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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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    Over the past year there have been several single channel works occupying the Audain Gallery at SFU's Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. Memorably there was Berlin-based Hito Steyerl's Adorno's Grey projected within a custom-designed screening room composed of elevated seating and a screen of fractured grey panels. Following that was another solo single channel exhibition by Vancouver's own Althea Thauberger, remounting her Marat Sade Bohnice, a video that centres on the staging of Peter Weiss’ play Marat/Sade at the Bohnice Psychiatric Hospital in Prague. Now, London-based Ursula Mayer is on view with Not a curse, nor a bargain, but a hymn, an exhibition that is dominated by the screenings of her two films: Gonda and Medea.



    Ursula Mayer

    Played back to back, the films’ audio tracks are composed of dense dialogue that permeates the exhibition space, which also includes sculptural elements and photographs that echo the film's cues and characters. With scripts written by Maria Fusco and Patricia MacCormack, respectively, Gonda and Medea self-reflexively act out the process of spectatorship largely through the re-caressing of language and theory. While making the conventions of film language overt through this aural didacticism, the films in fact seduce the viewer with lush and sensuous cinematic moments, creating a jarring and asynchronous experience that in the end is not all together coherent. Reminiscent of experimental feminist cinema in tone, but with the high-end visuals of a misanthropic fashion system, the films’ glam industrial chic bodies appear to have the running interior monologue of a precocious Goth punk.

    Notable on screen, but absent from the surrounding discourse, is Mayer's casting in both films of transgender, androgynous, and soft butch personas, including model Valentijn de Hingh and musician JD Samson. Even as they assume the role of lead protagonists, their presence is only surface, largely standing in as emblems of fluidity while revealing nothing of a fully realized queer or transgender subjectivity. Perhaps this is indicative of Mayer's use of systems, including sex and gender, as reference points to discombobulate, but in the endless sea of evocations from Ayn Rand and Margaret Thatcher to Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, the works would have benefited if the characters represented were fully formed subjects, and not just theories and objects, of cinematic desire.


    Audain Gallery: http://www.sfu.ca/galleries/audain-gallery/current.html
    Ursula Mayer: Not a curse, nor a bargain, but a hymn continues until August 2.


    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 POSTpacificPOST.com and on Twitter @anotheramyfung. She is Akimblog's Vancouver correspondent.


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    With a new baby in the house, I couldn’t manage to escape on holiday this summer, but this past weekend, at Dazibao artist-run centre, I was offered the opportunity to imaginatively revisit a faraway destination I’ve spent some time in: the iconic city of Vienna. Electronic Sound in a Shifting Landscape is a group exhibition of experimental film and video spanning the last forty years that uses the city of Vienna and its fabricated landscape not only as content, but also as conceptual device.



    Siegfried A. Fruhauf, Mountain View, 1999

    Carefully curated by Montreal-based artist and musician Steve Bates, the exhibition features work by fourteen artists in a tightly choreographed sequence of videos spread over three projections and as many monitors. The works on monitor draw you into the space, with one in the front window, a second one on the first facing wall, and the third on the gallery’s back wall. Only one of the fifteen projected works plays at a time, thus allowing the viewers’ attention to focus more intently.

    The stand out works are perhaps the less overtly digitally inclined, such as Peter Wiebel’s Depiction is a Crime from 1970 and Hans Scheugl’s Wein 17, Schumanngasse from 1967. That said, they both invoke the technology of image making: the former filming a Polaroid being taken of the film crew in the manicured grounds of Schönbrunn Castle, and the latter using the length of time it takes to develop a role of film to determine the time and velocity it takes to drive down a Viennese street.

    My only issue with this exhibition is directed at Dazibao rather than the exhibition itself. As is obvious from the exhibition’s title, sound plays a vital role in many of these films (or lack-there-of in others), and it was a shame that sound from separate programming – The Otolith Group in the gallery’s cinema room – could be clearly heard in the main space when the door was left frequently ajar. This meant it was often difficult to distinguish what was what. Keep the door closed, but remember that the five films by The Otolith Group are also not to be missed.


    Dazibao: http://dazibao-photo.org/en/
    Electronic Sound in a Shifting Landscape continues until September 13.


    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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    Mercer Union deals with the challenge of the summer group show this summer by staging a five-part cycle of small groups shows within a growing group show that culminates at the end of this week with the last three artists being introduced to bring up the final tally to fifteen participants (if we count the collective VSVSVS as one being [and since they contributed one work, why shouldn’t we?]). I spent far too much of my recent visit trying to reconstruct the order of accumulation by isolating individual works on the gallery map and then imagining them as they would have been seen during an earlier week. In retrospect (of my visit, not the entire exhibition), I will argue that this is not a good way to appreciate the show. The best way would have been to come back week to week right from the opening to get a sense of how the interaction between the pieces develops. The only other option is to take the exhibition as given and join in on the conversation – for conversation amongst all the participants, from artists to curators to viewers to the works themselves, is they way in which the curator Georgina Jackson would like you to think about this collection. The title, Taking [a] part, is addressed to all, including you.



    Cecilia Berkovic, Woman of Tomorrow (detail), 2014, plexi mounted latex prints

    In a group situation (like a party, for example), I gravitate to shared points of reference and people with a sense of humour. Not surprisingly, I connected first with Cecilia Berkovic’s reproductions of feminist and lesbian empowerment buttons. First of all, they were addressing me directly and second, they were funny. They sat at one end of a spectrum with their modicum of form (circles) dominated by their political message. Around the middle of this spectrum was VSVSVS’s articulated table structure whose formal innovations troubled its functional intent. And then, far enough away that I felt I needed a formal introduction, there were Sarah Nasby’s PVC shapes on metal display grids. What they had to say to Brian Rideout’s painting of the interior of a drawing room takes a bit more more time to suss out, so plan to stay a while if you want to pick up all the threads amongst the speakers here.



