A Word 26.06.2015 Finding City

This week’s show is all about Finding City. Michael Peterson, of the void gallery, but whom also, along with Gary Young, is a driving force with FC, is my guest.

I consider this week’s show a continuation of last week’s conversation with Alanna Moore, where we talked about public art / public sites and contested spaces / narratives, and focused on Street Meet Saskatoon. You can still listen to that episode of the A Word here

Michael and I talk about the ideas that inform Finding City and a number of the speakers / events that they’ll be facilitating through their Conversation series. You can listen to us talk here and their web site is here. The Image below is by the artist Monique Motut-Firth, whom we speak about on air.

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An interesting addition to this conversation is the recent decision by Saskatoon Police Services regarding the monument to missing and murdered Indigenous women that will be installed at their station. You can see images of the selected artist / installation and the two that were part of the final selection process here. In conversation with a number of people I’ve commented that I’m very pleased and surprised at this initiative, as there are spaces that one would expect this kind of sensitivity and cultural awareness from (looking at you, Usask art department) and they fail in that regard, and I don’t mean any disrespect when I say that, like many here, I remember the furor over the Starlight Tours, and am pleased that this piece is happening as an indicator of change, and progress.

I might just put out there an idea from Stronger Than Stone: one does not want to sacrifice the present for the sake of the past in terms of “monuments”, and perhaps this memorial work should be seen as further demand for a national inquiry into the pandemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. Perhaps I’ll ask Randy Donhauer, whom is already sending out flyers through the post in anticipation of the federal election, where his CPC stands on this: or perhaps he’ll just continue the rich tradition (as rich as the pensions enjoyed by Vellacott, or McKay, or Baird) of silence, like the “Silent 13″ in the current federal regime.

Stepping away from the effluvia of politics, you can see a piece in the current Planet S that is all about galleries and events in the visual arts sphere this summer, in Saskatoon and beyond. You can read that here: but I must put out a mea culpa mea maxima mea culpa to the Affinity Gallery and the Saskatchewan Craft Council, as they slipped through the cracks in this article. So, in atonement, I give you links to a variety of things they’re doing this summer.

WaterFront is on this Saturday, with Citizens of Craft Day in the Park, plus their 40th Anniversary Members’ Show & Sale begins in mid-July. That is always an excellent exhibition, with numerous quality artists. I’d add that they also just presented the Dimensions Award, and the winner of the Premier’s Prize for Outstanding Entry went to Cathryn Miller of Saskatoon (you may have seen her work at the Mendel this past Winter).

Goodbye, Saskatoon.

As some of you already know, my tenure in Saskatoon – and the Prairies – is coming to an end.

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This means that my various writings that privilege this place for many publications will also be coming to an end, as my focus on “contested histories” moves elsewhere with me. It also means that the A Word radio show – and the accompanying blog, that in the last few years has been primarily the radio show, an “events calendar” for visual arts in Saskatoon and a bit beyond, and a means to access my writings about this place with other publications – will be “relocating” with me, and be rebooted in a new place. Negotiations for that have already started, and its a very exciting and rewarding endeavour for me.

As you read this, I should add that there’s at least two (or three) other pieces that will not yet see the light of day in publication until I’ve left Saskatoon, so the conversation may continue, briefly, for a little while longer. But my own history has taught me that when I generally leave a place, I don’t return, and have little desire to do so (except for brief visits), and that will be very true here, I suspect.

Ignazio Nighttraveller Gazzola (1998 - 2015), editing my piece on ReWilding Modernity for HA & L

Ignazio Nighttraveller Gazzola (1998 – 2015), editing my piece on ReWilding Modernity for HA & L. Note the look of exasperation.

I could enumerate what I’ve done here, and how I helped change the landscape (being a founding member of paved, teaching at the U of S for 10 plus years, my five year tenure as BlackFlash Editorial Chair and my long history of ARC board membership are just a few): but I have no interest to do so. I feel my real contributions have been how my writings on art have been published in nearly every issue of the Planet for more than the past decade, and I can’t remember if I’ve just broached 8 or 9 years doing the radio show with CFCR 90.5 FM (support them, visual arts community, as they’ve been extremely supportive of you all, in various forms). It has been mostly a joy: the latter was entirely volunteer work, but allowed for personal and public conversations about art and site that helped broaden this community, and enrich it.

