and work created by Ortiz-Apuy with the mechanism of the motion detector literally stops you in your tracks and forces you to focus your attention on each page in turn while also restricting your movements through the imposition of a system of control. Never have I felt so manipulated. It makes for a powerful viewing experience.

    Edward Maloney, ADVANCE, 2014, graphite on paper

    Speaking of travelling, I also made an eastward jaunt to the other side of Young Street to visit Pierre-François Ouellette Art Contemporain, the Montreal dealer's Toronto outpost. The neighbourhood that surrounds the gallery had long been nondescript, with an odd assortment of warehouses and businesses but no coherent character. Ten years ago the only reason I'd come here was to make noise in the rehearsal factory hell hole where my band practiced. Given the amount of condos that have since popped up, I have a feeling the army of heavy metal dudes who used to torment us has departed and been replaced by young and stylish soft-loft owners with walls that are begging to be covered by something other than their recently disposed of university dorm-era Bob Marley posters. Which makes it the perfect place for a forward thinking gallery! Robert Birch, who started out here way back when with his framing shop and exhibition space (I remember seeing future Documenta star Luis Jacob on his walls) must be kicking himself for not sticking around.

    Then again, maybe all these hipsters want are large screen TVs to look at. The fate of Ouellette, who shares a space with Feheley Fine Art and their, I assume, more stable stable of contemporary Inuit artists, will be an index of whether Queen East can maintain galleries amongst its coffee shops, boutiques, and trendy restaurants. The current exhibition by Edward Maloney gathers an ambitious, but modest in number, range of works that take the urban, specifically industrial, landscape as their subject. While it's admirable for him to take on an assortment of media, my suggestion for this artist would be to forget the videos, the installations, and even the texts that overload his practice and instead focus on his strength – drawing the details of the built environment – and allow those images to tell the story. Maloney's razor wire and chain link fence have enough poetry on their own, and his washed-out graphite view of shipping docks from a glass and concrete patio will more than speak to the denizens of this downtown core.

    A Space:
    Space Fictions continues until March 15.

    Pierre-François Ouellette Art Contemporain:
    Edward Maloney continues until March 15.

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

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    While checking out a couple recent exhibitions in Montreal, I couldn't help but notice the connection between two works I had seen: Sébastien Cliche's Self Control Room at articule and Mathieu Cardin's Reality Sucks at Parisian Laundry (the latter is part of the MFA group show Collision 10 that closed this past weekend). On the surface, the works are quite different: Cardin's installation is colourful and sprawling – the creation of an eccentric and highly personal world – whereas Cliche's installation is clean, precise, impersonal, and largely black and white. To be fair, the deeper subject matter of each work is also divergent: Cliche is interested in surveillance and its impact on the self, while Cardin, in an almost Gondry-esque fashion, delves into the idea of highly creative inner worlds. However, both artists have created studio-themed meta-installations that reveal personal narratives.

    Sébastien Cliche, Self Control Room

    At articule, the viewer is first confronted by their own reflection in an immaculate sheet of glass leaning against a mover's blanket. Turning the corner, the gallery appears to be in a very tidy state of installation in-between shows. An artist's worktable as well as a maquette of the gallery space occupies the centre of the room. There is also an octagonal room at the back of the space that you must walk around to enter. The octagonal room turns out to be an observation station filled with monitors, and it's here that the viewer realizes that each aspect of the exhibition and their interaction with it has been under close surveillance.

    In the basement room at Parisian Laundry (which throughout the years often seems to inspire/attract among the best works in the various editions of Collision), the viewer walks into an ante-space that appears to be a janitor's room. A glimmer of light appears through the door of a locker and, if confident enough, the viewer will open it and realize they can walk through and into a massive studio space filled with supplies and art installations in progress. Walking around back of a box that has been built within the space, the viewer realizes they can look into, but not enter, an immaculate gallery-like space inside. A clever 3D trompe l'oeil within makes the viewer re-evaluate some of what they have previously walked through.

    Both Cliche and Cardin's installations represent a room within a room within a room that belongs to a mysterious missing subject. And each installation blurs the role of the viewer in a discomforting way. Who are the objects, subjects, and the missing characters of these highly constructed, manipulative spaces?

    Sébastien Cliche: Self Control Room continues until April 13.

    Parisian Laundry:
    See website for current exhibitions.

    Susannah Wesley is an artist and curator living in Montreal. She has been a member of the collaborative duo Leisure since 2004 and from 1997-2000 was part of the notorious British art collective the Leeds13. Formerly Director at Battat Contemporary in Montreal, she holds an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art and an MA in Art History from Concordia University. She is Akimblog's new Montreal correspondent and can be followed @susannahwesley1 on Twitter.

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    The title of John W. Ford's sculptural trilogy at the McMaster Museum of Art points to the dissonance between his work's outward appearance and the chaos it contains. The glass cases of House not a Home suggest a dollhouse's friendly domesticity but harbour worlds without the familiar separation of space into rooms and function. Instead, each construction towers and teeters at the brink of kinetic potential like a Rube-Goldberg device awaiting activation for an unknown purpose.

