Things of Desire Issue #2

August 21, 2008

Hi all! Welcome to the second issue of Things of Desire. I’d first like to give a big Michael Jordan slam dunk high five to everyone who took the time to check out the first issue and for all your kind words. This week the blogzine once again has arts news from coast to coast, with a glut of stories from Halifax for my Haligonian homies. I apologize for the lack of Albertan representation, but I promise in two weeks we’ll return to satiate your Albertan art appetite. If you would like to subscribe to Things of Desire just shoot an email to thingsofdesire@gmail.com. Enjoy!
—Mike Landry

By Stacey Ho

A photo from Ron Benner's "Trans/mission: African Vectors."

Thinking back to elementary school, I recall that vectors are lines that start at a point and go on forever. Using plants as a starting point, Ron Benner has been drawing lines that trace the historical, cultural and political, in a body of work that spans over twenty years. The work follows the complex functions of plants, which can simultaneously act as a source of sustenance and as a tool in warfare.

“Food,” says Benner, “can be used as a weapon: you can withhold it from people, you can starve people. When you hear of a famine, you can be sure that ninety percent of the time, it is not caused by nature. People are starving because of warfare, politics. People are starving because of the way food is distributed.”

A new book, Gardens of a Colonial Present, documents two of Benner’s installations, As the Crow Flies and Trans/mission Vectors, as well as the outdoor garden installations springing from these works.

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The Cow Goes Moo

August 21, 2008

By Mike Landry

David Harper's "When the rain comes" photo: Steve Farmer

The sheep goes baa. The pig goes oink oink. And the director of the Dalhousie University Art Gallery, Peter Dykhuis, goes wild with his new show Exalted Beings: Animal Relationships. Rather than featuring artists describing animals, Dykhuis, who curated the show, found artists who use animals to expose our relationships with ourselves.

The idea for the show came to him almost a decade ago after watching Kelly Mark‘s video, Sniff, wherein a cat is shown sniffing various human objects like a knife, a beer bottle and a bible, with indifference.

“Since the first time I saw it I just knew it was a really profound work of art,” says Dykhuis. “It wasn’t about the cat as subject matter, and it wasn’t necessarily about the human being, but it was about the relationship of objects from human culture to animal culture.”

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Death in Winnipeg

August 21, 2008

By Mike Landry

Casey Howard's "Nigel the Worrier."


Wanda Luna only had to do a quick Google search for “death” to know she was onto something— 646,000,000 results told her The Death Show would be her biggest event yet.

“This title really has hit it off with everybody,” says Wanda Luna, director of Winnipeg’s Estudio Luna. “It’s a huge subject. Everybody thinks about it. It doesn’t matter what walk of life you’re from, you think about it.”

Conceived as a sort of traveling carnival/gallery, Estudio Luna is a one night exhibition of art and entertainment, and a fundraiser for a selected cause. With five shows under her belt, Luna says The Death Show will be the biggest yet. With more than 40 pieces to show and 300 tickets sold, she even had to book a bigger venue.

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Fine Art Furniture

August 21, 2008

By Mike Landry

One of Alisdair MacRae's handbuilt peices of furniture.

The Shakers may be so celibate they’re on the brink of extinction, but they’ve fathered a killer show from Ottawa’s Alisdair MacRae.

The installation artist has built 20 pieces of furniture from original, found and Shakers designs for a solo exhibition titled A Thousand Years to Live. The title comes from a quote from the Shakers’ Mother Ann Lee who said, “Do all your work as though you had a thousand years to live; and as you would if you knew you must die tomorrow.”

“They lived this incredibly chaste hardworking lifestyle. I can’t stay I really aspire to it, but there’s a certain appeal,” says MacRae. “[The quote] puts you in a frame of mind where you want to take time with things and have patience, but at the same time make the most use of whatever hours you have in a day.”

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New from Apple, the iTree

August 21, 2008

By Stacey Ho

From hundred dollar laptops and hybrid cars to biodegradable grocery bags, new designs for everyday objects suggest a new fusion between consumption and sustainability. Likewise, plant(iPod)installation uses sound, sculpture and narrative to imagine a new synthesis between nature and technology.

In this exhibition, Jane Tingley combines steel and delicately carved cork to create ‘prosthetics’ that cradle houseplants, so that “they’re being nurtured by technology rather than being used by it.”

