The Contemporary Art Gallery presents the first solo exhibition in Canada by French artist Aurélien Froment, comprising an ambitious body of newly commissioned work.
Froment has produced an exhibition which focuses on the series of educational toys (Spielgaben or play gifts) designed by Friedrich Fröbel (1782–1852), the German founder of the original Kindergarten. Froment’s longstanding interest in Fröbel was aroused by the openness of the system of objects he devised, which has paradoxically resulted in both their survival and disappearance. For Froment as for Fröbel, each shape begets another, each form foreshadows a second; all images are keys to other images. Replicas have been produced based on historical artifacts, presenting for the first time in an exhibition, the play gifts in the complete sequence as imagined by their author. The objects are presented alongside an ensemble of photographs, which map Fröbel’s pedagogy, while drawing connections with earlier, as well as future uses of the geometric grid. Fröbel Fröbeled is therefore an exhibition on Fröbel, with Fröbel — an exploration of his art, as well as a reflection on what lies beneath his system of objects.
Drawing on the ideas of philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the experiences of Swiss pedagogue Johan Pestalozzi, Fröbel advocated for a practice of education where the child and the teacher are co-workers, with play and self-activity at the center of the learning process. To this end Fröbel introduced activities such as singing, dancing, gardening, map making and created a series of educational toys, the play gifts. He brought together existing children’s toys (wooden blocks, woollen balls, sticks), stripped of any signs suggesting pre-determined educational purposes such as letters, numbers, figures or colours and sequenced these within an overarching system of relationships in which each toy foreshadows the next while being transformed. A soft woollen ball turns into a hard wooden sphere; a sphere into a cube via a cylinder; a cube is divided into smaller cubes and so on, until volumes become surfaces, surfaces become lines and lines are segmented towards infinity. Continuity and opposition systematically order the world of Fröbel’s gifts. Since the mid-nineteenth century, many educationalists and manufacturers appropriated the influential Kindergarten material and while establishing it as a prominent feature of modernity, the consistency of Fröbel’s ideal was slowly diluted, lost or abandoned.
Throughout his career, Fröbel continually refined his play gifts to achieve the greatest scope through their different forms, relations and applications. They constitute a modest but complex body of works, used for object lessons and often accompanied by analogies and stories, something tangible to enhance the understanding of something conceptual.
Individual sets comprised balls, blocks, sticks, paper folding and weaving, peas and clay. From simple geometrical shapes could appear a chair, a worker’s house, a train, a ruin or a flower, as well as introducing abstract notions such as unity and interconnectedness. Each gift would be used in short sessions of directed play. Collector and scholar Norman Brosterman states in his seminal book Inventing Kindergarten, that “unlike the building blocks, mosaic toys, and traditional crafts that were their forebears, the gifts were never available for entirely ‘free play’. Their use was always related to the three realms: forms of nature (or life), forms of knowledge (or geometry, mathematics and science) and forms of beauty (or art).” The potential of each toy and its associated applications were therefore multiplied according to their ability to represent, demonstrate or to be arranged in a pleasing way.
In the exhibition, each gift is also used and depicted by Froment in a number of different ways. To the three realms proposed by Fröbel — nature, knowledge and beauty — Froment suggests to add two others — cultural forms and material forms — revealing aspects of the gifts’ own history while reflecting on its mediation within a contemporary public art gallery. In some of the accompanying photographs, the gifts are staged based on engravings featured in Fröbel’s own manuals and literature that followed. Representing a throne, a church, a castle, a cross or a sentry box, the photographs draw the imaginary atlas of an archetypal world rooted in the nineteenth century. Whether photographed by Froment like diagrams, models, products or architecture, they perform, alongside their related toy, some of the instructions provided in the early handbooks while potentially becoming again loose instructions themselves. Divorced from their original publication context and captions, freed from their layout, the constellation of images in the exhibition unfolds as another gift.
If the first series of photographs notionally illustrate uses of the play gifts while mapping a model world, other predominantly small-scale images relate more specifically to the biography of the German pedagogue. Fröbel lived and worked close to his birthplace in Thuringia, central Germany. He founded his first institution for early childhood education in 1837 in the small town of Bad Blankenburg where two years later, he coined the term ‘Kindergarten’. Juxtaposed with the graphic educational material, this series of views of the countryside near Jena (the former East Germany near the Czech Republic border) show a reality without clear narrative, yet situates geographically, socially and culturally the genesis of Fröbel’s project. Through this Froment implies a complex relationship between the objects, images, ideas, places and us as audience. The work becomes the vehicle to draw our attention to changed contexts and so perceptions shift. We contemplate ideas not in a void but think while practising.