I could also burn quite a few bridges, but again, I have no interest to do so: many people here within the visual arts community and beyond have been wonderful, and I count them as friends, colleagues or respected sparring partners in the realm of ideas and art. The rest may return to their foolishness, “as a dog returneth to his vomit” (Prov 26:11 – you knew a Bible quote would appear in this, I suspect).

I am very sad I will not be able to write about the ongoing Remai Modern and the ideas of locality / internationality that will play out with the new Chief Curator, as a further exploration of my recent conversation with Gregory Burke about using the Emma Lake model of bringing the world here.
Or perhaps my nearly two decades here will be put to use in speaking about that in the larger national and international narrative: my time here has marked me, and perhaps I’m like that palimpsest that is so often used as an analogy for here, and it will continue to surface and inform who I am, and what I do.
I’m posting this now, a little while before my leaving, as things are moving forward quickly, and my thoughts are already elsewhere: but it seemed appropriate and necessary to say goodbye.

Books for sale to a good home

As some of you know, I’m dispersing my library: everything is for sale, so make an offer.

There’s two different lists of what I have in my mad library: one is more art + theory, another is fiction / non fiction. Most are soft cover, but a few are not, so don’t hesitate to ask. I can be reached at bart.gazzola[at]hotmail.com, and its all first come / first serve, people.

As a teaser, I’d say that I have the entire Sandman series, from Preludes and Nocturnes to The Wake in trade paperbacks, and I have about five books by Zizek, several by Badiou and alot of Irvine Welsh, Salman Rushdie and Barbara Gowdy…and several books by Georges Bataille.

Here’s two PDFs: as I said, one is more art and theory and the other is fiction / nonfiction, though they bleed together.

 

A Word 19.06.2015 Street Meet 2015

This week’s episode of the A Word, as we move towards the final episodes of the show here in its run in Saskatoon, is a conversation with Alana Moore all about Street Meet 2015. We talk about the various events / artists / interventions as well as the ideas that inform it, and how it occupies a space (yes, that is a pun) that is sometimes subversive and sometimes challenging.You can listen to us speak here: their FB page can be found here., and their web site is here.

Now, one of the groups that Street Meet will be working with this time is Finding City. That should be a familiar name to you (Adrian Stimson, at the recent series of panels that TRIBE presented for its twentieth anniversary talked about his work in a previous manifestation of Finding City), and the organization is now being “headed” by Michael Peterson from the Void and Gary Young. Gary was the director of the Snelgrove Gallery, but also has a significant history with other ARCs and other initiatives, and I should say that in my recent conversation with Michael that when he mentioned Gary’s involvement, I was very keen to find out what they’re doing / planning, and to be involved with them in fermenting conversations about this city, and the larger discourse about urban issues and concerns in Canada and beyond.
I’ll be talking to Michael next week about some of the things that Finding City will be doing this summer: but in the meantime, here’s some links and information about that.
Street Meet doesn’t happen until the beginning of July: so this show is a bit early, but think of it as a one – two punch of Street Meet this week, and Finding City the next.

Both images below link to much larger files that include schedules and bios.

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A Word 12.06.2015 Gregory Burke & the Remai Modern

This week’s radio show is a conversation between myself and Remai Modern CEO / Director Gregory Burke. We chat about the history and ideas informing the new gallery: you can listen to it here. Several things that Gregory mentioned, such as the project with Althea Thauberger or with e-flux, are linked to here, at their FB page. Here’s an interview with the new Remai chief curator / head of programs Sandra Guimarães, as well.

This week also saw three pieces of mine about different shows that have been here or are on display now go online. Some final thoughts on the Fifth World which was at the Mendel Art Gallery, In the Making (both in Magenta Magazine, who have been generous in their coverage of art in Saskatchewan) and Steph Krawchuk’s solo show at Art Placement.

Now, some of you may be having some art withdrawal, due to the closure of the Mendel, as we anticipate the Remai Modern: I know I’ll be doing a piece for an upcoming Planet about different sites and events that will be available to you over the summer, perhaps even into September. However, this weekend, you can check out the annual Art Trek: their FB page is here, and I’ve included some information below.

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TRIBE’s 20th Anniversary: Claxton, Witness & Poitras

The Fifth World, the Mendel’s final show, is significant not just for considering that institution’s legacy, but it was also the first in a series of exhibitions / events presented here in Saskatoon by TRIBE to mark their twentieth anniversary.

Spaces of social and historical importance, and who gets to occupy them, are also a factor in the exhibitions currently at 424 20th Street West, at paved and aka. TRIBE has presented three Indigenous artists of international significance in the two gallery spaces, as well as a billboard work overlooking Riversdale.

