For some, there may be something vaguely familiar about the giant image that is currently installed in the Contemporary Art Gallery’s windows. What appears as a huge, empty landscape is actually vinyl from a billboard ad for Apple’s “Shot on iPhone” campaign salvaged by Toronto-based artist Kelly Jazvac. Originally measuring over 70 feet, the billboard was intended to promote the photographic abilities of the iPhone 6.
Stretched across the CAG’s facade, Ambient Advertising (2016) provides viewers with the rare opportunity to engage up close with the sheer scale of advertisement through the repurposed vinyl. In Jazvac’s hands, the vinyl has been meticulously sliced and made to fit in the CAG’s windows. The once glossy, enticing surface of the image is interrupted by cuts that allow for a more critical engagement with the vinyl’s texture and movement. What seems at first like a pristine image of a vast landscape becomes troubled by the disposable material it creates and the ironic implications it has for the environment it depicts.
Much of Kelly Jazvac’s work incorporates discarded vinyl into new compositions, reviving thrown-away material and touching on environment concerns like pollution. Her installation and sculptural pieces often have a playfulness to them—check out the cowboy hanging upside down inside the gallery—that encourages us to acknowledge the absurdity in the everyday.
Since the original was released in 2007, the iPhone has had 12 iterations. Which each new iPhone comes a new advertising campaign promising that this phone is better than the last. What Jazvac’s work highlights is how planned obsolescence guarantees more iPhones, more ad campaigns, more vinyl , and more waste.
Ambient Advertising will be up in our windows until September 10th, 2017.
Until September 10, 2017
Ambient Advertising (2016), installed across the CAG’s windows, is a reconfigured work by Toronto-based Kelly Jazvac. Salvaged billboard images are reframed, manipulated and cut through, seemingly in reference to a quintessential Canadian landscape, and visually envelop the gallery at street level. Taken from contemporary advertising, the imagery appeals to our collective sense of identity through reference to the romantic and awesome natural world that surrounds us while questioning the feeding of desire as driven by contemporary consumer culture.
Presented with Capture Photography Festival
Kelly Jazvac is an artist based in London, Ontario. Recent exhibitions include Rocks Stones and Dust, Art Museum at the University of Toronto; Organic Situation, Koenig and Clinton; An other land, and in the other our own, Prosjekstrom Normann’s, Norway; Human Nature, Carleton University Gallery, Ottawa (2015); Recent Landscapes, Louis B. James Gallery, New York City; Anthropophotogenic, The University of Waterloo Art Gallery (2014); PARK, Oakville Galleries; Impel With Puffs, Diaz Contemporary, Toronto; and More Than Two, The Power Plant, Toronto (2013). She is represented by Louis B. James Gallery, New York.MORE
As part of Canadian Art Magazines Gallery Day Vancouver Editor-in-Chief David Balzer discusses the work of Turkish Canadian artist Erdem Tasdelen and his current CAG exhibitions Wild Child and The Quantified Self Poems.MORE
Song of the Open Road
Vikky Alexander, Robert Arndt, Gerard Byrne, Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn, Kelly Jazvac, Kelly Lycan, Niamh O’Malley, Dawit L. Petros, Greg Staats, Lisa Tan
April 1 to June 18, 2017
B.C. Binning, Alvin Balkind Galleries, Events room, Window Spaces and off-site at Yaletown-Roundhouse Station, Canada line
Presented in partnership with Capture Photography Festival
“You road I enter upon and look around, I believe you are not all that is here,
I believe that much unseen is also here.
I believe you are latent with unseen existences, you are so dear to me.”
—Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road” (1856)
Taking its title from a poem by Walt Whitman, the Contemporary Art Gallery presents a group exhibition as the central feature of this year’s Capture Photography Festival. Work is presented both inside and outside and across all of the gallery’s spaces, embracing a diverse set of conditions and approaches centred in a conceptual understanding of an expanded field of photographic practice that examines notions of what you see is most definitely not what you get.
Bringing together artists from Canada, Eritrea, Ireland, Sweden, and the US, the exhibition includes works that combine thematically to interrogate ideas rooted in photographic histories, engaging ideas such as veracity, recollection, remembrance, belonging, staging, and how the image documents and records these or is evidence of differing realities.