Alongside the exhibition in Vancouver, the CAG is working in partnership with DIM Cinema at The Cinematheque to present Interludes: Aurélien Froment. Complementing the exhibition, the films selected by Froment often use the format of instructional videos. Taking place on January 20, 2014 at 7.30 pm, works to be screened include The Apse, the Bell and the Antelope (2005); Pulmo Marina (2010); Théâtre de poche (2007); Fourdrinier Machine Interlude (2010); Camillo’s Idea (2012).
The exhibition is made in collaboration with Villa Arson, Nice, France; Spike Island, Bristol, UK; Frac Île de France — Le Plateau, Paris, France; Heidelberger Kunstverein, Germany. A publication will be developed in 2015 bringing together this new commission and the various presentations in the exhibition tour.
Research toward the production of this work is funded by a grant from programme ‘Hors les murs’ 2011 of the Institut Français. The exhibition is supported by the Consulat Général de France à Vancouver and Institut Français.
Born in 1976 in Angers, France, Aurélien Froment lives and works in Dublin. Solo exhibitions by Froment have been presented at Le Credac, Ivry-sur-Seine; Musée départemental de Rochechouart; Centre culturel français, Milan; Marcelle Alix, Paris; CCA Wattis, San Francisco; Montehermoso, Vitoria-Gasteiz; Bonniers Konsthalle project room, Stockholm; The Physics Room, Christchurch; Motive Gallery, Amsterdam; Frac Champagne-Ardenne, Reims; Module du Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Project Arts Centre, Dublin and Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers.
Group exhibitions include The Encyclopedic Palace, 55th Biennale di Venezia; Curiosity, Turner Contemporary, Margate; Mind is Outer Space, Casey Kaplan Gallery, New York, (2013); Descriptive Acts, SF MoMa, San Francisco; Tactics for the Here and Now, Bucarest Biennale 5; In the Holocene, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge; Hapax Legomena, Mercer Union, Toronto (2012); A Terrible Beauty is Born, Biennale de Lyon; Our Magic Hour, Yokohama Triennale; Dystopia, CAPC, Bordeaux (2011); 2 1/2 Dimensional, deSingel, Antwerp; 10,000 Lives, Gwangju Biennale; Art Parcours, Basel (2010); Paper Exhibition, Artist Space, New York; From the Gathering, Helen Pitt Gallery, Vancouver; The Space of Words, Mudam, Luxembourg (2009); The Way in which it Landed, Tate Britain, London; Word Event, Kunsthalle Basel; The Great Transformation, Frankfurter Kunstverein; Inaugural festival, Nam June Paik Center, Seoul (2008).
Froment is represented by Marcelle Alix, Paris and Motive Gallery, Brussels.
American artist James Welling emerged as an important figure in the ‘Pictures Generation’, an influential group of artists working in New York in the 1980s, famous for their pioneering use of photography. This exhibition brings together a hundred and fifty of Welling’s early, experimental and abstract works from this period. The exhibition is presented in partnership with MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, UK and Centro Galego de Arte Contemporànea in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.MORE
At the Contemporary Art Gallery we present a solo exhibition by Turkish artist Meriç Algün Ringborg, her first in a museum in North America, comprising a new large-scale commission sited across the façade of our building. Visitors are invited to ‘read’ the gallery, the work wrapping around the outside as individual phrases envelope the physical structure.
Through the appropriation of methodologies that include collecting, systematizing, and list making, much of Algün Ringborg’s practice centres on notions of cultural identity, language, belonging, and the adjoining bureaucracies. In 2012 Billboards were made for the exhibition Show Off that took place in Malmö and Nicosia respectively. The questions presented derive from The Concise Book of Visa Application Forms, 2009, the work inserting queries for private information into the public realm. At a time when immigration is at the forefront of topical news stories, the project gained significant resonance. Line No.1 (Holy Bible) (2010) was first realized at Index in Stockholm, the complete contents of the Bible running as a single line of text at eye level around the gallery room. A second version in the larger space at Witte de With, Rotterdam incorporated different versions and translations aside from the King James Version of 1611 first used in Sweden, to create a topography of vertical lines mapping across the space.
The new work at the Contemporary Art Gallery has the English dictionary as its starting point and using only selected definitions of specific words, this ambitious commission appears as a series of inter-related sentences which compose mini-narratives, realized in a way that seems to incorporate different voices and characters. As such the work evolves out of the dictionary akin to a fragmentary novel or short story, a series of episodes branching out into a loose meta-narrative concerning writing as a creative act as implied through the use of this ‘found’ language.