    John W. Ford, House not a Home, installation view

    Far from coalescing as a comforting nest, Ford's tangled environments read as collages of a nomadic life, unsettled and even clumsily tied together by splints of wood, knots of thread, miniature bricks, and stones. Aged fragments of glass slides from art history archives hint at the academic cause of all this displacement in Ford's career as an art professor, as does the quantity of didactic text on the gallery walls; the latter is, thankfully, easily missed at the darkened perimeter of the room and distant enough to properly focus attention on the movement of material and idea within the works themselves.

    François Dallegret, GOD & CO, installation view

    François Dallegret's GOD & CO in the neighbouring gallery rides the slightly mad momentum of Ford's assemblages to overwhelming heights by presenting a dense array of works as an eccentric laboratory of ideas that carve a surreal sweep through art, architecture, biology, and commerce. Played in close counterpoint to Ford's glass houses, what emerges most strongly here are the French polymath's inventive adaptations to occupy an environment that is presented as inhospitable by its very nature. From strangely prescient wearable technologies to mobile homes designed to break all human dependencies on land, Dallegret's mid-twentieth century utopianism is enlarged to monstrous proportions and fulfills the promise of a machine-age utopia in all its aggressive, absurd grandeur: literally wonderful, yet winkingly horrific visions for living.

    McMaster Museum of Art:
    John W. Ford: House Not a Home continues until March 29.
    François Dallegret: GOD & CO continues until March 29.

    Stephanie Vegh is a Hamilton-based visual artist and writer whose criticism has appeared in Scotland's Map Magazine, Canadian Art, C Magazine, and Hamilton Arts & Letters, in addition to her own blog. Her drawings and installations have shown most recently at the upArt Contemporary Art Fair and Nathaniel Hughson Gallery in Hamilton. She is the Executive Director of the Hamilton Arts Council and a member of the Curatorial Committee for Hamilton's annual Supercrawl. She is also Akimblog's Hamilton correspondent and can be followed @Stephanie_Vegh on Twitter.

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    Due to the recent launch of his newest magnum opus, I've been on a bit of a Matthew Barney kick of late. This seems to happen every ten years or so and I, like most of the art world, get sucked back into the mythology of the 21st Century's most oblique myth-maker. One outcome of this temporary obsession is a bi-directional sense of inadequacy: one looks inward and wonders why I didn't get a football scholarship to Yale, model for J. Crew, and then make a stunning New York gallery debut in my early twenties; the other looks outward and settles for nothing less of an artwork that it be at least six hours long, require custom-built steel smelters, and feature guest appearances by Salman Rushdie and the singer from Morbid Angel. While I'm still wrestling with my disappointment in myself, it only took a visit to Prefix ICA to realize a piece of video art can be a single shot lasting a minute and a half and still knock me on my ass. Take that, Mr. Bjork!

    Sylvia Safdie, Web/Auschwitz, Nos 4 and 2, 2011-2013, video

    The video in question is one of three by Sylvia Safdie now on view along with a forgettable light sculpture. Curator Scott McLeod and the fine folks at Prefix have made an immaculate projection zone and wisely chose to feature the shortest of these short video works with the largest screen. Sitting in enveloping darkness, one could be tricked into thinking that Pond/Auschwitz No. 2 is much longer than it is or on some sort of loop, but really it's just 93 seconds of rain hitting the water's surface. However, that brief span encompasses landscape, physics, action painting, nature, mortality, the Holocaust (inevitably, given the title), the impossibility of representing the Holocaust, the role and responsibility of the artist, the tradition of video art, fluid/water as metaphor, randomness as metaphor and thing in itself, etc. I could go on because the more I kept looking, the more I saw, the more I imagined, the more I understood, and the more there was to see.

    Olia Mishchenko, The Expanded Gardens of Locus Solus (detail), 2013

    A similar kind of absorption is experienced when examining Olia Mishchenko's drawings at Oakville Galleries, but where Safdie finds abstraction in nature, Mishchenko makes clear and precise representations that at first appear to embrace nature but slowly, as you work your way through the details and the scale of these large and intricate landscapes, reveal a far more conflicted relationship with rural life. Her depiction of a tree nursery provides the key to this narrative as it shows the saplings bound or manipulated in a variety of ways to control their growth. With this in mind, the bucolic scenes of seemingly progressive communities of people found amidst the shelter of forests or gathered at the water's edge are gradually undercut by the awareness that even within this Edenic architecture, nature is being reconstructed, divided, and redirected through the conduits of humanity's use for it. Which, of course, is how it's always been and always will be. That said, Mishchenko manages the clever trick of throwing you off balance just as you lean close to discover another fascinating twist amidst the underbrush in these postlapsarian gardens of her own invention.

    Prefix ICA:
    Sylvia Safdie: The Absent Present continues until March 29.

    Oakville Galleries:
    Olia Mishchenko: The Expanded Gardens of Locus Solus continues until May 11.

