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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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    Attempting to trace the inner structures, directions, and relationships between works in 5 over 4, an exhibition of sound-based work currently at Cambridge Galleries in Queen's Square, generates a complex rhythm at times in excess of installation logic. Exhibiting artists include Marla Hlady, Eleanor King, Duncan MacDonald, Christof Migone, and Ursula Nistrup, who are listed in a careful, overlapping sequence in an accompanying exhibition text which speaks of systems "imposed on texts provided by each artist", which in turn operate "in parallel and also at times intersect." Both text and installation make it inevitable and necessary to constantly move around and switch positions and angles in order to follow simultaneous conceptual and material connections, an engagement which reveals a complexity more directly linked to viewer/listener experience than is at first apparent.

    Christof Migone, 4 feet and 33 inches (neon), 2014

    Available just inside the gallery space are Duncan MacDonald's instructions for visitors to perform while guided by surrounding artworks that are "to be read as a graphic score". This suggestion of a timed, durational interaction with artworks, listed by MacDonald in clinical, timed segments, seems overruled by the underlying operations already in place as tones, voices, and audio textures prompt, nudge, propel and influence viewing and listening behavior. As my particular visit was accompanied by the additional sound of a piano player in the lobby a few feet away (not connected to the exhibition, it turns out), straining to tune into sounds not related to this overbearing selection of instrumental hits (a bit of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, anyone?) became that much more intense.

    Christof Migone's neon light sculptures, in varying stages of illumination based on three pieces by John Cage, visually and spatially conceptualize the length and space of silence. The challenge to manifest the space of sound (including a lack of sound) is taken up again and again throughout the exhibition, perhaps most obvious in Eleanor King's large-scale multi-colored drawings of repeated, spiraling circles which converge and follow tunneling wavelength-as-pathways. Nearby, Ursula Nistrup's two suspended lines of handmade Tonepaper queue behind a record player from which fragments of a Leonard Cohen song hold forth in static-filled lecturing voice. Tone as material reappears in Nistrup's diagrams of tri-tones and their musical histories, such as the etymological relation of the "blues" to indigo dye.

    Marla Hlady, A Case for Sound: Nina, 2010

    King's drawings, truncated by careful measurements, reappear in small reproductions which perch on the edge of an installation by Marla Hlady wherein "sounding cases" play a repeated snippet of a Nina Simone recording which, in theory, started out in sync and is, at present, in various stages of repetition and interruption. The close placement of King's drawings next to Hlady's work suggests influence or even translation between the two series, and while this is unclear, the exhibition text itself is organized in such as way as to encourage making tangential links and theories as to the similarities and relationships between pieces (and parts). Hlady's delicate drawings, resembling sheet music conceptualized as weather, could be, based on proximity, taking direction from King's burrowing loops.

    In between clamoring platitudes from the piano outside, active mechanisms of listening as listening in and listening for can be felt and recognized beyond mere reaction to the abrasiveness of competing sound. It seems important that certain forms, gestures, and ideas make themselves known in the very ways in which a search for connections between works seems plausible for a time, but eventually loses the thread and picks up another. This is a movement which needs time and encourages a kind of vulnerable relationship to understanding, a productive questioning of what exactly is reacting to what (or who is reacting to whom), a process which should, as Hlady's Nina fragment seems to say: "go so slow, so embarrassingly soft..."

    Cambridge Galleries:
    5 over 4 continues to June 29.

    Kim Neudorf is an artist and writer currently living in London, Ontario. Her paintings have shown widely in Alberta and at Susan Hobbs Gallery in Toronto. 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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    An award winning contemporary Dutch printmaker now living in the Fraser Valley, Saskia Jetten continues to be internationally recognized her for innovative prints. Bringing along her lithographic stones so that she could continue to work independently and operate her own print studio, Jetten's dedication to her process and practice expands into pushing her techniques from traditional stone lithography to printing on materials such as fibre and ceramics.

    Saskia Jetten

    For her first solo exhibition in Canada, the Burnaby Art Gallery focuses on the face as a starting point in exploring different aspects of social identities and perceptions. Slightly obtuse, yet not without an undertone of whimsy, the face reveals itself through a curl of a smile or the shadow of an eye working their way out of reflections and layers. Subtle and simple in appearance, Jetten's hand is visible as both a meticulous printmaker and a freehand illustrator, giving the works the appearance of highly detailed animation cells. While there are several wall works including an animation video that speaks to her immigrant experience, the most striking aspect of the exhibition are the prints on silk, billowing throughout the room in the upstairs gallery, creating a crowded room of abstracted faces.

    Meanwhile, in the main downstairs gallery, a selection of photo and photo-based works from the City of Burnaby's Permanent Art Collection is on display, including Liz Magor's series Military Through the Ages along with works by Marian Penner Bancroft, Stan Douglas, Terry Ewasiuk, Karen Henderson, Nobuo Kubota, Chick Rice, Barbara Steinman, and Ken Straiton.

    The Burnaby Art Gallery:
    Saskia Jetten continues until June 22.

    Amy Fung is a writer and organizer who publishes nationally and internationally in journals, magazines, catalogues, and monographs in print and online. Her ongoings can be found at and on Twitter @anotheramyfung. She is Akimblog's Vancouver correspondent.

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    Rooted in a modernist practice of formal abstraction, Ron Shuebrook's drawings, now on view at the MSVU Art Gallery, exude determination. Their heavily worked surfaces bear the history of a back and forth process, the interplay of mark and ground, and the process of carving an image out of charcoal and paper. The solid lines of matte black are defined and solidified through the confident use of eraser. The work plays with form, composition, and repetition, creating images that contain balance, rhythm, and musicality.

    Ron Shuebrook, Wharf (detail), 2012, charcoal on rag paper

    Shuebrook's approach to drawing, as evidenced by the visible re-composing of his images, is to a large extent based in the process itself. Lines are drawn on the page, sometimes erased and redrawn, until they develop concrete presence. The erased marks are never completely removed; their ghostly remains reveal a history of the image and attest to the freeness with which the artist approaches his work. But these ghost images also illustrate the labour of a determined mind. The struggle to achieve compositional unity appears in lines of wrought iron – a page worked and reworked. These marks embody the very ethos of modernism.

    Shuebrook's images are at times dark and expressionistic: urban landscapes illuminated by the dull glow of streetlights; schematics, traffic maps, and noise; a wharf at the edge of a dark water. Bold marks and symbols invoke the unknown magic of an urban occult. This work that alternates between technical drawings and abstraction is imbued with electricity and depicts both the visible and unseen.

    (This exhibition travels to the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in October 2014 and Kelowna Art Gallery in March 2015.)