    Paul Wackers

    A quieter party can be found at Narwhal Contemporary in their relatively new space on Dundas West, just around the corner from the Morrow Street galleries and within walking distance of the St. Helens Avenue contingent (where Clint Roenisch just opened his first show in this new location). The three artists on display are all very different and, once again, you’ll have to decide if you want to make the effort to tie them all together or be happy having a tete-a-tete with just one. While Matthew Feyld’s simple cipher-like paintings might have absorbed my attention in another context, and Alvaro Ilizarbe’s routed brain mazes are good for a laugh, it was really only Paul Wackers with his odd assortment of intentionally primitive ceramics and perversely discordant paintings who I wanted to get to know. My first question to him would be how he knows when a piece of pottery is unfinished enough to fire. This judgement is trickier than one might think and in it sits the balance of a work’s ability to trigger imagination without giving the game away. My second question would be if he’d cringe at my describing his canvases as possessing a non-annoying hipster aesthetic, not unlike a good mix-tape. By this, I’d explain, I mean that transcendence isn’t the object; the paintings are happy to evoke the pleasure of bringing together an assortment of things. They are, in this way, little group exhibitions of their very own.


    Mercer Union: http://www.mercerunion.org/
    Taking [a] part continues until July 26.

    Narwhal Contemporary: http://narwhalcontemporary.com/
    View Point Geon continues until August 16.


    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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    A soft grey light illuminates a dozen plinths throughout the Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery. They are tall, narrow, and sombre. On each plinth is a vitrine, carved on each side of the glass with the image of a traditional Mi’kmaw woven basket and text identifying various patterns. The vitrines are empty. I wander through the plinths – a forest of placeholders – weaving between them, back and forth, hoping to decode the Mi’kmaw text that plainly labels the baskets. The installation is beautiful, quiet, organic. To the left of the plinths are the remains of a performance by the artist Ursula Johnson: an axe, work boots, gloves, a spokeshave, piles of woodshavings, and a basin of water filled with thin strips of wood. Over several weeks, she has cut an entire log into splints, shavings, and woodchips.



    Ursula Johnson, Mi’kwite’tmn (Archive Room), 2014 (photo: Steve Farmer)

    At the other side of the gallery is an archive. Rows of shelving line the walls, each shelf filled with baskets. At the centre of room is a computer station – the archive database. On the screen are an image of a bas-ket and a list of details: name of object, materials, date, description. A barcode scanner and white gloves allow the viewer to look up data on each of the items within the archive. After exploring the baskets and digging through the database, Johnson’s sense of humour begins to surface. There is a fishing creel that is used by parents “to carry their wallets to go to the grocery store to purchase their farmed fish.” The work plays with our expectations, wavering between tradition and irony, humour and loss.

    A feast and discussion with the artist hosted by the Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre (2158 Gottingen Street) will take place this Thursday at 7:30pm.


    Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery: http://www.smu.ca/campus-life/art-exhibitions.html
    Ursula Johnson: Mi’kwite’tmn (Do You Remember) continues until 3 August 2014.


    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, even though it’s summer. Daniel writes for Visual Arts News and is Akimblog’s Halifax correspondent. He can be followed on Twitter @HighamDaniel.


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    If “conceptual” art has become everyday shorthand for the kind of work that people “just don’t get” or just can’t be bothered with, the term has become something of a disclaimer among artists themselves. A dangling modifier loosely affixed to a range of mediums and practices, “conceptual” too often implies an ambivalence about form and not much else, a sheepish insistence that “it’s the thought that counts.”



    Micah Lexier, This One, That One, 2013

    In that light, Micah Lexier starts looking like a standard-bearer for a “classic” conceptualism – cerebral, reductive, and a touch obstinate but still self-evident, playful, and above all genuinely engaged. This, That, Those, his pocket-retrospective at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, comes as both a breath of fresh air and an endearing throwback, a celebration of ideas that work as well on the back of a bar napkin as they do in a rarefied white cube or dissected in a catalog essay. In the video This One, That One (an alternate version of which debuted in his recent Power Plant survey) Lexier rifles through scraps of printed cardboard and other found objects with the deft movements of a shell game huckster. Stacking printed cups, ordering found numbers, and connecting cardboard dots, Lexier’s contextual sleight-of-hand effects momentary transformations that result from years of careful collecting and sustained attention. He turns that same magpie focus to his own practice in a built-in vitrine opposite the projection. Playfully negating any distinction between the two, he exhibits a half-dozen or so small works alongside a further collection of found objects. Lexier’s painted wooden blocks (“38 cubic inches”) and letter-size aluminum tangram puzzles sit comfortably alongside a set of vintage letter dice and a brown cardboard tube. Small-scale and open-ended, each component seems to invite new observation, interaction, and play.

    More than any other form, conceptual art is a game (and sometimes, literally, a joke). This, That, Those is a welcome reminder that the rules can be simple and anyone can play along.


    Winnipeg Art Gallery: http://wag.ca/art/exhibitions/current-exhibitions/display,exhibition/152/micah-lexier-this-that-those
    Micah Lexier: This, That, Those continues until August 4.


    Steven Leyden Cochrane is an artist, writer, and educator based in Winnipeg, where he contributes weekly exhibition reviews to the Free Press. He is Akimblog’s new Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @svlc_ on Twitter.


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    Without the benefit of witnessing the performance that motivated its becoming, Berenicci Hershorn’s HERE at Hamilton Artists Inc. is a laboratory for rooting into the notion of performance’s afterlife. A permeable architecture of plastic sheets grimly shrouds the darkened gallery in a ramshackle post-apocalyptic mood while bearing the dignity of a survivor: an archive of actions taken that lingers as an exhibition.



    Berenicci Hershorn, HERE, 2014, installation view (photo: Henry Chan)

    In the absence of supervision or other gallery prohibitions (deliberate or otherwise), Hershorn’s abandoned space invites an investigatory approach to each of its separated cubicles. I was, maybe, too free to thumb through the stacks of newspapers at each station in search of a theme, and could confirm with a cautious touch that the kettle resting on a hot plate was definitely boiled. This untended heat is an enigmatic counterpoint to an aquarium holding a modest layer of unmelted ice – opposing clues running hot and cold, like the quasi-scientific emblem embroidered on used aprons waiting to be deciphered.

    The actions that made use of this space are legible enough in their remnants and through the still images rotating on a small monitor at a sensible remove from the installation. Those newspapers, seemingly heavy on finance and stock market reports, were filled with a red liquid from watering cans then bundled into envelopes tied with twine, echoing Hershorn’s action in find here here for Toronto’s 7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art in 2010. The stains of this process, reprised at the Inc. by Hershorn with the unprecedented accompaniment of ten choreographed performers, reveal the gesture’s quixotic edge even while their dried bundles remain defiantly intact: stacked at each tidied station as clear performance indicators of this unseen, post-recession ritual.


