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  • Only a Free Individual Can Create a Free Society is a new film installation by German artist Grace Schwindt which revisits discussions she witnessed as a child surrounded by individuals in Frankfurt, Germany. The dialogue running through the film is from an interview that Schwindt conducted with a leftwing activist influenced by the 1960s and 1970s political landscape, shaped by the Frankfurt School, the Outer Parliamentary Opposition and the Baader Meinhof Gang. Rather than aiming to gain a better understanding of the past, Schwindt attempts to take a system apart — to undo it. Nothing is assumed to be neutral and every movement, word, gesture or colour is understood to have cultural, social, political or economic implications. The artist constructs her own processes of translating language into vivid material, choreographing dancers, set, props, costume, lighting, sound, camera movement and words as elementary forms carrying symbolic power. Each element is equally important and should be read together as a melody where the words or functions of ‘chair’ or ‘terrorism’, ‘clothing’ or ‘freedom’ have equal status. At feature film length Only a Free Individual Can Create a Free Society is the product of an extensive rehearsal period with eleven dancers and a dramaturge over a period of five weeks using diagrams to map out a detailed choreography. The film features highly coloured and geometric costumes using aluminium, cardboard, silk and velvet, as well as extensive post-production to create a narrative that questions how freedom was, and is, understood, who has access to it and what political and social structures need to be in place to create a free society. Alongside the installation the exhibition includes a newly commissioned sculptural piece, redolent of images pictured in the film. Constructed from salt crystals, bronze and ceramic, it has a bodily suggestion, evoking a sense of place and subject through its shape, materiality and form. Only a Free Individual Can Create a Free Society’ was commissioned by FLAMIN Productions through Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network, Eastside Projects, Birmingham; The Showroom, London; Badischer Kunstverein; Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver; Site Gallery, Sheffield; Tramway, Glasgow; ICIA, University of Bath; and Zeno X Gallery. Supported by Arts Council England, Hessian Film Fund and The Jerwood Charitable Foundation. Presented with PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. Grace Schwindt (born 1979, Germany) is an artist based in London working with film, live performance and sculpture. Her theatrical sets for film works use minimal architectural elements and props to mark a location, in which she places bodies including her own. Using a tightly scripted choreography in which every move relates to institutionalised systems she investigates how social relations and understandings about oneself are formed, often through acts of exclusion and destruction. The artist’s interviews with individuals often serve as a starting point for fictionalised dialogues delivered by performers. Represented by Zeno X Gallery in Antwerp, her work is distributed by Argos Centre for Media and Art. Recent solo presentations include South London Gallery; ICA, London; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Spill Festival, Basement, Brighton; Collective Gallery, Edinburgh and White Columns, New York. Schwindt was shortlisted for this year’s Jarman Film Award. Running time: 80 min Screening times: 12pm, 1.30pm, 3.00pm, 4.30pm daily during gallery opening hours MORE
    Grace Schwindt, Only a Free Individual Can Create a Free Society, production still. Courtesy of the artist.
  • The Contemporary Art Gallery presents the first solo exhibition of Canadian artist Krista Belle Stewart, the culmination of fall 2014 residencies at the Nisga’a Museum and Western Front comprising new works developed in Nisga’a and at her ancestral home in Douglas Lake, BC. Stewart’s practice reclaims personal and cultural narratives from archival material, situating them in dialogue with contemporary Indigenous discourse and engaging the complexities of intention and interpretation. In relation to this reframing of documents, Stewart’s new installation considers First Nations women’s self-representation and sovereignty. Working with her personal stories and those of the women she met in Nisga’a, Stewart investigates how cultural knowledge is created and exchanged, weaving together new lens-based works with archival photographs and objects from Nisga’a. Central to the exhibition is an ongoing project, a bucket filled with distinctive dried clay from land owned by Stewart on the Douglas Lake reservation, and passed down to her from her mother’s family. Not only is this a physical connection to her heritage but also a response to the continued dispossession of First Nations women’s land rights. The projections in the exhibition depict two geographically and culturally diverse landscapes, showing personal stories rooted in an understanding of place evoking a diversity of embedded experiences on Indigenous land. In 1998 the Nisga’a Nation signed a treaty with the BC and Canadian governments that recognized their land sovereignty and right of self-government, the first to be signed in the province since the 1850s. Such recent challenges to government control of Indigenous lands, also including the current fight against Kinder Morgan and the Northern Gateway pipelines and “Idle No More”, highlight a growing urgency in First Nations communities to detach from Canada’s colonial confines. Although delineated by the Canadian government, both reservation and sovereign lands offer potential in developing new and revived connections with pre-colonial First Nations economic and political traditions. Opened in 2011 in the town of Laxgalts’ap (also known as Greenville), the Nisga’a Museum holds over 300 repatriated cultural objects that have been absent from the community for over a century. It is a multifarious space operating as a potential economic driver in the community as both a monument to and entry point into Nisga’a culture, while also existing as a site seeking to develop intimate dialogues among contemporary Nisga’a and their ancestors. While hosting a permanent installation that utilizes the tropes of colonial histories through the development of a linear and didactic narrative of Nisga’a culture, it is also an institution evolving through engagement with local community. Lacking detailed archival notes on each object, the museum has focused on connecting Nisga’a oral histories with these artefacts through tours and ongoing conversations