Key to the exhibition is Images or shadows of divine things (2005–), an ongoing series by Irish artist Gerard Byrne. Visually rich and intellectually complex, the artist’s work in photography, film, theatre, and multiscreen installation examines the slippage between time and the act of image creation. Presented here, a selection of these black-and-white photographs seems to depict a much earlier period, evoking vernacular photographic idioms of American midcentury photography and thus pointing toward the relationship between time, appearance, and the photographic document. Through a collection of over twenty images, a sense emerges that the series has a certain scale of vision. However, it is more about picturing the historical “conditions” of image making than it is about riffing on an aesthetic. That sense of conditions emerges only once the particularity of the given images is surpassed—that is when it becomes obvious that the specifics of the images are not the point, this realization becoming palpable when a sufficient number of them are grouped together.
Robert Arndt’s activities search and reveal the means of accessing culture and history through the mediated forms of books, magazines and the Internet. Made for the exhibition, Remainders, Repeats and Rejects (2017) is characteristic in its investigation of production whereby documentation itself becomes the artwork. Alongside a large-scale photograph of the gallery wall on which it sits atop, Arndt’s work collects and conflates personal imagery with found and staged scenarios, highlighting the notion that documentation may be all that is required for an idea to exist and resonate. We imagine wide ranging connections, invent narratives and recognize links between images, all thoughts set in motion to create a diversity of potential meaning.
Recent work by Canadian artist Kelly Lycan includes installations based on Gallery 291, the iconic New York photography gallery opened by Alfred Stieglitz in 1905. These recreations are developed through sourcing images available online, in an attempt to uncover an understanding or experience of the space while drawing on simulations of the photographic illusion of this. Song of the Open Road features a new version of Nearby Nearby, 291 Burlap Walls (2015), composed of a series of images of the walls of Gallery 291 culled from Internet searches. Printed on paper, the work creates a pixelated arena of varicoloured white grounds, where it is as if each image is forensically being drawn from some depths to emerge on the paper’s surface.
As a contemporary of artists such as Richard Prince, James Welling and Sherrie Levine who were active in New York in the early 1980s, Vikky Alexander is often associated with the Pictures Generation. She is best known for work that foregrounds a strong interest in the histories of architecture, design, and fashion, often focusing on locations such as shopping malls, showrooms, and show apartments—sites of desire, aspirations, and ideas of home. The images are often complicated through light, reflections, and refractions and speak of a set of conditions and values embedded in appearances as seen through furnishings and the notional view from the window (here, a large-scale photo mural). Shown outdoors at Yaletown-Roundhouse Station, Model Suite (Sliding Door) (2005/17) interplays with its architectural surroundings; the station’s glass pavilion lends a further physical and visual layer as we see the daily activity on the street through the work itself.
Ambient Advertising (2016), installed across the CAG’s windows, is a reconfigured work by Toronto-based Kelly Jazvac. Salvaged billboard images that she has reframed, manipulated and cut through, seemingly in reference to a quintessential Canadian landscape, visually envelop the gallery at street level. Taken from contemporary advertising, the imagery appeals to our collective sense of identity through reference to the romantic and awesome natural world that surrounds us while questioning the feeding of desire as driven by contemporary consumer culture.
Alongside photographic work in a variety of processes, the exhibition also includes moving-image works. Sunsets (2012), by American artist Lisa Tan, combines literature and various historical and personal references to materially explore the intricate relationship between language, image, and experience. The video, filmed on the threshold between night and day, unfolds like a conversation. Seemingly inconsequential things pop up and take hold: a phone call interrupts, the sun starts to set, a stranger asks a question, translations are needed. The work narrates Tan’s engagement with enigmatic writers, with histories, technologies, and geographies that she knows, in order to mediate those that she doesn’t.
Concerned with issues of visibility and the slippage between a moment and an image, Irish artist Niamh O’Malley investigates the construction and arrangement of time and document as revealed through the moving image. Across two large-scale screens, the silent black-and-white video Glasshouse (2014) unfolds as a lengthy tracking shot. As the camera moves seamlessly from left to right along the glass panes, the natural idyll disappears here and there as the glass becomes more or less opaque. Through this O’Malley draws our attention to the process of looking, the camera seemingly attempting to locate and uncover meaning. Yet as images fragment, blocked by stained and broken glass, such efforts are thwarted, challenging our perception of what it is we are actually viewing and of how the images are constructed.
Born in Montreal and currently working in Stockholm, Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn investigates issues of historicity, collectivity, utopian politics, and multiculturalism, often revealing the unnoticed political relevance of seemingly trivial historical anecdotes by shedding light on stories overlooked, hidden, or deemed otherwise insignificant. Seizing Hold of a Memory as It Flashes Up (2010) is a blind embossing using the speech of twelve-year-old Severn Suzuki, daughter of Japanese Canadian science communicator and environmental activist David Suzuki, delivered at the 1992 Earth Summit. Suzuki and members of ECO, the Environmental Children’s Organization, raised the money to travel from Vancouver to Brazil so they could attend the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. Here, Suzuki delivered her speech before 172 representatives of different countries, 108 heads of state, and some 2,400 NGO representatives; 17,000 of the people who attended the parallel NGO Global Forum had consultative status, resulting in a meeting that ultimately led to the Kyoto Protocol.
