Opening: Thursday, February 28 – 7-10pm
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents Medium-Based Time by Berlin-based Canadian artist Jeremy Shaw, featuring a black and white 16mm film of transgender voguer Leiomy Maldonado, an HD video installation that reworks archival ethnographic film into a dystopian science fiction narrative, and a new series of light-activated UV prints in the windows of our street façade.
The exhibition centres on Variation FQ (2011-13), in which Shaw worked with legendary voguer Leiomy Maldonado to produce a film that explores aspects of subculture, dance, gender, power and special effects. “Vogue” is a primarily black and latino, gay subculture that evolved out of the drag balls of New York in the 1980s and includes a fluid, yet raw dance style based around miming the poses of models from high fashion magazines.
The film sets Leiomy starkly lit against a black void performing her signature freestyle dance teetering between elegance and violence. As the film progresses, Shaw introduces step-and-repeat style visual effects, originally created by Canadian animator Norman McLaren in his 1968 ballet film Pas de deux. In Pas de deux, this optical printing technique embellishes the seduction between a male and female ballerina as typically choreographed for the stage. In Variation FQ, the use of special effects creates a ghostly layering and repetition of Leiomy’s image in her most virtuosic gestures and extends the experience of abandon evident in the consequences on her human body. Leiomy’s performance is accompanied by Shaw’s original soundtrack that combines a minimalist piano score with contemporary chopped and pitched audio techniques. This merging of classical composition with manipulated pop a cappella MP3’s is emblematic of Shaw’s fascination of the interdependence between high and low taste cultures.
Shaw’s practice amplifies conceptual strategies within the transcendence-seeking experiences of popular culture, as well as in the speculative nature of scientific mapping of these phenomena. In keeping with this ongoing interest in and around altered states, we premiere Quickeners (2014), a pseudo-documentary that puts the role of truth telling into crisis.
Set five hundred years in the future, Quickeners tells the story of Human Atavism Syndrome (H.A.S.), an obscure disorder afflicting a tiny portion of the Quantum Human population to desire and feel as their Human Being predecessors once did. A species wirelessly interconnected to The Hive, Quantum Humans have evolved to operate solely on pure rational thought and they have achieved immortality. Quickeners is set against a cinéma vérité aesthetic, reworking archival documentary footage from a gathering of Pentecostal Christian snake handlers to illustrate the story. As the film unfolds, an authoritative Quantum Human narrator comments on what we witness: indecipherable testimonials, sermons, songs, prayers, convulsive dancing, speaking-in-tongues, serpent handling and ecstatic states that Quantum Humans define as “Quickening”.
Incorporating elements of science fiction, ethnographic survey, neuroscience and belief systems, Quickeners collates these disparate themes into a succinct whole to discuss varying notions of evolutionary progress with clinical indifference. This alchemical fusion suspends belief of the fantastic situation by its use of familiar, outmoded technology, meticulous audio editing and subtitles. As the piece builds to a cathartic climax of media techniques and special effects – caught in limbo between ritual documentary and music video – the Quantum Humans surrender to this evolutionary throwback of perceived biological transcendence, while the film attempts to incite a similar phenomenological response in the viewer.
Alongside these film/video works in our window vitrines hangs Degenerative Imaging (In The Dark) (2015), a new series of light-activated, glow-in-the-dark vinyl cut-outs that reference star and planet stickers. Though presumably designed with the aspiring child astrologer’s bedroom in mind, these stickers are also commonly found adorning the walls and ceilings of the teenage psychonaut; more likely used to “trip out” than to plan a trip. Rather than the cosmos, Shaw’s source material comes from 3D SPECT scan renderings of the degenerative effects of cumulative mind-altering substance use on the blood flow and metabolism of the human brain. The representational language of neuroscience, or at least the populist aesthetic familiar in health and pharmaceutical advertising, is reformatted here as a mechanism to enhance altered states while viewing their supposed biological effects on the brain. The prints are charged by fluorescent light once per hour, causing them to glow strongly and then fade, glow and fade; static time-based mediums on repeat.
Variation FQ is generously loaned by the Rennie Collection, Vancouver
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 and the FCAC.
Exhibition is supported by Inform Interiors and Best Film Service Inc.
This exhibition forms part of the Capture Photography Festival, running from April 2 to 29.MORE
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
Australian artist de Souza investigates the politics of space informed through a formal training in architecture combined with her experiences such as squatting in Redfern, Sydney. De Souza’s work emphasises participation and reciprocity, and often involves the process of learning new skills and fostering relationships to create site and situation-specific projects. For over ten years she has self-published her hand-bound books and ‘zines under the name All Thumbs Press.
In Vancouver, De Souza will develop a series of community based workshops throughout 2015-16 engaging participants in a critical dialogue regarding local food production. De Souza is working closely with various local urban farmers, food security activists and community members to explore the food politics within the city as both evidence of and a metaphor for urban displacement through gentrification. Continuing this research de Souza will host a public picnic in April.
