Thursday, January 17, 2008
100th Prairie Artsters Post: small, Art Gallery of Alberta, January 19 - March 24, 2008
Photo credit: Allen Ball + Kimberly Mair, 2007
The looming block of concrete and glass stands undisturbed by what exists nearby. A comparatively small statue, barely noticeable, memorializing the 1967 police killing of student protester Benno Ohnesorg, sits solemnly on the edge of a photograph that is obviously dominated by The German Opera House. Taken on a rare sunny and deserted morning last summer in the district of Potsdamer Platz, the photograph at once contains and re-imagines the visible and invisible traces that remain from the events leading up to 1977’s period of state crisis in the former Federal Republic of Germany.
Allen Ball and Kimberly Mair’s project “The German Autumn in Minor Spaces,” part of curator Marcus Miller’s small exhibit, reconfigures public urban landscape in the postwar cities of Berlin, Kassel and Stuttgart, as ripe with paradoxically loaded yet unmarked sites of memory and monument. The photograph critiques the public art initiative on the site of the German Opera House of an event that is largely considered to be the watershed moment for the urban guerilla movement that pushed the state and its people into chaos. Their use of photography as document at once mummifies the forgotten and sealed historical issues into the everyday accessible, and in so doing opens up our interaction with public space as a site for multiple experiences based on the relations of knowledge and presence.
Mair has been researching the Red Army Faction and urban guerilla warfare as part of her Doctoral candidacy in Sociology at the U of A. Joined by visual artist Ball this past summer, the two traced out their photographic cartography as urban researchers documenting seemingly small and invisible landmarks.
“Being present within the spaces we photographed was alienating, because they seemed smaller than they were in our imaginations,” Mair shares.
“Nevertheless, sometimes we felt debilitated within them. Viewing the images in their exhibition-ready configuration has a starker alienating impact than that of being present. Vertigo might describe the experience of seeing the images now, because they confront us as familiar but haunting alibis. There is something threatening about their imposition on our memories of these spaces that have multiple existences for us, too.”
Reiterating that personal experiences are shaped by both biography and collective cultural memory, “The German Autumn in Minor Spaces” asks viewers to investigate, to get in close to the work and question the larger issues of culture in public spaces. While Mair and Ball have already been accepted into the Art in Public Spaces conference at NYU this May, their project will be part of The Art Gallery of Alberta’s “small” exhibition running Jan 18 - Mar 24.
Alberta-based artists Bonnie Fan, Shane Krepakevich, Craig Le Blanc and Harold Pearse round out their idea of scale in the inaugural exhibition in the newly minted RBC New Works Gallery. Curator Miller explains that the exhibit will be an obtuse understanding of small, playing with scale and notions of small rather than presenting nano-sized works of art.
Image credit: Craig Le Blanc, 2008
There are the statician’s drawings from Krepakevich, who traces out the romantic renderings of highly personal cartographic exactitudes with the cold precision of a scientist. (These works are completely separate from his window installation, which kicks off another new exhibition space in the AGA). Fan, who along with Krepakevich exhibited in last spring’s The Apartment Show, gives us a view into the lives of birds. Impressed by Fan’s miniscule works of fine art hidden in the deserted mailboxes during The Apartment Show, Miller wanted to see what the artist would do with this theme, resulting in a series of elaborate bird houses intensifying a scaled-down perspective. In contrast, Calgary’s Craig Le Blanc brings his trademark high sheen sculptures of scaled-down colossal buildings that are at once a specter of space and an overwhelming presence of liquified form. As the largest work by far in the room, the scale of small is evidently a relative term.
And expressing the concept that is at the heart of this exhibition are Pearse’s columns of personal sketchbooks. Containing the daily drawings of his past 20 years, the 30 to 40 sketchbooks are stacked as a measure of one man’s artistic life. As small as that may seem relative to the number of sketchbooks ever filled, the presence of accumulation remains one of the greatest gestures in scope.
First published in Vue Weekly, January 17 - 23, 2008
at 1:58:00 PM