    MSVU Art Gallery:
    Ron Shuebrook: Drawings continues until August 10.

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

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    The most shocking thing about last Friday's screening (and the Canadian premiere) of Matthew Barney's scatological six-hour, continent-spanning opera epic about mortality, rebirth, Egyptian mythology, Norman Mailer, artistic ambition, and the essential (some might even say fundamental!) role that pooh plays in the cycle of life was that the theatre was half empty. The artist has made it a requirement that the film only be screened in proscenium arch venues like the elegant confines of Toronto's Elgin, but the organizers of this month's sprawling multi-arts Luminato Festival should have thought twice before booking it for a three day run. An experimental opera longer than the drive to Montreal is still clearly a hard sell for the yokels of this small town, and Barney – despite his pop star wife and the smattering of minor and micro celebrities who appear in his work – is still only a contemporary artist. Sure, he might be the biggest one of his generation, but that only makes him king of a very small (though enormously monied) hill. To paraphrase former regent Maurizio Cattelan, when asked in a New Yorker profile how he was dealing with all the attention: "It's not a problem. The art world is only like a thousand people."

    Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, River of Fundament, 2014, film

    As I sat amongst the usual suspects and we did our best to navigate the less hermetic than Cremaster, but still highly coded narrative of River of Fundament, quietly identifying the various cameos (Lawrence Weiner nails it) and figuring out the parts played by multiple actors, it occurred to me that the event itself was representative of the very dialectic of ambition and failure that was depicted on screen. Be it a pharaoh's desire for immortality, Mailer's drive to write the next great American novel, or the filmmaker's seemingly unrestricted efforts to craft his art on a vast scale (LA, Detroit, and NYC are not simply locations where the film takes place; they are his sets), Barney's central theme has always been growth – physical, artistic, and spiritual – through struggle. The driving force of that struggle has been his immense ambition and this new film is nothing if not a tale of ambition. What makes it something more than assorted egomaniacs shouting about how great they are is that (spoiler alert!) it ends in failure (though, since the metaphysics we're dealing with are cyclical, we get to keep trying again and again). Barney will keep trying (though, after this weekend, probably not in Toronto) and Luminato will keep trying (at least until the money runs out) and the audience will keep trying (except for those who gave up at various points in the evening), and we'll all (probably, hopefully) be better for it.

    Jon Rafman, Mainsqueeze, 2014, HD video

    While Clint Roenisch is still gussying up his new gallery space, his old Queen West haunt is occupied this month by a pop-up exhibition from Montreal-based Galerie Antoine Ertaskiran. The artist on view, Jon Rafman, garnered a lot of attention a couple years ago for his collection of striking images culled from Google Street View. They turned landscape art on its head by isolating unlikely moments from the infinite reservoir of the internet. Their strength was the almost Conceptualist rigor with which Google had dedicated itself to the task of depicting the planet's surface. By appropriating this material, Rafman exploited its power. His current installation pulls video clips from what he refers to as the "deep web". I'm skeptical of his use of the term as most of the video clips he loops on dirt stained monitors or runs together in a self-consciously ominous screening room (with fake fiery torches) are readily shared by the teenage boys I tell to get off Reddit and 4chan when I'm teaching. They also seem familiar to, though watered down versions of, compilations of video carnage I remember the likes of Tasman Richardson and Jubal Brown doing years ago. The internet and its associated cultures are in desperate need of artistic representation and reflection; however, this exhibition doesn't even scratch the surface.

    Luminato Festival:

    Galerie Antoine Ertaskiran:
    Jon Rafman: HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL continues until June 28.

    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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    One of the headiest exhibitions around town this summer, Dora Garcia's Of Crimes and Dreams, is a fascinating, engrossing and rewarding experience... but be prepared to give it some of your time. Curated by Montreal art patrician Chantal Pontbriand, the exhibition showcases part of Garcia's ongoing Mad Marginal project, examining "outsider" research beyond the specialist realm and, by extension, its relation to artistic production.

    Dora Garcia, Exhausted Books, 2013, annotated Finnegan's Wake book

    The cavernous space of the Darling Foundry's great hall is occupied by three prominently projected video works: Désordre, The Joycean Society, and Hôtel Wolfers. The two more recent videos (each clocking in at almost an hour in length) are similar in style: the camera follows two groups of people in communal discussions sparked by literature. In one it's Guattari's 65 rêves de Franz Kafka, whereas in the other it's James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. Both groups are composed of lay people - Désordre was filmed at a psychiatric hospital, while The Joycean Society features an amateur book group. The conversation of the former maintains a deeply philosophical tone, while the latter veers between a tight study of small fragments of Finnegan's Wake to playful banter about contemporary culture peppered by personal anecdotes. It also offers more visual variety, occasionally switching away from talking heads to beautiful, almost still footage of Joyce's gravesite in a snowy landscape. The much shorter Hôtel Wolfers differs stylistically. Filmed in black and white, it imitates – with Garcia's own twist – Samuel Beckett's Film from 1965. In all three videos the viewer experiences content through the very subjective lens of the artist's hand held camera.

    These videos are complimented and united by three more didactic-in-style works. A vertical surface clad in wallpaper features images and symbols relating to the artist's thesis, and two large chalkboards installed in the south windows of the Foundry display Garcia's Mad Marginal Charts, a schematic rendering of the artist's research and references. In keeping with the lay spirit of the videos, a study table is set up with multiple copies of Finnegan's Wake, offering viewers a space to read and record their own thoughts about the infamously hermetic text.

    The Darling Foundry:
    Dora Garcia: Of Crimes and Dreams continues until August 24.

    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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    I've said this before, but it bears repeating: I'm a total sucker for textiles. Absolutely love the stuff, and it's easy to miss the fact that textiles literally changed the world, as anthropologist Elizabeth Barber so eloquently noted in her book Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years. The world is woven together and the proof is in the fact that our everyday metaphors are hugely textiles-based.

    Marianne Heggtveit, Seven Over - One Under/One Over - Seven Under, 2013, tencel

    Currently exhibiting at the Colbourne Art Gallery, Weavers Unlimited is a textile collective situated in eastern Ontario around the city of Ottawa. There's nothing radical about the work they're showing, nothing that seeks out to intentionally subvert or undermine. Their work honours the warp and weft of things, and concerns itself with the pattern (as philosopher Gregory Bateson spent much of his career enquiring into) that connects. Traditional? Yes, but rising out of the very real workings of the world.