    Hamilton Artists Inc.: http://www.theinc.ca/
    Berenicci Hershorn: HERE continues until August 2.


    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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    The otherwise unassuming St. Helen’s Avenue, heretofore known for the Value Village and strip club at its northern tip, has in short shrift become Toronto’s newest gallery district. Heading down from Club Paradise, a first time visitor might be confused by the residential neighbourhood you pass through before ending a short distance away at a half-block collection of industrial garages. Daniel Faria was the first to find a home here, but with the addition of Scrap Metal Gallery in the rear, Clint Roenish next door, and the soon to settle in Gallery TPW a bit further down, St. Helen’s is now the place to be (though it should be noted that Mercer Union is just around the corner and Morrow Street is within spitting distance if you’re willing to jump some train tracks).



    Gedi Sibony, Untitled, 2011, cardboard, paint

    Roenish opened his new space earlier this month with a group show that reflects both sides of the coin he parlays as gallerist/curator. With the misspelled sign on his old Queen Street storefront and the hours that run from “Wodan’s Day to Saturn’s Day”, he’s always been one to have some fun with the whole endeavour of hawking art while at the same time assembling a stable of substantial and serious art makers. The title of this inaugural exhibition – First The Pleasure, Then The Thesis– captures the sensual appeal of the art he shows before alluding to its underlying ideas. The small assortment of works gathered here test your first step with only the first two (a colourful work on paper by David Shrigley and an upside-down motorized bicycle by Jonathan Monk) having what could be described as “curb appeal”, while the half dozen in the back are determinably minimal in their efforts to engage the eye. Even without Stefan Brüggermann’s stacked boxes labelled “nothing”, the surrounding wall works are as close to nothing as you can get and still have something to sell. Which is not to imply there is nothing there. These works are nothing gestures, not content. However, art, as does nature, abhors a vacuum, and thus the artless cardboard of Gedi Sibony turns the game around by demanding your response rather than responding to your demands.



    Allyson Vieira, Weight Bearing IV, 2013, drywall, screws, steel

    Next door at Daniel Faria, the two-person exhibition curated by Rui Amaral is dominated by Allyson Vieira’s stacked drywall columns topped by steel girders. The comparably tiny and subdued painted photographs of ancient sculptures by Paul Kajander do a good job of unearthing the surreal forms beneath these figures, but all I’m going to remember is the towering and torn-up figures that Vieira has managed to carve out of the most common and unappealing of contemporary building material. I didn’t read Amaral’s text until later, so I had to check myself when I started seeing female forms in these chunky sculptures. The allusion to the human body – and more specifically the artist’s own proportions – was also there in the half twist of rectangular framing-encased plaster plus studio grot that she calls Clad and represents with two in the series here. The reason I find the dirty, crusty, impure material of Vieira’s work is so appealing to me will only be revealed to me by my therapist, but its unexpectedly compelling nature compels me to suggest you see this show.


    Clint Roenish Gallery: http://www.clintroenisch.com/
    First The Pleasure, Then The Thesis continues until August 16..

    Daniel Faria Gallery: http://danielfariagallery.com/
    Paul Kajander & Allyson Vieira: All Beneath the Moon Decays continues until September 6.


    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 early history of the art of animation is different from most other art disciplines in that women animators are fairly well acknowledged. Perhaps it is because animation emerged relatively later than most traditional arts or because the practice wasn't regarded as a "high art" like painting or film. Whatever the case, local artist Heather Kai Smith, a talented and accomplished animator in her own right, has undertaken a self-initiated research project outlining the history of women animators and is bringing her findings to the public in a series of five chronological screenings at the Quickdraw Animation Society.



    Lotte Reiniger, Adventures of Prince Achmed, 1926

    Each $10 admission comes with a silkscreened and typewritten zine in five volumes by Smith containing the facts of the personal lives and works of great women animators. The research took her months because many of the early films she sought are so hard to find at this point. The first screening was a mix of experimental and pioneering techniques in films by Lotte Reiniger, Maya Deren, Claire Parker (who worked with Alexandre Alexeieff), Evelyn Lambart (often uncredited or overshadowed in collaboration with Norman McLaren), and Franciszka Themerson (who also collaborated with her husband Stefan).

    Lotte Reiniger developed a shadow puppet technique that she had played with since she was a child. It captures frame by frame the graceful, articulated movement of silhouette figures as detailed and descriptive as the work of Kara Walker or Shary Boyle. Another original and painstaking process was the Pinscreen, a precursor to pixel screens conveyed in the mezzotint-like animations of Claire Parker and Alexandre Alexeieff. They reflected light upon vertical grids of sliding pins, just like the pinscreen toy, except that each pin was manipulated one by one for each frame to achieve the phantasmagorical motion of life-like forms set to Mussorgsky’s Night On Bald Mountain in a film of the same title. Deren's 1944 surrealist film At Land, despite not being true animation, demonstrated the dreamlike effects and fertile ground for imagination reached between jump cuts that make the impossible possible in filmic space. If animation wavers somewhere between hot and cold media, or high and low art forms, Smith delivers a selection that argues these women were experimenting with light and motion in the same manner that abstract painters manipulated form and colour, thus placing animation among the highest discoveries of art – where indeed it belongs.


    Quickdraw Animation Society: https://www.facebook.com/quickdrawanimation
    Great Women Animators continues every Tuesday until August 26.

    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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    Some exhibitions get metaphorically under my skin, but Penelope Stewart’s immersive installation at the Koffler Gallery literally entered my body. This physical absorption hits you as soon as you step into the gallery and inhale the fragrant air. The rich odour of beeswax draws you closer to her main structure: a cube within the cube panelled with squares of gold, brown, and yellow. The experience of this added sense, one that you have no choice but to subject yourself to, heightens your self-awareness and tunes you in to the material conditions of the work you’re about to explore. As with silence and John Cage’s 4’33”, you come to understand that you’ve been smelling every other exhibition you’ve ever seen but only now (except for those super-thick Kim Dorland oil paintings) realize that it has an impact on how you see the work – if only in this sense that it is clinically and intentionally absent. Smells, like noise, are traditionally kept out of art galleries.