    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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    Blunt. Basic. Concise. Unencumbered. Impervious. Unsentimental. Sensible. Compressed. Instructive. These are a few words to describe Roberta Smith's recent Shenkman Lecture at the University of Guelph School of Fine Arts and Music, and maybe the larger temperament of Smith's writing in general. Trying to pinpoint moments in Smith's past reviews in which her language, ideas, particular angles or points are singularly remarkable, I come up with similar words, although there is a more acerbic and barb-like deliberateness in her text (see her recent take on the "generic Surrealism" of Germaine Richier). But then what am I talking about exactly? Smith's ability to thoroughly organize context outside of the galleries and point out the general level of clarity and affect of the many exhibitions she encounters? Or the voice/tone/inflection of Smith as a critic via her pragmatic writing style? And what are we talking about, expecting, wondering, thinking of, or utilizing when we read or talk about Smith's criticism?

    Roberta Smith

    Comparisons between Smith's writing and that of her partner since 1992, Jerry Saltz, are inevitable. Saltz has a spontaneity and brashness that is expected, delivered through unpredictable and personal language. Smith's writing in contrast is immediate in a different way, with a pruned and spiky tone, yet dense and full of reliable (and buzz-wordy) anchors. Asked if her longstanding employer, the New York Times, mandates that Smith remove any hints of the first-person from her writing, Smith says simply that no, it's more of a reflection of her own style. Saltz's writing is conversational, while Smith's, as she says, is simply "a way of working, disseminating, trying to activate something in people."

    The title of her lecture, Criticism in the Expanded Field, certainly played a part in influencing expectations and reactions to Smith's talk, even while immediately grounding it within a cut and dried structure. It follows then to wonder what Smith's position on Art Criticism (in uppercase) is. And it makes absolute sense, really, that Smith has no all-encompassing advice or instruction on critical art writing outside of her own practical habits and motivations as a weekly reviewer where "criticism has a short shelf-life" and is read and consumed quickly. Speaking about her trajectory as an art writer via arts journalism and as an early proponent of Donald Judd's writing, she ascribed her interest in avoiding writing about art only "from the neck up" to a certain breakthrough in learning to "open up the whole body to art." For Smith, this is the expanded field, made possible after a shift from writing reviews post-exhibition to writing weekly reviews, which she relates to "recording in the studio versus performing live".

    Preferring to open up the bulk of her talk to Q&A, pointed questions on Smith's methodology generally failed to yield sticky details, but was followed with some basic tools for art writers. What does and should criticism provoke? How should it operate? What is your criterion when you critique art? Smith: "Work back from the artistic experience", and "critics demonstrate a discernment", but also: "These are pieces of evidence of things going on inside you when you write criticism." To questions about how art writers in Canada might work within/around a basic lack of negative criticism, Smith can only speak about what she does: "I write editorials really, I write opinions." Consequences after writing a positive or negative review? "Artists do not own the meaning of their work". Overcooked versus experiential? Careful and meticulous research versus knee-jerk? The reworking of opinions is constant, but "if we knew what we were going to write, we wouldn't write." Would you ever consider putting together a collection of your writing? Smith: Ughh (paraphrase); rather than look back, Smith is much more interested in the pressure of writing weekly.

    These were the tools, generalizations, deflections, and missed connections within a larger idea of "criticism as a valve", or as a voice from the audience put it, a particular critical system or tactic via "conduits". While all-too-brief, Smith's lecture was a refreshing glimpse of Roberta Smith on Roberta Smith in which, through the daily practice of criticism (which, she insists, we all have and are always doing), "you have a much richer experience than your conscious mind knows."

    Shenkman Lecture Series:

    Kim Neudorf is an artist and writer currently living in London, Ontario. Her paintings have shown widely in Alberta, and she exhibited in The Room And Its Inhabitants at Susan Hobbs Gallery, organized by Patrick Howlett. She has contributed writing most recently to Susan Hobbs Gallery, Cooper Cole Gallery, Forest City Gallery, and Evans Contemporary Gallery. She is Akimbo's London correspondent and can be followed @KimNeudorf on Twitter.

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    The most fecund places are those that are neither/nor, and Dorothy Caldwell knows this. Life thrives along the edges – the littoral regions where sea meets land, or along the cleaving edge where forest meets open field, or even where pruned hedge might abut the suburban lawn. Her textile-based work is neither/nor, aesthetically mining those edgy regions where representational meets abstraction, where a focus on medium-specificity butts up against the persistent imperatives of the image. Caldwell's pieces may very well be classified somewhere by somebody as landscapes, but that don't necessarily make them so.

    Dorothy Caldwell, Ancient Forest/Arctic Willow, 2013

    Silent Ice/Deep Patience, which just opened at the Art Gallery of Peterborough (and which is set to start a major tour) brings together work Caldwell's done over the past few years, much of which has to do with research trips she's made up to the Canadian Arctic and down to the Australian Outback. Sure, look hard enough (or maybe not hard enough) and a landscape pops right out. In Survival/Spinflex, one of the smaller works in the show, X marks a spot as two paths cross one another in a spotty, blotched landscape marked by an ovoid ochre-red shape that makes all of this seem very Australian, and, yeah, even map-like. But muddy brown stains across the cotton surface hinting at abstraction and an intervening square patch of jarringly aquamarine stitching occlude the totality of a guide-book reading. There's no aesthetic absolutism, no map-like determinism here. We are given to see this piece otherly. You know: neither/nor.