    Mary Morrison's Summer Fields may look merely like lovely layers of varying patterns and interesting colours stacked on atop the other, but I know otherwise. I live rural and this is my landscape; these are the farm fields I know and see every day, the myriad patterns of the agriculture that keeps us fed, and the agribusiness that keeps our gas tanks full. Marianne Heggtveit's Seven Over – One Under/One Over – Seven Under may make titular reference to the complexities of a very particular weave and look for all the world like a very long blue scarf periodically striated with horizontal bands of divisive colour, but I see something more cosmological, something remarkably akin to the visual report of a star's light spectrum punctuated by lines of emission and absorption of different elements at different wavelengths. Francesca Overend's Melodic Influences may overtly have everything to do with music (arguably a companion to textiles, the aural variant on the notion of the warp and weft), but I see shimmer, vibration, and ripple, like the record of something seismic coursing vertically up and down the linen of which it is wove.

    Sure, I'm pushing it, plaiting a seeing of things that surely were never specifically intended by the artists of Weavers Unlimited. It's what we human do, and do exceptionally well, I might add. Anything less would make for a very meager world indeed. After all, the making of metaphor is dependent on what we bring to the table. Or, rather, the tablecloth.

    Colborne Art Gallery:
    Weavers Unlimited: Moving On continues until July 6.

    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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    When asked by Diana Nemiroff to explain the title of her exhibition Invisible at the Karsh-Masson Gallery, the artist Rehab Nazzal responded that it is about the invisibility of the struggle of the Palestinian people. It is as simple as that. For 47 years the facts of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and its negative effects have remained invisible in the West, she believes, therefore the artworks in the exhibition, four video projections and a large mosaic of still images, attempt to make that situation visible. Though she often has people tell her that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is a complex issue, the artist says it is not: Israel simply has to comply with international law. As an artist, she feels it is her duty to engage with challenging issues and bring them to the attention of people through art in order to discuss and ultimately find ways to resolve conflict and put an end to human suffering.

    Rehab Nazzal, Frames from the Negev Prison, 2013, 1700 digital photographs on paper (detail)

    However, given this seemingly interminable conflict and the differing factions involved and invested in it, one should not be surprised that the exhibition has generated controversy and heated debate. The guest book alone contains 85 pages and counting of comments representing a diversity of opinion, rants and raves. (This past weekend, the Canadian Coalition Against Terror condemned the exhibition in a full page ad in the Ottawa Citizen.) While the work in the exhibition is formally complex, the artist's point of view and solidarity with the Palestinian struggle is clearly evident. Perhaps it might not have generated such a response if it had been presented elsewhere, but the relocation of the Karsh-Masson Gallery to a space in Ottawa City Hall this January guaranteed that a wide public would see the exhibition. In fact, it was the Israeli ambassador to Canada who initially raised the alarm when he saw the exhibition while at City Hall on other business. Offended, he called, along with the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, to have the exhibition closed. The City refused, while tacking a generic disclaimer at the entrance to the exhibit, distancing itself from the views expressed within.

    Nazzal's intentions were addressed at length in an artist's talk on June 1. After the reaction inspired by the exhibition, the talk was moved to St. Brigid's Centre for the Arts to accommodate a larger crowd (the place was packed). Curator Diana Nemiroff, no stranger to controversy, was called in to moderate. In her introduction, Nemiroff cited Hannah Arendt's notion of public space and remarked on the aptness of the exhibition's presentation at City Hall, where the open-ended indeterminacy of democratic space should be given full expression.

    In each work in the exhibition, Nazzal employs a formal device that actually obstructs the full expression of the content presented. For example, in the 2012 video Target, cameos of Palestinians killed in the conflict flash by too fast to be easily read, resulting in an ominous if illegible palimpsest of traces. (The identity of some of the individuals included is what has caused the biggest upset.) The 2010 video Bil'in combines the sound of a crowd getting tear gassed with out-of-focus images and abstract flashes of colour, as if the camera too were blinded by tear gas. At the heart of the exhibition are works that utilize found footage of a military exercise at a prison in Israel resulting in the injury and death of Palestinian political prisoners. Frames from the Negev Prison is an installation of 1,700 4"x6" digital prints that runs the length of one gallery wall. The individual prints make up a mosaic that represents a highly pixelated image, with completely black "tiles" indicating footage that was suppressed by the authorities, and others offering only limited views of the events.

    Nazzal said her work formalizes the process of making visible that which has been suppressed. The works remain incomplete in order to betray the force of suppression. Above all, the works invite the viewer to look further into what is only being partially presented. Most certainly, Nazzal's exhibition and the works within it have made the dialogic visible, creating the space for a polyvocal response.

    Karsh-Masson Gallery:
    Rehab Nazzal: Invisible continues until June 22.

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

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    There are times when the critical faculties and the vagaries of taste hew different paths. Such a thing happened when I first entered Katzman Contemporary's current exhibition of Kevin Sonmor's paintings and my eyes went, "Erg. I don't think I like this." Perhaps it was the glossy brushwork or the prominent cluster of grapes, but I found myself making a gut decision two steps through the doorway. Then I took a couple more steps to figure out what it was that I thought I was seeing and by the time I'd finished the circuit of eleven painting both large and small I was at a different place than where I'd begun with my senses and sensibility back in sync.

    Kevin Sonmor, Again... How High was the Limit?, 2014, oil on linen

    Sonmor hangs out at that place between figuration and abstraction that I find most engaging, but his manner of spreading pigment on canvas harkens back to older styles that foreground their lushness rather than playing it cool like a lot of contemporary painting. Three works into my first circuit I was reminded of Attila Richard Lukacs' combination of classical technique and modern continent. A couple more steps drew my attention to Sonmor's wonderfully explosive flowers and his daringly emptied middle grounds. I was getting used to their shiny surfaces and spending more time examining the dense combinations of colour that could be found in every corner. His repertoire of repeated objects – flowers, grapes, and a small boat – still stuck out like sore thumbs on otherwise allover surfaces but their function as elements in the painting rather than parts of a picture elicited further reflections on the nature of this strange task artists keep taking up: turning an unremarkable flat square into something that demands and rewards sustained looking. I left the gallery not in love but illuminated.

    David Merritt, rope (detail), 2010-2014, sisal rope fibre

    David Merritt exemplifies the character of the artist as alchemist. He transforms base substances into gold. Or rather, he takes the mundane – be it a length of rope or a word on a page – and turns it into something, if not magical, then at least memorable. The big star in his current exhibition at Jessica Bradley's is a tree that rises up to the ceiling from an arm-thick rope-trunk of sisal fibre. The dense tangle of gold foliage is closer to hair than leaves, but my first reaction is to see the millions of nerves that make up a brain and bundle into the spine at their base. Trees are rich with metaphor – which is why artists keep on depicting them – and this one could be sat under for long hours before it exhausted any possible connotations.