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Ed Poitras’ Don’t Speak could also be seen as the latest installment in a number of critically engaged billboards here (Mary Longman, Terrance Houle and Scott Massey). Poitras’ work often literally – and symbolically – cites the history of residential schools, and in Speak he employs an archival photo of young girls in the Saskatchewan residential school system. His words: “Even now when I look at this image, I can’t help but wonder about what happened to these girls. I imagine they became mothers, grand mothers and great grand mothers. With children of their own, some or all taken from them and sent to residential school. Some would know or hear of others who would go missing, like not being there for a group photo. Some would lose their language and others would get it back.”

It’s fitting to encounter his work first before entering the galleries: a tone is set. The title offers numerous interpretations: whether the aforementioned “lost language”, the uninformed denial of any colonial history “here”, or the new aspect of Bill C-51 literally punishing dissenting speech…The brightly coloured “word balloons” contrast the silence of those shown, the garish ovals accenting the bleakness of the original photograph.

The two exhibitions inside challenge each other: Dana Claxton’s two channel video installation Revisited is a poignant meditation that’s quieter than the more raucous, and edged The Ultimate Warriors by Bear Witness. Claxton’s seminal Buffalo Bone China was the first show TRIBE presented two decades ago, and besides being Claxton’s first solo show, Buffalo has become a touchstone for contemporary Indigenous art in Canada. That show addressed the exploitation and decimation of the buffalo: and as we continue a debate about resource extraction, sustainability and who does (or doesn’t benefit), that work has lost no relevance. To have her present a piece that is a continuation of how she “addresses the issue of land and the indigenous body specifically in the Plains region” is apt. The massive projections on the long left wall in the darkened space are “mirrored”: though you’re technically looking at the same scene play out, the rolling plains and serenity of the scene still captivate. The expanse and power of the landscape is indisputable, demanding respect.

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Witness is a younger generation than Claxton, and could still be called an “emerging” artist, though he was in Modern Visions. He’s one of a new vanguard of media savvy Indigenous artists (not solely in the formal aspects of his work, but his aesthetic of “counter appropriation”). Witness “mines our media environment for pop cultural images of First Nations…he remixes such representations in a variety of ways, producing visual and sonic variations that on the one hand act as a political indictment of racial profiling and the stereotypes that circulate at large, and on the other hand express mesmerizing confabulations that situates his work as something new… [He takes] possession of the images in order to break with the structures of such representations”.

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A number of large format images here mix “samples” from Predator, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and the infamous WWF personality The Ultimate Warrior. As with past work, what he’s presenting play upon an assumption of familiarity that the viewer brings, depending on our pop culture knowledge. I found myself thinking of the book / movie depictions of “Chief” from Cuckoo’s Nest, and the Uber masculinity of Predator that is almost fetishistic. The exhibition’s title privileges The Ultimate Warrior and can be used as a point of interpretation. His flamboyant performative spectacle made him a celebrity in the world of “entertainment”, but not sport. That’s an important distinction between facts and deforming caricature, as often happens in debates around race issues in Canada. Or perhaps I’m hearing that song A Tribe Called Red (Witness is part of that trio) released, with a Thanksgiving declaration that lists the sins of colonialism and declares: “And for all these reasons I have decided to scalp you and burn your village to the ground.” Sometimes hyperbole can be sharper than polite speech….

TRIBE was formed to “[address] social and political issues that are of concern to Aboriginal artists and the environment they create in [and] maintaining and strengthening a foundation on which to present local, national and international Aboriginal artists and art works.” Currently, fewer galleries “ghettoize” Indigenous artists with “token” exhibitions: Witness is one of many Indigenous artists paved has programmed recently with a sense of site and relevance. A past National Gallery exhibition at the Mendel was very Inuktitut (Cape Dorset) focused: an impossible idea once. But as the last five years at the U of S Art Department with allegations of racism (initiated by their first ever tenured Aboriginal faculty member), deliberate deceptions on reports to exploit the success of LG winner Ruth Cuthand and significant Indigenous artists whom eschew the school, some things have changed, and others continue to fester.

Consider Davidson Loehr’s assertion: “A simple definition of ‘colonization’ is that it takes people’s stories away, and assigns them supportive roles in stories that empower others at their expense.” Poitras, Claxton and Witness look to the past as a means to speak about the present, with generational contexts that build upon each other, and offer texture to each other. This is a considered and strong set of exhibitions marking TRIBE’s anniversary.