    Ancient Forest/Arctic Willow is another of the smaller pieces, and right off the bat the title speaks to the idea of landscape. Visually, though, it's another matter. Here we encounter the grid, but not a hyper-clean, geometrically precise Agnes Martin kind of grid. Caldwell's is delightfully and humanly untidy and imprecise; the lower half of the work is all fat verticals and horizontals (and a spot entirely devoid of the vertical), the upper half a much finer, denser weave. Into this, Caldwell's attached gridded cloth rectangles of different colours and sewn a horizontal band of five blotches of diagonally stitched threads, each a vibrant blaze of individual colour. Closer to the bottom, a line of green unevenly and entirely transits the work; near the top, it's a line of blue that rises to a peak before dropping off and leaving the visual plane. Boundaries of some kind? Maybe. Topographical inventions? Perhaps. Or, at a stretch, something suggestively akin to poet Louis Zukofsky's articulation of his poetics: "lower limit speech/upper limit music." In the space between, in the weave of Dorothy Caldwell's aesthetic, it's the world of neither/nor, one and the other.

    Art Gallery of Peterborough:
    Dorothy Caldwell: Silent Ice/Deep Patience continues until June 1.

    Gil McElroy is a poet, artist, independent curator, and freelance art critic. He is the author of Gravity & Grace: Selected Writing on Contemporary Canadian Art, four books of poetry, and Cold Comfort: Growing Up Cold War. McElroy lives in Colborne, Ontario with his wife Heather. He is Akimblog's roving Ontario correspondent and can be followed @GilMcElroy on Twitter.

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    Through her exhibition Loudspeakers and Other Forms of Listening at the Carleton University Art Gallery, the American artist Sharon Hayes does not simply re-enact the political past but re-fashions it with dry humour, a sense of the absurd, and empathy, by marking our historical differences and making them materially present. For example, in the four-channel video installation Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) Screeds #13, 16, 20 & 29, one of her signature works on display, Hayes is coached by an audience as she falteringly recites partially memorized transcripts of the four taped statements made by Patty Hearst during her captivity with the SLA in the 1970s. Each work in the exhibition contains a similar, interior structural spacing, like a broadcast delay that suspends the immediate reception of its address.

    Sharon Hayes, We Knew We Would Go to Jail, still, two-channel video installation, 2003-2012.

    Curated by Heather Anderson, the exhibition features nine works deploying a variety of media including textiles, video, audio, and prints through which the artist reveals a very personal side of the political that is vulnerable to doubt. All the works are displayed within a variable structure of makeshift platforms, partitions and risers by the artist in collaboration with Andrea Geyer titled Space Set / Set Space that is both a framework for the exhibition and a work of art itself, encouraging viewers to prolong their engagement with the materials, discover connections, and try to answer the myriad questions evoked in the process. Like the placards left blank in the drawings within the five-page poster project, In Times Like This Only Criminals Remain Silent, another collaboration with Geyer, viewers can project their own concerns onto the works.

    The reflexive aspects of the exhibition are doubled by the fact that it is being presented at CUAG, as several of the works consider the university as a crucible for political activism and the formation of political and personal identity. As an apocryphal preamble to the exhibition, there is a video monitor displaying archival photographs of protests by Carleton students through the 1960s. An undergraduate on campus might even identify with the twenty-something interlocutors of the video installation We Knew We Would Go to Jail if he or she didn't get the sense that they were putting on an act. The exhibition offers a study in how politics are represented, performed, and taught.

    Finally, Anderson makes the best use of the Mezzanine Gallery at the CUAG that I've seen: a 100-foot-long banner reading "Now a chasm has opened between us that holds us together and keeps us apart" is both architectural foil and speech act, running along the railing that overhangs the Main Gallery. Paired with the Dennis Tourbin show below, it is well worth multiple visits.

    Sharon Hayes: Loudspeakers and Other Forms of Listening continues until April 27.

    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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    I tend to avoid reading other people's reviews before I've written my own, but given the nature of Sarah Anne Johnson's subject matter in her current exhibition at Stephen Bulger, I couldn't help but glance at the one printed last Thursday in local alternative weekly The Grid. While they don't employ a regular art critic, they do have a sex columnist on the masthead and it was the so-called Sex Doctor's musings that I exposed myself to before putting my own thoughts to paper.

    Sarah Anne Johnson, Happy Face, 2013, chromogenic print

    He, unsurprisingly, focused on the sex-content in these manipulated photographs, and it's easy to see why: they are pictures of people fucking. Johnson found friends of friends willing to "do it" (to varying degrees) in front of the camera, selected some particularly evocative images (of varying degrees of explicitness), and then made additional contributions by painting on, scratching up, or otherwise manipulating the final print. The Doctor diagnosed this as tribute to the feeling, rather than the mechanics, of sex. That said, I think there's more going on here than simply illustrating the experience of sexual congress by adding happy faces or sploogy paint splatters to scenes of couples coupling. In addition to her transgressing the sanctity of the photographic image, Johnson manages a wide range of effects – from an all-over obscuring splatter to a subtle painted-in prop – that turns her actors into iconic or mythological creatures who act out the symbolic battles, exchanges, and mutations that have long turned what might be pornographic into what is definitely art, not by making the art about sex, but in fact by making the sex about art.