    At the opposite end of the biomorphic spectrum from the complex life form of Merritt's tree are single celled watercolours most often divined from a single word written on paper that is then soaked so the colour runs to establish its own outline. The resulting bodies are so frail they appear translucent and mysterious phantom organs can be found inside. Like the world under a microscope, these works reveal the wonder of life at its most basic. These organisms are so primitive their identity is solely defined by a hair-thin limit within the void, yet they too manage to possess some sense of poetry somewhere in the fragile randomness of their creation.

    Katzman Contemporary:
    Kevin Sonmor: The Utilitarians continues until July 5.

    Jessica Bradley Inc.:
    David Merritt: saer continues until July 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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  • 06/24/14--20:25: Visual Art at Sled Island
  • June in Calgary brings skies of pollinating poplar fuzz and the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival, with its own type of pollination and cross-pollination. Ages, social cliques, hangouts, and genres are intermixed and swapped as new breeds of culture are born. The curators of Sled have a knack for scouting the musical talents that are best shown-off live, and these latter often confuse delineations of visual art, comedy, politics, performance art, music, outsider forms of expression, etc. in the best ways (e.g. Hamilton's B.A. Johnston, hyper-speed dance and crowd therapy maverick Dan Deacon, and Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre fame.)

    Ashleigh Bartlett, Summer Friend Gang XXL

    Though Hanna, this year's most venerated guest curator, was unable to attend the festival due to illness, Jodie Rose, the visual arts coordinator of Sled took great inspiration from Hanna's legacy as a (third wave) feminist and promulgator of culture for and by women. In addition to programming a musical lineup, Hanna put together an exhibition called In Light Of It at Contemporary Calgary that explores the prodigious and pregnant space of performance or of "being seen by others." The riot grrrl movement, of which Hanna was an originator, uses art and music as a platform to explore everyday women's issues. This, together with the many iterations of Hanna's time in the spotlight from visual artist to stripper to musician, implies that everything we do as social people is a performance of some kind, so how do we make light of it or learn to live with such an existential burden? Included in this exhibition is New York performance artist Zachary Fabri's film converted to digital projection which documents his stroll through a public outdoor setting with a mass of helium balloons tied onto his long dreadlocks. A simple but captivating video, Fabri shows how easy it can be to attract attention and set a stage upon one's own person, until he cuts those threads loose and a part of him extends into the ether. It would seem you have to lose a part of yourself to be seen. In a similar way Ashleigh Bartlett's Summer Friend Gang XXL installed on the rooftop of the Palomino bar employs bright dollarstore vinyl tablecloths and tarps cut up and layered in a fanfare of flirting colour reminiscent of car dealership banners, and then let loose to the wind.

    On the other end, rather than "making light of" our daily performances of self, there arises a critique of our pleasure-seeking irises and how generic popular visual media can become when it's all about pleasure. The exhibition Pussy Whipped at Avalanche!as well as the temporary installation Zoloft Garden at the No.1 Legion are soaked in saturated colours, glimmering surfaces, seductive flora, and sunset gradients. These pieces seem to float somewhere undecided between rapture and critique, sincere love and ironic distance. Cited on the Pussy Whipped program material is Hanna herself saying, "(t)here's just as many different kinds of feminism as there are women in the world." But if this group exhibition is supposed to be an indication of contemporary girl culture, with its inflated dolphins, whip cream paintings, purple florals, glittering dildos, crashed car facades à la Sarah Lucas, and hetero male fantasies, I hope it's ironic "BECAUSE we don't wanna assimilate to someone else's (boy) standards of what is or isn't." Or do we?

    Sled Island Music & Arts Festival:

    Contemporary Calgary:
    In Light of It continues until July 6.

    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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    Uniting Hamilton-based artists Svava Thordis Juliusson and Laura Marotta for a summer exhibition at the McMaster Museum of Art reveals something more than the intuitive materiality common to their respective sculptural practices. Hints of nomadic withdrawal lurk within secretive bundles and beneath bright veneers – these works are compact propositions, as though readied for flight at a moment's notice.

    Svava Thordis Juliusson & Laura Marotta, installation view

    Juliusson, whose past installations have featured vast accumulations of ropes and plastics to transform their surroundings has contracted dramatically here – rather than conquer space, her materials huddle into themselves as densely coiled balls of safety-orange tension. The notable exception is Órói (Elements of a Seismic Landscape), which unwinds armature wire of various gauges in a loose grid balanced at the threshold of order and collapse. Suspended before a wall marked by faint blue lines, both the wire and its many shadows read as the transcription of a wordless tongue. AI13 (#1)'s crimped and coiled sheet aluminum flirts with similarly symbolic territory – all those countlessly layered sharp edges evoke the saucy ruffle of petticoats to complicate that dangerous edge.

    By presenting one of her 2011 sculptures alongside new works, Laura Marotta allows a telling glimpse of the growth in her emerging practice: a progression that has gradually shuttered the friendly nooks and hollows seen in Mattamy Contemporary 2011 to present stately and self-assured surfaces that retain an architectural tease of potential space within. Visible bolts and shims lend these constructions a mutable energy, suggesting an invitation to deconstruct and remake her proposed habitats time and again. In these provisional statements, as in Juliusson's mobile boulders, closed clusters of simple matter offer the widest horizon for play and possibility.

    McMaster Museum of Art:
    Svava Thordis Juliusson & Laura Marotta continue until August 16.

    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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    Montreal-based photographer Angela Grauerholz is a classic modernist in that you're always aware you're looking at a picture when you're looking at her pictures. Her characteristically blurry focus stops you in your tracks and demands you up your exegetical game because you're now in the realm of impressions rather than objectivity. The new work she is showing at Olga Korper leaves off the constructed storage and viewing units she has used in the past and, in fact, treads closer to realism than I've ever seen her go, but each and every one undercuts that illusion of clarity with a gesture that is so rightly wrong – be it those fuzzy edges, shooting through a mildewed pane of glass, or framing to cut around space instead of subject. In fact, a number of these images are reminiscent of Lynne Cohen as they depict confined interior spaces; however, Grauerholz is less obsessed with geometric rigor and more intent on drawing out an often humourous strangeness and instability.

    Angela Grauerholz, La Cavaliere, 2014, inkjet print on Arches paper

    They are also more theatrical than Cohen, at least in the past tense. There has been some action here, though no one is on stage any longer (except for a lone woman walking through a deserted parking lot and what seem to be someone's feet propped up at the base of a stage glowing with the promise of what's to come). All that remains are abandoned chairs, the light radiating from an unmarked stairwell, and footprints and tire tracks in the aforesaid parking lot. The what of these pictures is always just out of your grasp and you end up searching the frame for clues in clashing patterns, subtle details (those feet!), or the recognizable but unfamiliar location for each. You keep looking because you want it to come into focus, but you know it never will.