    Penelope Stewart

    But Stewart doesn’t leave it at that. There is a cornucopia of wax items awaiting you on the other side of the door set in the cube you are so feverishly sniffing. Those objects hang down from the ceiling likes vines and spill out from the open end of the room you find yourself in. The interior walls are patterned and mottled with flowers or candlesticks. The floor is piled with buttons, spoons, dishes, goblets, doorknobs, and a collection of antique keys. The accumulation doesn’t represent an abundance so much as an obsessive accumulation of the odds and ends a hoarder – or an artist – would gather. On the one hand they all could simply be part of a still life. On the other there must be an underlying logic to justify all this fabrication and repetition. These are the things themselves but replicas and fragile ones at that. In his Meditations, Descartes conducts an experiment with wax to demonstrate that the mind’s perception takes precedent over the senses. The world is not just something to be seen, smelled, and felt, but something to be understood first. According to Descartes, this knowledge is what connects us to the divine. Can something similar be found here? You’ll have to smell for yourself.



    Elisabeth Picard, Volute 1 & Volute 2, 2013, dyed zip ties

    Speaking of the stuff that art is made of, the compact three-person exhibition at Lonsdale Gallery is anchored by three different kinds of unique material: red thread for Amanda McCavour, ribbons of dried acrylic paint for Robert Davidovitz, and zip ties for Elisabeth Picard. McCavour is represented here by a single cloud of hovering lillypads that risks being forgotten, tucked away as it is at the front of the gallery. She needs to wrest more control of a space to avoid being relegated to the status of decoration. Davidovitz’s work looks from a distance like paintings of grids until you get close enough to see the weave of strips of paint. The soft order and mushy pixels that emerge hover at the border, which is generally disregarded in most painting, of liquid and solid matter. They are formal curiousities but should be studies for something more ambitious. Picard also uses repetition and slight variations – in her case with dyed zip ties – to created sculptures that resemble organic forms like coral or microscopic creatures. The contrast between the utilitarian, mass-produced objects that are so common as to go unnoticed and the flowering symmetry of her delicate things certainly grabs your attention. The challenge (as it is, I supposed, with display cases in natural history museums) is mounting and lighting them perfectly. What seems elegant and otherworldly in a professionally shot photograph is in danger of looking like some carcass washed up on the beach in person.


    Koffler Gallery: http://kofflerarts.org/koffler-gallery/exhibitions/featured/
    Penelope Stewart continues until August 31.

    Lonsdale Gallery: http://lonsdalegallery.com/
    Burden of Proof continues until August 10.


    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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    A vast exhibition featuring close to thirty young artists from across North America, New Zealand, and Norway, Claiming Space, in exploring themes of art and decolonization, functions as both a show and a statement. Within the Museum of Anthropology (on the unceded territory of the Musqueam people), the visitor's transition past the scores of conserved totem poles, house posts, and carvings on display throughout the Great Hall and into the O’Brian Gallery occurs through a shift away from the light filled hall and deafening silence into a darkly lit space humming with monitors and projectors.



    Deanna Bittern, She, 2013

    Focusing on five key issues – colonization, assimilative policies, adapting traditions, the objectification of Indigenous women's bodies, and the impact of modern day consumer culture through the lens of emerging voices – curator Pam Brown (Heiltsuk Nation) and curatorial assistant Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (Blackfoot, Blood Reserve/Sami, northern Norway) have taken great care selecting a range of perspectives and mediums. From performance, music, painting, drawing, text, photography, and textile to an overwhelming amount of video works stacked across several viewing stations, the show ebbs and flows from one to the other (though it stalls at the viewing stations, which would have benefited from larger screens and more seating options).

    By selecting artists between 15 and 25 years of age and emphasizing the theme of urban Indigenous youths “asserting their identity and affirming their relationship to both urban spaces and ancestral territories,” the curators reveal the gap in knowledge and experience between what appears in the Great Hall and what is on view inside the O'Brian Gallery. The space between the stories of the totem poles and this new generation of righteous young voices is the space that still needs to be claimed and heard.


    Museum of Anthropology - O’Brian Gallery: http://moa.ubc.ca/experience/exhibit_details.php?id=1335
    Claiming Space: Voices of Urban Aboriginal Youth continues until January 4.


    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 POSTpacificPOST.com and on Twitter @anotheramyfung. This is her last review as Akimblog's Vancouver correspondent. She is relocating to Toronto and taking on the position of Artistic Director at the Images Festival.


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    WE WON’T COMPETE, an exhibition of works from the collections of both the Feminist Art Gallery (FAG) and the Art Gallery of Windsor, is Allyson Mitchell and Deirdre Logue’s second time using FAG’s Feminist Art Collection (FAC) within a public art institution to explore a curatorial model in which “artists who are almost always invisible” are recognized and made visible. While placing the exhibited work under the designation “feminist art”, Mitchell and Logue simultaneously question the possibility of such a labeling, where their own “struggle with the language for feminist description” leads them to ask: “How do we describe an object or image or sound piece as feminist and/or queer?” They suggest that the question is part of a larger recognition of the multiple discourses and dialogues of feminist and queer experience, a “push/pull” that can be acknowledged in the here and now of public and social frameworks.



    Frances Loring

    Occupying a smaller gallery on the AGW’s third floor, the exhibition’s corner(ed) location begins and ends with a bright red path of tape stretching across the floor and into that of a neighboring gallery space. The tape cuts between a sizable Claude Tousignant painting and a large free-standing work by Greg Curnoe, and leads to a Frances Loring sculpture from 1951, which, placed in the midst of landscapes and portraits from the AGW’s permanent collection, both singles out and generates affiliations between the two exhibitions. The tape signals back to Helen Molesworth’s writing on feminist curating, which proposes that what is absent within an art institution’s collection can provoke opportunities to explore other kinds of relationships outside of patriarchal or hierarchal narratives.



    Margaret Lawrence

    Join Us, an exuberant projection by Jesi The Elder is brought out of a private viewing room and into the space of the exhibition by the same fluorescent line of flight. The satisfyingly organic and abstract logic of its animation loops is echoed in the ululating grain of a color relief etching by Servulo Esmeraldo and the perforated edges of a geode-like serigraph by Arthur Secunda. Other works are deliberately hung in close groups, such as an enormous painting by Eleanor Bond flanked by the sound of Abstract Random’s reverberating Siren Song. Geometric abstraction in paintings by Bodo Pfeifer and Allyson Clay is made part of a larger, more intuitive abstract narrative through connections with nearby works. Grouped together with Margaret Lawrence’s waves in colored pencil, portraits by Adee Roberson and Johnson Ngo, and a collage by Sonja Ahlers, Pfeifer’s work is part of a larger conversation less fixed by the convergences of singular hard-edged grids-within-grids and more about the psychic energy of the neighbouring pieces. Clay’s rigid crown of red on yellow begins to mimic Erika DeFreitas’ digital prints of striped doilies held and draped by the intimacy of teeth and skin. Made present by deliberate proximity, these relationships aren’t merely suggested, but are palpably hip to hip and face to face.