    Sayeh Sarfaraz, Micropixies, 2014, installation view

    Figuring out what Sayeh Sarfaraz's installation at InterAccess is about presented an equally compelling challenge. Agreeing as I do with Peter Schjeldahl's stance on the role of the artist in discerning a work's meaning, I bypassed the four page artist statement (stuffing it in my bag for later reference) and instead got down on my hands and knees to get a good look at this floor-level assemblage of printed building blocks and masses of little Lego men in order to figure out what brought us all here. I admit that I get a kick out of not knowing, so the clear but not obvious order of this cluster of recognizable stuff in the centre and off to the side automatically intrigued me. The military theme was first evident in the traditional-looking (but what tradition, I didn't know) pictures of generic soldiers on the stacked wooden blocks that formed a rough city/citadel in amongst which the Lego guys gathered, but the latter seemed of a different world entirely. Peering closer I could see a few of these fellows were face down with a hole in their backs dripping red. The relationship with the two projections incorporated into the floor plan made even less sense, though they included some sequences with the ubiquitous plastic toy. It was only when, after circling the work in hope of finding a key, I triggered a motion detector that set off a sound recording about political unrest in Iran and the subsequent popular protests that had been surpressed. Suddenly the meaning the material and its arrangement became very concrete indeed. However, I still wonder what I would have made of the experience if left to my own devices.

    Stephen Bulger Gallery:
    Sarah Anne Johnson: Wonderlust continues until March 29.

    Sayeh Sarfaraz: Micropixies continues until March 29.

    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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    Beginning with Vancouver's archival images of Hogan's Alley and the Hotel Vancouver, two sites of a demolished and largely suppressed history within the city's ongoing penchant for speculative redevelopment, the narratives embedded in two new projects by Stan Douglas– the play Helen Lawrence at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage and the exhibition Synthetic Pictures at Presentation House– begin where the city archive ends.

    Stan Douglas & Chris Haddock, Helen Lawrence

    A play that unfolds through live filmmaking, Helen Lawrence is written by Chris Haddock and directed by Douglas, whose strength continues to lie in his meticulously researched and rendered photographs that become an all consuming background for the live ensemble. This "set" is an orchestrated choreography of computer-generated blue screen projections that bring to life Hogan's Alley and the Hotel Vancouver as actors weave in and behind the on-stage live feeds. The actualization of live bodies in these phantom locations is undeniably a strong concept. The play's multimedia filter is both an enhancement and a novelty that offers close-ups and angles to facial expressions normally reserved for filmmaking, but it loses its punch after the first ten minutes. The cast doubles as camera operators in between speaking parts; however, performing for camera and performing for a live audience are simply two entirely different art forms that never successfully intertwine. The film noir genre plays itself out with humdrum expectancy – including a femme fatale storyline and double crosses – but once your eyes become accustomed to seeing the action on and behind the screen, there is not enough narrative tension to break the experience out of its mould of being a traditional theatre performance, even if the fourth wall was a translucent screen.

    Parallel to and in support of the play, Synthetic Pictures serves as both research material for Helen Lawrence and a divergent look at Douglas' history of image making through compression and abstraction. In particular, Hogan's Alley showcases distillations from Douglas's app Circa 1948, which constructs a digitally rendered reconstruction of Hogan's Alley and the Hotel Vancouver, creating parallel realities between the past and present, and redefining the creative capacities of the camera lens.

    Helen Lawrence continues until April 13 at Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage before its international tour with stops in Montreal, Munich, Edinburgh, and Toronto.

    Presentation House Gallery:
    Stan Douglas: Synthetic Pictures continues until May 25.

    Amy Fung is a writer and organizer who publishes nationally and internationally in journals, magazines, catalogues, and monographs in print and online. She is the Programs Manager at Cineworks Independent Filmmakers Society and her ongoings can be found at and on Twitter @anotheramyfung. She is Akimblog's Vancouver correspondent.

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    Why differentiate student work from professional work? It presumes that learning institutions somehow regulate or determine the creative process within them and that art must be learned. I would prefer that the distinction rest instead within academia's promotion and support of risk-based experimentation and unrestrained research – the ability to fail, unlearn, or re-learn. As art students learn to teach themselves and move at their own paces, risk and retreat should be the only differentiating factors between art schools and the real world. The fact that most of the work in the show navigation(s): the spaces that form us, curated by ACAD student Svea Ferguson and University of Calgary Dance and Fine Arts student Zahra Shahab, doesn't strike me as "student work" prompts this contemplation. The concept behind the show also harbours an institutional critique in its questioning of the prescribed physical space of labour and learning within institutions from material and embodied standpoints, as well as how this architecture is another (hindering) difference between art schools and artist-determined workspaces.

    navigation(s): the spaces that form us, installation view

    The nine participating artists demonstrate the interrelatedness of architecture and creative process by inhabiting and working within Truck's gallery for the exhibition's weeklong duration. As their work is built in response to architectural restraints, light, surface, and material, the art itself becomes a determining environment and feedback mechanism. Work and space are conflated in an attempt to show that we are creatures of our environments – an unfortunate theme among Calgarians who often see their beloved character spaces destroyed and gentrified.