with community elders. The Nisga’a is made up of four pdeek (tribes): Laxsgiik (Eagle), Gisk’aast (Killer Whale), Ganada (Raven), and Laxgibuu (Wolf). With ceremonies, customs and histories specific to each tribe there are layers of conflicting interpretations and information for many objects in the collection. Through the repatriation of their material cultural history is emerging a contemporary revival of precolonial traditions, asserting the museum as platform for active knowledge exchange across generations and offering opportunities for personal and collective decolonization. Alongside new works Stewart has selected pieces from the Nisga’a Museum including an image showing a Nisga’a woman in a full chief’s regalia surrounded by men dressed in traditional and western clothing. Originally shot by Benjamin Haldane, a Tsimshian photographer from Alaska who travelled throughout the Nass Valley area in the early 1900s actively documenting the people of his community until his death in 1941. Recording a time of great cultural and social upheaval on the northwest coast his images of families, social events and traditional ceremonies such as potlatches (illegal at the time) document a contemporary and evolving culture. Haldane’s photographs offer an example of First Nations self-representation, a counter to the more usual colonial-settler’s gaze. There is a kinship between Haldane’s and Stewart’s practices through the production of complex and diverse documents of First Nations self-representation. Within this Stewart infiltrates male-centered narratives of colonial culture and reasserts connections to pre-colonial matriarchal traditions while considering the tensions present between the institution as colonial support structure and a living entity shaped by the community it represents. This project is made possible with the generous support provided by the First Peoples’ Cultural Council, British Columbia Arts Council, the Nisga’a Nation through the Nisga’a Lisims Government. Production was supported through a Media Arts Residency at the Western Front. Additional assistance provided by Budget Car and Truck Rental, Terrace. MORE
    Krista Belle Stewart, production still, Nisga'a Museum, 2014.
  • Shannon Bool The Flight of the Medici Mamluk January 23 to April 19, 2015 Off-site: Yaletown-Roundhouse Station, Canada Line The Contemporary Art Gallery presents an ambitious new commission at the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station by Canadian artist Shannon Bool. Originally from Vancouver Island, she attended Emily Carr University before studying in New York, Frankfurt and moving to Berlin. Bool typically references a wide variety of historical and monumental decorative objects in her work, from Michelangelo’s David to the ornamentation on Etruscan tombs. While the Tuscan themes in recent projects specifically developed during her 2013 residency at the Villa Romana in Florence, her reinterpretation of these objects is characteristic of her practice in commenting on the role of decorative arts within art history, as well as on the change in meaning that occurs through the replication and alteration of significant and well known items. For the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station, Bool has worked with a photographer to document the 16th Century Egyptian Medici Mamluk carpet, recently rediscovered stored in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, Italy.  Mamluk style carpets figured significantly in Mediterranean commerce, appearing in Venetian paintings of this time, and are characterized by a central medallion surrounded by a variety of smaller geometric motifs, forming a kaleidoscopic appearance, the palette limited to red, blue, green and yellow tones. In many such carpets the vast and complex patterns suggest notions of eternity and evoke cosmic associations with Buddhist thought. While undoubtedly they should not be read as some form of direct mapping of philosophical intent, the designs themselves may be influenced by such ideas from central Asia and also reflect patterns in Moorish architecture which connect to similar philosophical readings of mathematical logic and infinity. By combining patterns from and with historical vernacular objects, Bool’s interventions play with the mechanical reproduction of geometric sources and iconography. In previous work taking impetus from floor surfaces, Bool made Casino Runner (Aztec Inn) by blowing up a segment of a cheap wall-to-wall carpet encountered at a Las Vegas casino hotel. The original carpet was laden with random appropriations from ancient Aztec culture and Anatolian ornaments, which the artist underlined in having her version hand woven by Turkish weavers. The casino itself is a throwback to the iconic Art Deco monument, the Aztec Hotel that still operates in Monrovia, California. American Art Deco used the powerful geometry of ancient Mexican civilizations to break from European aesthetic traditions. Bool’s carpet, exquisitely hand-knotted by traditional village weavers in Anatolia, Turkey, heightens – even fetishizes – the production values combining the sublime and hysterical experience of entering a casino with the distinctly Eastern reading of a Western sensibility. Here, Bool has painstakingly pieced together images of the Mamluk carpet for the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station, itself unusual due to its gigantic size and pristine condition, to reproduce the whole carpet at almost exact scale across the glass façade of the building. Amazing in its detail, intricacy and partial signs of use, the image records literally and metaphorically both the patterns and passages of time, in much the same way as the busy station is itself an embodiment of a space of people passing through. Suspended in the everyday space of the station and tilted as if afloat, the work shows some of the mathematical and geometrical sensibilities that are seldom acknowledged but directly influenced renaissance thought. This will be the first new commission by Bool with the Contemporary Art Gallery during 2015, a second project to evolve for late spring. Presented in partnership with the Canada Line Public Art Program – IntransitBC. Shannon Bool lives and works in Berlin. Solo exhibitions include: The Fourth Wall Through the Third Eye, Galerie Kadel Willborn, Düsseldorf; Walk Like an Etruscan, Daniel Faria Gallery, Toronto (2013); The Inverted Harem II, Bonner Kunstverein (2011);  CRAC Alsace, Altkirch, France; The Inverted Harem, GAK-Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst, Bremen (2010); RMIT Project Space, Melbourne, Australia (2008). Group exhibitions include MMK2 Boom She Boom, Works from the MMK Collection, Frankfurt; The