    Eldon Garnet, If Only for a Moment, 2007, video

    Whereas Grauerholz sticks with the new, Eldon Garnet, a fellow member of the Canadian art senior division, is given a retrospective a couple steps away at Christopher Cutts. With works as old as 1980 and as recent as this year, this exhibition takes on the challenge of bringing together the disparate threads of this local artist's many endeavors. There are photographs in singles and series, sculptures and maquettes for public artworks, a kinetic piece, a couple videos, wall texts, and assorted catalogues and bookworks. The photographs on which he built his practice are constructed as statements or sentences dealing with the surface or limits of the body and the doubled-up zone where the stuff of life and the fact of mortality rub up against each other. The public sculptures that he is probably most known for to the man on the street depict men on the street – in archetypal businessman garb – as they navigate unlikely eruptions and obstacles in the firmament. They are monuments in their own small way to one class of late-capitalism's masses. Many of the texts in cut metal scratch out proclamations to finance and replace the references to money with art. The result is both idealistic and cynical. A mechanical rattlesnake tail greets you at the door and then bids you adieu. It's a playful gesture with a hint of poison, which is a good way to sum up this show.

    Olga Korper Gallery:
    Angela Grauerholz continues until July 5.

    Christopher Cutts Gallery:
    Eldon Garnet: Shadows & Shades continues until July 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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    The genre of the peripatetic poet has long been established as a romantic and idealized way of seeing the world. From Aristotle to Hamish Fulton, the act of walking has become intricately bound to the ways we think and see the world as a body in motion. Turning our attention to an unincorporated section of the Regional District of Nanaimo (aka Area A) for his solo exhibition at the Charles H. Scott Gallery, Peter Culley, along with his dog Shasta, rambles through industrial ruins and trailer parks, past forests, farms, and reserves, and down abandoned roads and railroad tracks, all the while with a digital camera in hand.

    Peter Culley

    Primarily known as a poet whose recent book, Parkway, focuses on the lived narratives of his home town of Nanaimo through its imagined fictionalization by the late French novelist George Perec, Culley's literary style is imbued with single line gestures. They are not quite snapshots, but fragments that find a parallel world in his photography. With Shasta as the primary subject, the works in Area A have the explorative energy of any adventure about a boy and his dog. As an exhibition splayed over four walls, they are much too crowded and compulsive for moments of exaltation, but the exhibition essay/letter by Culley gives the show its needed illumination:

    The process of making images has become, for me, so embedded in the dailiness of walking that I have been able to cultivate within their space and time a version of the directed semi-consciousness with which I write poetry. And the part of my poetry devoted to lyrical description and transcription, the atavistic impulse to capture reality as it recedes, has drifted into my photography.

    Transferring the fleeting moments of a walk into digital photographs, of taking pictures along with the written note, Area A is a visual exercise from the eye of a poet, whose love for his landscape circles past the mundane and into a lifelong curiosity.

    Charles H. Scott Gallery:
    Peter Culley: Area A continues until July 6.

    Amy Fung is a writer and organizer who publishes nationally and internationally in journals, magazines, catalogues, and monographs in print and online. Her ongoings can be found at and on Twitter @anotheramyfung. She is Akimblog's Vancouver correspondent.

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    Wandering amongst the mostly young, mostly new to me folks at the opening to last weekend's annual Art Spin exhibition, I eventually ran into an old acquaintance from the times when we were young and mostly new. So I asked, "What's new?" And he astutely replied, "Everything is new and nothing is new." That was as good a review of the night as any.

    Karen Abel, Geogarden (a subterranean symphony in C), 2013, salvaged violin and viola cases, alum crystals, cotton velvet

    The Art Spin folk have done an excellent job of once again finding an out-of-the-way, abandoned warehouse to temporarily occupy with an assortment of local art that runs the gamut from painting on polycarbonate to video projections to large scale installations. Last year it was a far more damaged space on Sterling Road; this year it is farther out in the Junction, but neat enough that it could be put to use as a hip furniture store (or a large gallery!) with only a bit of plaster. The entire exhibition (and associated promotional material and bike tour) was exceptionally well organized. This combination of guerilla tactics and professionalism had me pining for the old days of one-off exhibitions in unused buildings that are now too expensive even for commercial galleries at the same time I was admiring the ambition on view while also wondering what happened to the wildness and disorder of the rogue artistic spirit. I could have done with a little more of the latter and a little less of too familiar works that indicated a lack of knowledge about what came a couple generations before (though that makes me sound like even more of a grumpy old man). The strongest works in this type of show go big and grab your attention. It's the perfect opportunity to exercise the spectacular spirit in an artist's practice. Adam David Brown hit the nail on the head with his funhouse Op-Art video projection and Marian Wihak backed him up with an interactive platform with mirrored floors and gurgling water. Heather Nicol's twisting, twirling parachute and Ed Pien's rain of patterned ropes also played the haptic card. And Noel Middleton's bizarre fountain seemed right at home amongst the bare brick walls and raw wires. When you only have a couple days to make your mark, you have to make the most of the opportunity. That's the only way to be remembered when today's new gets old.

    Jennifer Rose Sciarrino, Patterned Recognition (Rubber), 2014, inkjet printed nylon, CNC plaster, table

    A room full of objects laid out on a grid of white tables inevitably leads one to think about morgues. Mike Kelley figured this out with his rag doll displays and Jennifer Rose Sciarrano does it with the added touch of funereal shrouds in her current exhibition at Daniel Faria Gallery. The twist is that her inert objects are in the process of becoming rather than having been. Held taunt beneath diaphanous fabric are a collection of obscured sculptures that push out against the fabric as if emerging from the depths. Since the tables are so low, you have to look down on them and then crouch to figure out the where the thing, the covering, and the table's surface contact and overlap. The hidden things are objects in transition, slowly being formed, but not quite there yet. At this stage they resemble fabrications of potentially modernist objects like balls, rods, and arcs. The shrouds are also imitations of actual substances – replicating the look of concrete, rubber, or steel, for example – which only add to a sense of simulation, of a world that is not quite real. Some of the patterns delve further than others into trompe l'oeil effects, but I prefer the ambiguous, blurry shapes under the equally indistinct patterns. Discerning their identities is like figuring out the function of a fossil. These future artifacts might not be much to look at, but they are plenty to ponder.

    Art Spin:

    Daniel Faria Gallery:
    Jennifer Rose Sciarrino: Patterned Recognition continues until July 19.

