I had the pleasure of writing this profile of Jason Baerg for issue 93 of esse arts+opinions Sketch/Esquisse
Jason Baerg is a Cree Métis artist of international reputation working at the intersection of painting, digital media, and installation. He works from a double-consciousness that can be related to the Woodlands School, as Indigenous cultural signifiers are deeply embedded in the process and creative outcomes of his studio practice. Like writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Baerg is part of a generation that deliberately creates work on visual and linguistic terms recognizable to Indigenous viewers and readers. Non-Indigenous publics are attracted to the works through their own uptake of worldviews that are coded within the visual forms. Woodlands stands as a multigenerational reference for visual artists who have worked in this manner. Norval Morrisseau, Daphne Odjig, Alex Janvier, and their peers adopted the so-called universalism of modernist abstraction as a vocabulary within which they could express an internal landscape of spiritual, cultural, and political affirmation.
In Baerg’s work a transcultural double-coding takes place as tensions arise between figuration and abstraction, and across physical and digital media. This play across representational and intermedial registers can be seen in two bodies of work: Relations (2010/2018) and Authors and Antidotes(2009). Relations reinvents the Western avant-garde’s break with verisimilitude in portraiture, by looking to Indigenous traditions of abstraction that predate modernism in Eurocentric art-historical timelines. The pairing of oil painting with digital sketches and animations inserts a sense of futurity into this redrawn timeline. Authors and Antidotes combines large-scale, hard-edge abstraction with collage-like strategies reminiscent of concrete poetry and combine paintings. The ASCII character code, which unifies the eclectic visual field, is a transposition of Baerg’s reflective writing practice. While this text addresses personal and community healing, these themes are also echoed in the red, yellow, white, and black colour fields, which correspond to the traditional Cree teachings of the four directions. On one hand the ASCII code can be read through a shared subculture of nostalgia for early computer technologies; on the other, this code and its palette camouflage meanings recognizable to viewers with lived experience of Indigenous traditional knowledge and practices.
For the full article and images: http://esse.ca/en/jason-baerg
Highlighted as a “must see” by Canadian Art Magazine, my solo show Réécrire/Rewriting was co-curated by Tianmo Zhang and Jean-Michel Ross, and co-produced by Z Art Space and Galerie Tomas Henry Ross. 14 June – 12 July.
Art critic Emily Falvey described the exhibition as “the perfect antidote to the 150 and ’60s nostalgia that has descended upon Montréal of late: an interesting meditation on identity politics, conceptual art, Canadian and Québec nationalism, and collage as an artistic strategy. And there are some fabulous mashups of Tom Thompson landscapes and Playboy magazine.”
Images above are courtesy of Itzayana Gutiérrez, one of several who attended a round table event on June 28. Tianmo Zhang, Jean-Michel Ross and Kanwal Sayed spoke alongside me. Their combined interests in the reception of “Chineseness” in contemporary art in North America, Québécois contemporary art, and contemporary art from Pakistan provided prismatic lenses for interpretation of the collage-based works.
Images below courtesy of Jean-Michel Ross.
I had the pleasure of organizing (and presenting) on a panel for the SHARP2017 conference at the University of Victoria, 9 – 12 June, 2017.
Libidinal Economies: Networks of Activist
and Countercultural Print Cultures in the Early 1970s
10 June 2017
Recent scholarship in literary studies, art history and history of the book has recognized print culture to be an essential communications technology linking diverse social movements and liberation struggles of the early 1970s. As the civil rights movements and radical nationalisms of the late 1960s adapted to demands for gay and women’s liberation, presses such as Third World Press (Chicago), Broadside Press (Detroit), TISH (Vancouver), Éditions Parti-Pris and Mainmise (Montréal) issued books and magazines which cited textual references and visual imagery drawn from transnational movements. Local content, neo-avant-garde aesthetics and utopian concerns were asserted in relation to these mutable texts and re-contextualized imagery. This panel will take a comparative approach to discussing the network of desires that drive the production of this radical print culture in Canada and the United States. How do aesthetic choices of book design, typography and para-textual elements make visible the conditions of production for these books? What economies of affective labour are (in)visible in this material culture? What modes of affective belonging take form and how does this create new transnational publics and geographies for radical futurities? This panel responds to the SHARP “Technologies of the Book” CFP themes: The role of the book in society and the social history of print and, print cultures and networks.
Chair: Maria Chappell, University of Georgia
Kinohi Nishikawa, Princeton University: “Reframing Blackness: The Installation Aesthetic of In Our Terribleness”
Deanna Fong, Simon Fraser University: ““Oh, that was a nice party”: Listening to Affective Labour in Literary Collectives”
Felicity Tayler, University of Toronto: “Mainmise: Countercultural Geographies in Reproduction”
This paper will propose a single issue of the Québécois countercultural magazine, Mainmise, as a case study of the aesthetics of cheap single-colour printing and remediation, typical of an early 1970s North American “alternative press.” I argue these aesthetics can be read as the material expression of an attempt to achieve cross-cultural solidarity. Issue no. 2, 1971, of Mainmise, features an image captioned, in French, “Tim Leary Alger, aprs son évasion avec Eldridge Cleaver, ministre de l’information des Black Panthers.” Continue reading
This graphic novella was commissioned in conjunction with Luis Jacob’s exhibition Habitat, May 5 – June 10, 2017, at Gallery TPW. It was also used as a talking point during a Saturday afternoon conversation. The graphic novella weaves together references to the representations of Toronto in Jacob’s work Sightlines, ongoing conversations with the artist, and sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s explanations of social space. Print versions were distributed throughout the exhibition. A PDF can be downloaded from Gallery TPW.
Underground in the Aether
Hannah B. Higgins, Vincent Bonin, Allison Collins, Luis Jacob, Jee-Hae Kim, Felicity Tayler
VIVO Media Arts Centre, 2625 Kaslo Street — Saturday, April 8, 10AM – 5PM, 2017
Robin Simpson and Joni Low invited me to participate in Underground in the Aether, a symposium responding to the themes of collectivity, selfhood, and communication circuits in the exhibition Hank Bull: Connexion. Organized by Or Gallery, in partnership with Burnaby Art Gallery, VIVO Media Arts Centre and Doryphore Independent Curators Society, the symposium took place as the closing event for Spring Fever: Vancouver Independent Archives 2017.
My contribution, “The Spirit of Those Spaces Where Networks Overlap,” takes Hank Bull’s article “The Relican Wedding,” (Centerfold, July 1979) as a case study, highlighting the “politics of publicity” that are enacted in a transitional moment for news media, intermedia art, artistic subcultures and national culture. Continue reading