Klöntal Triennale, Kunsthaus Glarus, Switzerland (2014); Soft Pictures, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaugengo, Turin; Painting Forever!, KW, Berlin; Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Toronto (2013); the Sprengel Museum, Hannover (2012); 7×14, Kunsthalle Baden-Baden; Tactical Support, Gallery Tracy Williams, New York; Rock Opera, CACP Museum of Contemporary Art, Bordeaux (2009); Drawing on Sculpture: Graphic Interventions on the Photographic Surface, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds (2007); Make Your Move, Projects Arts Centre, Dublin; Spiralen der Erinnerung, Kunstverein in Hamburg; Carbonic Anhydride, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin (2006). Work is held in the collections of Berlinische Galerie Landesmuseum Fur Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur, Berlin; MMK Museum fur Modern Kunst, Frankfurt am Main; Lenbachhaus, Munich, and the Saatchi Collection, London. She is represented by Kadel Willborn Gallery in Düsseldorf and Daniel Faria Gallery, Toronto. MORE
    Shannon Bool, Mamluk, production detail. Courtesy the artist and Daniel Faria Gallery.
  • Lotte van den Berg Cinema Imaginaire February 4 to ’6, 3pm and February 7 “to 8, 10:30 am and 3pm 110-“750 Hamilton Street (meeting point) 150 min, no intermission, $36 www.ticketstonight.ca 604 605 8284 ext.200 It happens in small groups, at an outdoor location. You will be given a series of assignments — say, focusing on a given object, or watching a certain person walk down the street. It’s not nearly as simple as it sounds and, as they say, results may vary. You may gain a sense of how your sight has been conditioned over a lifetime. You may realize, with dismay, how little you actually notice of what crosses your eyes every day. You may discover something beautiful, even revelatory, that you’d ignored a thousand times in your life. What van den Berg gives us is a sensory adventure, a reminder of how much our perception can be altered, and, on a simpler level, a reintroduction to the pleasures of the senses. There’s beauty all around us — all you have to do is look. Please note: This performance involves walking, and takes place in parts outdoors, rain or shine. Presented with PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. Lotte van den Berg works in the realms of theatre, cinema and dance, performing in North America, Europe and Africa. Her work is defined by its concern for everyday reality and for uniting theatre and audiences. Her current projects are Cinema Imaginaire and Building Conversation; in both works audience members become active participants. Past works include Les Spectateurs (2010) and Agoraphobia (2011–2012). Creator: Lotte van den Berg | Dramaturg: Sodja Lotker | Guide: Howard Lotker | Producer: Antwan Cornelissen | Publicity: Karin van de Wiel | Manager: Anneke Tonen | Location Scouts: Other Sites* Developed in collaboration with Het Huis Utrecht and part of Festivals in Transition / Global City Local City with support of the Culture Programme of the European Union. Funded by the City of Utrecht and the KfHeinfun. Supported by Performing Arts Fund NL. MORE
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    04 Feb, 2015 – 08 Feb, 2015
    Lotte van den Berg, Cinema Imaginaire, (2014). Courtesy the artist. Photograph by Kris Dewitte
  • Jeremy Shaw Medium-Based Time February 27 to April 19, 2015 B.C. Binning, Alvin Balkind Galleries and windows The Contemporary Art Gallery presents two ambitious new film and video works by Canadian artist Jeremy Shaw, one receiving its North American premiere, alongside a major new work across our street façade. The exhibition centres on Variation FQ, a new film work begun during an ISCP residency in New York during 2011. Here Shaw worked with legendary transgender ‘voguer’ Leyomi Mizrahi to produce a new 16mm film commission shot in black and white. The projection pictures Leyomi performing a series of discrete dance moves against a dark neutral ground,  imagery ‘complicated’ by visual layering in a series of segments, a 1980s visual effect whereby the movement of, for example an arm, is multiplied as it tracks through space. In this way it recalls both a particular pop sensibility/ moment in everyday culture characteristic of Shaw’s practice, as well as art historical references to early photography, such as Eadweard Muybridge or the paintings and sculpture of Futurist artists which sought to ‘explain’ and understand through visuals that which was unseen to the naked eye. A further direct pop reference is also made to legendary punk impresario Malcolm MacLaren, via a modified soundtrack dropping in and out as the film unfolds, echoing the visual effect. Shaw’s practice typically posits conceptual strategies with the transcendence-seeking experiences of both the popular mainstream and contemporary subcultures, as a means of questioning the ongoing legacy of mysticism in art. And so through this examination of things that appear to be more than their immediate face value a dialogue is established; a conversation evoking notions of things not being quite what they appear, a revealing of the hidden foiled by the pragmatics of the actual works. In keeping with Shaw’s ongoing interest in altered states and marginalized (sub) cultures, we premiere Quickeners (2014), a video and sound installation that collates transcendental religious experience in combining archive footage of the snake-handling and trance-dancing rituals of a splinter-sect of Pentecostal Christians from the 1960s with current scientific propositions regarding artificial intelligence and an original electronic soundtrack. The 1967 ethnographic film “Holy Ghost People” is a fly-on-the-wall document of the congregation of the Holiness Church of Scrabble Creek, West Virginia, engaged in their unique open-format religious service. Although very progressive in their social inclusiveness for the time and genuinely imbued in their particular beliefs/rituals, the sect was highly criticized by others of the Christian faith for what was considered radical, irresponsible behavior. The film includes scenes of ‘talking-head’ style interviews, sermons and prayers, music-playing, poisonous snake-handling and ecstatic moments of praise achieved via dancing and speaking-in-tongues. Using this material as raw footage and adding new, scripted subtitled narration, Quickeners constructs a fictional documentary, heightened by the entirely re-edited, re-scripted, and re-scored piece as a whole. It unfolds to examine contemporary anxieties regarding morality and technological progress, social behaviors and belief systems, organized religion and science. Replicating the lo-fi quality of the