Things of Desire Issue #4

September 11, 2008

Ahoy hoy! I hope you are loving your now weekly dosage of Can-alt-art news. Sadly, I must admit I was remiss in my initial claim to cross-Canada art coverage. I had been terribly overlooking poor Saskatchewan. But thanks to CARFAC Saskatchewan the problem has been fixed. So, look forward to hip art coverage from Weyburn to North Battleford. And don’t forget to subscribe to Things of Desire by launching an email to thingsofdesire@gmail.com. Enjoy!
—Mike Landry

Amplified Intimacies

September 11, 2008

By Stacey Ho
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Adad Hannah and Niklas Roy's "International Dance Party."

Virtual reality, today, is everyday experience. Far from science fiction, technological interfaces mediate how we talk, play, and learn.

Amplified Intimacies, an upcoming group show by Interstices, explores how these new technologies shape and change the way we get along. Formed in 2000, this creative, academic group began, appropriately, out of a need to communicate about new media.

“Games are such a huge thing now,” says Lynn Hughes. “They dominate the entertainment market, and yet art schools don’t deal with them.”

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Six Decades of Bruce Head

September 11, 2008

By Mike Landry
Bruce Head's "Summer Camp," 1965. Collection of Great-West Life.

Bruce Head's "Summer Camp," 1965. Collection of Great-West Life.

When the Winnipeg Art Gallery first decided to hold a five decade retrospective exhibition of seminal local artist Bruce Head the artist only had one problem—he was into his sixth decade of work.

So, Head called up Winnipeg’s Ken Segal Gallery, and arranged to have his sixth decade shown simultaneously with his fist five. Not that all of Head’s most recent works are new. Half of them are works he started 15-20 years ago with “tremendous possibilities.”

“I’ve never shown everything I’ve got. Over the years when my contemporaries were going to Europe and that, I was raising five kids and didn’t go anywhere,” says Head. “I had the space to keep it and ended up accumulating a hell of a lot of work.”

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Second Hand Records

September 11, 2008

By Mike Landry
One of Suzie Smith's sil-screen altered record covers.

One of Suzie Smith's silk-screen altered record covers.

American singer Anita Bryant may be a devout Christian and anti-gay crusader, but it’s nothing that Winnipeg-based artist Suzie Smith can’t fix. For her latest project, Second Hand Records, uses silk-screen techniques to mask off and add new images to second hand record covers.

Covering up Bryant’s crucifix chain and the bible she clutches on the cover for her 1962 album, Abiding Love, Smith then surrounds Bryant with menacing dark clouds to create a whole new meaning from the original.

“The project is about communication and media, by what you choose to reveal and what you choose to conceal can say a lot, and you can totally reinterpret that,” says Smith. “It’s almost more like when you’re a little kid and you draw a mustache on something. It’s just taking it further and making a backwards collage of sorts.”

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The Swimmers

September 11, 2008

By Mike Landry
A video still from Chistophe Jivraj's video insallation, "The Swimmers."

A video still from Christophe Jivraj's video installation, "The Swimmers."

Montreal-based photo/video artist Christophe Jivraj’s doesn’t like to refer to the people featured in his work as subjects. They’re his clients, and, more importantly, his friends.

They’re also students at the Centre d’Activitief Recreatif et Educatief (CARE), in Montreal’s NDG—a school for cognitively lucid and severely physically disabled adults. Jivraj has been photographing and working with them for three years. For his latest work, The Swimmers, is an atmospheric video taken underwater of them swimming.

“Creating this video installation was more like trying to put other people into my shoes and see how beautifully bizarre everything I do with them is,” says Jivraj. “You see these bizarre bodies floating around you, you do get sensorally challenged. You feel like you‘re under water, and you feel the weightlessness. But then you see the bizarreness, and the terrifying tranquility of all of it.”

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By Mike Landry
One of the drawings culled from Tony Scherman's drawers for "Intimate Drawings."

One of Tony Scherman's intimate drawings.

In a 2007 interview published in Border Crossings, Robert Enright referred to the work of Toronto painter Tony Scherman as, “the everyday raised to the level of the monumental.” How fitting it is then that Scherman’s latest exhibition Intimate Drawings focuses on his daily drawings culled from his drawers.

The exhibition was conceived as being something less formal in nature. And rather having any overarching theme, the show is just about drawing. He says if the show has any meaning it will be in the drawings.

“Drawing is kind of like playing scales in painting,” says Scherman. “Drawing is contingent. The paper’s already lit and I’m just passing through. The arrow of time only goes one way in drawing; once you’ve used up all the light you’re done.”

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Beaver Tales

September 11, 2008

By Mike Landry
Beaver Tales.

Check out Mary Ann Barkhouse's "Persevere," at Beaver Tales.

Living in Downtown Toronto it’s hard to relate to the stuff of Canadiana iconography. Heck, I couldn’t tell a maple leaf from an oak leaf. And yet images of beavers, moose, and other iconography are everywhere.

