Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Great Stone Face

I laughed, cried and split my side while writing a text to contribute to the catalogue for I Laughed, I Cried, I Split My Side an exhibition organized and curated by Dagmara Genda for AKA artist-run centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan from 2 May to 20 June, 2014. The exhibition explores the manner in which horror and humour intersect in works by the artists Kyle Beal (Calgary), Erica Eyres (Glasgow, UK), Christine Negus (London, ON) and Shanell Papp (Lethbridge, AB).

Christine Negus, Ditto, 2013
, engraved razor blade, silver thread.

The catalogue was launched on June 19 at the Frances Morrison Central Library in Saskatoon as part of  a night of book sales, signings and readings to celebrate and launch recent exhibition catalogues and publications produced by galleries in Saskatoon, including AKA artist-run centre, BlackFlash Magazine, College Art Galleries/Kenderdine Art Gallery, Kimiwan Zine, Mendel Art Gallery, and PAVED arts.

The following is an excerpt from my essay, The Great Stone Face:

“When stand-up comics perform, they either “kill” or “die.” The use of these words in comedic shop talk reveals an antagonistic power dynamic between comedians and their audience. But the artists in the exhibition I Laughed, I Cried, I Split My Side are not your garden variety comedians. They are different, as Dagmara Genda notes in her curatorial essay. They are deadpan. The deadpan inhabits an ambivalent, ambiguous zone of the undead where the rules that distinguish between killing and dying don’t necessarily apply. As in the etymology of the word, the deadpan presents a dead “pan” or face, like Buster Keaton’s great, emotionless, stone face.”

The complete text, and more, was available for a short period of time on the AKA website as a downloadable e-text pdf. Now, in order to get a copy you will have to look for Tragedy Plus Time.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Rehab Nazzal at the Karsh-Masson Gallery in Ottawa

In each work in the exhibition Invisible, at the Karsh-Masson Gallery from 9 May to 22 June 2014, the artist Rehab Nazzal employs a formal device that actually obstructs the full expression of the content presented. For example, the 2010 video Bil'in combines the sound of a crowd getting tear gassed with out-of-focus images and abstract flashes of colour, as if the camera too were blinded by tear gas. At the heart of the exhibition are works that utilize found footage of a military exercise at a prison in Israel resulting in the injury and death of Palestinian political prisoners. Frames from the Negev Prison is an installation of 1,700 4"x 6" digital prints that runs the length of one gallery wall. The individual prints make up a mosaic that represents a highly pixelated image, with completely black "tiles" indicating footage that was suppressed by the authorities, and others offering only limited views of the events.

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

In an artist's talk on June 1, Nazzal said her work formalizes the process of making visible that which has been suppressed. The works remain incomplete in order to betray the force of suppression. Above all, the works invite the viewer to look further into what is only being partially presented. Most certainly, Nazzal's exhibition and the works within it have made the dialogic visible, creating the space for a polyvocal response.

I wrote about the exhibition on the June 17 Akimblog. For the complete text, click on  the following link.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Petra Halkes: Lights On!

My review of "Lights On!" at the Cube Gallery in Ottawa from 2 - 26 January 2014 is on newsstands this summer, appearing in issue 130 of Border Crossings. An exhibition by the Ottawa-based artist, writer, and curator Petra Halkes, “Lights On!” was comprised of recent oil paintings that reproduce the aesthetic qualities of hasty snapshot photography in order to defamiliarize everyday scenes and make them seem otherworldly. Curated by Marcia Lea, the exhibition included selections from two related bodies of Halke’s work, her Window Shopping series and her Reflections series. In both series, Halkes refers to source photographs in the production of her paintings, and she plays up the accidental effects of the lens-based imagery in them, underscoring the disproportionate time and materiality of their making. Halkes confounds the traditional conception of a painting as a window onto the world by superimposing the perspectival planes of more recent technological developments, multiplying windows to other possible worlds.

For the complete review, check out Border Crossings 130, available at the finest bookstores, newsstands, and libraries near you.