In 2013, de Souza developed projects for the 5th Auckland Triennial, 15th Jakarta Biennale and the 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney. More recently, at the Delfina Foundation, London, she hosted a series of picnics held inside an inflatable tent installation designed to fit within the gallery space. Notionally “traditional” English food such as cucumber sandwiches, Cornish pasties and Ploughman’s Lunches were made linking to specific cultural histories as a way to discuss class, privilege, space and colonialism. As picnickers ate and spoke, de Souza mapped the discussion on the floor creating a giant cartography of the conversation. Also in 2014 she completed a residency with KUNCI Cultural Studies Center in Yogyakarta, Indonesia working closely with community organizers and residents of Kampung Ratmakan to create an inflatable ghost house and a film featuring drawings by local children made during a ghost story workshop. Their local government had announced a major development plan affecting the Ratmakan area and the squatters residing there started to be displaced. The area is built on a graveyard so ghosts are constantly appearing to the residents, ongoing exorcisms by the local ghost expert, paralleling their own evictions in the living world.MORE
Throughout spring 2015 the CAG is hosting a series of artists-in-residence, each continuing research toward participatory projects to be realized throughout 2015–2016. The Field House Studio is an off-site artist residency space and community hub organized by the Contemporary Art Gallery. This program moves beyond conventional exhibition making, echoing the founding origins of the gallery where artists were offered support toward the production of new work, while reaching out to communities and offering new ways for individuals to encounter and connect with art and artists. Running parallel to the residency program are an ongoing series of public events for all ages.
Fletcher will develop research rooted in his recent walking projects toward a new piece for Vancouver. In 2013, at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, he developed a four day walk with a group of museum staff, scientists and members of the public. Over forty miles, from the museum across the Bay to Emeryville and the top of Mt Diablo, each participant presented topics related to the areas they were travelling through. Each day featured several official stops while countless unofficial observations added to the experience, additional members of the public connected with the core group at more than a dozen points along the path. By extending the museum’s curiositybased learning into the surrounding landscape, the project aimed to transform the everyday world into an open classroom, working toward a greater integration of the cultural institution within its surrounding community. Fletcher will be hosting a walk in Vancouver on March 21 as preliminary research for an expanded project in 2016.
Fletcher has produced a variety of socially engaged collaborative and interdisciplinary projects since the early 1990s. His work has been shown at SFMoMA, de Young Museum, CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, Yerba Buena Center, all in San Francisco; Berkeley Art Museum; The Drawing Center, Socrates Sculpture Park, and The Sculpture Center, all in New York; PICA, Portland; The Seattle Art Museum; Signal, Malmö, Sweden; Domain de Kerguehennec, France; Tate Modern, London and the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia. His work was included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial and was the 2005 recipient of the Alpert Award in Visual Arts. From 2002 to 2009 Fletcher co-produced Learning To Love You More, a participatory website with Miranda July. His 2005 exhibition The American War originated at ArtPace in San Antonio, travelling to Solvent Space, Richmond, VA; White Columns, NYC; The Center For Advanced Visual Studies, MIT, Boston; PICA, Portland and LAXART, Los Angeles among other locations. Fletcher is an Associate Professor of Art and Social Practice at Portland State University, Oregon.MORE
Blame It on the Rain
May 1 to June 28, 2015
BC Binning, Alvin Balkind Galleries and window spaces
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents a major solo exhibition by New York–based artist Julia Dault. Contextualizing past projects through a selection of new and recent works, the exhibition reveals the importance to Dault of balancing spontaneous gesture with responsiveness to rules, logic and the constraints of materials. Physical negotiations are central to Dault’s textured paintings and improvised sculptures; both are exhibited in Blame It on the Rain.
Dault’s work fuses the emphasis on process found in both Abstract Expressionist painting and post-Minimal sculpture. She is interested in “embodied knowledge”—how making is thinking—by reinserting the artist’s hand into a minimal aesthetic primarily interpreted as distanced and industrial. The artist’s rule-based painting involves responding to mass-produced elements—vinyl, patterned silks, pleather, unmixed paint straight from the tube—with unconventional tools, such as squeegees and rubber combs. This paraphernalia create quasi-standardized gestures that allow Dault to skirt the line between expressive abstraction and cool, machine-like facture. Erasure, with its ability to allow viewers to “see into” the painting process, is as important as application.
The exhibition complements the show Color Me Badd presented at The Power Plant, Toronto in 2014. We are working together on the first major monograph of Dault’s work, to be published and launched by Black Dog Publishing during the exhibition at the CAG.
Julia Dault (born Toronto, 1977) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She received her MFA in Fine Arts from Parsons New School for Design, New York, and studied Art History at McGill University, Montréal. Dault has exhibited extensively across the globe, including solo exhibitions at Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York (2014), China Art Objects, Los Angeles (2014), Galerie Bob van Orsouw, Zurich (2013), Jessica Bradley Gallery, Toronto (2013), White Cube Bermondsey, London (2012), and Blackston Gallery, New York (2010). She has also participated in numerous group shows, including exhibitions at Pérez Art Museum, Miami (2013), Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (2013), Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw (2013), Maison Particulière, Brussels (2013), lumber room, Portland (2013), New Museum, New York (2012), Galería Casado Santapau, Madrid (2012), and Harris Lieberman, New York (2012). Her work is in the collection of several public institutions, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw; Pérez Art Museum, Miami; Saatchi Gallery, London; and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Dault is represented by Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York; Jessica Bradley Gallery, Toronto; and China Art Objects Galleries, Los Angeles.MORE
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 hoursMORE