Category Archives: Writing

Connexions

An excerpt from an exhibition review published in C Magazine 129 (2016), which reflects upon the metaphorical play with the concept of archiving in Hank Bull: Connexion, Galerie de l’UQAM, Montreal, Oct. 23 — Dec. 5, 2015, curators: Joni Low and Pan Wendt.

Hank Bull: Connexion begins with a cactus. It is a smallscale,
brightly painted variety assembled from interlocking
MDF pieces. Behind the cactus, a landscape
unfurls in a palette of many hues with a gestural
brushstroke suggestive of the mind-altering experience
of desert light. A few feet away in the gallery, a
television monitor plays Duster (1991), a video work
that parasitically rearranges the narrative structure,
pictorial conventions and racial stereotypes of televised
Hollywood Westerns. This episode, collectively
authored and performed, features Warren Arcan,
Rebecca Belmore and other artists, like Hank Bull,
associated with the Vancouver artist-run centre the
Western Front.

The encounter with a cactus thriving in the subterranean
environment of Galerie de l’UQAM works
as a visual and spatial metaphor for the exhibition
as a whole. Viewers’ successive discovery of the social
context that produced the TV-studio species of
cactus and its artificial environment stands in for the
way that mediated images influence our unconscious
formation of identity and social groups…

…Ultimately, the exhibition shows that it is more
useful to think about archiving as a series of “events,”
as suspended moments; not simply an institutionally
imposed protocol, but a form of mediation that occurs
at many stages in the circulation of cultural objects.
In this sense, Hank Bull: Connexion is a self-archiving
project with a reflexive relationship to the
public gallery that hosts it, the discursive effects of
art history and curatorial practice.

Peter Doig: No Foreign Lands

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, January 24-May 4, 2014
Experience a virtual tour of the exhibition here.

An excerpt of my review of the exhibition written for C Magazine 123 (2014):

Looking at the paintings alongside my child, I was reminded that landscape is a learned pictorial convention. If visual language (like spoken language) is something we absorb from our environment, how is the Museum as the mediator of my child’s experience contributing to his nascent understanding of place? Doig’s large-scale paintings received a spacious hanging throughout the Museum’s Beaux-Arts architecture, this reinforced our contemplation of “landscape” as representations of a self-contained world existing elsewhere. However, my son’s inability to “see” the overall composition in each of Doig’s paintings meant that he focused on the fragments to which he could put words, such as “tree” or “bird.” This denaturalization of the picture caused me to wonder how Doig’s rummaging through the detritus of both a global popular culture and the global legacies of modernist painting challenge us to think of ourselves as foreign travelers in lands already occupied by other people and their memories.

Paul-Émile Borduas A Critical Biography

By François-Marc Gagnon
Translated by Peter Feldstein
Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013, 596pp

Excerpted from a review written for Montreal Review of Books:

Walter Benjamin argues that a translation is the transposition of a text from one language to another as both a renewal of the original work and a revival for succeeding generations or alternate cultural contexts. With this in mind, the recent translation of François-Marc Gagnon’s biography of the celebrated modernist painter Paul-Émile Borduas offers a rich art-historical resource to a potentially global audience of English-speaking readers. At the same time, the effect of this linguistic “displacement” on our understanding of Borduas as a historical figure becomes a reoccurring theme within the content of the text itself… read more

West of Center: Art and the Counterculture Experiment in America, 1965-1977

Edited by Elissa Auther and Adam Lerner
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011

Excerpted from a book review written for C Magazine 118 (2013):

Editors Elissa Auther (Associate Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Colorado) and Adam Lerner (Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and chief animator in the Department of Fabrications) offer strategies for understanding “lifestyle as an art form.” Their etymology of the term “counterculture,” as a category imposed through the sociological literature of the period, brings together performative, participatory or durational practices through a common ideological orientation. The search for alternative ways of living finds a common cause in the rejection of the technocratic organization of American society – and specifically government collusion with industries that benefited from nuclear rearmament and the Vietnam War… [Auther and Lerner ague,] countercultural forms do not materialize as modernist art objects, but rather as an expression of a way of life; therefore a distinction between the counterculture and the avant-garde has rendered such practices invisible to art historical scholarship that focuses on discreet objects. Likewise, these ways of life are overlooked by histories of the 1960s that focus on direct action as defined through the politics of the New Left. For historians of civil rights movements, projects of cultural transformation through aesthetic means appear apolitical. The essays collected in West of Centre address this gap in scholarship with a view to providing a geneaology for participatory or collective practices in contemporary art today…

Light Years : Conceptual Art and the Photograph 1964-1977

Edited by Matthew S. Witkovsky
Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 2011, 264 pp.