    Molesworth suggests that feminist genealogies based on alliances (horizontal) rather than exclusion (vertical) can lead to “lines of influence and conditions of production” outside of the usual “rules surrounding who gets to speak when about what.” WE WON’T COMPETE makes a convincing case for working with a collection like FAC in order to build new “communities of works” where, rather than merely filling the gaps in existing narratives, “sameness and difference are attributes” in continual moments of “friction” that create new conversations and/or abstract codes of community. Or where, as in the preface to the marching conduits of Jesi The Elder’s repeating anthem, red-tipped fingers encircling a finger-puppet lion roar, flip endless birds, and spell out: JOIN US.


    Art Gallery of Windsor: http://www.agw.ca/exhibitions/current/399
    WE WON’T COMPETE continues to September 21.


    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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    I had been mulling over a theory of group exhibitions that compares them to social gatherings and then, lo and behold, MKG127 puts on a show that fits my model to a T. Curated by artist/party host extraordinaire Dean Baldwin as the 2014 edition of the gallery’s semi-regular artist-curated summer exhibitions, Les Rassembleurs resembles the aftermath of a party rather than the party itself, but its success as a unity of distinct things has a lot in common with what makes for a memorable bash: first, there’s the inspired host; second, there’s the guest list; and third, there is the magic of serendipity. Baldwin’s talent for the relational is well established, but it’s the international array of artists who he invited that give this shindig its spice.



    Radames "Juni" Figueroa, Tropical Readymade, 2014, shoe, soil, plant

    The purported theme is intoxication, so it’s not surprising that most of the work clusters around a bar. While some, like Sarah Peters’ bronze Head of a Boy Vessel, directly reference drinking (as does the guest of honour: a 17th Century Delftware tankard on loan from the Gardiner Museum), others are a bit subtler – though no less memorable – in their evocation of a spirited evening. Michael Dumontier’s wonderfully minimal depiction of eyelids held up by toothpicks has a special meaning for me, given my tendency to fall asleep in front of company when the night goes on too long. Roula Partheniou’s Monument is a fabricated coaster, bottle cap, chewed up piece of gum and half-burnt match that speaks volumes about boredom, creativity, our provisional communities, and the make-do/makeshift spirit that turns garbage into art and a gathering of lost souls into an event to remember. Radames “Juni” Figueroa’s absurd but practical readymades could have been inspired by the stoned epiphanies that emerge during such festivities, and Kristan Horton’s Bronze Roach is exactly what it says it is while also serving as another monument – this one to the vague memories of parties past. It goes without saying that if you remember them you weren’t actually there.



    Lili Huston-Herterich, Butlers Pantry, 2014, tufted cushion with dye sublimation print, custom buttons

    Another party is happening concurrently at Birch Contemporary; however, while the guest list is nothing to sniff at, it doesn’t have the same celebratory spirit. The rationale for this get-together – something to do with the body and its surroundings – is harder to get excited about and the works don’t manage to generate an engaging conversation. Only Renee Van Halm’s Privacy Screen is playing along, but it’s stuck on its own on the floor with a couple freestanding quasi-modernist constructions in glass, homasote and metal by Abby McGuane who are speaking a different language. Lili Huston-Herterich’s tufted cushions printed with domestic interiors have something to say about what goes on with the people in those homes, but they don’t have a lot in common with Colleen Heslin’s collaged fabric wall panels that do a great job of mimicking the paintings they coincidentally deflate by making the seam between different areas of flatness literal. That fabric connects with Josh Thorpe’s faint wall painting of an unwound toga, which, as it wraps around a corner to avoid being seen in one piece, admittedly has some thoughts to share about the mapping of bodies into space and the way our physical forms connect with seemingly abstract shapes in different eras. Someone should introduce him to Van Halm.


    MKG127: http://www.mkg127.com/
    Les Rassembleurs continues until August 23.

    Birch Contemporary: http://birchcontemporary.com/
    Softening the Corners continues until August 30.


    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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    With the Humidex lurching towards forty, Friday was the perfect day to spend an afternoon exploring the Exchange District’s shaded tangle of side streets and covered alleys. Co-organized by Urban Idea and the Winnipeg Arts Council, the Creative Placemaking Challenge invited ten teams of artists, architects, designers et al to produce pop-up installations exploring the underutilized thoroughfares’ potential to become sites of creative engagement. The street fair ambiance; breathless, corporate-style promotional language; and profusion of cameras have become familiar features of this kind of event, but the premise is a laudable one (even if the ensuing mash-up of consumer-oriented spectacle and Situationist-inspired urbanism makes my head swim).



    Emily Bews & Ashley James, DayGazer

    Given constraints of time, space, and audience engagement, simpler interventions generally fared best. Plain Projects, a landscape architecture firm, just blew bubbles in their alley, and it was lovely. Emily Bews and Ashley James laid down sod and strung up of glow-in-the-dark plastic stars, and it was similarly precious but pleasant.

    Ken Gregory and Nicole Shimonek deployed an array of motion sensors, motors, lights, and mirrors to send a projected alley cat chasing after a red laser dot – the skittish movements and improvised electronics lending the otherwise whimsical gesture vague paramilitary overtones. Artist-curator Theo Sims and poet Jenn Angela Lopes set up an abject row of vendor stalls in another alley, “near two old fur company buildings.” The wares comprised a thin selection of t-shirts featuring disjointed snatches of text in English and what might have been Michif or Cree. Lacking context, the installation seemed to invoke area history, if only elliptically, teasing at goings-on still underway (“Below debate / in 2011 / with tumult”).

    Other projects tackled issues of infrastructure and amenities to varying effect. The duo of Christopher F.E. Beauvilain and Marc Arnould employed clever stagecraft and forced perspective to construct an illusory “Public Pool,” complete with three-storey diving boards – then promptly killed the fun with a snide, accusatory “public notice” announcing the alley’s return to squalor effective the following day.



