My name is Whitney Brennan and it is a pleasure to join CAG as the curatorial intern.
Part of what excites me about CAG is its dedication to creating accessible exhibitions and public programming that engages with local and international artists. From the artist residency program at the Burrard Marina Field House, to the off-site exhibition space at Yaletown-Roundhouse Station, I anticipate learning a lot during my time here.
I am currently in the second year of my Master’s degree in Critical and Curatorial Studies at the University of British Columbia. My research focuses on media and performance art, with a particular interest in local female media artists and archival practices. After completing my undergraduate degree in Art History at UBC, I knew my hometown would be the best place to continue pursuing my academic interests. While working on my Postgraduate Degree I have had the opportunity to work as a Gallery Assistant at Gam Gallery, co-owned by Tarah Hogue and Julia Kreutz, as well as an independent curator with Decoy Magazine.
I will be working closely with assistant curator Jas Lally and new curator Kimberly Phillips, who I’ve already had the pleasure of working with at Access Gallery, where I volunteer on their fundraising committee. I am excited to begin working on CAG’s upcoming exhibitions, and I hope to see you at our next opening!
“It is a grave matter to leave your land and your people and to go alone to an alien country. Although it becomes a simple matter later, at the beginning, when you think deeply, your heart lacks ease and repose.”
From An Ethiopian’s Voyage to Italy at the End of the 19th Century by Däbtära Fesseha Giyorgis Abiyäzgi
In 1890, Däbtära Fesseha Giyorgis Abiyäzgi traveled from Massawa, Eritrea to Italy. His written account of the journey is the first known secular text to be published in Tigrinya and the first travelogue in Eritrean literature.
Nearly 125 year later, Eritrean-born artist Dawit L. Petros began a journey not unlike Giyorgis’ across Africa and through Europe. A stop in Catania, Italy allowed Petros to connect with Eritrean migrants with whom he created a collection of images of them holding mirrors and archival documents.
These images became Untitled (2016) a series of photographs that have themselves circulated across borders and oceans on their own journey from London, to Kansas City, to Chicago and now to the Contemporary Art Gallery for the exhibition Song of the Open Road where six prints are now on view.
In Untitled (Overlapping and intertwined territories that fall from view II), Catania, Italy, a young man holds up a sheet from a 19th century Italian newspaper printed in Eritrea which reads “Spazio disponibile”. The text translates literally to “available space” which originally indicated potential advertising space. In Petros’ photograph, it takes on new meaning: the space offers an opportunity to present new and overlooked narratives. In a contemporary context, “available space” is as promising as it is fraught –we now have the highest displacement levels on record.
Like much of his work, the Untitled series draws on the artists’ extensive research and travel. Petros’ work reexamines the relationship between Africa and Europe, questioning how some stories of migration are privileged at the expense of others. Dawit L. Petros is currently based in Chicago, IL and New York City. In 2012, he was awarded an Independent Study Fellowship at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Song of the Open Road runs until June 18th, 2017.
New Zealand-born artist Maddie Leach is currently undertaking research on the Simon Fraser Monument in New Westminster as part of a project for the CAG’s Field House Residency Program. Leach’s practice is one that seeks ways of making artworks as a means to interpret and respond to specific context, through a lengthy process of enquiry and social interaction establishing relationships between form, materials, locations, histories, events, individuals and communities. Leach was nominated for the Walters Prize in 2014 for If you find the good oil let us know (2012-2014), created during a two year residency at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth, a town known for its oil and gas exploration on New Zealand’s North Island.
Curatorial intern Michelle Martin caught up with Maddie to see how the project is evolving.
MM: How has your project developed since you were last at CAG’s Field House?
ML: Last time I left the Field House, I was thinking through some ideas about the granite plinth for the Simon Fraser monument. As a part of that residency stay, I had visited a Lefarge granite quarry out past Coquitlam. I was thinking about the relationship of granite to Vancouver’s history, its mining and blasting in the mountains, its widespread use as road aggregate. I was also reading more about Simon Fraser’s journey downriver and I was thinking about roads as a form of contemporary rivers.
I was fascinated with the possibility of shipping the granite plinth upriver from New West to the Lefarge site and putting it through their ‘jaw crusher’ conveyor machine that progressively breaks down large rocks to bits that only measure millimetres.
After I left, the project became more focused on activating a process of ‘adjustment’ and to continue the ‘lowering of Simon Fraser’ that this monument has undergone over the last one hundred years.
MM: Your project deals not only with monuments and objects of commemoration but also with the histories that surround them and emplace them. On a personal level, you have historical connections to New Westminster, how, if at all, has this informed your work?
ML: I first visited New Westminster in 1986 when I was 15. My grandmother Sadie Harding and my Great Aunt Minerva Harding both lived in New West. We were visiting for Expo and I can remember how far away New West felt from everything. My experience of that visit has strong impressions of a particular introduction to aspects and aesthetics of my Dad’s Jewish family, but this hasn’t actively informed the project. But I think I’m often attracted to working with places that might be considered ‘off-centre’ and that has certainly been a continued draw to New West. It seems to be a place undergoing a particular point of transition right now, perhaps with a certain openness to actively considering its own history and sense of place. Something seemed possible here, and I thought about how something that seemed invisible could be made visible in a way that perhaps would be more difficult in downtown Vancouver.
MM: What I really appreciate about your work is that it doesn’t efface the labour of your process by providing a definitive finished object. What kind of labour is involved at this stage of your Field House project?