Toronto-based artist Greg Staats, Kanien’kehá:ka (b. Ohsweken, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory) whose works combine language, mnemonics and the natural world as an ongoing process of conceptualising a Haudenosaunee restorative aesthetic that defines the multiplicity of relationships with trauma and renewal. Staats addresses the systemic deficit of language—through personal and community archives and an intellectual and aesthetic interpretation of the body and ceremony. The installation untitled (objects of reciprocal thinking) (2014) combines both works from the beginning of the artist’s reflection of public and private within a Haudenosaunee linguistic and mnemonic continuum linked to place and recent works based on a reciprocal methodology. When at the edge of one’s condolence and within the liminal metaphysical space prior to renewal, there lies a hesitancy to move forward. While external and internal barriers must be overcome, the process must be completed with the help of others, both as witnesses and holders of the good mind. This ceremonial movement is comparable to moving from the darkness of the forest into the clearing where the light illuminates breath and one’s footing becomes clearer. The Mid-Winter (renewal) ceremony Gaihwayao:ni:, translated as “encouragement,” employs reciprocal gestures and words, repeatable to lifting up the mind after it has dropped down during condolence and/or post-trauma.
Chicago-based Canadian Eritean artist Dawit L. Petros similarly reflects through personal and cultural histories on ideas surrounding place making that are centred on a critical rereading of the relationship between African histories and European modernism. The book About the Author’s Journey from Ethiopia to Italy and about the Impressions Made on Him by His Stay in That Country in Tigrinya, by nineteenth-century writer Fesseha Giyorgis, was the first text published in the Tigrinya language (used in present-day Eritrea and Ethiopia). Using this as a guide, Petros undertook the journey from Ethiopia to Italy, his contemporary journey mirroring the historical passage across the Mediterranean Sea as well as the one undertaken by those currently fleeing to safety. When he arrived in Italy, the artist met a group of Eritrean migrants, with whom he made Untitled (2016), a collection of images with these individuals holding mirrors or archive materials in visual dialogue with the surrounding landscape. Viewed together, the photographs offer a metaphor-rich articulation of the fluidity of contemporary transnational experiences and attendant issues of cultural negotiation, speaking to how images and objects enable a sense of belonging or retrieval, both public and private.
We acknowledge the generous financial support of the following:
Vikky Alexander: Presented in partnership with the Canada Line Public Art Program—IntransitBC
Niamh O’Malley: Culture Ireland
Greg Staats: The Banff Centre, via a thematic residency program; the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario; and the Canada Council for the Arts/Conseil des arts du Canada
Lisa Tan: Iaspis, the Swedish Arts Grants Committee’s International Programme for Visual Artists
Collaborative Poetry reading with Daniel Zomparelli and Dina Del Bucchia
Thursday, February 16, 7pm
In response to Erdem Taşdelen’s ‘The Quantified Self Poems’, poet Daniel Zomparelli will speak about his work with Taşdelen and the central role collaboration plays in his creative practice. Zomparelli and frequent collaborator Dina Del Bucchia will follow with a reading from recent work.
Zomparelli is editor-in-chief of Poetry is Dead magazine, co-podcaster of Can’t Lit and co-editor of After You, a collaborative poetry project. His first book of poems Davie Street Translations and Rom Com a collaborative book with Dina Del Bucchia are published by Talonbooks. His first collection of short stories Everything is Awful and You’re a Terrible Person will be published by Arsenal Pulp Press in Spring 2017.
The Quantified Self Poems
January 13 to March 19, 2017
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents two new works by Toronto-based Turkish artist Erdem Taşdelen.
Presented in our windows is The Quantified Self Poems, a new series of twelve screen prints. Over a period of three months in the summer of 2016, Taşdelen reported his moods approximately three times a day on “Emotion Sense”, a self-improvement smartphone app developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, UK. As he answered a series of questions the artist’s feelings were numerically encoded as data, effectively quantifying the unquantifiable. Working with programmer Ali Bilgin Arslan, Taşdelen developed an algorithm that translated this information into words drawn from a unique dictionary created by Vancouver-based poet Daniel Zomparelli. Unusual sentences emerge from which we attempt to make some kind of sense.