original 1960’s material, the film evolves into a slow-motion, visual effects-driven montage of fly-on-the-wall observation and interviews, the contemporary electronic surround-sound audio creating an immersive installation. The implied narrative element of Quickeners is structured as a fable, difficult to pinpoint in time as either recent history or contemporary, and is seen through a quasi-documentary lens: influenced by both the cinéma vérité of the original footage and contemporary science fiction, combining references to ethnographic surveys, popular culture, and scientific theory. In particular the use of modified speech combines with sub-titles to the point of being convinced of watching people “speaking in tongues”, key to the mood and implication of the piece overall. This is further elaborated by the soundtrack which grows in dynamics as the film progresses, reaching a crescendo mirroring the ecstasy of the religious leaders performing their rituals. Alongside these film works in our window vitrines we show a third new work that operates with UV “black” lights, a series of silkscreen prints referencing posters more usually seen in “head shops”. Consisting of fluorescent psychedelic imagery, Shaw’s posters instead use PT scans and microscopic photographs of human brains in various states of use with mind-altering drugs. Seen here glowing out into the street, it continues Shaw’s ongoing investigation into issues of marginalized culture, audience manipulation via post-production devices, and the age-old notion of a human desire to transcend the present. Quickeners was co-produced by the Contemporary Art Gallery with the Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève for the BIM 14 and Johann König, Berlin, with the generous support of a grant from BC Arts Council: Special Project Assistance – Innovations, the Fmac, the FCAC and the MONA MUSEUM. This exhibition forms part of the Capture Photography Festival, running from April 2 to 29. MORE
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    27 Feb, 2015 – 19 Apr, 2015
    Jeremy Shaw Variation FQ (2012) 16 mm film. All images courtesy the artist and Johann König, Berlin and Macaulay & Co. Fine Art, Vancouver.
  • The Contemporary Art Gallery presents the first Canadian solo presentation of work by Swedish artist Gunilla Klingberg, two new interrelated large-scale commissions across the gallery façade and off-site, both challenging and exploiting the opportunities presented at each location.   Klingberg’s practice is characterized by the intersection of received knowledge, folk beliefs, popular culture and divergent cultural activities. Her work draws our attention to how complicated the connections between these systems are, but it also plays with the things that arise in this encounter, a pivotal feature being an interest in what is produced by the hybridization of distinct cultures, traditions and geographies. The disparate and heterogeneous are interwoven creating meanings that mutate to form a new context.   At the gallery and the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station, two murals of seemingly quasi-oriental pattern appear to evoke cosmic mandalas, transforming the individual spaces and enveloping the viewer in light and colour, shifting patterns and reflections. Klingberg’s work surrounds us. We are seduced, made part of a special atmosphere, immersed within the work rather than just looking at it. Her interest in using patterns and movement to manipulate our seeing, to influence our state of consciousness and our sensory impressions, has links with Op Art and the psychedelic movement of the late sixties, appropriate touchstones in the recent history of the counter culture in this part of the world.   However, what at first glance appears to recall a certain set of values and moments in time has another dimension, a different shared experience. If we look more closely we see that the intricate ornamentation, the symmetrically repeated symbols of these murals, is made up of something much more mainstream, corporate logos from Canadian low cost and high street stores. Concepts are intertwined: while science might appropriate metaphors from mythologies or New-Age ideas borrow from the language of the natural sciences, here spirituality merges with everyday consumer culture. Klingberg suggests that they are analogous, that both seem to promise the same thing: a state in which nothing is uncomfortable or threatening – the possibility of total, rapid satisfaction of our needs and desires, accessible to everyone. The images are so familiar that we no longer think about them, yet they present a subconscious influence uniting us in a no-man’s land between the public and the private. She evokes a spirit of community, or of communality, and poses questions regarding what it would be to have something in common.   Amid the proliferation of progressively similar goods it is the small, meaningful differences that count. The world around us is increasingly transformed into a surface filled with signs—computer screens, urban space, advertisements, the pages of newspapers— the most tangible properties being disposability and change. It is these surfaces that concern Klingberg. Our urban environment, its dwindling public places increasingly invaded by homogenous architecture and development, the objects we own, all constitute an intricate system of codes, messages and ideologies, our choices and participation tantamount to consuming. The boundary between art and design is often drawn along the line of utility and usefulness. But the edge becomes increasingly elastic when the difference between the values of these forms depends not so much on their functionality as on their seductiveness or power of rhetorical persuasion. Thus Klingberg’s work moves further than a mere critique of brand fetishism, the lure of contemporary global labels, beyond just pointing things out and rejecting them. It poses the awkward question of whether being alternative to a mainstream or on the “outside” is any longer possible. Might a more critical and appropriate assessment lie in revealing and acknowledging the subtle and insidious way in which we are all drawn into a sense of fascination with the things that surround us. Through her work we find ourselves in a situation in which we feel the power of images and beliefs being examined. We are all complicit.   The exhibition is supported by Iaspis, the Swedish Arts Grants Committee’s International Programme for Visual Artists.   MORE
    Gunilla Klingberg, Brand New View (Vancouver), 2014. Vinyl adhesives Installation view, CAG. Courtesy the artist. Photo Scott Massey.
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Current Exhibitions