ML: At this stage it takes the form of research and conversation, a kind of way-finding and uncovering focused on building enough knowledge, conviction and sincerity around a proposal to City of New Westminster and making presentations to the council’s Heritage Commission and Public Art Advisory Committee. I’ve been trying to uncover as much as can be found about the Simon Fraser monument and its trajectory through the city, various disappearances and relocations and the circumstances of its relocation to New Westminster Quay. We’re now hoping to work with valuer Peter Malkin to establish an idea of what it is worth as a complete object and this helps start the practical problem-solving aspects of the project – how to move a large heavy piece of stone, how to cut it, where to temporarily relocate the bronze bust of Simon himself, how to place the object back together. The really speculative part of the work is yet to unfold – how to take something to the source of the Fraser river in the Rockies, who to discuss this with, what it means as an action and how one gets there.
MM: This project involves requesting permission to alter the Simon Fraser Monument currently on New Westminster Quay. Should you be unable to obtain permission, in which possible directions can you see this work going?
ML: Well, I guess as we speak the project has now been proposed to the two New Westminster council committees I mentioned and has achieved their recommendations to support the proposal. It now has to go through council proper but we are hopeful that the recommendations would stand. I think the way I work relies on a certain combination of optimism and absolute doggedness – getting the ‘irrational logic’ of the idea shaped and then sharing it with others is a key part of the work. Each project gathers a backstory as it unfolds and I am often very interested in the communication channels around an idea. In this way one could say the project starts before anything physical has actually happened, so perhaps the fallback position is that it could always remain an attempt to get something to happen, rather than the action actually taking place. I think I always proceed as if the thing I want to do (the adjustment to a public object, monument or place) will happen – I have to believe in the concept I’m proposing and then establish and follow its logic to whatever outcome arises. It’s a constant process of problem-solving and being agile in certain ways. It feels kind of mentally exhausting at times but also produces some memorable experiences and conversations along the way.
We’ll be sure to keep you posted with updates on Maddie Leach’s project!
Hello, my name is Lanna Lastiwka and I just started an internship as the curatorial assistant at the gallery. I am thrilled to be supporting the CAG team this fall/winter with new and exciting projects including working with artists Sameer Farooq and Mirjam Linschooten projects and the upcoming curatorial retreat at the Burrard Marina Field House.
Currently, I am completing a diploma in Art History at UBC, and applying for a Masters program in Art History for next September. Originally from Alberta, I graduated with a BA (Honors) in English Literature and History. After graduation, I moved to London, England where I interned at The Charles Dickens Museum–assisting the manager and leading tours. I began to take art classes where I learned to draw and sculpt, which ignited a curiosity for learning about the history of art.
In order to deepen my knowledge of art, I moved to Stockholm, Sweden. In Stockholm, I interned for the conceptual art gallery Index—The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation, which then led to interacting with contemporary art and artists. These interactions broke open a new visual world that I wanted to explore. It was at this time that I decided to apply for formal education in Art History and build a better understanding of the foundation and projected view of art.
Hello! This is Edwina Zhao, the new curatorial intern from Singapore!
I am currently pursuing a BA (Hons) Fine Art Degree at University of the Arts London – Chelsea College of Arts. For the fall semester, I travelled to Vancouver as an exchange student through Emily Carr University of Art + Design to take part in the Media Arts Internship Program. The program gave me this great opportunity to join CAG and work alongside Curator Shaun Dacey and Assistant Curators Jas Lally and Holly Schmidt, and the rest of the CAG team.
Back in London, my art practice is multidisciplinary and I work primarily with digital medium. For this reason, I decided to continue my studies with Emily Carr’s Film, Video and Integrated Media program while I am in Hollywood North – Vancouver. Putting my skills and knowledge into practice, I am going to create some exciting video content for CAG working with current Field House artist Keg de Souza. So, stay tuned to CAG’s vimeo channel for more updates.
Hope to see you in the gallery soon,
I had the pleasure of attending a workshop CAG artist-in-residence Keg de Souza held for the multi-year Art class students of King George Secondary, a partner High School in the CAG’s education programming. The workshop involved the artists introduction of her current project with the Burrard Marina Field House Residency involving a participatory collage of matter found in Vancouver’s historic Chinatown that reflect the gentrification and displacement of the area manifesting through food culture. Keg encouraged the students to collect any items that will contribute to her project on the historical tour they embarked on shortly after. As I documented this interactive workshop whereby students were able to learn about the gentrification of the area in a historical and tangible way, I found much appreciation in to the different areas of teaching the community about contemporary artists work in diverse forms of accessibility.
As for my personal interest in contemporary art, my first cognitive memory of “contemporary art” was at age 8, when my parents took me to see La La La Human Steps ballet dance. I remember feeling an insurmountable amount of confusion as to understand the meaning of this abstract dance. This initial uncertainty did not drive me away from contemporary art however, rather provided me inspiration in to further inquiring what it means to be a contemporary artist and what we can learn from them. I now find myself in the Visual arts program at UBC, engaging in various artistic mediums, namely video/installation/drawing, and art theory and history. What I have found important within studying art and conceptual theory are the different methods that an institute, artist, or program can conduct to broaden the educative accessibility to the art that is being exhibited or discussed. The partnerships that the CAG conducts with local high schools is an amazing example of enabling a younger demographic a chance to participate in understanding various research that contemporary artists are pursuing.
I am excited to contribute to the CAG’s public programming this fall/winter. Throughout my internship here I will be conducting research on the exciting upcoming artist, Haroon Mirza, to help facilitate writing the teachers guides for Mirza’s exhibition come January. As I reflect on my preliminary experience with La La La Human Steps contemporary ballet group, I look forward to be working with the CAG’s public program to become involved in the process of educating younger demographics in to the contemporary art world. I furthermore look forward to attending Keg De Souza’s open house events, and furthermore her final showcase on November 4th at 6pm, facilitating discussion concerning the artists project and context of the community.