Vancouver, a city renowned internationally for the significance of its visual arts practice that conceptually re-pictures space and assigns meaning of the global in the local, provides a stimulating and challenging context for this piece by Algün Ringborg. Shown outside, the work intervenes in the urban fabric, addressing the narratives implicit in everyday routine and our daily lives. Furthermore its siting on the external surface of the gallery incites an evocation of the porosity of meaning that may emerge from such a public institution, through a contemplation of and dissemination of ideas seeping into the public domain. One might anticipate visitors and viewers are prompted into a personal reflection on reading the text based on recollection of previous encounters and exhibitions.MORE
Upcoming at the Field House
Upcoming at the Field House
Broken City Lab
January to April, 2014
Broken City Lab is an artist-led collective that works through collaborative social practice and creative research to understand the ways in which locality is shaped and enacted in the city. Taking the form of events, workshops, installations, and interventions, their projects aim to connect various disciplines and critique, annotate and re-imagine the cities that they encounter, and have unfolded in collaboration with numerous organizations and institutions. They currently operate CIVIC Space in downtown Windsor, Ontario, a 24-month long project exploring the intersection of art and civic life. As part of the Field House Studio Residency members will embark on site-specific research towards a new project that explores and makes visible issues at the intersection of education, public space and civic life. This new project will develop a sequence of programming that circulates in and around the Burrard Marina Field House.
Broken City Lab’s work recently appeared in the th International Venice Biennial of Architecture as part of the Grounds for Detroit exhibit and the collective was long-listed for the Sobey Art Award. Previous projects have included working with the City of Windsor’s Transit Authority to install community-created text-based art in its buses; interactive outdoor projections detailing hundreds of ideas for saving the city; the design and distribution of removable micro-gardens; interactive text-based performance soware; large-scale messages projected across an international border; artists hosted for an interdisciplinary storefront residency project; a foot long message painted on a parking lot visible from planes and satellites; and leading numerous psycho-geographic walks, DIY workshops and community brainstorming sessions in cities all
For this residency, we gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia through the BC Creative
Communities Award and the generosity of many private and individual donations. The Field House Studio Residency Program is generously supported by the Vancouver Park Board and the City of Vancouver. Broken City Lab acknowledges support from Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, City of Windsor and Ontario Trillium Foundation.
Broken City Lab
Saturday, February 15 , 2pm
The Field House Studio at Burrard Marina
In partnership with SFU Philosophers Café, Broken City Lab will
host an artist talk and discussion at the Burrard Marina Field
Marie Lorenz – visit and upcoming 2014 project
This December 2013, Marie Lorenz will visit Vancouver to begin research for a project to be completed in May 2014 at the Burrard Marina Field House.
Marie Lorenz’s work combines psycho-geographic exploration with highly crafted, material forms. In her ongoing project The Tide and Current Taxi, (http://www.tideandcurrenttaxi.org/) Lorenz ferries people on the East and Hudson Rivers surrounding New York City in a boat she has specially made. Lorenz studies tidal charts of the New York Harbor and uses river currents to direct and drift the boat throughout the waterways of the City. The act of floating adds a specific presence to one’s own observation: the viewer maintains an awareness of their own balance and form as they absorb the details in their surroundings. This kind of observation creates something new out of something familiar. For Vancouver Lorenz will begin to develop ideas and discussion toward constructing a new vessel and mapping local waterways in which the community will play an important role as participants.
Previously at the Field House
Canadian artist Raymond Boisjoly was our inaugural resident artist at the Burrard Marina Field House Studio. For six months Boisjoly occupied the Field House, using it as a studio and a place for community engagement.
Please see the related blog posts on the right for more news about his residency at the Field House. Click here for the CAG Field House Blog
The Field House Studio is an off-site artist residency space and community hub organized by the Contemporary Art Gallery. This initiative seeks to support artists whose practice moves beyond conventional exhibition making, echoing the founding origins of the gallery where artists were offered support toward the production of new work. Our goal in presenting art outside of the boundaries of our exhibition spaces is to reach out to communities, offering new ways for individuals to encounter and connect with art and artists, expanding audiences as well as strengthening our commitment to nurturing artists through example, context and commissioning.
Running parallel to the residency program is an ongoing series of public events for all ages.
Speaker Series: Artists in Public
This summer the CAG launched a new series inviting creative and cultural producers to share their theories, thoughts, and experiences of developing projects in the public realm.