Commissioned by the Contemporary Art Gallery with Cineworks, Wild Child, presented in CAG’s events room, is an ambitious two-part video installation which takes as its starting point An Historical Account of the Discovery and Education of a Savage Man by Jean Marc Gaspard Itard, a physician who decided to care for a feral boy found in Aveyron, France in 1798. Convinced that he could “civilize” the boy by teaching him language, Itard was left frustrated in his attempts to make the boy transcend his so-called savagery when he proved incapable of learning to speak.
In Wild Child Taşdelen adapts this story, this time set in contemporary British Columbia and presented through two distinct elements. One video depicts preparations for an imagined filmed documentary, featuring twelve actors as they audition for the roles of its main characters. This is accompanied by a second piece, a sequence of images of a forest depicting “nature” in a supposedly unmediated manner. Devoid of any human activity, it provides the viewer with a space of contemplation in contrast to the interactions portrayed between performers, crew and writer/director.
Each work exposes the dynamics at play through differing representations of human nature. Notionally objective realities conflate with fiction in a self-referential manner that deliberately befuddles the viewer; the familiar made compelling strange.
Wild Child is commissioned by Contemporary Art Gallery with Cineworks and is supported by BC Arts Council.
The Quantified Self Poems is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and produced with thanks to Daniel Zomparelli and Ali Bilgin Arslan.
Erdem Taşdelen lives and works in Toronto. His multidisciplinary practice involves a range of media including installation, video, drawing, sculpture, sound and artist books. He has shown extensively internationally and across Canada, including exhibitions at Burrard Arts Foundation, Vancouver; Museum für Neue Kunst, Freiburg (2016); Stacion Center for Contemporary Art, Kosovo; Sakip Sabanci Museum, Istanbul (2015); Galeri NON, Istanbul; Western Front, Vancouver; Kunstverein Hannover; Biennial of the Americas, Denver; ARTER, Istanbul; Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich; MAK, Vienna (2013); 221A, Vancouver and Oakville Galleries (2012).MORE
Curatorial assistant Lanna Lastiwka reports on her experiences of assisting artists Sameer Farooq and Mirjam Linschooten with preparation for the installation of their exhibition White, Steel, Slice, Mask in the CAG window spaces.
Installing White, Steel, Slice, Mask posed a physical challenge due to the narrow space in the CAG windows. Installing was difficult! on reaching up to paint the last white space black in the display window, I tried to turn horizontally, but couldn’t. I was stuck. The only way I could move in eight inches of space was vertically. Shimming along the edge of the small platform, inside the window, I could only look directly at the wall or through the glass onto the street, without turning. I created a variety of poses from bending with one leg up behind me (to keep me balanced) to crouching and reaching, with one foot in front of the other, while juggling a paint brush, measuring tape, nails and art objects. The intimacy of the space caught the attention of many casual observers who not only responded to my struggles, but the cultural and religious pieces being installed in the windows.
The challenge the artists and Kay Slater (the head installer) faced was creatively melding the reality of such a unique space with the artists’ vision through intense construction and artistic planning. Since I could only see a few inches away from my face, it was difficult to gauge if every black paint stroke was dark enough, or if drill holes from previous exhibitions were noticeable to the viewer on the street, or if every bracket and shelf was placed correctly.
We decided to install in parts. First, the brackets and shelves individually, then, placed the art pieces one at a time, allowing us to see the overall artistic effect at the very end. Yet, it only took a couple of religious or cultural objects being placed in the windows for passers-by to take notice.
The East Indian window had only a few shelves and religious objects in it when I had my first interaction. Balancing on one leg and stretching towards the far wall in a ballet-esque pose, I began dusting the shelves in preparation for more objects. Looking up through the glass I noticed an elderly Hindi man. He watched me gently weave through the objects to the far shelf with a cloth. He waited until I was finished and asked me about moving in the enclosed space: if it was difficult? did I like it? why install these objects in such a closed space? was I claustrophobic? and was I afraid to break or smash one of the pieces because of the tight space?
During our conversation about the space, he smiled and began to tell me the significance and history of the religious objects and images in the window. Afterwards, I realized that the nature of the space led to interactions about the objects being installed. It lured people into the intimate space, so that they could connect with what was being displayed.