Electronic elements mesh into organic ones, resulting in poetic hybrids of the two. Different recordings of breathing convolve with a textural sound collage of mechanical noise to envelope the space in a sound like breathing water. As a viewer walks through the exhibition, sensors are triggered so that a story emits out of speakers which are hidden amongst the leaves of each plant.

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Samuel Chow Plays God

August 21, 2008

By Mike Landry

A film still from Samuel Chow's "I'm Feeling Lucky."

“It could be anything and everything. I’m trying not to tell you anything because I’m not telling anyone anything that’s in it,” explains multimedia artist Samuel Chow about his latest work. “That’s the whole point of the project in some ways.”

Titled I’m Feeling Lucky in homage to Google’s search button, Chow weaves video, art and a computer program he created to make a random path network video. The computer program creates a random, non-linear narrative to create a unique experience for each viewer.

“The whole entire piece is kind of an allegory on our virtual existence and how that interrelates in our everyday physical existence. It’s taking on that idea that sometimes you don’t know what you’re going to get when you go online as voyeurs. It’s that sense of unknowing.”

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Wag the Dog

August 21, 2008

By Mike Landry

A snapshot of "The Blair Bush Project" and its rotating screen.

When America marched into Iraq for a second time in 2003 Vancouver artists Faith Moosang and Christoph Runne protested the aggression by projecting video onto the American embassy. Five years later, just as America has stuck to their guns, so have they.

The pair’s latest commentary on the war, The Blair and Bush Project, makes its way to Kelowna after showing in Prague’s national gallery. An ambitious combination of content and technique, The Blair Bush Project is a full force attack on the senses.

When asked why they continue to focus on the war, the answer is simple. “Because it’s happening. I need to be able to respond and I think Christophe does to,” says Moosang. “It’s been going on so long its been normalized. But it’s not normal. We’re at war.”

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By Stacey Ho

Eleanor King's dried paint bathing suits.

Sometimes funny things happen in ordinary ways. While working a gallery gig in Halifax, Eleanor King became intrigued by the objects used in the gallery for installations, specifically, paint-roller trays. Peeling away the dried latex house paint left on a tray, King found the resulting layer had molded into the tray to make a patterned and feminine shape. King then started layering paint in her own studio, fashioning the casted paint into sculptural bathing suits, complete with straps and trim.

This isn’t the first time that everyday ephemera has inspired art. A recent installation considered the simple structural qualities of discarded coffee cups. King stacked one cup on top of another, letting the paper towers bend to create precarious curves.

“A lot of my work is a response to material,” says King, “allowing the material to do what it does inherently.”

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Never Have I Ever…

August 21, 2008

By Mike Landry

Kristin Stoesz's "Never Have I Ever (been a cosmonaut)"

I reach Isabelle Carrier on her cell phone while she’s riding the bus in downtown Ottawa. At just 22-years-old Carrier doesn’t have much experience being interviewed, but despite the jostling crowd and screeching bus she handles herself marvelously.

Carrier doesn’t mind trying new things, and her upcoming show at La Petite Mort Gallery proves it. She’s curated a small show called Never Have I Ever.

“A lot of it was pushing our boundaries and forcing us to go further than we’ve gone before either artistically or with subject matter,” says Carrier.

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Uh-Oh, Canada

August 21, 2008

By Mike Landry

FASTWURMS' "Flag" installation

Ryan Rice’s touring exhibition Anthem: Perspectives on Home and Native Land is winding up its three city run at Halifax’s Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery. It’s an interesting last stop given the controversy ceramist Léopold Foulem caused last year in Halifax with his black-faced Santa Clause coffeepot.

The exhibition didn’t raise any hullabaloo in Ottawa or Banff, but MSVU gallery director Ingrid Jenkner says “it is possible that people outside the campus would find some of this difficult to accept.” She doubts it will though.

“I don’t think the works are deliberately controversial. They’re much more subtle than that, says Jenkner. “I think the show is more about collapsing boundaries than erecting them.”

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By Mike Landry

A portrait of Guy Berube and his mother

Billed as “an evening of art, kink, music, video, smut, art, performance, and a few surprises” and promising “to once again shock, stimulate, titillate, unnerve, and as usual, attract the cops ,” there’s no doubt Holy Fuck 5 at Ottawa’s La Petite Mort Gallery is the party of the week.