Justin A. Langlois
Saturday, August 17, 4pm
Field House Studio at Burrard Marina
Langlois discussed his work as co-founder and research director of Broken City Lab, an artist-led interdisciplinary creative research collective and non-profit organization working to explore locality, infrastructures and creative practice leading towards civic change. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Windsor. In the fall of 2013, he will join the Faculty of Culture + Community at Emily Carr University of Art + Design.
Zoe Kreye and Catherine Grau
Saturday, June 22, 4pm
Field House Studio at Burrard Marina
This first talk presented collaborators Zoe Kreye and Catherine Grau who were working on a public project throughout Vancouver entitled Unlearning Weekender, a project by Goethe Satellite @ Vancouver, created in cooperation with Dance Troupe Practice, Windsor House School, Public Dreams and Revised Projects. They discussed the series of workshops which invited the public to create rituals as a means of challenging invisible social structures aiming to strengthen community bonds.
Free drop-in art activities for all ages which responded to the work of Raymond Boisjoly and CAG exhibitions.
Saturday August 24 – A free all ages drop-in art activity: making pin-wheel windmills.
Saturday July 27 - We welcomed art makers of all ages to the Field House, participants learnt the basics of printmaking by making their own styrofoam relief prints.
Saturday June 29 - All ages of visitors dropped by the Field House for a marine mobile workshop, constructing easy-to-make kinetic sculptures which took the marine world as a theme.
The Field House Studio Residency Program is generously supported by the Vancouver Park Board and the City of Vancouver. The inaugural residency with Raymond Boisjoly was supported by the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology.
This is the first solo institutional exhibition of work by American artist Kay Rosen in Canada. Renowned for her textbased works, presented across a range of formats and scales, Rosen uses space and colour to assert the physical property of language and elaborate new meaning from familiar phrases, often with characteristic wry humour. For Rosen words are both subject and material; playing with their visual representations through meticulously considered typography, colour and layout, she employs puns, anagrams and vernacular phrases to create visual connections which examine the structures and mechanisms of language as well as our encounters with it. Before becoming a visual artist, Rosen studied comparative and applied linguistics, a background which continues to inform her thinking.
For this new commission, Rosen has created two new works including a large-scale intervention across the front of the building. CUTOUT is just that, a formal play on double meaning that quite literally describes the very action and construction of its making. Letters are reversely cut from sheets of coloured vinyl, using the black appearance of the window glass itself to define their form and enabling the cut out letters to become what they spell. Furthermore, Rosen makes a simple cut into one letter of a word to generate another. Deceptively straightforward, in this way the ‘C’ from ‘cut’ was once an ‘O’ that formed the word ‘out.’ Both emphasizing and tracing this action, dashed lines mark the area removed.
Rosen often renders something that was once invisible visible. For example, a simple colour change of the two last letters in ABCDEFGHI in the mural Hi (1998) exposes a pre-existent word within the systematic order of the first nine letters of the alphabet. This slight shift of emphasis has the potential to affect pronunciation, turning our usual listing of letters into ABCDEFG ‘Hi.’ Different versions of this work have also used the physical properties of a building to reveal the alphabet’s potential to form words through minimal gesture; in this case by segregating ‘H’ and ‘I’ from the rest of the letters around an outside corner. Whereas the poetics in Rosen’s work position it within the lineage of Concrete Poetry where linguistic signs form the structure of an object or picture to be perceived rather than a text to be read, her work is equally grounded within conceptual practice. Situated around the corner from CUTOUT, a second work reveals a different aspect of Rosen’s practice. Visual presentation is not used to merely emphasize specific meaning, but to articulate formal gestures that unfold spatially over time. Where one piece is focused on ‘rescuing words from meaning’ the other uses language to generate strong imagery, making evident the social structures that determine its reading.
While a formal syntactical interpretation dominates much of the discourse surrounding Rosen’s work, many pieces convey political comment. Duck in the Muck (aka Exxon Axxident) from 1989, has been remade in a new version for one of our picture windows. Originally a list of ten different spellings of ‘Duck in the Muck’ alternating with an equal number of misspelled ‘Quacks’, for the Contemporary Art Gallery, Rosen has reduced the text, added vibrant layers of colour, and uses the window frame as a means to divide the text into six component parts: one duck in the muck surrounded by variant quacks. Although the title references the Exxon Valdez crude oil spill off the coast of Alaska in 1989, Rosen has chosen the work for its topical relevance to this part of the world. As a vast and extensive system of oil pipelines stretching from Alberta across British Columbia and into the United States are being established, Rosen draws our attention to recent history, and an image of potential dangers to come.MORE
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents the first solo exhibition in Canada of work by the renowned British artist Mike Nelson. Comprising two significant new commissions, the exhibition includes an ambitious series of sculptures produced in partnership with The Power Plant in Toronto, and a new photographic work made in association with the Walter Phillips Gallery in Banff, its starting point family photographs taken between 1957 and 1972 by the distinguished Canadian
anthropologist Dr. Wilson Duff.