    Nicole Jowett, Janna Barkman, & Nick Turnbull, Your Garden

    Lorna Parashin and Moe Yusim built a fleet of hammocks that offered a welcoming vantage for live musical performances. Intentionally or not, the high-visibility orange swings ended up highlighting the conspicuous absence of benches (and other surfaces a person might be tempted sleep on) elsewhere in the neighbourhood. An oasis of edible and flowering plants in the heart of a notorious “food desert” and a highlight of the event, Your Garden by Nicole Jowett, Janna Barkman, and Nick Turnbull presented a tantalizingly attainable vision of weekend markets providing access to fresh, affordable produce.

    I’m embarrassed to confess that I don’t think I’d passed through or even stopped to register any of the ten sites before Friday, and the studio I’ve kept for five years overlooks one of them. If Creative Placemaking (or however you care to brand it) can help disrupt patterns of use or patterns of thought, and help people imagine new ways of engaging with their surroundings, then it’s an idea worth repeating. Provided, that is, we strive to “make a place” for everyone.


    Urban Idea: http://urbanidea.ca/2014/08/05/save-the-date-the-creative-placemaking-challenge-is-august-15/
    The Creative Placemaking Challenge took place on August 15


    Steven Leyden Cochrane is an artist, writer, and educator based in Winnipeg, where he contributes weekly exhibition reviews to the Free Press. He is Akimbo’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @svlc_ on Twitter.


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    Has the rise of the digital era produced such a glut of photographs as to render the image demeaned, diminished – depleted, even? We’re awash in a sea of selfies. The instant gratification (or deletion) of the products of the camera phone, coupled with quick and easy photoshopping, has, perhaps, neutralized our ability to discriminate the true from the false. Maybe. And maybe not. Viewfinders at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa proffers some answers in the form of three emerging artists from the Durham Region – Lesa Moriarity, Mike Berube, and Christine Lucy Latimer– whose work is photographically related, if not actually constituting the thing itself.



    Christine Lucy Latimer, C2013

    I use that qualifier “related” measuredly, for a chunk of what we see here has more to do with a postmodernist attitude that holds the photographic image at a suspicious distance, as if maybe it had a bad smell. Lesa Moriarity’s salon-style Humility Home Art Collection, for instance, has no overt photographic element at all. It comprises 42 small paintings – all figurative, all related to persons and events in the art world – taken from images she found on the internet. Her Art In (1&2) dares to come closer to the image, employing pages torn from two different art magazines that show photographic reproductions on top of which she’s painted abstract patterns that all but obliterate the image.

    Over on the far side of the gallery space, Christine Lucy Latimer resuscitates antiquated photographic and filmic technologies, in part examining and even somewhat embracing the analog worldview from within the perspective of our digital age. In Physics and Metaphysics in Modern Photography a looping, grainy 16mm film projected on the wall shows a British photographic almanac from 1957 being paged through by a pair of white-gloved hands as a voiceover drones the words of a related photography text. And in C2013, she’s appropriated the video on a found VHS tape depicting, of all things, a banjo lesson, distorting the flow and quality of the somewhat banal instructional imagery so that we see and experience form rather than content.



    Mike Berube, Untitled #1 (Fragments Series)

    Mike Berube cleaves closest to the conventions of the straight photographic image with his truly powerful Fragments Series: enormous black and white ink-jet prints (made from actual photographic film) taken using a toy camera. The resulting multiple exposures capture the sense of intense movement as people flow across a city street like ghosts traversing the image.

    This is thoughtful, articulate work made by thoughtful, articulate artists, but I don’t really know what it might be trying to tell me – if anything – about our new (digital) world order. Berube’s images are less self-contained and self-referential than the work by either Moriarty or Latimer. That doesn’t mean I don’t like them (because I do), but there’s a way forward in Berube’s work. Instead of just telling us about itself, the photographic image can, it turns out, still tell us something about the larger world.


    The Robert McLaughlin Gallery: http://www.rmg.on.ca/
    Viewfinders continues until September 14


    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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    Upon visiting Bogdan Cheta's residency in Stride's project room (in partnership with the M:ST Performative Art Festival), a staff member gave me an Ikea-brand ziplock bag containing pink and green documents, assembled by the artist for visitors, while she checked whether Bogdan could accept an unexpected guest. The bag of pastel papers reminded me of a free informational package you might receive at a health clinic. Perhaps this was intentional. As I later read in these papers, Bogdan frequently visits clinics in dealing with health issues and as a way to cope with a strong premonition that he will soon face death.



    Bogdan Cheta, Be what you want, but stay where you are

    One way he's found acceptable is to retreat into books and thoughts, or a more abstract (impersonal) realm of elements and nature, like the escape routes of his guides Agnes Varda and Roland Barthes. But it's not that he doesn't like/need/want other people. In fact, he says, à la Barthes, that his audience is an imagined lover and he is always viewing things through the third-person eyes of the friend or admirer. In answer to one of Sophie Calle's survey questions (created for herself in place of the typical meaningless artist interview questions), Bogdan says what's missing from his life is touch.

    His project at Stride is a continuation of a collaborative oral history project called "long way from home" that is also supported by EAR (Elephant Artist Relief). He invites people to take him to a beloved place of their choosing and talk with him about "the intercrossings between art, therapy, and the notion of 'wellness' in a time of financial collapse and un-negotiated austerity measures." His residency is a temporary home where you can contribute to his shared research or find him working through his encounters, while always seeing the world "as a construction, a project, and an intention." If you come visit his project room, remember that it's not only an artwork but a place of living and that you will not only be a viewer, but a potential friend. You probably already share many of the same questions about how to survive and it's nice to find a friend in this.


    Stride Gallery: http://www.stride.ab.ca/current.html
    Bogdan Cheta: Be what you want, but stay where you are continues until October 10.


    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. She can be followed on Twitter @andreawillsamin. This is her last review for Akimblog before she begins an MFA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College in the UK.


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    In stark contrast to the light-soaked canvases dominating the Art Gallery of Hamilton for its sprawling retrospective of William Blair Bruce, entering the underworld of Jenn E. Norton’s latest video installations is immediately disorienting. Hers is a thick darkness that demands a wary pause before daring to wade any deeper into the sway of videos sweeping across walls and floors – dark and slick as eels gliding at askew angles that swell and recede in tidal waves.



