February 12 to April 24, 2016
Alvin Balkind Gallery and off-site
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents The Foundation, a new and expansive body of work by artist Patrick Staff, their first solo exhibition in Canada. The project, which centres around a major film installation but also comprises sculpture, print, and text, explores queer intergenerational relationships as they are negotiated through a body of historical materials. The film combines footage shot at the Tom of Finland Foundation in Los Angeles—home to the archive of the erotic artist and gay icon and a community of people that care for it—with choreographic sequences shot within a specially constructed set.
The legacy of Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen (1920-1991), better known as Tom of Finland, spans multiple generations; his work made a considerable impact on masculine representation and imagery in post-war gay culture. The foundation was established in 1984 by Tom and his friend Durk Dehner to preserve his vast catalogue of homoerotic art, whilst endeavouring to – to quote the organization’s website – ‘educate the public to the cultural merits of erotic art and in promoting healthier, more tolerant attitudes about sexuality.’ Today, Durk runs the organization and lives in the house, along with a handful of other employees and artists.
Rather than focusing on Tom of Finland’s work, Staff’s film evokes the foundation as a set of relations. It explores how a collection is formed and constituted and the communities that produce and are produced by a body of work. Through observational footage of the house, its collections and inhabitants, the foundation is revealed as a domestic environment, a libidinal space, an archive, an office and a community centre; a private space which is also the home of a public-facing organization and the source of a widely dispersed body of images. In the work, Staff foregrounds their own identity and personal dialogue with the different communities of the foundation to consider how ideas of inheritance and exchange are complicated by gender identity and presentation; in this context, of a younger trans person within a context dominated by the overtly masculine, male identity of an older generation. The documentary style footage of the foundation is intercut with a series of scenes, which are shot in a set incorporating aspects of the building’s architecture and technologies and operate within the register of experimental theatre. These sequences, featuring interactions with an older actor, use choreography and prop to explore the body as a site for the construction and deconstruction of subjectivities.
Through a varied, interdisciplinary and often collaborative body of work comprising film, dance and performance, Staff considers ideas of discipline, dissent, labour and the queer body, frequently drawing on the historical narration of counter-culture, radical activity and alternative forms of community building. This new work is the product of several years’ research and dialogue with the Tom of Finland Foundation and is Staff’s most ambitious and large-scale project to date, bringing together languages of film and live performance with sculptural materiality to explore the body as a political, living archive. The Foundation explores the complexities of cultural artifacts and collective identities, via an examination of ownership, appropriation, responsibility and desire.
For Vancouver CAG has developed a new broadsheet publication and an associated film screening event co-programmed by Staff with Canadian curator and writer Robin Simpson. Continuing the format of Staff’s recent screening-performances Dreams of Travel (2014) and Uniform Smoke (2015), this expanded public programming brings together a number of voices that generate resonances with the politics and interpersonal relationships that constitute the project, rather than describing or fixing the meaning of the work. Grounded within a Canadian context, it seeks to forge a connection among Trans/Queer contexts, production, dialogues and communities. The broadsheet contains specially commissioned texts by Juliet Jacques, Paige Sarlin and Staff and Simpson and will be distributed city wide, in Vancouver, as well as in Toronto via defunct Xtra newspaper boxes.
Alongside the exhibition is a publication dedicated to The Foundation produced between the exhibition partners with Mousse Publishing, including commissioned texts by Isla Leaver-Yap and Catherine Lord; an interview by Katie Guggenheim with Staff; and a conversation between Patrick Staff and Tom of Finland Foundation’s S.R. Sharp. Special exhibition price of $25.
The Foundation is co-commissioned by Chisenhale Gallery, London; Spike Island, Bristol; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; and Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver. Co-produced by Chisenhale Gallery, London and Spike Island, Bristol.
With thanks to the Tom of Finland Foundation. The Foundation is supported by Arts Council England Grants for the Arts, The Elephant Trust and the Genesis Prize. The broadsheet publication and screening project is supported by The British Council.
Patrick Staff lives and works in London and Los Angeles. Selected recent exhibitions, screenings and performances include British Art Show 8, touring; The Foundation, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Spike Island, Bristol and Chisenhale Gallery, London (2015); Europe, Europe, Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo; Scaffold see Scaffold, The Showroom, London; Art Turning Left, Tate Liverpool; L’Heure Des Sorcieres, Le Quartier, France (2014); Mental effort Before Action: 1-5A-5B, South London Gallery; A Factory As It Might Be (Bournville), International Project Space, Birmingham; Society is a Workshop, Banff Centre, Canada (2013); and Chewing Gum for the Social Body, Tate Modern, London (2012). Staff took part in the LUX Associate Artists Programme in 2010/11, and was recently awarded the 2015 Paul Hamlyn Award for visual artists.
Screening event presented by Patrick Staff and Robin Simpson
Presented by CAG in partnership with Cineworks.
Friday, February 12, 7pm
Cineworks Annex, 235 Alexander Street, Vancouver
Works screened include: Mirha Soleil-Ross’ Gender Troublemakers (1993), Xanthra Mackay’s Rupert Remembers (2000), James Diamond’s The Man from Venus (1999), Mike Hoolboom’s Frank’s Cock (1993) and Gwendolyn and Co.’s Prowling by Night (1990).
