Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Visualeyez Reconsidered, 2007

Taking performance to the streets, in a non-guerrilla entertaining fashion, continues to pose the question: what is the spectator's role in this heavily developed non-spectacle?
Perhaps the most memorable, although it may not wished to be, was Emma Waltraud Howes' Subtle Architectures: A Practice in Enabling Restraints. Setting ephemeral stages, traffic yellow chalk outlines, in various arbitrary stations, from outlining non-traditional but angular zones around parking meters, loading docks, and other architectural misnomers readily definable as examples of street furniture, Waltraud Howes responded to these ligaments of urban landscape, defining a boundary for herself, and articulating her responses in her developed movement vocabulary. Problem is: this performance was not meant for observing eyes, and could only thrive in a state of sustained fleeting.
Resembling a rehearsed flaneur, the idler of the streets who feels too much, overwhelmed with the bustling movements of the urban centre, the performer, if we may use that term, develops its own movement-based cartography of the city. And movement, in all senses but this in particular, is the ebb and flow of body-to-mind stimuli that is gesticulating in all of us. There is perhaps no way to experience this directly as a audience, as following a flaneur propells you to be one, and in this irregular communion, neither individual continues to exist alone--and for this piece, immediately destroys its entire premise.
As the chalk lines remain, at least until the next rain, as all that is left of these subtle architectural remanants in this city core, the project lives on in a constant state of research.

Monday, May 21, 2007

8th annual Visualeyez, Opening Night, Latitude 53, May 18 - 27, 2007

Performance art, or maybe better termed as 'live art', continues to transform itself into countless fractions, and so it was suggested to record these pieces simply through its entry points.
Theming this year around the city, with all its fluctuations and multiple perceptions, the performances from the 8th year of Visualeyez all boiled down to the alienation of urban interaction.
The city, as represented and performed, appeared at first to resemble the post-Simmel reading of the modernization of the city and its citizens. Less apocalyptic than presumed, the city as interpreted is essentially rendered as a place of intense loneliness.
The opening night performances immediately established the crucial issues of performance art and performance anxiety. The body, the site of performance, pushing us to accept these crafted experiences, is never a one-way dialogue. Although there is one "performer", each witness to the "performance" accounts as performance itself.
The provoking reverberaton of T.L. Cowan's spoken word piece established the distance, the unrequited connections of urban interactions. All that remains is the source, the live voice and body from which this mind speaks, being in performance, live, spilling out stories, spilling out roles, blurring the boundaries of performance art and life to a room filled with silent, observing and estranged faces.
Lance McLean's opening night piece continued his ability to draw out human empathy using his own physical body as the site of apathy. Enclosing his head into an extended wooden structure, simply painted white and with bodies flanked on either side and resembling an inverse martyr's cross, "audience" individuals took turns, at random, to try and saw McLean free. Lines were drawn behind his head and in front, faces turned unable to bear the possibility of harm. It was near the end, as McLean had a one foot cube still around his head, and his limbs limp and falling closely under the saw's blade more than once as strangers attempted to destroy this perishable structure around the fragility of human skin.
Cheap thrills in showmanship, possibly, but doubtful; the live unfolding of who chose to enter the scene of this performance, to help and ease this other sentient and pulsing body out of his self-inflicted cage, was the most powerful performance of all.

Photo: Jessica Tse, 2007.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Foward Thinking, Urban Roots Salon & Gallery May 19 - June 30, 2007

Rightly touted as an exhibition of progressive Canadian graffiti, curator and artist John Drager has put together an impressive selection and representation of contemporary graffiti graphics. Part-inspired by the burgeoning South American graphic/design scene, the group transformed the every-day hair salon from floor to ceiling, wall to wall concept of graffiti from outside in.
A cascading wall of estranged stereos, possibly the invention of the bottle demon, 2D pieces, decks, and wall and floor paintings established the presence of an exhibition, and in doing so, challenges further the general reception of what graffiti does and looks like. An original form and response to urbanity, institutional graffiti exhibitions walk a fine line. They are simultaneously bold and highly aestheticized spaces that tailor the social constructions and implications of street cultures such as skate boarding into a regulated space. Although those concepts were not apparent, perhaps not needed in this alternative gallery space, group graffiti shows still stand as some of the most visually arresting group shows out there.


working hearts or heartly workings, the birch heart basement May 19, 2007

Curated by Sean Borchert, the mandate (if we dare call it one), was to show "low-fi" in a low-fi environment. Asked to create art for his basement setting, the friends of Borchert responded with pieces that would be most suitable for its environment.
The birch heart basement takes up most of Borchert's rumpus room, the stereotypically wonderful imagining of what a rumpus room should look and how a rumpus room in Edmonton 2007 should function: far enough from whyte ave and University campus, but close enough as a stumbling destination, low ceilings with a strip of old carpeting remaining ever lasting, a saggy old couch against one wall with a poster-lined jam space on the other side of the room, and tree stumps, doubtfully birch, sitting in the corner of the forgotten bathroom.
Gathering over a dozen local artists and bands for the one-night only show, Working Hearts or Heartly Workings offered an informal eclectic response to the space itself, mixing everything from quick sketches, impromptu collages and old newspaper renderings, items that could very well be found in other similiar basements. The overall effect was natural and unburdened, as examples of carefree exercises in creativity full of genuine heart from all participating.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Place, Latitude 53 May 11 - 14, 2007

Image: Jocelyn Shim, Floating Couch 2007

Curated by the young and possibly brilliant Yulia Startsev, Place brings together three years of Harry Ainley's high school IB art graduates into one staggeringly rewarding exhibit.
For all in the show, this marks their first gallery show outside of exhibitions on school grounds. Mostly aged between 15 - 21 during the time of creation, the works demonstrate a sense of maturity in voice and risk well beyond most of the works which have adorned these same walls and space. At risk is a sense of adventure and direction, not feeling bound or limited in any way in the use and expression of media.
Since instructor Theron Lund's appointment five years ago, the program has changed profoundly from your typical high school art program to a haven for earnestly innovative and daring new works. Startsev and peer Grace McNeely credit Lund as the backbone of the entire program, instilling and developing a path for "critical thinking" in order to view and then engage with the world through art that really sets this program apart from any other.