This year the event features contortionist Sara Banks, performance artist Andrew Harwood in drag as a gypsy fortune reader, and art from Daryl Vocat. But the real star of the night is gallery owner Guy Bérubé’s mother.

“Holy Fuck is actually what came out of mouth when I was sitting at the doctors next to my mom and the doctor said to my mom you have Alzheimer’s,” says Bérubé. “It’s literally what came out of mouth and it’s how I felt ever since.”

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Welcome!

August 7, 2008

Thanks for joining Things of Desire for our first issue. Although envisioned as a weekly roundup of what’s going on in Canadian galleries, this lofty initiative was soon grounded by reality and Things of Desire will now be updated every second Thursday. If you would like to receive future issues on Things of Desire, please shoot an email at thingsofdesire@gmail.com. Special thanks to Sue Carter Flinn for all her encouragement and support. Enjoy!

By Mike Landry

If there’s one thing the 21st century is not, says Todorovic Gallery owner Ljubica Todorovic, it’s cultured. She only has to step out of her Gallery into downtown Calgary to know it.

“My parents are from Europe, and I grew up here in Calgary, and it’s so cultureless. It’s all so corporate,” says Todorovic. “What you do is you go to the mall, downtown becomes dead at night. Everyone thinks that Calgary is a horse/cowboy town, but it’s not. It’s just so cultureless.”

That’s why Todorovic is encouraging Calgarians to art up their life with her latest show How to Wow the Neighbours: Redecorate your life with new works by talented artists.

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By Mike Landry

When I reach Toronto artist Nicholas Di Genova on the phone he’s in the middle of a nap on his picnic table. Given that he’s in the middle of a new work—27,000 butterflies on a 4×6.5 foot piece of paper—napping isn’t something you would have found him doing seven years ago. Di Genova admits he’s just grown up a little bit.

“I think for a 22-year-old I had my fair share of problems. I was a lot more aggressive; I was a lot more into aggressive things; and I was a lot more into quick art,” says Di Genova. “I’ve just chilled out. I’m a little less likely to just rip a piece up if it takes more than a week to do.”

To help send off his old work, Di Genova has partnered with Magic Pony and Spanish magazine Belio to launch a collection of his earlier work and present a solo exhibition. The collection is part of Belio’s “Die Young” series, which documents emerging international artists, illustrators and designers.

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By Mike Landry

I think someone at the programming staff at the Diane Farris Gallery is a fan of Clueless, Amy Heckerling’s 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma. In case you don’t remember, romantic comedy ensues in Emma as a result of a portrait. In Clueless the portrait is replaced with a photograph. Unlike most of Heckerling’s wonder-piece this slight change in plot ends up falling flat, because portraiture is more than a simple capture of person.

This aspect of portraiture will be on display at the gallery’s upcoming show, Portrayal. Various gallery artists including Wil Murray along with guest artists Angela Grossmann and Nick Lepard will present different styles of portraiture.

“We have a variety of quite talented artists that range from emerging to seasoned artists that work in portraiture,” says Christopher Fadden. “So we wanted to explore the different realms from the young to the more established and it’s just a beautiful of artwork.”

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By Stacey Ho

Ron Pollock had given up on stardom long ago. It was when The Pollock and Pollock Gossip Show, a wild community-access television show hosted with his sister Natalie, was abruptly canceled in 1989. However, with the help of Daniel Barrow’s touring video archive, The Winnipeg Babysitter, audiences were once again introduced to “Nifty Natalie” and “Rockin’ Ron.” Witnessing the audience’s reaction encouraged Ron Pollock to begin working on a new project after nearly twenty years. “I saw it,” he says. “They were laughing like crazy.”

The new piece, Spanking Joni Mitchell, looks at “the changing roles of women, with rock ‘n roll as a backdrop” and involves working with teen girls, interviewing them about their life experiences. He then develops strategies to draw these emotions out on camera.

“I’ve done some scripting,” says Pollock, “but I’d rather have an outline, and talk with actresses to see if I can get them to use their own emotions rather than a script.”

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By Mike Landry

The non-descript barn on the property in Campbellville, Ontario may have been torn down, but it stands strong in Guelph artist Scott Pattinson‘s acrylics. The barn was on a property Pattinson had been living on four years ago.

