Orientalism and Ephemera

October 23, 2008

By Stacey Ho
Krista Buecking

Julie Sando photograph "Oriental Rose." photo: Krista Buecking

Jamelie Hassan has been in conversation with Edward Said for quite sometime. Said’s pivotal 1979 publication, Orientalism, examined and challenged inscribed Western notions of the exotic Far East. Thirty years later, though the standard is to claim an acceptance of all cultures, this East/West binary remains. One particularly relevant example in North America is how the Middle East still figures as a foreboding singular body, full of religious fanatics, terrorists.

“A lot of the stereotypes are operating in the present tense,” says Hassan. “They allow us to invade their countries and destroy every aspect of their culture. If we look at the history of Afghanistan, one needs to revisit [Orientalism], actually read the book and become familiar with the text from different vantage points and different bodies of knowledge. This has filtered in so many ways into our social context.”

However, despite Orientalism‘s wide social scope, Hassan’s relationship to the text is personal, having read the book early on. The exhibition Orientalism and Ephemera is an idiosyncratic acknowledgment of Said’s influence on Hassan’s thinking, one that expands and contracts according to the exhibition space and the developing dialog between artists, viewers and Hassan herself.

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Surface Dwellers

October 23, 2008

By Mike Landry
One of faux finishing veteran Rod Mireau's sculptures.

One of faux finishing veteran Rod Mireau's sculptures.

Eight years ago Ross Bonfanti, fresh out of art college, stepped into the world  with a fine arts diploma in hand and only pennies in his pockets. He wanted to find a job that could pay the bills and related to art so he could continue to grow as an artist. That’s when he landed a job in the faux finishing industry.

“It was kind of exciting to work with faux finishing, because they were doing a lot of commercial gigs. You’d be going into places building scaffolding and learning different finishes,” says Bonfanti. “I did it to gain experience, experiment with new material and also make a little bit of money.”

Bonfanti’s story isn’t uncommon in the art community. And for his coming exhibition at Toronto’s AWOL Gallery he’s brought together some artists he met during his tenure as a faux finisher. The show will highlight each artist using a larger work along with a couple of small “samples,” which are used in the faux business by designers and clients to show their ideas.

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Empty Orchestra

October 16, 2008

By Mike Landry
A photo from inside Karen Tam's "Tchang Tchou Karaoke Lounge."

A photo from inside Karen Tam's "Tchang Tchou Karaoke Lounge."

Maiko Tanaka’s earliest memories of karaoke involve late nights, laughter and adults acting shockingly un-adult-like. Tanaka and her brother, unable to sleep from the noise, would sneak to the stairs and watch the scene below through the banisters wondering what was going on.

Her parents had immigrated to Canada from Japan, and had brought their love of karaoke along with them. Young Tanaka was introduced to the strange Japanese country-sounding songs by other Japanese immigrants crooning in her living room. Her new exhibition Empty Orchestra, which she co-curated with Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival art director Heather Keung, examines the impact of karaoke from her home to her neighbourhood, across generations and borders.

“I’ve been doing [karaoke] since high school—probably 300 times. I can’t get enough of it. It’s really the most fun communal activity you can do with your friends,” says Tanaka. “I also love shameful pop music.”

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By Mike Landry
An image from Jean-Denis Boudreau's "The Last Show."

An image from Jean-Denis Boudreau's "The Last Show."

Jennifer Bélanger likes to think of herself as an adopted Acadian. Although she was born in Edmundston her parents were both from Ontario. With a last name like Bélanger it’s not hard for her to pass for l’Acadie.

But it could be that her own personal mixed notion of identity is playing a role in a new exhibition she’s co-curating with full-on Acadian Mario Doucette called Biographies: Un regard contemporain sur l’Acadie. The show brings together eight contemporary Acadian artists who deal directly or indirectly with notions of identity. It’s a theme that may be influenced, but Bélanger says isn’t limited to, Acadian heritage.

“I tend to look at these artists in a broader way. To see what they’re doing within the whole spectrum of contemporary art. The fact they’re Acadian, I suppose, it’s secondary for me. But that might be because I’m not really Acadian.”

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Retelling Anne

October 9, 2008

By Mike Landry
Bonnie Lewis', "Nasty Girls (Pearl)."

Bonnie Lewis', "Nasty Girls (Pearl)."

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Anne of Green Gables the University of Guelph’s Macdonald Stewart Arts Centre has created a contemporary response to Anne. Retelling Anne brings together the work of six female emerging artists working in a variety of media that feature Anne of Green Gables as their launching point. However, the works are a far cry from literal representations of either Anne or Lucy Maud Montgomery.

“Lucy Maud was a pioneer, not just as a writer but as a female writer,” says curator Dawn Owen. “That kind of creativity and independence she obtained 100 years ago as a published writer really paved the way for a lot of the creativity from women today. So, it was really important to cement the idea of the continuing evolution of creative practice”

Instead of literally retelling the story of Anne, the show looks at bits and pieces from the books that resonate in the artists’ contemporary work. None of the artists have ever met each other, or been exhibited together. The exhibition is meant to really challenge the work, because of the context in which it’s being shown, and create a new community of voices.

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