    There is a striking coherence to the exhibition as the works each point to the porosity of the threshold between body and surrounding space. Arkatyiis Miller's scroll-length and double-sided gradient drawing takes the static image into three-dimensional space while demonstrating a continual transformation between colours, which is likened to the continuity between bodies and space. Similarly Katie Green's osmotic cotton rag braids soak up dyes placed around the space and Natural Real Supreme's Waterfall Oasis diffuses water into the air. Matthew Nyitrai's performative rendition of Jorge Luis Borges' The Circular Ruins establishes the infinite regression involved in the attempt to map the human being. As individual boundaries are questioned, the spaces in which we live and work become personally relevant and the development of art schools may be seen again in new light.

    Truck Contemporary Art:
    See website for current exhibitions.

    Andrea Williamson is a Calgary-based writer and artist. Her reviews have appeared in C magazine, Swerve, Color magazine, esse arts and opinion and FFWD. In January 2013 she initiated a critical theory reading group that meets monthly in a collective attempt to approach academic texts in peripheral and humble ways. She can be followed on Twitter @andreawillsamin.

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    I no longer know what to expect when I visit a Sky Glabush exhibition. Ten years ago, when I first stumbled onto his work, I discovered paintings of ghostly suburban homes that made the most of the surfaces of these foreboding abodes. This residential magic realism culminated in large-scale single dwellings depicted in trippy hues that could have passed for early Peter Doig canvases if he had grown up on the plains of Etobicoke instead of the ravines of Rosedale. But then came some portraits, including an out-of-left-field tribute to Neil Young, combined with abstract shapes and a 2011 exhibition that ran the gamut from clear-as-day drawings of book covers to dark-as-night gravel and oil paint concoctions.

    Sky Glabush, display, 2013, graphite on paper (photo: Toni Hafkenscheid, courtesy: MKG127)

    His current show at MKG127 could easily be mistaken for a tightly curated group show given the subtly divergent modes of execution represented by each work. The cornerstone of the collection is a big drawing of a Baha'i display/storefront as viewed through a screen door. The fine grid that adds a layer of noise to the image (the kind of noise you don't get on TV screens anymore now that we only watch LCDs) is echoed by an actual screen door screen pinned at an angle over a Rothko-esque double square hung on the opposite wall. The London, Ontario-based artist alludes to the theme of religion or belief systems in his statement, but the decaying lines that demarcate the various spaces on his work in a variety of ways are suitably and intentionally less than perfect. Such is our relationship with the divine. The large works in particular effectively engage the viewer in this deep philosophical conversation – an exchange that loses its authority in the smaller pieces (and I didn't spend enough time with the ceramic collection behind the front desk to say anything at the moment other than working with clay seems to be a bit of a thing these days for contemporary artists [see Maura Doyle's upcoming exhibition at YYZ for evidence]).

    Mélanie Rocan, Flowers on Fire, 2013, oil on canvas

    Another example of a painter working with both large and small scales, Mélanie Rocan, in her extended exhibition at Paul Petro, demonstrates the opposite tendency to Glabush. She runs out of steam with the bigger surfaces, leaving the tops and bottoms of the paintings with not a lot going on. But cut down the borders and her dream-scenes gain focus, increase in density, and push the colour to burst – literally in some cases – off the canvas. Hanging the collection of little works salon style renders each one a short episode in a longer narrative that mixes childhood (but not childish) fantasy with self-conscious portrayals of the artistic process and compact lifecycles where physical dissipation brings forth colourful natural phenomena that are brimming with life. Whereas Glabush drains his palette to shades of grey, Rocan is in love with the full spectrum and manages to add an eye-popping flowering of reds, pinks, and yellows to even the grimmest scene. With the snow outside finally withering into dirty mounds and spring lurking just under the surface, these paintings provide a tempting glimpse of what's to come.

    Sky Glabush: Display continues until April 26.

    Paul Petro:
    Mélanie Rocan: Moonlighting continues until April 5.

    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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  • 04/08/14--03:49: Raymond Boisjoly at Platform
  • A visit with writer Jeanne Randolph was the catalyst for how I would undertake reviewing Raymond Boisjoly's complex exhibition currently at Platform. Downsizing her Scriptorium, she generously distributed books amongst friends resulting in my obtaining a collection of her essays. In Influencing Machines, Randolph posits, "If the arts do not insist that technology be perceived as a found object, malleable, revisable, unfinished, culture will have abdicated its power." Now, a lot has changed in our considerations of technology since 1984; however, I was completely struck by the idea of technology as a found object. This consideration's weight doubles when applied to Boisjoly's Station to Station.

    Raymond Boisjoly, Station to Station

    This exhibition is a result of marrying technologies and producing static, contextually vague images. By scanning Kent Mackenzie's 1961 film The Exiles via a portable digital recording device, Boisjoly captures accidental filmic juxtapositions; in essence he reframes our understanding of a particular scene. The chronology of scenes is unaltered, but what results is a re-presenting of context. The film, a documentary following a group of Aboriginal friends in LA for 24 hours, records frank conversations about home, community, and the future, but the work is as much about the technological process as it is about the subject recorded. The found object of technology in this case is imbued with imperfections: scratches, dust particles, colour drags, and smears. As curator, Derek Dunlop notes, "Through distortion, disruption, and eventual re-presentation Boisjoly draws our attention to a singular and significant moment from recent cultural memory". What this singular moment is is less evident to me than perhaps should be. What seems most significant is Boisjoly's apparent succumbing to and embracing of the imperfections of a once lost, now found technology.