 

A Word 04.06.2015

This week’s episode of the A Word features some information about a variety of things that are upcoming, from an exhibition opening at Unreal City to next weekend’s Art Trek to how this Sunday will be the last day you can visit the Mendel. There are a variety of events that the Remai Modern will be staging during the time between the Mendel and the RM, and I’ll be putting up updates about that over the next while.

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Listen to the show here. The Mann Art Gallery page about Ruth Cuthand’s exhibition Don’t Drink Don’t Breathe is here. The FB page for the Art Trek is here, and the FB page for Unreal City’s Riley Rossmo show is here. You might see me at Unreal City, as all my major life lessons have come from John Constantine (the comic, not the movie): such as screw them before they screw you, and how nobody can raise the dead. They never come back right: and no, I’m not talking about modernism or the notion of art schools….not too much, anyway.

 

A Word 29.05.2015 TRIBE’s 20th Anniversary

This week’s radio show is all about TRIBE’s twentieth anniversary: I chat with one of its founders and Director Lori Blondeau as well as board member Adrian Stimson. The show can be heard here, and my thoughts on three of the exhibitions that are happening as part of this anniversary celebration can be read in the current Planet S, but that’s not yet online. I’ll post it here when its up. Meanwhile, everything you need to know about events / panels / performances can be found here.

If you’ve caught this episode on CFCR or if you’re listening to it now, you can still make it to the receptions at 424 20th Street West, and the panels that will be happening Saturday. Below are some images from Dana Claxton and Bear Witness.

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A Word 15.05.2015

This week’s episode is really more of a teaser of things to come: from Ed Poitras’ billboard in Riversdale (I may have gotten the name incorrect, as it’s Don’t Speak, not Can’t Speak) to Dana Claxton and Bear Witness taking over the spaces at 424 20th Street West in Riversdale. All of these are part of TRIBE‘s Twentieth Anniversary Celebration: more information about the panels, presentations and performances that will be happening as part of that can be found here.

The image below is the billboard image that should (hopefully) be up now: and here’s some thoughts in the current Planet S Magazine about The Narrative Dish at the SCC.

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You can listen to the show here: I also eulogize Dr. Peter Purdue whose contributions to this place and this community were multifaceted and will be very missed.

Peter was an activist, and a vocal supporter of a collegial, respectful space at the continually and exponentially failing Art Department at the U of S. I was thinking about him as I was laughing out loud reading this story, where the Sask Arts Alliance is prancing about like its any kind of advocacy organization that is worthy of respect, or that has any real credibility.

There’s surely cause for consternation over some of the changes that have happened at the SAB: especially the Sask Party “belt tightening” that has led to a significant Arts Officer position not being replaced. Combined with the waste of funds to send a bureaucrat to Los Angeles to promote a film industry that the Sask Party willfully murdered, concern is not misplaced.

However, anyone who’s familiar with the Sask Arts Alliance will know that they’re no CARFAC: their primary mandate is to pat themselves on the back (a line a number of us with significant history in the cultural communities here will tell you). I can’t take seriously any organization who has a board member who’s a fine apologist for the U of S art department, with its history of allegations of racism made by some significant teachers / artists who now have little to do with the toxic site. These are not people who represent the cultural community: they have more in common with the Harper PMO than most cultural producers.

Returning to something of relevance, the College Galleries on the University of Saskatchewan campus will also be having their opening reception for Amalie Atkins’ exhibition we live on the edge of disaster and imagine we are in a musical in a week’s time. This exhibition is sure to be whimsical and enjoyable.

A Word 08.05.2015 Carole Epp and The Narrative Dish

This week’s episode of the A Word is a conversation between myself and Carole Epp, who is the “instigator” (to use her wonderful alternate title) as well as one of the artists in The Narrative Dish at the Affinity Gallery at the Saskatchewan Craft Council. The exhibition also includes Elizabeth Burritt, Aura Carney, Jenn Demke-LangeMariko Paterson, and Cathy Terepocki. Epp is very able in the online social sphere, so be sure to check out the hashtag #thenarrativedish on Instagram and Twitter.

You can listen to the show here, and I’ll be publishing some further thoughts on this show in the next Planet S. And I give you some images below from Dish, specifically the works of Mariko Paterson that may be my favourite (of the moment. I change my mind with shows like The Narrative Dish that have so much good work when I go back to see them again).