The acclaimed architect-turned-abstract artist was so enthralled by the positive energy, craftsmanship, and age of the old barn that his latest series Silence on images. Using other colours as a base, rather than the black that dominated his previous works, Silence abstract images are light yet complex. It’s a simple change that reflects Pattinson’s desire for people to, “get your selves right into things and question things around us.”

“The idea of the barn is that most people would walk into a barn and go “is a barn.” But what really do spaces mean,” asks Pattinson. “The built environments we create are so often done without much thought and sensibility, so we don’t question it.”

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By Mike Landry

Surreal, fabricated, extraterrestrial—three unlikely words Jen Hutton uses to describe a blue and pink ice/snow pile outside an ice rink.

She noticed the pile accidentally when leaving her suburban hometown of St. Mary’s, Ontario. Hutton was so intrigued by the unusual shape and placement of the snow she’s created a 500sq/ft structure based on it for Ecotecture Canada and the DeLeon White Gallery

“It’s funny, because I had recently come back to that formation over the past couple of months—was interested in it as a land form, just this incongruous thing,” says Hutton. “I really liked this fantasy side of it and I thought I could really manipulate that somehow.”

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By Mike Landry

If walking a mile in someone’s shoes really builds understanding, participants in Eryn Foster’s latest project are about to get a compassion overload. For the second project in her New Canadian Pilgrimages, interdisciplinary artist Eryn Foster is currently walking the perimeter of PEI.

Unlike the first NCP experiment last year, walking from Halifax to Sackville, New Brunswick, Foster has made this walk interactive. Visitors to Sackville, New Brunswick’s Struts Gallery can experience the walk with the Virtual Pilgrimage Machine—a treadmill set up with a telephone and headset set to call Foster on her cell phone. There will also be a large map on the wall for visitors to flag the distance they walked with Foster.

“It’s partially a little experiment in the actual and virtual experience,” says Foster. “It is a play on the idea of communication and how you can connect with someone… physically you’re separated while at the same time doing the same thing.”

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Taking Two to Tango

August 7, 2008

By Stacey Ho

duet is born from reworking the same set of gestures over the span of three years. However, for Montreal artist Andrew Forster, throughout this process, the gestures have always retained their own power. For him, “You don’t ever forget where they come from.”

Taken from footage released to the media, duet echoes the movements of a young suicide bomber, stopped at an Israeli army checkpoint. The boy, following instructions shouted to him from off camera, removes first the bomb he is carrying, then his clothing.

We are presented with a 40-minute video with two performers. The first performer re-enacts the movements of the Palestinian boy, beginning with “very subtle gestures, facial gestures and twitches, [which] gradually builds.” Another performer reflects the heightening tension by initiating the movements of the first performer, then trying to stop them.

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Moncton Rocks

August 7, 2008

By Mike Landry

Stefan St-Laurent may have moved from Moncton in 1990 when he was 19-years-old, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have love for his hometown. Along with fellow ex-pat and SAW Gallery Director, Tam-Co Vo-Van, St-Laurent has organized a retrospective of Moncton art and music culture from the late 60’s to today.

Capping off the Moncton Rock exhibition is a night celebrating Moncton film. The featured films chronicle Moncton’s underground music, art, television scenes, and how they’re all tied to the city’s Acadian history.

“It’s like a coming together that’s fun for us to coordinate…It was really fun to fill the generational gaps,” says St-Laurent.

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By Mike Landry

Artist-run centres are pretty cool, but, like a ten-year-old circa 1990 with Reebok Pumps and steps shaved into his hair, Edmonton’s Latitude 53 might just be the coolest kid in its class.

Latitude 53 is wrapping up the second summer of its Rooftop Patio Series—a one of a kind event where the centre blends art, music, drinks, and its sun-drenched rooftop patio. This year the series features weekly guest hosts such as Gilbert Bouchard from the Edmonton Journal, Nokomis clothing, and the University of Alberta’s young alumni.

Designed as a relaxed summer fundraiser, Sydney Lancaster, Latitude 53’s administration’s officer, says it was “a no-brainer” to decide to do another series this summer.

“Rather than doing a huge one off event, we thought the rooftop patio would be a great relaxed way to bring in some revenue to the gallery, have a good time, and connect with the larger Edmonton community,” says Lancaster.

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