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

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    The Khyber Centre for the Arts' first exhibition in their new (although temporary) gallery space on Cornwallis St in the North End, Claire Greenshaw's The World Has a You Shaped Hole in It, is a confusing and disconnected collection of works. Composed of drawings, photos, and sculptures, it lacks cohesion both stylistically and thematically. The only binding reference seems to be concerned with illusory qualities: a series of drawings of paper, a rubber snake on the floor that is actually made of bronze, and a photo of a sculpture that is in truth a photo of a photo in a magazine.

    Claire Greenshaw, Ouroboros, 2014, bronze, found can

    If the work is about illusion, it appears flat and elicits a circular sort of thinking about material and reality. Unfortunately, the exhibition statement fails to really expand on this in any direct way, instead writing in vague terms about "strategies of appropriation," perception, and "the tension between what is depicted and the nature of its depiction." Granted, the way in which an idea or image is depicted greatly alters and shapes its meaning, but this concept is not adequately explored within the work for it to appear as anything more than an attempt to create the illusion of meaning. Confirming the lack of focus, the statement then suggests that the exhibition "explores ideas about the environment and our place in it."

    The one piece that stands out from the rest is a small photograph in the corner of the gallery. The background is a mountain range that is both majestic and like every other; the foreground subject is a woman carrying a dog in some sort of giant fanny pack harness contraption, wearing a pink shirt, shorts, and a tennis visor. The photo is both absurd and terribly plain, and I can't make heads or tails of it, but it's doing something.

    The Khyber Centre for the Arts:
    Claire Greenshaw: The World Has a You Shaped Hole in It continues until July 24.

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

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    In his introduction to the opening of the exhibition Keeping Time: Ledger Drawings and the Pictographic Traditions of Native North Americans, Yves Trepanier of Trépanier Baer Gallery claimed that the graphic arts tradition of ledger drawings made between 1820 and 1900 by Indigenous peoples of the Great Plains is foundational to our visual history. Although the 65 drawings comprising the exhibition, the largest ever of its kind, are part of a generally undiscovered practice, there exists a striking familiarity with their quality of urgency and economy, balanced with embellishment and dutiful observation. Beyond the recent revival in ledger-style drawing you can recognize a similarly svelte yet consigned representational language in the work of contemporary artists such as Brenda Draney, Marcel Dzama, or Sojo Truth Parsons. Clearly the communicative capacity and indispensability of art traditions that served a purpose in daily life beyond the purely aesthetic has been emulated by those well within the art world.

    Macnider Ledger Book (p. 188), Sioux, ca. 1880, paper, pencil, watercolour

    To speak of "usefulness" in art is tricky territory because it threatens the loftiness and aesthetic purity of high art. However, according to ethnic studies scholar and founder of the Plains Indians Ledger Art Project (PILA) Dr. Ross Frank, the inexorability of ledger art, which was by and large created for and from within the Indigenous North American culture, had a function not unlike the art of the contemporary art market of asserting status and maintaining history. The difference is that the status imbued by the ownership of the drawings, as it was with the precursory buffalo hide paintings, was not only of economical wealth but spiritual wealth too. And the histories depicted in these spatializations of time are also of a spiritual nature. The privacy and immediacy of the drawings afforded by easily obtainable ledger books, coloured pencils, and watercolour paints compared to the relative publicity and laboriousness of painted hides likely changed the nature of recorded information so that this body of work is regarded as a concise and detailed description of the changing ways of life and rituals that were affected by the colonialist relocation of peoples to reservations. Keeping Time reminds us of why drawing exists as a medium in its own right, and that its function, beyond any stylistic trends, was and is to excel in communicative richness.

    Trépanier Baer:
    Keeping Time continues until August 16.

    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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    One of the more pleasant bits of news to come down the pipe this past spring was that Barbara Fischer would be taking over the directorship of the University of Toronto Art Centre while also retaining her position at the nearby (just a clock tower away) Justina M. Barnicke Gallery. Given her record of curatorial mastery – particularly her ongoing solo artist exhibitions at JMB for mid-career Canadians in need of a retrospective view, as well as her habit of allowing up-and-coming curators to have their way with the space (not to mention her collaborative mega-projects like Traffic, the history of conceptual art in Canada exhibition) – this can only bode well for a city whose mid-sized public galleries are in transition in terms of location (MOCCA) or identity (The Power Plant). She has a solid foundation on which to build and that's something to look forward to.

    Rebecca Belmore, Mixed Blessing, 2011, mixed media sculpture

    Until then, it's business as usual in the compact two room gallery with a well-timed collection of some highlights from the last twenty years or so of Anishinaabe artist Rebecca Belmore curated by Wanda Nanibush that was originally part of the Contact Photography Festival, but now stands on its own as a concise summary of this well-respected performance and multimedia artist. The two rooms are broken down along that divide with one covering the four walls with four performance videos while the other includes five photo-based works and two sculptures. The first room is bookended by a raw, early nineties handy-cam document that depicts a bound and gagged Belmore howling with rage before frantically pushing a pile of sand up a staircase in an outdoor courtyard in Cuba. At the opposite end of the spectrum (and the room) is Perimeter, a video from last year that is cleanly edited, dramatically soundtracked, and beautifully shot by a professional cinematographer. In it the artist is most often seen from behind, decked out in an X-marked road worker's safety vest while trailing an illuminated tape behind her to mark the industrialized landscape of Sudbury. While in all of her work the first recourse is inevitably to read it through a First Nations p.o.v. ("Fuckin' Indian / Fuckin' Artist" reads the hoodie on her sculpture Mixed Blessing), the opportunity this exhibition affords is to see how her open-ended gestures can translate that experience to other contexts, be it the Iraq War, the meaning of monuments, the loss of identity, and the devastation of the environment.

    Heretical Objects (Trevor Blumas & Robert Cram), Breaking Up, 2014, birdseed

    This past weekend also saw the annual Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition come and go. It seemed a bit less sprawling than usual without the tents spreading out under the Nathan Phillips Square walkways and up behind city hall. The usual suspects were all there, from young upstarts with their graffiti-inspired canvases and handcrafted oddities to the long-standing landscape painters and the guy who makes bowls out of tree trunks. Well-respected veterans like Scott Griffin (who never seems to miss a year) plied their wares alongside newer contenders like Noelle Hamlyn, whose salt crystal-encrusted objects demanded a closer look, and Julia Hepburn's surreal dioramas in storm lamps that I recognized from the early editions of Wondereur. Alongside the working participants, there was also a curated exhibition titled Art Now that did the best it could in light of the hubbub of the cruising crowds and the distractions of all that the city has to offer. In cases like this, it's good to go big (as we learned last week at Art Spin) like Mark Prier's minivan-sized wood plank nest The Lines or the Escapespace mirrored architectural strip. There is also the option to multiply like Derrick Piens' scattered Epiphonic Tombs that were reminiscent of Franz West's clunky functional sculptures. But the Heretical Objects collective managed a real coup by appealing to the true denizens of this public square – the pigeons – by constructing their always applicable plea ("I need more") in birdseed. Consumption is consumption, I guess, no matter what your species.