    Jenn E. Norton, Doldrums

    This seasickness is cultivated in every visual cue of Precipice, from the curved seashell of screens that come to life with a swimmer’s progress through a mass of floating paper to the outer circle’s depiction of an abandoned archive further estranged by a skin of water that captures the space, in the act of sinking, of Atlantis rising. This illusion of drowning is even more acute in Doldrums, which benefits from a fully immersive claim on its smaller space. Projections into mirrors throw undulating waves across the floor while capturing piercing points of light from the projectors that both blind the viewer and conspire with the video’s journey through an incandescent light bulb that compacts darkness to a diamond of moonlight over water – yet another uncanny yet pleasing parallel to the Blair Bruce paintings in the neighbouring gallery.

    Norton’s haunting, arresting vistas of overwhelming information are broken only by the unfortunate grinding noise of Norton’s third installation in the neighbouring gallery. Doline holds its thematic own with spinning towers of storage devices for obsolete media where the fake-wood-patterned banker’s boxes reinforce this contemplation of dead tree media. Despite their kinetic consistency, these corkscrewing objects drive their message hard into the concrete floor rather than letting it float like the best of Norton’s work: suspended, ambiguous, and free.


    Art Gallery of Hamilton: http://www.artgalleryofhamilton.com/
    Jenn E. Norton: Dredging a Wake continues until January 4.


    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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    Any one piece, no matter how small, by David Altmejd provides more than enough eye candy to justify a trip to see an exhibition. The two heads he has on display at Division Gallery– though one is actually half a head and the other is a head and a bit – are chock full of material detail with glass, hair, putty, crystal and various modelling compounds in evidence. Every inch of surface reveals something new, more often than not his unique combination of organic and mineral forms with their respective associations to sex and geology. They stand out as the work that is not like the others in this gathering of five mid-careerish Canadians who have managed to make something of a name for themselves beyond the national borders.



    Marc Séguin, Arctic River Pipeline, 2013, oil and charcoal on canvas

    In contrast to Altmejd’s busts, his four peers all work in two dimensions. Scott McFarland contributes a trio of landscapes presented as a single image (a flower garden and the strongest work largely due to the cryptic figure at its centre), a pair of contrasting views (of an unfinished house at dawn and dusk), and a series (that breaks up a section of the Badlands over time as well as space). They will come in handy for those of you who missed his AGO solo exhibition that closed earlier this month. Karel Funk’s one painting is his take on a vanitas still-life and a break from the hooded portraits that are really the paintings you want to see when you see his name listed as a participating artist. Graham Gillmore is represented with three of his text paintings and, while they have left me indifferent in the past (largely due to my antipathy to text in art), in this context they held my attention and I managed to look past the words (which has probably been the point all along) to see the overall visual construction with its many layers and painterly gestures. And then there are Marc Séquin’s canvases, which are sparse in comparison (and the one with the formerly live coyote reminds me – as do most works with dead animals – of student work). However, one in particular (Arctic River Pipeline) is worth a long lingering look-see because it combines two distinct media (oil and charcoal) to set up an unnerving balance of irresolution. Try as I might, I could not make sense of this giant archetype of the Canadian landscape. That, if you ask me, is what I call a good time.



    Janine Miedzik, Mantle, 2014, polyvinyl tarpaulin and fabric duct tape

    A similarly pleasing confusion can be found in the artistic duet on display at p|m Gallery. Jennie Suddick works mainly with white paper, carefully cut in detailed representations of the built environment or embossed without colour to create white-on-white reproductions of graffiti or a brushstroke (this latter series gives the exhibition its title – I was here– though that could be the unspoken name of every artist’s work). Janine Miedzick’s pieces, on the other hand, are plunked on the floor and are undeniably objects in the way they take up space. They are also vibrantly coloured with stripes of duct tape that cover the full spectrum mapping out the geometry of the tarps they adhere to. Or at least that’s what I assume. Miedzick leaves them crumpled or slumped so that any original order is lost in the warping of the material as it collapses under the weight of gravity. The apotheosis of this relinquishing of control is a massive polyvinyl quilt that has weathered this most un-seasonal of Augusts in the open courtyard behind the gallery proper. Draped from one wall and piled on the concrete, it serves to intrigue and frustrate anyone interested in what lies within its folds. As for how it relates to the delicate layers of cut paper inside, we have ten more days to come up with an answer.


    Division Gallery: http://www.galeriedivision.com/toronto/exhibitions
    Homecoming continues until August 23.

    p|m Gallery: http://pmgallery.ca/
    Janine Miedzick & Jennie Suddick: I was here continues to August 30.


    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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    Land Reform(ed) at Âjagemô invites the viewer to re-examine notions of the Canadian landscape in contemporary art. The exhibition is the first to be installed in the new gallery at the recently developed Performance Court where the Canada Council for the Arts is the anchor tenant. The Council moved there at the beginning of the year and Âjagemô opened in June to give the organization an attractive street presence. The space will be used to show off the holdings of the Canada Council Art Bank, which has been collecting Canadian artworks since 1972 and renting them to government and corporate clients. Land Reform(ed) offers a quick thematic tour as delineated over the past four decades by some of our nation’s greatest hit-makers.



    Dil Hildebrand, Camping Fishing, 2006 (photo: Brandon Clarida)

    Curated by Stanzie Tooth during an internship for her MFA at the University of Ottawa, the exhibition offers scant evidence that contemporary Canadian artists naïvely celebrate a direct communion with an unspoiled wilderness. The oldest work in the show, Michael Snow’s Log from 1973/74, portrays a highly mediated relationship with nature. The eponymous log is vertically stacked in four sections separated by plexiglass. It leans against the wall next to a similarly leaning plexiglass-mounted and sectioned photograph of the very same log, suggesting a crazy science experiment where the more closely you examine an object the more unfamiliar it becomes. Adjacent is a more recent work by Dil Hildebrand titled Camping Fishing. This painting of a woodland view also resembles a movie set, as its lower section reveals an artificial underside to the natural scene above. Even the most innocuous project on view, a series by Marlene Creates where the artist photographed her hand against tree trunks, demonstrates that Canadian artists do not leave the landscape untouched by their interventions.