Only a Free Individual Can Create a Free Society is a new film installation by German artist Grace Schwindt which revisits discussions she witnessed as a child surrounded by individuals in Frankfurt, Germany. The dialogue running through the film is from an interview that Schwindt conducted with a leftwing activist influenced by the 1960s and 1970s political landscape, shaped by the Frankfurt School, the Outer Parliamentary Opposition and the Baader Meinhof Gang.

Rather than aiming to gain a better understanding of the past, Schwindt attempts to take a system apart — to undo it. Nothing is assumed to be neutral and every movement, word, gesture or colour is understood to have cultural, social, political or economic implications. The artist constructs her own processes of translating language into vivid material, choreographing dancers, set, props, costume, lighting, sound, camera movement and words as elementary forms carrying symbolic power. Each element is equally important and should be read together as a melody where the words or functions of ‘chair’ or ‘terrorism’, ‘clothing’ or ‘freedom’ have equal status.

At feature film length Only a Free Individual Can Create a Free Society is the product of an extensive rehearsal period with eleven dancers and a dramaturge over a period of five weeks using diagrams to map out a detailed choreography. The film features highly coloured and geometric costumes using aluminium, cardboard, silk and velvet, as well as extensive post-production to create a narrative that questions how freedom was, and is, understood, who has access to it and what political and social structures need to be in place to create a free society. Alongside the installation the exhibition includes a newly commissioned sculptural piece, redolent of images pictured in the film. Constructed from salt crystals, bronze and ceramic, it has a bodily suggestion, evoking a sense of place and subject through its shape, materiality and form.