Excerpted from a book review written for Ciel Variable Magazine, no. 94 (2013)

The title phrase of this catalogue, Light Years, is a pun on an oft-misused term. Although widely thought to refer to a measurement of time, it is actually an astronomic unit measuring the distance travelled by light over one year. What meanings can this term have when applied to a historical survey exhibition of photographic practices around 1970? Aside from the obvious reading (the period 1964–77 as a span of time captured by the camera’s mechanical register of light), one could propose an analogy between the space–time equation of the light-year unit and the spatial immediacy and temporal anteriority proposed by Roland Barthes in his 1964 essay Rhetoric of the Image. As a cultural signifier, the photograph exists both as an object in the present and as a seemingly faithful representation of the past – the viewer’s interpretation is dependent upon the correspondences between the two…

Lancement: Le jeudi 9 mai 2013, dès 17h00
Lieu : Le Café de la Cinémathèque québécoise
335, boul. de Maisonneuve Est
Métro Berri-UQAM

(Pour le meilleur ou pour le pire) On the Internet, we can all be making it (For Better or for Worse)

Launch 27 April, 2012 17h30 at Centre des arts actuels Skol.

The essays in this publication broadly cover the themes of cewebrity and the production of identity through networked information structures. Published by Centre des arts actuels Skol following the exhibitions The Betweeners by Ian Wojtowicz and Scandalishious by Ann Hirsch: 16 April to 22 May 2010, Centre des arts actuels Skol (Montréal). This bilingual publication can be ordered online.

La publication (Pour le meilleur ou pour le pire) On the Internet, we can all be making it (For Better or for Worse) est publiée par le Centre des arts actuels Skol et a été réalisée à la suite des expositions The Betweeners de Ian Wojtowicz et Scandalishious de Ann Hirsch ayant eu lieu du 16 avril au 22 mai 2010 au Centre des arts actuels Skol, Montréal. Les expositions ont bénéficié d’une visibilité accrue en raison de l’association de Skol avec le la 11e festival Elektra.

Authors : Natalia Lebedinskaia, Felicity Tayler, Anne Bertrand
Reprints : Corina McDonald, Jacob Wren
Editor : Anne Bertrand
Graphics and layout : Benoit Pontbriand
Cover : Loki Design
Translation & copyediting : Isabelle Lamarre, Colette Tougas, Nikki Middlemiss, Nicole Burisch, Micheline Dussault
Photos : Guy L’Heureux, Benoit Pontbriand
Printing : Maison Kasini

ISBN : 978-2-922009-16-3
dépôt légal – Bibliothèque et archives nationales du Québec, 2012
dépôt légal – Bibliothèque et archives Canada, 2012

This publication is published under a Creative Commons licence

Des actions parlantes / Actions that Speak

Les essais présentés dans Des actions parlantes nous communiquent une manière de faire, de s’engager et de penser qui cherchait à redéfinir et à façonner autrement la société québécoise des années 1960 et 1970. Ils font surtout état d’une volonté de dire et d’agir qui a marqué la vie collective et l’activité artistique de l’époque et qui nous amène à envisager le présent dans la densité complexe de ce passé.

L’essai de l’historien Sean Mills examine le débat linguistique au Québec de la fin des années 1960 dans une optique d’économie politique de l’empire, où les questions de colonialisme et de capitalisme jouent un rôle. Felicity Tayler, nous propose une analyse historique, ainsi que de sa performativité, de la publication en trois tomes Québec underground, 1962-1972, qui a tenté de circonscrire ces pratiques alternatives, pour la plupart collectives, dans les années 1960 à Montréal. Michèle Thériault contribue une première réflexion sur la nature interventionniste du commissariat de Normand Thériault, figure incontournable du milieu artistique des années 1970. Le recueil se termine sur un examen par le sociologue Jean-Philippe Warren, du phénomène contre-culturel des communes néorurales au Québec. En français et en anglais.

Actions that Speak presents essays by Sean Mills, Felicity Tayler, Michèle Thériault and Jean-Philippe Warren that convey processes of doing, thinking, and engaging oneself that contributed to redefining and reshaping Quebec society in the 1960s and 1970s. They reveal a will to speak and to act that distinguished both the community life and the artistic activity of this period, thus encouraging us to consider the present in terms of the complex density of that past.

Historian Sean Mills examines the linguistic debate in Quebec in the late 1960s from the perspective of the political economy of empire in which questions of colonialism and capitalism were important forces. Felicity Tayler presents an analysis of the history and performativity of Québec underground, 1962-1972, a three-volume publication that attempted to circumscribe the alternative and, for the most part, collective art practices of the 1960s in Montreal. Michèle Thériault offers an initial reflection on the interventionist nature of the curatorial practice of Norman Thériault, a leading figure in the artistic landscape of the 1970s. The collection concludes with an examination of Quebec’s neo-rural communal counterculture by sociologist Jean-Philippe Warren. In English and French.

Sous la direction de Michèle Thériault
Essays by / Essais de Sean Mills, Felicity Tayler, Michèle Thériault, Jean-Philippe Warren
Design/ Conception graphique de TagTeam Studio
Janvier 2012 , Galerie Leonard & Bina Ellen
258 pp., broché, reliure allemande
20.00 $
ISBN 978-2-920394-89-6