Startsev's own work, Home, takes up the majority of the ProjEx room as a giant coiling cocoon of loose wooden sticks. Although not site-responsive or specific in any certain way, Startsev provides audience members with a sense of warmth and comfort in the darkened space, beginning with its gaping and inviting entry point that eventually winds itself to an enclosed and mangled vortex where not coincidentally, the sole light source shines through in all its barbs and shadows.

Continuing to churn out students for full scholarship attendance to ACAD, Emily Carr, NSCAD and Cooper Union to name only a few, Ainley's IB program will see its first alumni complete a BFA this year. It is only with hope that the public will see more of this body of work and to see future works by these emerging artists, who will hopefully continue to foster a relationship with their sense of place here and where ever they may end up.

Artists: Melanie Alexander, Isha Datar, Gloria Ho, Kirsten Jette, Grace McNeely, Genan Peng, Haley Reap, Yasaman Sheri, Jocelyn Shim, Yulia Startsev, Christine Weera, Jill Young and others.

Fresh and Bittersweet, SNAP May 17 - May 31, 2007

Image courtesy of Bonnie Fan

Filling every nook and corner, the opening of the U of A's senior level printmakers drew strong support from up and coming printmakers and their friends. Carrying on the tradition for a strong printmaking scene in Edmonton, conceptually meticulous efforts appear to dominate the next wave of works.
With Rothenpieler's work still in the gallery section, the student show was spread throughout the main space. Set in the active studio space of SNAP, where process meets product, the often cerebral context of the printmaker was ignited by these fresh new works. Many pieces demonstrate a similar restraint and intelligence of an early Janet Cardiff, whose student work now hangs in the Print Study Centre. Engaged with presence, time and a sense of being through the finite immersion of print and ink, the community of U of A printmakers persistently shines bright in its official 10th anniversary as a world-leading centre for both local and international printmakers.

Artists: Andrew Bain, Joseph Banh, Bonnie Fan, Teresa Kachanowski, Michael Liu, Meghan McDougall, Long Sum Pang, Matthew Rangel, William Ratke, Holly Sykola, Anna Szul. Curated by Liz Ingram.

Toni Latour's "Drag King Project" and Shane Golby's "Little Men," Harcourt House, May 17 - June 16, 2007

Lesser known than its flamboyant counterparts of the square-jawed Rita Hayworths and Judy Garlands, The Drag King is the female-based reincarnation of the ideal macho male (though many come off as pretty boys resembling the Elvis Presleys and James Deans.)
Toni Latour represents a series of Drag Kings, mostly in camp macho male roles, from construction workers to lumberjacks, posing against sterile white backgrounds. The subjects embody the male stance, legs spread apart, arms crossed and looking directly into the camera. The subjects are removed from any time or place, existing in and of itself and amongst only each other on the walls. Removed from any social or cultural context, the heroic imagery comes off as exoticised and timeless, closely resembling an advertisement of the male gender. These men, taken out of the world in which they are challenging and perhaps transcending, appear more than anything else, as specimens.

While Vancouver-based LaTour plays with the gender bender lines of one facet of lesbian identification, Alberta's own Shane Golby has less to offer for his representation of homosexuality and homophobia. Shouting his message across in pastel-washed rally headlines and Playgirl-esque stereotypes of the chiseled male nude, Golby's pieces doesn't leave much for the imagination or conversation. More a craft project or protest sign than an exhibition art piece, communication through art is hard-pressed when there's little room left for opposing opinions.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Make It Not Suck, Jasper Avenue 105-104 St.

The site of a future Sobey’s and oh so much more, a gang of twenty or so rabblerousers erected 16 insta-murals along the site scaffolding on Jasper Ave between 104 and 105th Street this Sunday morning. Some traces of your regular graffiti regulars already exist and it's guaranteed new graffiti will soon be added.
The project’s future remains undetermined as it’s difficult to say whether a) the developers/construction crew will handle it or b) the law enforcements will think art needs reinforcing, but Jasper Avenue currently makes it clear why and how DIY mentality still reigns in this town.

Photo credit: Amy Fung, 2007

Amalgam, University of Alberta BFA Grad Show 2007

There is nothing resembling an alloy or mixture of edge and otherness in the 2007 BFA group Grad show. Unfocused tangents of subject and media, self-reflexive nods of acknowledgment, and other forgettables graced the FAB Gallery walls showcasing the products of this past semester's labours. Memory came into play, predictably, but reminisces of childhood dreams and blurred memories coming from 20 year olds fail to bear much weight.
What does this show say about the group? The focus of what art could mean to them? Adam Waldon Blain's "NRMLS WLCM (22 December 2006)", a document of an early kHz night, says it all: a shoddy acrylic photo-representation of vacant stares of semi-stylish boys and girls frozen in motion, faces blank of emotion or thought, incompetence captured for a moment, unable to transfer the immediate thrill and fleeting joy, but still carries residues of contentment, a complacency in knowing that they are being seen by peers who are just as interested as being seen themselves, even if it is just based on style in void of substance.