    Platform Centre:
    Raymond Boisjoly: Station to Station continues until May 17.

    Lisa Kehler is a writer and curator from Winnipeg. She most recently co-authored the forthcoming publication Art Tomorrow: 40 Years of the Future Now (Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art 1972 - 2012). She holds a Masters in Cultural Studies: Curatorial Practices from the University of Winnipeg and is currently the Special Projects Director at Border Crossings. She is Akimblog's Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @LisaKehler on Twitter.

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    My single visit to Border Cultures: Part Two (work, labour), curated by Srimoyee Mitra at the Art Gallery of Windsor, was definitely not enough to get a larger sense of this sprawling group exhibition. Including international and local artists, Border Cultures, contextualized within political, socio-economic, and geographic Windsor-Detroit stories of/on borders, is a multi-year series of exhibitions which began with Part One (homes, land) in 2013, followed by Part Two (work, labour) at present, and in 2015, will culminate in Part Three (about security and surveillance). Part Two (work labour) examines the life/work spaces of visible and invisible labour in a broad spectrum of border regions. My visit coincided with an in-gallery conversation with participating artist Phillip Hoffman, as well as Shaina Anand and Ashok Sukumaran from C.A.M.P., as one of the last of a three-month-long series of live events accompanying the exhibition. As such, my short visit tended to focus on two larger projects within the exhibition, namely The Boat Modes and Dialogic Illuminations of Marian McMahon.

    C.A.M.P., The Boat Modes

    C.A.M.P., both a physical space in Mumbai and a "way of working that is open and collaborative" rather than an artist collective, is concerned with "how technical experimentation and artistic form can meet" when tracing global phenomena such as the personal stories/states of workers via digital media. C.A.M.P.'s project The Boat Modes includes several years of exchange between C.A.M.P. and sailors traveling from India to Sharjah (UAE), Iran, and Somalia. The goods they routinely carry, listed in a "litany of trade and goods", are exhibited in mobile cruciform collections of photographs and manifests. Traveling by the "monstrous forms" of dhow sailboats, sailors pass back and forth through "a more fluid landscape" of habitual narratives and routines of the region (such as the simultaneous histories of piracy and smuggling with the nostalgia of ship-building as a craft) by recording their experiences on their cameras and phones, often accompanied with favorite music. C.A.M.P. has collected these fragments into a 79-minute film, From Gulf To Gulf To Gulf, which follows the sailors' experiences through the material logic of goods being handled and loaded, interlaced with a temporal logic of youth to maturity, the calms and extremes of weather, and the slow length of several days at sea. The sailors' footage shown as a durational film is meant as a "form of resistance" against accessing these stories only as "distraction" through forms such as the internet. To Anand and Sukumaran, the film isn't mere exposé but a "making explicit" of the "representational dilemmas" between how the film functions for the sailors and how it functions universally.

    The large installation of archival material in Dialogic Illuminations of Marian McMahon includes material from the late artist's life and work from the 1950s to the 1990s while living on the border of Windsor-Detroit. These "dialogic illuminations" include footage, documents, drawings, and photographs surrounding her biography and larger film practice. Spanning broader histories of Windsor-Detroit's role in the Underground Railroad as well as issues of war and state via McMahon's family, the installation focuses upon the specific effects these histories had upon McMahon growing up, and the resulting ways in which she told and re-told these stories through her work. Often merging the past with the present, McMahon used footage and photographs to talk about more personal experiences. In two collections of small photographs – one from a 1990 trip to Egypt to visit Queen Hatshepsut's Temple, and another of the mouth of a mysterious cave in Spain – are accompanied by McMahon's account of her search for their "possible meanings" years later, relating this need to return as "the start of an inner process." The photographs in themselves are hard to place in time, as they seem to occupy both real and fictive realities; in one, McMahon's form in half-shadow can only be made out by the glow of a Technicolor-red bow straight out of a Michael Powell film. Her collection of historical and personal footage has been made into 55-minute film by her former partner Philip Hoffman, the completion of which is a way for both he and McMahon to continue to "tell stories from where we stand from what has informed us." McMahon's collection of footage can also be viewed via Korsakow software, a format meant to allows visitors to navigate film fragments in a more organic way, but which comes across as somewhat prescribed because of a rather fixed looping structure.

    The projects of C.A.M.P. and Philip Hoffman with Marian McMahon are only a small percentage of Border Cultures' wide-ranging perspectives on labour and agency through and alongside personal and material/technological accounts, wherein the suggestion is that new paths are formed where past and present meet. Many participating artists place considerable emphasis on the space of access and encounter, and alongside film screenings, audio recordings, wall texts, slide collections, and QR codes are just a few of the multi-layered formats involved. Spending more than one visit before the closing of the exhibition is highly recommended.