To illustrate why these images are so pervasive Rachel Gotlieb and Martha Kelleher in their exhibition Beaver Tales: Canadian Art and Design have brought together more than 100 pieces from artists, designers, and craft makers working over the last two centuries. The exhibition threads together souvenirs and Emily Carr by their consistent use in Canadian flora and fauna up to today.

“We’ve just taken them for granted. We look at the quarter and say yup and flip it over the counter,” says Kelleher. “This exhibition may be a way, I hope, to show these iconic images are meant to be important to our culture and our country.”

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Saved Paradise

September 11, 2008

By Stacey Ho
An image from Lisa Neighbour's "Erratic Theatre" at The Tree Museum.

An image of Lisa Neighbour's "Erratic Theatre" at The Tree Museum.

Took all the trees, put ‘em in a tree museum/ And they charge the people a dollar and a half just to see them. Like the song it takes its name from, The Tree Museum celebrates a spirit of environmentalism, acting as a haven for both nature and culture.

For the past eleven years, this 200-acre area in Muskoka has hosted an annual exhibition of site-specific works, featuring both emerging and internationally renowned artists.

“The first year, there was no road. We had to walk in with tools,” says EJ Lightman. “The second year, the Tree Museum’s house was built on the original foundations of a farmhouse, but we had the opening in the garage.”

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On a Sunnyside Mourning

September 11, 2008

By Mike Landry
A vintage view of the Parkdale of yore.

A vintage view of the Parkdale of yore.

Home to the roller coaster with the “dippiest dips on of the continent,” Sunnyside Amusement Park was once Canada’s Coney Island. People would flock to Toronto’s then affluent Parkdale neighbourhood for its beach, restaurant and dancing.

Standing on the corner of Ronscavalles, King and Queen Street West with the noise from the Gardiner Expressway and the streetcar depot it’s hard to imagine Sunnyside ever existed. Torn down in 1955 to make room for the Gardiner Expressway, only the Sunnyside Pool and Bathing Pavilion and the Palais Royale buildings survive as relics. But one site-specific performance piece, On a Sunnyside Mourning looks to resurrect the park.

“The park stood as a beacon for the development of Toronto, and sadly no one really knows much about this park at all anymore. Mainly because no one ever goes down to the waterfront anymore,” says Laura Mendes, co-head of Toronto’s Labspace Studio and performance participant. “The Gardner hasn’t just severed our relation to the waterfront, it’s severed its history.”

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Marginalia Math

September 11, 2008

By Mike Landry
Pam Hall's "History House" made up of 1320 art squares.

Pam Hall's "History House" made up of 1320 art squares.

Veteran performance artist Margaret Dragu isn’t used to having so much stuff. Fabrics, paints, threads and artwork litters her home. And she can blame visual artist Pam Hall for that.

The pair have been cooperating on their project Marginalia Math for almost five years now. With Dragu in BC and Hall in Newfoundland the pair keep daily email contact and have sent more than a thousand art squares across the country.

“We called them memory clothes because they’re about our day to day history that we share with each other,” says Dragu. “Each square was representing one foot, like one step of us trying to walk together. So in a way we were creating a path or a railway to each other with each of these fabric squares.”

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Shelley Mansel’s All That

September 11, 2008

By Mike Landry
Shelley Mansel

Mansel's "Red Tarps," part her new Urban Cathedrals series.

In She’s All That, the 1999 remake of Pygmilion Freddie Prinze Jr. stars as the high school hunk who bets he can turn any girl into Prom Queen. Lucky for him his “nerdy artist” is Rachael Leigh Cook who takes off her glasses, lets down her hair and changes from paint-stained overalls to pretty dresses. It’s this same “challenge” that Halifax-based artist Shelley Mansel embarked in her latest painting series, Urban Cathedrals, of warehouses and buildings under construction.

In the series Mansel has taken typically unappealing images and challenged herself to find the beauty in them. Fortunately for her, and Mr. Prinze Jr., the beauty is naturally there—in the linear and graphic qualities of the images she used as models.

“I’ve been dealing with modernization in my work a lot, but in a seductive way so that it’s a double-edged painting,” says Mansel. “You can read it two ways: either as a seductive view of modernity, or as a parasitic element of modernity.”

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Blood, Sweat and Art

September 11, 2008

By Mike Landry
Lewis Hine's classic portrayal of the American worker.

Lewis Hine's "Power house mechanic working on steam pump."

It’s easy to dismiss the 19th century from our everyday lives. It was an era of Napoleonic wars, slave trading and the wild west. But it also was an era that saw the invention of the bicycle, stethoscope, refrigerator, vacuum cleaner and modern computing.

The exhibition Blood, Sweat and Tears: Labour in Art at the Art Gallery of Hamilton aims to show how the 19th century is still alive today. Providing visitors with not just beautiful art from the 19th to the mid-20th century, the show also intends to provide a greater sense of history.

“We’re still continuing that trend of total transformation, which we first saw in the 19th century in industry and the move away from agriculture and the market,” says Dr. Patrick Shaw Cable, who curated the exhibition. “As a person working in an office for a big computer firm it might be interesting for people to be reminded in this day and age who’s making all the money for these workers.”

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