Only a Free Individual Can Create a Free Society’ was commissioned by FLAMIN Productions through Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network, Eastside Projects, Birmingham; The Showroom, London; Badischer Kunstverein; Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver; Site Gallery, Sheffield; Tramway, Glasgow; ICIA, University of Bath; and Zeno X Gallery. Supported by Arts Council England, Hessian Film Fund and The Jerwood Charitable Foundation.

Presented with PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.

Grace Schwindt (born 1979, Germany) is an artist based in London working with film, live performance and sculpture. Her theatrical sets for film works use minimal architectural elements and props to mark a location, in which she places bodies including her own. Using a tightly scripted choreography in which every move relates to institutionalised systems she investigates how social relations and understandings about oneself are formed, often through acts of exclusion and destruction. The artist’s interviews with individuals often serve as a starting point for fictionalised dialogues delivered by performers. Represented by Zeno X Gallery in Antwerp, her work is distributed by Argos Centre for Media and Art. Recent solo presentations include South London Gallery; ICA, London; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Spill Festival, Basement, Brighton; Collective Gallery, Edinburgh and White Columns, New York. Schwindt was shortlisted for this year’s Jarman Film Award.

Running time: 80 min

Screening times: 12pm, 1.30pm, 3.00pm, 4.30pm daily during gallery opening hours

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Grace Schwindt - Only a Free Individual Can Create a Free Society


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Current Exhibitions

Shannon Bool
The Flight of the Medici Mamluk

January 23 to April 19, 2015
Off-site: Yaletown-Roundhouse Station, Canada Line

The Contemporary Art Gallery presents an ambitious new commission at the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station by Canadian artist Shannon Bool. Originally from Vancouver Island, she attended Emily Carr University before studying in New York, Frankfurt and moving to Berlin.

Bool typically references a wide variety of historical and monumental decorative objects in her work, from Michelangelo’s David to the ornamentation on Etruscan tombs. While the Tuscan themes in recent projects specifically developed during her 2013 residency at the Villa Romana in Florence, her reinterpretation of these objects is characteristic of her practice in commenting on the role of decorative arts within art history, as well as on the change in meaning that occurs through the replication and alteration of significant and well known items.

For the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station, Bool has worked with a photographer to document the 16th Century Egyptian Medici Mamluk carpet, recently rediscovered stored in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, Italy.  Mamluk style carpets figured significantly in Mediterranean commerce, appearing in Venetian paintings of this time, and are characterized by a central medallion surrounded by a variety of smaller geometric motifs, forming a kaleidoscopic appearance, the palette limited to red, blue, green and yellow tones. In many such carpets the vast and complex patterns suggest notions of eternity and evoke cosmic associations with Buddhist thought. While undoubtedly they should not be read as some form of direct mapping of philosophical intent, the designs themselves may be influenced by such ideas from central Asia and also reflect patterns in Moorish architecture which connect to similar philosophical readings of mathematical logic and infinity.

By combining patterns from and with historical vernacular objects, Bool’s interventions play with the mechanical reproduction of geometric sources and iconography. In previous work taking impetus from floor surfaces, Bool made Casino Runner (Aztec Inn) by blowing up a segment of a cheap wall-to-wall carpet encountered at a Las Vegas casino hotel. The original carpet was laden with random appropriations from ancient Aztec culture and Anatolian ornaments, which the artist underlined in having her version hand woven by Turkish weavers. The casino itself is a throwback to the iconic Art Deco monument, the Aztec Hotel that still operates in Monrovia, California. American Art Deco used the powerful geometry of ancient Mexican civilizations to break from European aesthetic traditions. Bool’s carpet, exquisitely hand-knotted by traditional village weavers in Anatolia, Turkey, heightens – even fetishizes – the production values combining the sublime and hysterical experience of entering a casino with the distinctly Eastern reading of a Western sensibility.

Here, Bool has painstakingly pieced together images of the Mamluk carpet for the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station, itself unusual due to its gigantic size and pristine condition, to reproduce the whole carpet at almost exact scale across the glass façade of the building. Amazing in its detail, intricacy and partial signs of use, the image records literally and metaphorically both the patterns and passages of time, in much the same way as the busy station is itself an embodiment of a space of people passing through. Suspended in the everyday space of the station and tilted as if afloat, the work shows some of the mathematical and geometrical sensibilities that are seldom acknowledged but directly influenced renaissance thought.

