A few months ago, the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts were announced, and several of the eight winners had previously exhibited at the CAG. Jayce Salloum, one of the recipients, is a successful Canadian-born media artist who has lived and worked in a variety of locations in Canada, the US, and elsewhere. Continuing to move around and experience new spaces and environments, his “nomadic practice” significantly informs his work, which raises questions of identity and historical, social, and cultural contexts of place.
I came across untitled in our library archives. This book was co-published by the CAG and the Agnes Etherington Art Centre on the occasion of the exhibitions NEUTRAL/BRAKE/STEERING at the latter institution from November 12 to December 24, 1998 and 22 OZ. THUNDERBOLT which was presented here from March 27 to May 8, 1999. These photo-installations by Salloum consisted of an archive of street photography featuring images of storefront displays in what the curators called the “overlooked corners” of the urban environment. The installations drew their names from phrases on various items and signs in these displays.
Salloum’s photographs took otherwise banal scenes and transformed them into an intriguing subjective record of his travels; augmenting their meaning by arranging them in certain ways. He challenged the conventional ordering of photographs in a documentary format; presenting an appropriation of these images which forces the viewer to create their own narrative. Looking through some of his images as they were arranged in the book, I was left wondering whether they were taken in the same locale, whether these stores were even open for business, and if there was any human activity occurring around these scenes.
This idea of ordering and configuring is important in contemporary art; the way in which an artist organizes components or pieces in an installation has implications for how the audience derives meaning from and experiences them. Our current façade installation by Stefan Brüggemann, Headlines and Last Lines in the Movies, exemplifies this as well. The phrases painted here can be interpreted in very distinct ways when contemplated next to each other rather than alone, or next to a different phrase. For me, it is essential to think about the way exhibitions and installations are presented by their artists and curators when we encounter them.
Jayce Salloum was also part of a group exhibition at the CAG in 2010, The Triumphant Carrot: The Persistence of Still Life, which explored the practice of the traditional still life genre in the context of contemporary art. More of his work can be found here.
Check out untitled in the CAG Bookshop to find out more, and keep these ideas in mind when you come to see the current shows at the CAG and elsewhere! Tweet us @CAGVancouver with your thoughts on the exhibitions to join the conversation.
– Kelli Sturkenboom
Headlines & Last Lines in the Movies transforms the façade of the Contemporary Art Gallery, wooden cladding covering its frontage and south east corner. Resembling a construction site, the structure becomes the ground for the work; the title a precise description of itself.
In this new mural, Brüggemann writes headlines from current newspapers, from local to global, in combination with excerpts of last lines from popular films. “Forget it Jake, its Chinatown” could be spray-painted next to “Enbridge Pipeline Rejected”, the juxtaposition of appropriated texts creating both a familiarity and an oddly appropriate pairing suggestive of narratives that may exist to connect current news items with scripted dialogue. With one text residing in the real, the other in the fictive, in combination they create a barrage of information that Brüggemann unifies into a totality of black text. The overlay forms a graphic field that is only partly legible, language creating an immersive installation that draws colloquial phrases into dense cacophonic arenas. The work seems declaratory, but what it is trying to communicate is drowned out by volume, intensity and opacity.MORE