White, Steel, Slice, Mask
September 10, 2016 – January 1, 2017
Bear Claws Salad Hands
Off-site: Yaletown-Roundhouse Station, Canada Line
September 10, 2016 – March 19, 2017
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents an ambitious new multi-venue commission by collaborators Dutch artist Mirjam Linschooten and Canadian artist Sameer Farooq, interrogating the ways in which cultural diversity is narrated and represented. Working together for over a decade, the duo’s interdisciplinary practice creates community-based models of participation in order to reimagine a material record of the present. Utilizing installation, photography, design and writing, they investigate the tactics and methods of anthropology to examine various forms of collecting, interpretation and display. The result is work that reveals how institutions speak about our lives, evoking an archeology of the present often existing beyond the framework of the gallery. Their expansive projects develop intricate, speculative archives repurposing found objects and language to expose ruptures within cultural representation, questioning the invisibility of the archivist and interrogating the inherent value bias in collecting.
Over the past year Farooq and Linschooten have undertaken a series of cumulative research trips via the Burrard Marina Field House Studio Residency Program toward the development of installations at CAG, the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station and the Museum of Anthropology (MOA). Core to the various commissions are participatory workshops led by the artists with the Native Youth Program (NYP) at MOA, a program for Indigenous youth from Greater Vancouver where students engage in various aspects of working within a museum context, leading public tours, completing research projects and participating in presentations. Farooq and Linschooten invited NYP participants to consider their personal narratives in relation to the anthropological museum’s displays, identifying key elements for examination in the Multiversity Galleries. Throughout the histories of colonialism and capitalism innumerable cultural objects have entered museum collections around the world detached from the communities and physical bodies they belong to. Ripped from context and trapped behind glass, rearranged and discombobulated, the cultural authenticity, specificity and vitality of these objects are dismembered into taxonomies of otherness. Within the window spaces at CAG, Farooq and Linschooten consider such acts of ethnographic curation. Reflecting tensions between local communities and their representation in museums, Farooq and Linschooten focus on ongoing cultural forms that persist in contemporary culture. Replicating, yet also subverting, the supposed objective aesthetic of museum vitrines, Farooq and Linschooten have installed a collection of mass-produced cultural objects purchased from shops across the lower mainland, notionally representative of Vancouver’s largest immigrant communities. Display mechanisms such as shelves, hooks and bars are used to disrupt and unsettle the objects, disturbing the meticulous arrangement and suggestive of the uneasy relations between the conserved and custodian, artifact and everyday object, revealing the unintended violence of display.
At Yaletown-Roundhouse Station, Farooq and Linschooten repurpose found language from a local souvenir shop highlighting the active commodification of culture. During their time in Vancouver the artists discovered Hudson House Trading Company, a typical tourist store in Gastown selling a plethora of Canadian ‘knick-knacks’ that capitalize on perceptions of Vancouver’s identity via a collection of cultural reproductions for sale. Through the simple act of reproducing the language of the store’s inventory list and applying the names of a selection of items directly onto the station windows, the Canada Line façade operates like an advert exaggerating the wholesale co-opting of culture as currency.
The re-appropriation of found images, objects and language developed into public installations both exaggerate and subvert the ethnographic strategies of representation and implicate such practices into a larger system of commodification utilized to propagate cultural hierarchy, difference and discrimination.
Projects are generously supported by the BC Arts Council Innovations Program, the Mondriaan Fund and the Hamber Foundation. Farooq and Linschooten’s collaboration with the Native Youth Program is developed in collaboration with the Museum of Anthropology. The project at Yaletown- Roundhouse Station is presented in partnership with the Canada Line Public Art Program — IntransitBC.
The interdisciplinary practice of Sameer Farooq (Canada) and Mirjam Linschooten (Netherlands) can be situated as an expanded documentary practice, presenting counter archive’s, new additions to museum collections or making buried histories visible. Their work has been exhibited in various countries, including: Belgium, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey. Recent projects include The Figure in the Carpet, Blackwood Gallery, Toronto (2015); Faux Guide, Trankat, Morocco (2014); The Museum of Found Objects, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2011); The Museum of Found Objects, Sanat Limani, Istanbul (2010) and Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue, Artellewa, Cairo (2014).MORE
Over the last couple of months I had the pleasure of working with artist duo Sameer Farooq and Mirjam Linschooten on their window installation exhibition: White, Steel, Slice, Mask.
My work started with the logistical planning of installing in seven windows with a depth of a mere eight inches. The challenge of maneuvering in this small narrow space coupled with installing a range of objects from; an antique horse figure, masks, ceramics to a whole window of paper plates. This challenge was met by great ambition by the amazing installation team.
I have visually documented the progress of the install from start to finish with some great pictures of our team working hard, take a look above in the slide viewer.
White Steel, Slice, Mask is on display until January 8,2017. Don’t forget to visit Yaletown-Roundhouse Station for Sameer Farooq and Mirjam Linschooten’s second installation and CAG commission Bear Claws Salad Hands also on display until January 8, 2017.