    Âjagemô is an Algonquin word that means “crossroads.” By acknowledging its presence on unceded Algonquin territory, the gallery further implies that claims to the landscape in Canada do not always go uncontested. The complexity of the historical narrative of the North American landscape is reflected in Tooth’s choices for the exhibition. Arthur Renwick’s WO-QUI-NI (Roman Nose) opens up a gap between the landscape and its graphic depiction by literally punching a hole in its surface with a semi-colon cited from a related document. Part of a series whose titles are taken from the names of the Lakota warriors betrayed by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, this work could stand as a punctum for the entire exhibition.



    Kim Adams, Artists’ Colony (detail), 1987-89 (photo: Brandon Clarida)

    Viewers are exhorted by a didactic panel to think of the “crossroads” of Âjagemô as a meeting place where one can imagine new possibilities and consider taking untraveled roads. Land Reform(ed) offers plenty of opportunities to do just that. Kim Adams’ fanciful Artists' Colony is one example. Fashioned from model train miniatures, the work proposes a visionary utopia of sunbathers, fried chicken, and dancing horses. I noticed that the stacked railway cars providing ad hoc condo towers for the settlement bear the logo of the old Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo Railway, the same logo used today by the Hamilton-based artist collective TH&B. Perhaps they will be inspired to create a full-scale version of Adams’ colony for Steeltown.


    Âjagemô: http://canadacouncil.ca/council/ajagemo
    Land Reform(ed) continues until October 31.


    Michael Davidge is an artist, writer, and independent curator. 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 life of an art critic is one filled with regret, guilt, and reward. I felt all three last week on the occasion of my visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario. I regretted that I had, by leaving it so late in the season, missed Scott MacFarland’s Snow, Shacks, Streets, Shrubs exhibition. I knew I’d feel guilty if I didn’t catch works by Geoffrey Farmer and Matthew Barney that had already been up a while and were soon to close. And then, as happens more often than not, I was rewarded in a most unexpected way, not by something I was searching for, but by something I just happened to find.



    Wilfredo Prieto, One, 2008, diamond and diamond crystals

    Farmer’s piece is an intervention into the AGO’s storied Henry Moore collection. He’s restaged the original layout of the sculptor’s work and added a central phalanx of theatrical lighting and sound effects. I could do without the audio – it’s just a bit too much – but the visuals provide something of a clever remix to the elder artist’s work. You just have to catch it late in the day when the ambient light is at its lowest glare.

    Barney’s Drawing Restraint videos – two student works from the late eighties and a recent one from 2010 – make for a short survey of this most stellar of art stars. The trajectory of his career is marked by two points here with the early videos looking grainy and no frills (for added flavour they are displayed on tube monitors – a practice I’m seeing more often with vintage video) while the new work is high definition, professionally shot, and edited according to its ambiguous narrative of evocative architecture eliciting rituals of delving deep into the earth and climbing hubristically high into the sky. It’s worth the time to watch it all, but I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why the installation of these three pieces was so institutionally god-awful with all of them suspended like hospital waiting room TVs in a single barren room.

    After that I was left to explore the gallery’s current collection of contemporary work on display with some old standbys like David Altmejd’s The Index and Simon Starling’s own Henry Moore remix providing some hint as to the AGO’s potential. The pleasant surprise was a piece by Wilfredo Prieto that resembles a minimalist pile and, since it is roped off, can seem from a distance like giant circle of soap foam, but is in fact a play on the needle in a haystack but replayed in the context of conspicuous consumption. There is a diamond in that shiny mass but it is lost and/or hidden amongst millions of fakes. Once that seed is planted by the work’s title card, its value can never be completely resolved.



    Celia Neubauer, Launch, 2014, oil on canvas

    After wrestling with concept-heavy installations, it was a further reward to experience the light and airy abstractions of Celia Neubauer at General Hardware on a day when I was feeling the full effect of gravity. It might have been because she mentioned the cosmic in her artist statement and I had read the phrase “speculative realism” in a recent email, but I kept thinking of science fiction as I moved around the gallery. This admittedly had nothing to do with the actual critique of metaphysics the phrase connotes, but it evokes the imagined worlds that were often depicted on the covers of pulp sci-fi of the sixties when science, psychedelic drugs, and surrealism overlapped in the both the writing and the accompanying imagery. Neubauer exercises a remarkable restraint in only suggesting this in her content as well as in her application of paint in light washes that appear variously as cloud formations, light patterns, and diaphanous architecture. Some of it gets a bit too diaphanous and risks fading into oblivion, but that’s the precipice she’s exploring and I’m more than willing to follow along.


    Art Gallery of Ontario: http://www.ago.net/exhibitions
    Geoffrey Farmer: Every day needs an urgent whistle blown into it continues until September 7.
    Matthew Barney: Drawing Restraint continues until September 28.

    General Hardware Contemporary: http://generalhardware.ca/
    Celia Neubauer: Oblivion continues until August 30.


    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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    Our relationship to death and mourning is explored in Presence of Absence, the collaborative exhibition of fine craft by Catherine Beck and Jeffrey Cowling currently on view at the Mary E. Black Gallery. Beck looks to the Victorian-era practice of remembering those we have lost by preserving the hair of the deceased. She incorporates carefully braided strands of hair into her jewellery to create a direct physical connection to the person who has passed away. The work underscores the fragility of our corporeal lives, capturing the fleeting moment we spend here on this planet, while also reconnecting us to our own mortality and impermanence.



    Jeffrey Cowling, Imhotep Funerary Urn, 2014, wenge, handmarbled paper, leather, gold, beeswax

    Cowling’s reliquary boxes and urns are precise geometric architectural forms finely crafted from exotic woods and precious metals. They keep the deceased present through their attempt to record and preserve someone’s life and character. The work of both artists demand physical space. Their objects are made to live in our homes and on our bodies. They exist as material reminders of the person who is no longer a part of our ongoing lived experience. Since they reside in our personal space, we are required to care for and interact with them continually. Our society has become void of mourning in many ways – our dying are sent to “centres for living,” cemeteries are fenced off and placed far afield from our lives; death itself is no longer a household reality or an everyday part of life, but a clinical experience. For most of us, death is not present. Beck and Cowling, in their memorial objects, bring it back.


    Mary E. Black Gallery: http://www.craft-design.ns.ca/exhibits/current-exhibition
    Catherine Beck & Jeffrey Cowling: Presence of Absence continues until August 31.


    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, is Akimblog’s Halifax correspondent, and can be followed on Twitter @HighamDaniel.


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