Nelson is best-known for his labyrinthine architectural installations that unfold as narrative structures, where the viewer moves through rooms like a reader turns pages in a novel. These immersive environments are often seemingly abandoned, devoid of figures, yet imagining the unseen occupants of these intricate spaces is central to the viewer’s experience. For I, IMPOSTOR, Nelson’s major work for the 54th Venice Biennale (2011), much of the elaborate space appeared vacated, with the exception of a small room where lines of drying black and white photographs hung from wires that crisscrossed the ceiling. These images documented a seventeenth century caravanserai, photographed within the very building that housed a previous installation by Nelson during the 2003 Istanbul Biennale. The darkrooms within the Venice piece were a reconstruction of those adapted ‘found’ spaces in the Eminönü district of Istanbul, the architecture within the British Pavilion a disjointed facsimile from memory and from the photographs of the caravanserai. Visualizing this ghostly photographer supposedly moving through the same space as the viewer, simultaneously suggested the architecture as narrative, but confused time and space; a shift of cities and decades shadowing personal and world histories. It presented a fractured and multi-layered narrative, a set of atmospheres that similarly inform Nelson’s discrete sculptural works.
While his cultural references are broad, touching on particular moments in science-fiction, literature and the Beat era, much of Nelson’s work can be linked through an archetypal figure of the lone wanderer. For the Contemporary Art Gallery, Nelson revisits ideas and forms first seen in The Amnesiacs, a serial project begun in 1996, which references a narrative involving an imaginary cast of characters — a group of ‘outsiders’ to the mainstream who uncannily resemble a disembodied late twentieth century biker gang, albeit without bikes. These quintessential outlaws of myth and literature, as depicted in the popular imagination of North America, are paralleled here with another favourite genre; that of the hunter or fur trader, exploring both groups’ economic underpinning of these romantic façades, and the resulting conflicts involved in the expansion of territory.
In this new work it is as if a beachcomber has gathered material from the ocean, imagined by Nelson as a gigantic intelligent entity, much like that of Lem’s planet ‘Solaris’, sifting the debris as a means to uncover truths about contemporary culture and our place within it. The roving characters, The Amnesiacs, have come together as interpreters, deciphering the collected material by creating assemblages akin to some form of disjointed memory or flashback, that when brought together may effect communication or reveal hidden meaning, the potential for a new and unified system of understanding. Nelson originally developed these thoughts after the unexpected death of his friend and collaborator, Erlend Williamson. In 1996 he had fallen to his death whilst climbing in the Scottish Highlands, at the time that Nelson was working on his first incarnation of what would become The Amnesiacs. Williamson, an artist and mountaineer whose family ancestry was of Orcadian descent, will contribute again; this time parts of his own narrative, and the very materials that surrounded him — those that remain present in his absence — will be woven into the fabric of the work.
Each of the new works is derived from the Canadian landscape: one is quite literally built with flotsam and jetsam collected off local shores, while the other re-imagines it. The second new piece is a sequence of projected 35mm slides produced during recent road trips across British Columbia and into Alberta, images that appear out of time. Collectively they trace another movement across the landscape as well as capture momentary pauses, underlining human interventions to the land. Nelson’s interest in the photographic depiction of the Canadian landscape came through seeing a series of slides from Dr. Wilson Duff’s family trips across the province, presented at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver. As an anthropologist Duff was dedicated to understanding North West Coast cultures, even such private holidays were spent viewing aboriginal festivals or visiting the workshops of totem pole carvers. These images resonated with Nelson as much as the objects in the museum, as a language to be unraveled. They were of a time and place, but already displaced. In relation to this, Nelson has made a work that talks about the land itself and the artistic traditions inherent within it, especially those borne out of North America in the twentieth century and their re-translation as part of a British oeuvre. Nelson unearths the possible re-reading of such activities as cultural imperialism within both strands of the movement — an accusation that could ultimately be reflected within the activities of the artist himself.
Mike Nelson is represented by 303 Gallery, New York; Galleria Franco Noero, Turin; Matt’s Gallery, London; and neugerriemschneider, Berlin.
We acknowledge the generous support of Rick Erickson and Donna Partridge, Jane Irwin and Ross Hill, and Randy and Julia Heward.
With thanks to the Erlend Williamson Art Foundation.MORE