The abstract for my doctoral thesis! Successfully defended the 29th of September.
Conceptual Nationalisms: Conceptual Book-Works, Countercultural Imaginaries and the Neo-Avant-Garde in Canada and Québec, 1967-1974
Felicity Tayler, Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Humanities
Concordia University, 2016
Recent exhibitions have redefined conceptualism as a global movement that emerged alongside locally situated experiences of national liberation movements, New Left social activism and countercultural world-making. This thesis proposes an art historical term, “conceptual nationalisms,” as a contribution to the historicisation of conceptualism as the movement emerged in Canada and Québec. The term retrospectively describes book-works and magazines produced by an overlapping artistic and literary neo-avant garde, which evince the symbolic value of print media forms during the post-Centennial period (1967-1974). As funding for the arts increased and converged with labour policy in this period, the relationship between state ideology and a conceptualist critique of the art object as a commodity became intrinsically intertwined. Many conceptual book-works and artists’ magazines were produced alongside publications issued by literary small presses, as such, this thesis also recognizes parallels taking place between the linguistic turn in conceptual art and literary movements such as concrete, visual and sound poetry that emphasize the materiality of the signifier in language.
This thesis introduces three primary case studies: Roy Kenzie Kiyooka’s Transcanada Letters (Talonbooks, 1975); the Image Bank International Image Exchange Directory (Talonbooks, 1972), which parallels the publication of the first three issues of General Idea’s File magazine (1972-1989); and a utopian “linguistic space” produced in the early days of Véhicule Art gallery, with reference to several publications including the magazine, Médiart (1971-1973), Quebec underground, 1962-1972 (Éditions Médiart, 1973), and Bill Vazan’s Contacts (Véhicule Press, 1973). Continue reading
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
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.
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.
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