This will be the first new commission by Bool with the Contemporary Art Gallery during 2015, a second project to evolve for late spring.

Presented in partnership with the Canada Line Public Art Program – IntransitBC.

Shannon Bool lives and works in Berlin. Solo exhibitions include: The Fourth Wall Through the Third Eye, Galerie Kadel Willborn, Düsseldorf; Walk Like an Etruscan, Daniel Faria Gallery, Toronto (2013); The Inverted Harem II, Bonner Kunstverein (2011);  CRAC Alsace, Altkirch, France; The Inverted Harem, GAK-Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst, Bremen (2010); RMIT Project Space, Melbourne, Australia (2008). Group exhibitions include MMK2 Boom She Boom, Works from the MMK Collection, Frankfurt; The Klöntal Triennale, Kunsthaus Glarus, Switzerland (2014); Soft Pictures, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaugengo, Turin; Painting Forever!, KW, Berlin; Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Toronto (2013); the Sprengel Museum, Hannover (2012); 7×14, Kunsthalle Baden-Baden; Tactical Support, Gallery Tracy Williams, New York; Rock Opera, CACP Museum of Contemporary Art, Bordeaux (2009); Drawing on Sculpture: Graphic Interventions on the Photographic Surface, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds (2007); Make Your Move, Projects Arts Centre, Dublin; Spiralen der Erinnerung, Kunstverein in Hamburg; Carbonic Anhydride, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin (2006). Work is held in the collections of Berlinische Galerie Landesmuseum Fur Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur, Berlin; MMK Museum fur Modern Kunst, Frankfurt am Main; Lenbachhaus, Munich, and the Saatchi Collection, London. She is represented by Kadel Willborn Gallery in Düsseldorf and Daniel Faria Gallery, Toronto.

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Shannon Bool - The Flight of the Medici Mamluk


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Current Exhibitions

The Contemporary Art Gallery presents the first Canadian solo presentation of work by Swedish artist Gunilla Klingberg, two new interrelated large-scale commissions across the gallery façade and off-site, both challenging and exploiting the opportunities presented at each location.

 

Klingberg’s practice is characterized by the intersection of received knowledge, folk beliefs, popular culture and divergent cultural activities. Her work draws our attention to how complicated the connections between these systems are, but it also plays with the things that arise in this encounter, a pivotal feature being an interest in what is produced by the hybridization of distinct cultures, traditions and geographies. The disparate and heterogeneous are interwoven creating meanings that mutate to form a new context.

 

At the gallery and the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station, two murals of seemingly quasi-oriental pattern appear to evoke cosmic mandalas, transforming the individual spaces and enveloping the viewer in light and colour, shifting patterns and reflections. Klingberg’s work surrounds us. We are seduced, made part of a special atmosphere, immersed within the work rather than just looking at it. Her interest in using patterns and movement to manipulate our seeing, to influence our state of consciousness and our sensory impressions, has links with Op Art and the psychedelic movement of the late sixties, appropriate touchstones in the recent history of the counter culture in this part of the world.

 

However, what at first glance appears to recall a certain set of values and moments in time has another dimension, a different shared experience. If we look more closely we see that the intricate ornamentation, the symmetrically repeated symbols of these murals, is made up of something much more mainstream, corporate logos from Canadian low cost and high street stores. Concepts are intertwined: while science might appropriate metaphors from mythologies or New-Age ideas borrow from the language of the natural sciences, here spirituality merges with everyday consumer culture. Klingberg suggests that they are analogous, that both seem to promise the same thing: a state in which nothing is uncomfortable or threatening – the possibility of total, rapid satisfaction of our needs and desires, accessible to everyone. The images are so familiar that we no longer think about them, yet they present a subconscious influence uniting us in a no-man’s land between the public and the private. She evokes a spirit of community, or of communality, and poses questions regarding what it would be to have something in common.

 

Amid the proliferation of progressively similar goods it is the small, meaningful differences that count. The world around us is increasingly transformed into a surface filled with signs—computer screens, urban space, advertisements, the pages of newspapers— the most tangible properties being disposability and change. It is these surfaces that concern Klingberg. Our urban environment, its dwindling public places increasingly invaded by homogenous architecture and development, the objects we own, all constitute an intricate system of codes, messages and ideologies, our choices and participation tantamount to consuming. The boundary between art and design is often drawn along the line of utility and usefulness. But the edge becomes increasingly elastic when the difference between the values of these forms depends not so much on their functionality as on their seductiveness or power of rhetorical persuasion. Thus Klingberg’s work moves further than a mere critique of brand fetishism, the lure of contemporary global labels, beyond just pointing things out and rejecting them. It poses the awkward question of whether being alternative to a mainstream or on the “outside” is any longer possible. Might a more critical and appropriate assessment lie in revealing and acknowledging the subtle and insidious way in which we are all drawn into a sense of fascination with the things that surround us. Through her work we find ourselves in a situation in which we feel the power of images and beliefs being examined. We are all complicit.