    Justina M. Barnicke Gallery:
    Rebecca Belmore: KWE continues until August 9.

    Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition:

    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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    There are so many great exhibitions in Ottawa right now it is difficult to choose which one to write about, but since summer is here and the weather’s lovely, I’m going to exhort you to get outside and visit Beyond the Edge: Artists’ Gardens at the Central Experimental Farm. Curated by Judith Parker and Mary Faught, the exhibition features five projects by six artists on six sites throughout the Agriculture Canada Research Plot. Using existing and new plant material as a medium, the artists cultivate a hybrid of artistic and scientific research across ten acres of the historic working farm and research centre founded in 1886. Beyond the Edge is the inaugural project of the Canadensis Botanical Garden Society, a volunteer organization working to institute a national botanical garden on the same site. At present, the site (and the exhibition) offers a pastoral, if not rural, respite from the urban environment in the very heart of the city. It is well worth the time you will spend on it.

    Karl Ciesluk, Mechanical Spiral, 2014, installation view

    In fact, the exhibition as a whole requires you to reset your internal clock and reorients visitors to a rhythm much slower than the hectic pace set by urban life. The first work you encounter is Barbara Brown’s Red Oak Labyrinth: a maze fashioned from split ash wood that leads you around an oak tree that, according to the didactic panel, takes fifteen minutes to walk. A bench around the trunk of the century-old tree provides a space for rest and contemplation. The work imposes an order of “tree time” on the viewer, but you have to give yourself over to it. I cut straight through to its centre and on to the next piece. Further on, Karl Ciesluk’s Mechanical Spiral is a spiral path cut in the long grass of the field that leads to a bale of hay at its centre. Time here is also foregrounded in the experience of the work. The didactic tells you that over a hundred years ago it would take ten workers a whole day to cut down one acre of hay, whereas with today’s technology two people can do 200 acres. The 60-foot Mechanical Spiral by comparison is less than a quarter of an acre, but I was still too impatient to walk the whole of it and followed a narrow desire line exiting back to the main path.

    However, by the time I reached Mood Clusters, the collaborative project of sisters Deirdre and Glynis Logue, I was feeling much more relaxed and in high spirits. The psychoactive medicinal properties of the plants the Logues were growing for their project could have had something to do with it. A sequence of pentagonal and hexagonal planters and platforms with neon reflector stripes, their work creates a healing passageway of flowering plants that can boost your immunity, help you sleep, relax your muscles, and relieve your pain, for a start. The arrangement of the planters mimics the molecular structure of serotonin, the neurotransmitter linked with happiness. Surrounded by this arrangement, bordered by a wild grove of Staghorn Sumac, which reportedly has anti-depressant properties, and with sunshine on my shoulders, I was starting to feel downright giddy. I stopped to smell the lavender.

    cj fleury, Our Lady of Complete Protein, 2014, installation view

    I was open now to receiving aspects of the exhibition that surpassed the narrow span of my visit. Indeed, at least one full agricultural cycle is required to mark the time of two other projects on view. With Our Lady of Complete Protein, cj fleury is growing crops of millet grain and sunflower seeds and proposing not only an alternative diet but also a belief system based on the bestselling Diet for a Small Planet, with a central totem surrounded by an already abundant looking crop parceled by a white picket fence. Furthermore, Deborah Margo’s From Seeds to Soup: Meet the Cucurbita Family will be harvested for soup and seed sharing. The diversity of fifteen varieties of Cucurbita squash planted by Margo will be on display over the summer as they grow and climb the trellises she has constructed at two locations on the site. You probably won’t be able to find these varieties at your supermarket, but you can eat them at the public soup feast on the last day of the exhibition. As I passed by Margo’s fledgling vines and into a shady grove near the exit to the exhibition, I wished I had brought a picnic with me to extend the length of my bucolic idyll even further.

    Canadensis Botanical Garden Society:
    Beyond the Edge: Artists’ Gardens continues until September 27.

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

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    The night sky has long been the cultural, social, religious, and scientific repository of our earth-bound yearnings. But it’s always such serious stuff: origins myths, cosmologies, cultural beliefs and attitudes, and real science. Where is the joy? The delight? The whimsy? Well, actually it’s right here in Whitby.

    Jennifer Dorner, Lion (from Outer Space Parade Floats with Greenhouses), 2013, oil on canvas

    Montreal-based artist Jennifer Dorner has it in her exceptionally talented hands and mind, and has applied it to the paintings in her exhibition AREA CODE: Blueprints for Future Escape, newly opened at Station Gallery. Her take on the night sky is decidedly one of delight, populated not only with the stuff of stars and planets, but also with, of all things, parade floats. Four separate panels comprise Outer Space Parade Floats with Greenhouses, a series from 2013 in which she imagines enormous space vehicles constructed in the shape of animals – a lion, a swan, an eagle, and a goose – that also contain, well, greenhouses. It can’t help but evoke a sci-fi film like Silent Running, a dystopic futurist scenario about such things (enormous spacecraft housing the last of the earth’s flora in greenhouses, I mean), albeit intentionally taken to a preposterous degree. Dorner’s are delightfully absurd things of no reasonable actuality floating in a featureless and empty space, unmoored from the mundane demands of technological reality. It’s pure ridiculous fantasy, but the night sky has always been home to ridiculous fantasies (a constellation shaped like a clock?).

    Accompanying the strange spacecraft is her enormous painting Four Hemispheres: four joined panels that depict a map of the earth with all the landmasses outlined by a connect-the-dots pattern of light. She’s envisaged our home planet as if it were one of those constellations, points of starry light in the deep blue of a night sky (and the Antarctic arranged along the bottom is especially luminous, with its myriad points like tiny snowballs). Scattered within the continental shapes are miniature containers for water – from disposable plastic bottles to glass Perrier bottles to the big refillable bottles that sit atop water coolers – that Dorner has situated to denote the major lakes and river systems. Our very own Great Lakes, for example, are symbolized by a trio of rather enormous water bottles. The discrepancy between what is essentially the utile and highly generalized abstraction that is a map and the representational specificity of an odd assortment of things seemingly randomly adrift in space (but which are actually acutely meaningful signifiers) creates an effective aesthetic tension.

    In Dorner’s work there’s ample space, in the end, to encompass the serious stuff, both celestial and earthbound, and the twin imperatives of delight and whimsy. It’s the stuff so often overlooked, and often even demeaned, in all the earnestness with which we’ve draped the heavens above. But Dorner gives it voice. And we hear it.