    Art Gallery of Windsor:
    Border Cultures: Part Two (work, labour) continues until April 13.

    Kim Neudorf is an artist and writer currently living in London, Ontario. Her paintings have shown widely in Alberta, and she exhibited in The Room And Its Inhabitants at Susan Hobbs Gallery, organized by Patrick Howlett. She has contributed writing most recently to Susan Hobbs Gallery, Cooper Cole Gallery, Forest City Gallery, and Evans Contemporary Gallery. She is Akimbo's London correspondent and can be followed @KimNeudorf on Twitter.

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    It wasn't so long ago that 401 Richmond was the centre of the universe for Toronto's art community and a trip to the galleries on Morrow felt like a journey to the ends of the earth. Things have changed a lot in the interim, not the least of which is I now live a stone's throw from Olga and Chris, and the gallery strip that was once Queen West has become increasingly dispersed to the north and further west. A pioneer of this move was Jessica Bradley whose current home well north of Bloor and Lansdowne provided, up until recently, the only reason to even visit this neighbourhood (unless you need body work done on your car).

    Jeremy Hof, Reverse Multi Colour 1

    Her current exhibition entertains the question of the thingess of painting. Winner of the 2008 RBC Canadian Painting Competition, Jeremy Hof adds a twist to Eric Cameron's accumulated gesso sculptures by layering various colours of thick pigment on canvas (among other things) to build up an undeniably material surface that he then sands down in ovals to reveal concentric rings surrounding a plain white centre. The immediate pleasure in experiencing the work's mass, the contrast of goopy edges and smooth interior, and the bright colours is undeniable, but I'm curious as to how much it holds up after time. I'll have to come back for another visit to see if they still have anything to say to me, or if it's all just a gimmick. After all, once you've described how they're made, there's not much to say other than, "Check this out." The wacky colours don't help matters, lending a psychedelic tone to the work, which I'm actually okay with, but does it transcend the head shop? In addition to a couple off-the-wall sculptures, there is one canvas that upends the game as it faces the wall with only the edges of Hof's process on view, leaving it up to the viewer to imagine what could be found on the other side. There might be something there.

    Sally Späth, The Yellow Mountain

    The other reason to visit this isolated stretch of industrial buildings is Bradley's new-ish neighbor Katzman Contemporary (formerly Katzman Kamen Gallery of 80 Spadina), who has transformed their garage into a massive white cube with plenty of space for ambitious art of all stripes. (What with Clint Roenisch rumoured to be moving in next door to Daniel Faria, this district is quickly becoming the place to be.) Their current exhibition pairs the real life pair of Nestor Kruger and Sally Späth in what has to be one of the most dualistic combos I've ever seen. Kruger is all head with his algorithmically derived black and white flagstone paintings that encode work songs in a series of verses and choruses. They are essentially impenetrable and line the walls like a series of closed doors – unless, of course, you know the code. Even then it's hard to wrap your head around the artist's willfully cryptic process, which, in the end, evokes curiosity and consternation in equal measures.

    Späth, on the other hand, is all body, hand painting with sudden and direct gestures yellow paint on white paper in an attempt to represent a mountain from her memory. I'm told she uses this particular colour because it always contains a trace of poison. While that might trouble her, I'm more disturbed by my inability to focus on the images; the combination of light and colour makes them flicker uncontrollably, leaving one unable to regard the work in any stable fashion. It's a far trippier experience than even Hof's tricks and sticks to my vision even as I head back out into the sun.

    Jessica Bradley:
    Jeremy Hof continues until April 26.

    Katzman Contemporary:
    Nestor Kruger: The Stonemason continues until April 26.
    Sally Späth: The Yellow Mountains continues until April 26.

    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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    When I heard that Graeme Patterson was exhibiting a new body of work at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, I wasn’t sure of what to expect. Would it stand up to the lasting impact that Patterson’s first solo exhibition Woodrow from 2007 had on me as a second-year art student? Or would it simply be more of the same?

    Graeme Patterson, Secret Citadel

    Secret Citadel felt familiar at first. The installation follows in his usual style: a number of intricately constructed dioramas distributed and dramatically lit within a dark room. Patterson’s scale-model buildings and landscapes are meticulously constructed, and filled with small details and hidden rooms. These set pieces were constructed to form the backdrop for a feature-length animation. Projected into the structures are the animations that they were used to create, meditations on friendships and their effect on our identity. One installation shows a car accident; another shows one of the characters burning his toys. In the corner is a player piano that plays a melancholic composition to accompany a video of the characters apart, drinking alone. All together, the installations weave a vivid psychological portrait of two friends who grow up and dream together, build things together, and slowly begin to grow apart.

    Secret Citadel comes together as a strong and cohesive body of work that continues down many of the paths laid out in Patterson’s earlier work, and dives into the complexity, joy, and sorrow of friendship. Don’t let this one by.

    Art Gallery of Nova Scotia:
    Graeme Patterson: Secret Citadel continues until May 30.

    Daniel Higham works in a butcher shop where he’ll talk to you about art, food, and life. He’ll probably also sell you a roast. Daniel writes for Visual Arts News, is Akimblog’s new Halifax correspondent and can be followed @highamdaniel on Twitter.

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