‘Missives’, is a new free broadsheet publication and an associated film screening event co-programmed by Staff with Canadian curator and writer Robin Simpson. Continuing the format of Staff’s recent screening-performances Dreams of Travel (2014) and Uniform Smoke (2015), this expanded public programming brings together a number of voices that generate resonances with the politics and interpersonal relationships that constitute the project, rather than describing or fixing the meaning of the work. Grounded within a Canadian context, it seeks to forge a connection among Trans/Queer contexts, production, dialogues and communities.
The broadsheet contains specially commissioned texts by Juliet Jacques, Staff and Simpson and will be distributed city wide as well as in Toronto via defunct Xtra newspaper boxes.
Alongside this, the screening event at Cineworks Annex (February 12 from 7pm), invokes a provisional social space, cinema and theatrical set where a temporary community may gather, through which a selection of film and video works explore first person narratives, interview, account and witness in queer Canadian moving image production, and reflect upon our viewing of it in a contemporary context. Presenting older works framed through their practice the evening engages an intergenerational conversation and includes: Mirha Soleil-Ross’ Gender Troublemakers (1993), Xanthra Mackay’s Rupert Remembers (2000), James Diamond’s The Man from Venus (1999), Mike Hoolboom’s Frank’s Cock (1993) and Gwendolyn and Co.’s Prowling by Night (1990).
The MISSIVES broadsheet and screening event are generously supported by the British Council.MORE
Extra, extra, read all about it! The newspaper boys’ cries promoting the next big event are true: Missives, a free broadsheet organized by UK artist Patrick Staff and Vancouver based Writer and Curator Robin Simpson is now being distributed to a number of locations in Vancouver and Toronto utilizing Xtra! newspaper boxes re-designed by Staff, each painted black and draped with chain appliques (derived from Tom of Finland drawings that were also incorporated into Staff’s project).
This newsy, for one, is excited about this. Hi there, I’m Jorma Kujala, a Master’s Candidate with SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts’ MA Program in Comparative Media Arts. I am currently completing a practicum with the CAG, and the distribution and maintenance of Simpson and Staff’s reused newspaper boxes is one of the projects I am taking the lead on. Keep your eyes peeled to this blog site, I am looking forward sharing my insights with you about life at the CAG, and together we can explore front-of-house and behind the scenes nooks and crannies of Vancouver’s foremost contemporary arts gallery!
The Missives broadsheet is an extension and companion to a series of screenings in Vancouver (February 12) and Toronto generously supported by the British Council in Canada, and programmed by Patrick Staff and Robin Simpson. I was happy to help out at last month’s screening, as it allowed me a chance to see the films and mix with a great crowd of cinephiles. The appropriated screening location, like the newspaper boxes, retained hints of past uses. For me, the editing equipment scattered about the edges of the Cineworks Annex screening room and the faint smell of darkroom chemicals closed the circle between the past life that created celluloid stories such as those being screened and their current “final life” broadcast to our contemporary audience.
Works screened included Mirha-Soleil Ross’ Gender Troublemakers (1993), Xanthra Mackay’s Rupert Remembers (2000), James Diamond’s The Man from Venus (1999), Mike Hoolboom’s Frank’s Cock (1993) and Gwendolyn and Co.’s Prowling by Night (1990). The Man From Venus, a 4:00 black and white film from 1999, was particularly captivating, in part for its brimming, free-flowing dialogue of one person’s struggles for acceptance and understanding. Its edgy, experimental format, filmed in Vancouver’s downtown periphery, left me twitching both from its rapid-fire monologue, and its theme of life on the edge of humanity. Engaging with this young person’s dialogue and footage of him navigating life on the same streets I incorporate into my urban routine left me wondering if I, or perhaps you, had ever run into him – “… push me, hold me, let go of me, help me, help me…” – and more importantly, how I, or you, would have reacted had we met.
The other film I connected with offered an entirely different, yet equally captivating, personal journey. Rupert Remembers, a 23:45, colour film from 2000 offers Rupert Raj’s personal tour of people, places and spaces pivotal to 70’s and 80’s trans culture in Toronto, and indeed the rest of Canada. His wistful thoughts and reflections, recorded mostly with hand-held cameras, opened a genuine, honest and welcoming view into communities that many have difficulty accessing. I am very appreciative of both films for allowing me to enter their discussions, and offering me my own moment to pause and think… that is, when I wasn’t busy hustling and schlepping drinks from behind the bar!
Yes, from my vantage point serving drinks from behind the bar, the capacity crowd for the Missives screening certainly maximized all the carpeted, lounging floor space, leaving the rest of audience to occupy the periphery seating and standing area. The absorbed conversation by the audience throughout the evening certainly demonstrated the importance of engaging with stories, issues and politics raised by this screening, leaving us volunteers and staff to ever so gently nudge everyone towards the door as the screening wound to a close! I hope the Toronto screening is equally well attended, and generates the same, or more, positive dialogue as that brimming forth from our Vancouver event! And remember: you still have time to check out Patrick Staff’s The Foundation installation, continuing at the CAG until April 24th.
– Jorma KujalaMORE
Locations of the broadsheet boxes to pick up a free copy of MISSIVES. Created by Patrick Staff and Robin Simpson, produced and presented by Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver. The broadsheet publication and screening project is supported by The British Council.MORE