    Station Gallery:
    Jennifer Dorner: AREA CODE: Blueprints for Future Escape continues until September 7.

    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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    Bob Dylan sang “Death is not the end” on Down in the Groove, one of his least popular LPs, but Evan Tyler wasn’t listening. The soon-to-be-former proprietor of the four-year-old gallerywest–which was originally on Queen West West West but fought the tide of gentrification and actually moved east in 2012 to sit in the shadow of loftominiums on Queen West West – marks his last exhibition with Lee Henderson’s mortality-themed The Museum of One Thing After Another. The artist-run gallery (Tyler being the artist here), as opposed to the artist-run centre, has become something of a rarity (Andrew Harwood, whose Zsa Zsa space was part of the pre-history of this strip, recently shut down Zsa Zsa West in Winnipeg), and it’s easy to finger harsh urban economics as the culprit, but I’d argue that these creatures have naturally short lifespans. The idea is resilient and will manifest itself with different hosts in different locations as long as there are ambitious, community-minded artists willing to sacrifice sleep, cash, and space in the name of art.

    Lee Henderson, Aimants, 2014, magnets, float shelf

    Tyler made his mark with idiosyncratic shows that didn’t always play the game according to art world etiquette. The space was rough around the edges, but the works were serious (even when they were hilarious). Henderson’s collection of images, artefacts and videos leans toward the dour but has an inescapable undercurrent of humour that emphasizes the need to laugh in the face of death. The first work is a text piece in the window that spells out “We must never forget that Eadweard Muybridge was a killer”, while the final act, in the back room, is a short video titled The Suicide of a Wireless Mouse. It is the only new media work that has ever made me smile and, as a literal suicide (not simply a depiction of one), has stuck in my head for the past week. The other pieces all play on various subtle twists of representation to reflect not simply our experience of the world, but also to suggest something of its (and our) fragility, randomness, and temporality. Which, in the end, is a perfect way to reflect upon the new beginnings (if Dylan is to be believed).

    Lauren Hall, Dried Animals, Don’t Bother, 2014, sea sponge, pearl jewellery

    Maybe it’s my age, but I see mortality in almost everything these days. Susy Oliveira’s photographs of pressed flowers at Erin Stump Projects lead me to think about how we kill things in order to possess them (a metaphor for art if there ever was one) and how the timelessness of photos remind us of our inevitable demise (see Roland Barthes for more on this). The dialectic of her sculptures is the battle between the chaos of nature and the order of gardens. Her works exceed their vases while also taking on their geometry. What this has to do with romance (as suggested by the computer-generated artist’s statement) is beyond me.

    Upstairs, Lauren Hall sticks to the world of the living (despite having the corpse of a sea sponge stuck to the wall) and explores the alchemy of various found objects in combination or with minimal artistic interventions. The two lampshade carriers mounted horizontally at eyelevel are all you need to feel like the work is looking at you as much as you look at it. The engraved Zippo hand warmer is a personal accessory made more personal. Add in Epsom salts, essential oils, and bespoke golf umbrellas and Hall’s arcane categorical logic expands geometrically.

    Lee Henderson: The Museum of One Thing After Another continues until July 27.

    Erin Stump Projects:
    Susy Oliveira: There’s something about Bouquet continues until July 26.
    Lauren Hall: Felt continues until July 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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    Untitled (the possibilities of voids and the sentience of things) at Elora Centre for the Arts features the work of Maggie Groat and Barbara Hobot, a pairing which curator Tarin Hughes attributes to a shared interest in “considering the form, function and life” of objects. Referring to the writing of Elaine Scarry, Hughes relates the life of a flower to the rebelliousness of imagination and its evocations of an alternative truth. Scarry suggests that this “truth”, more akin to mimicry, competes with the objects of study in its ability to inform and reveal.

    From left: Maggie Groat, Field Chair, 2014; Triangular Study Shelf (with glass for drinking the water of Lake Ontario, wire and copper dowsing rods, woven field bag, proposal for wildflower field, other found and assembled field tools), 2014; Hierochloe Ordorata, 2014; The Living Rocks, 2013; Recharger, 2014. Barbara Hobot, Two Stones, 2012. (photo: Jimmy Limit)

    Groat’s collages, prints, photographs, and collections of objects propose thinking through the associated histories of their found, salvaged, and handmade qualities as a configuration of findings-as-tools for future use. Objects and images proliferate in acts of mirroring (suspended sweet grass hovers above a “pool” of glass; images of textures, tones, and shapes become camouflaged in a mass/group gesture of shared form) or behave as remnants of archaic rituals, now laid out as artifacts where gaps and holes (physical and historical) wait to be filled or entered.

    The objects/tools/rituals of origin are similarly left hanging in Hobot’s work, but are often grounded in works on paper in which “found” qualities are more essence than fragment. Where Groat salvages and reinterprets, Hobot offers drawings and paper constructions where remnant, material, and gesture are interchangeable. A wall piece of hand-cut paper hangs in wide-mouthed curls resembling tree-bark or, as its title suggests, the iconic curves of the Guggenheim, and while this form invites closer scrutiny of its interior, the larger “body” of its papery loop, bulge, and gravity gesture towards a motion or logic not tied definitively to anything outside of itself. Similarly, a small acrylic drawing offers a single shard in a center of white, the shard painted to resemble the texture of wood, wherein its looping grain pulls the shard off course; the sharp angle, the “woodness”, and the mimicry of collage are gestures that make up the distinctness of the drawing and its own particular “truth”.

    The performance of artworks in Untitled, whether of a found object repurposed or of the reinscription of the qualities of an object, brings out the similarities and, more often, differences between the work of Groat and Hobot. The pairing is not always successful, although this is not necessarily the fault of the work. The exhibition space is often problematic, as wall works (a large majority of the exhibition) compete with a multitude of windows, doorways, and various other obstructions, leaving me wondering if maybe less would have been more. Despite this, there are many smaller moments that hint at “the reality that lies beyond” via the logic of materials: in the ribbed scrawl or trail of a worm mid-collage, or the path of chain links knitted in tight lines, monitored and measured in white ink on purple velum. These moments are, as Polish writer Bruno Schulz wrote, less of flowers and more of the invisibility of errant growth: “Lifelessness is only a disguise behind which hide unknown forms of life.”

    Elora Centre for the Arts:
    Maggie Groat & Barbara Hobot: Untitled (the possibilities of voids and the sentience of things) continues until September 7.

    Kim Neudorf is an artist and writer currently living in London, Ontario. Her paintings have shown widely in Alberta and at Susan Hobbs Gallery in Toronto. 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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