 

The exhibition is supported by Iaspis, the Swedish Arts Grants Committee’s International Programme for Visual Artists.

 

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Gunilla Klingberg - Brand New View (Vancouver)


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Current Events

Krista Belle Stewart in Conversation with Dory Nason
Western Front, 303 East 8th Avenue, Vancouver
Thursday, January 29, 7pm

Vancouver-based artist Krista Belle Stewart presents a screening of new video works created during her recent production residencies at the Western Front and the Contemporary Art Gallery, in partnership with the Nisga’a Museum. Her new works investigate the storytelling practices of First Nations women in Douglas Lake and Nisga’a Lisims. Dory Nason, UBC First Nations Assistant Professor will respond to Stewart’s new works. Nason’s areas of research include contemporary Indigenous Feminisms and related Native women’s intellectual history and literature. She is currently at work on her book manuscript, Red Feminist Voices: Native Women’s Activist Literature. She was also a featured contributor to the groundbreaking anthology, The Winter We Danced: Voices from the Past, the Future, and the Idle No More Movement (ARP Books), which was released to great acclaim in March 2014.

BIO
Krista Belle Stewart is a member of the Upper Nicola Band of the Okanagan Nation, living and working in Vancouver and Brooklyn. Group exhibitions include Fiction/Non-fiction at The Esker Foundation, Calgary (2013) and Music from the New Wilderness, Western Front, Vancouver (2014). At Western Front, Stewart produced a collaborative multimedia performance working with, circa 1918, wax-cylinder recordings by anthropologist James Alexander Teit of her great-grandmother, Terese Kaimetko. A string quartet responded live to Stewart’s loops of these traditional Okanagan songs presented alongside visual projections. Most recently, Stewart was commissioned by the City of Vancouver as part of the “Year of Reconciliation,” Public Art Project at the entrance to the Canada Line City Centre Station at Granville and Georgia where Stewart’s Her Story (2014), a public photo mural and video installation, utilized footage of a 1967 CBC documentary entitled Seraphine: Her Own Story, a scripted interpretation of her mother’s journey from residential school to becoming BC’s first Aboriginal public health nurse. This work was also exhibited in Where Does it Hurt? at Artspeak (2014). Stewart juxtaposes the 1967 film, in which her mother plays herself, alongside a video of her mother’s 2013 Truth and Reconciliation Commission interview, generating a conversation between depiction and lived experience.

This project is made possible with the generous support of the Western Front Media Arts Residency, the First Peoples’ Cultural Council, British Columbia Arts Council, and the Nisga’a Nation through the Nisga’a Lisims Government.

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Krista Belle Stewart in Conversation with Dory Nason


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Learning Resources

Artist Shimabuku discusses his exhibition, ‘When Sky was Sea’ at the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver. November 20, 2014-January 11, 2015. Video by Brian Lye.

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Video | Shimabuku


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Recent Posts

What brought you to volunteer at the CAG?

I’ve always had an interest working in an art gallery, and I discovered the CAG last summer while exploring. I began chatting with Jocelyn at the front desk, picking her brain regarding her journey on how she got to work there, and she recommended I submit my resume to volunteer. I believe that volunteering at a place you are passionate about alters the perspective you have on yourself as well as how you are spending your time. It is not only a great experience, but you single-handedly place yourself in a position where opportunities that pertain to your interests or career path are presented to you. I wanted to work and learn from curators, artists and other fellow volunteers, as this was my first time working in a gallery. Now, being at the CAG since May, I’ve made new friends and have learned a great deal about the art world and all its facets!

What is your favorite thing about your volunteer position at the CAG?

Currently I help at the front desk, and being able to answer any questions that visitors may have I find really rewarding, as it aids in their exploration of artwork that the CAG exhibits. Opening nights are always great as well, since I get to check out the new exhibitions the day of, and mingle with like-minded individuals as well as the artist(s).

What and where was the first Contemporary Art work that you experienced?

Some of the first Contemporary artworks I experienced were probably back when I was living in Amsterdam as a teen.

What other creative activities do you do?

I have been sketching since childhood, and have just begun teaching myself how to paint this year! I’m very much enjoying the process. I have also been drumming since I was a teen, and I also edit films on the side, as it is part of my job in the film/TV industry.

Check out Michelle on Instagram, her painting here and a sample of video editing here.

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Volunteer Profiles: Michelle Doherty


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