The Belgo Report » Kelly Stock News and reviews of art exhibitions in the Belgo Building Fri, 15 Jan 2016 19:12:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Paul Wong’s Multi-Verse: Life, in GIF format Thu, 08 Oct 2015 16:29:56 +0000 Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal
Joyce Yahouda Gallery | space 516
Paul Wong
September 10 – October 10, 2015

A wall of flickering images depicts the many details of multimedia artist Paul Wong’s daily life. Each image is visible for no more than half a second. The viewer is struck by the overwhelming quantity of content, and by the obsessive collecting that allowed its creation. Some of the GIFs include: geometric abstractions, a blooming rose, an iPhone message asking for confirmation to delete a photo, and a naked backside seen under a Pop Art filter. The personal mixes with the public, the figurative with the abstract, and the amateur with the professional. The images burn with the intensity of the everyday.

Capturing and exploring identity through digital imagery has always been an integral part of Wong’s practice. As one of Canada’s most respected, and prolific, artists he investigates what it is to be oneself in a society where it’s easy to be engulfed by overwhelming external influences and perspectives. Throughout his 40-year career, Wong has seen different technologies come and go. For many years, he carried two heavy cameras everywhere he went – one for video, and one for still photographs. Nowadays, his kit is much lighter. At a talk to open his exhibit Multi-Verse at Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal (MPM), he explained how smart phones have revolutionized his practice, saying, “Since I got the iPhone 6, it’s all I carry.”

This new media aspect of Wong’s works allows it to speak to what MPM curator, Joan Fontcuberta, identifies as the establishment of a “new visual order”. As one of the biennial’s key conceptual frameworks, this idea incorporates the notion that society’s relationship with the image is fundamentally changing. Nowadays, images are: largely digital, readily available, and easily transmissible. Their now ubiquitous nature means individuals communicate via images on a day-to-day basis. Wong presents four pieces as part of the exhibit. Each work offers us a glimpse into the artist’s world, and most are an expression of his identity as seen through his social media. One piece is an outdoor video installation, and the remaining three are presented at Galerie Joyce Yahouda.

In #LLL, Looking, Listening, Looping (2014), Wong covers a wall of the gallery with 40 tablets – each screen plays GIF animations on a continuous loop. Like much of his recent work, it was created and edited entirely on a smart phone. Each of the GIFs and videos were initially shared with his social media community through free apps like Vine, Snapchat, Instagram, and GIF Boom. He said that at the time he didn’t give much thought as to what he may do with the images, and certainly didn’t plan to present them in a gallery one day. Their sole context was to be shared with his community of followers, online. The GIF and video content is varied, and ranges from selfies to more abstract imagery. In total, Wong presents 75 minutes of work, the equivalent of a feature length film; he said he considers each GIF as a scene from his life.

Standing in front of the installation, it’s difficult to focus on any one tablet. However, to see each image within a GIF, it needs to be watched through at least a few repetitions. There is a sensation of distracted attentiveness that feels similar to being overwhelmed by online images, or scrolling through a Facebook feed. The feeling of being inundated by multiple photos, by the sheer quantity of content, is an integral part of Wong’s work. It raises the question: what is the point of all these images if it’s not possible to interact meaningfully with them?

Wong’s outdoor video installation, Year of GIF (2013), was created from the content he generated during his first year of GIF-making. Originally constructed as a site-specific piece for the Surrey Urban Screen, it was adapted for projection onto the brick wall outside Montreal’s Saint Laurent metro station. The work is a five-minute loop of 350 GIFs, all made on a smart phone. The content ranges from selfies, photographs featuring technology, individual portrait studies, art references, artworks, travel images, and architecture.

At his exhibit launch, Wong described how there is an interesting, yet tragic, link between his fascination with GIFs and his family life. Wong’s mother, who currently lives with him, suffers from dementia. In describing the situation, he said she lives in a “magical, abstract world” of non-linear time. Adding that her memory can play in constant loops, replaying certain events, while completely losing others. The poignant link between the nature of GIFs and his mother’s memory is not lost on the artist himself.

Wong’s third work, Solstice (2014), is a 24-minute video, which captures an infamous Vancouver street at intervals over a 24-hour period. Made using the pixel motion filter tool in After Effects, it evokes surveillance imagery, and shows the comings and goings of an area known as “Crack Alley” – a popular place for drug consumption and trafficking. The pixel motion filter makes it seem as though figures are continuously appearing out of, and then disappearing into, thin air. They materialize as if conjured by some external force.

Finally, Wong also presents Flash Memory (2010-2015), a four-channel video showing the iPhone photos he took over a four-year time period. Each channel is divided by year: 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. The channels scroll through each image at a rapid pace like when uploading photos from a cell phone onto a laptop. Wong said he came across the idea by accident when he was watching an upload onto his own computer. He added that he finds the way we look at images now, the way we scroll through them rather than closely examining each file, is very different from in the past. All images – good, bad, different, useful and not useful – are merged together chronologically, and awarded equal value in terms of the space they occupy in our mental memories, and in our digital memory systems. This complete blurring of amateur, professional, personal and public, is something Wong wants to convey with the work. The excessive accumulation of images is also a key idea explored by other artists involved in the biennial.

Wong is based in Vancouver, and works as a practicing artist, and curator. He is also the co-founder of several artist run organizations, and the director of On Main Gallery, which has been operating since 1985. His work is included in public exhibits at the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), and the Canada Council Art Bank. His current exhibit, Multi-Verse, will be on display until October 10, 2015, at Galerie Joyce Yahouda.

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Le Mois de la Photo: Investigating the Post-Photographic Condition Sat, 19 Sep 2015 14:07:18 +0000 Devices and smart phones now exist as part of our personal and physical space. At any given time of the day, most people know where their phone is. Either by seeing or feeling the phone on their physical person, or by mentally knowing where it is. This continuous physical and psychological contact is changing the way we make decisions, share stories, and form memories. Specifically, these devices have changed our relationship with photography and with images. Each person now has inexpensive, easy access to a camera, storage, and everyone is constantly connected to one another. Reality exists increasingly within and through these devices, and via social media and the cloud almost everything ends up on the Internet. The many and varied ways these technologies are changing individuals, and society as a whole, is under examination at this year’s Le Mois de la Photo (MPM).

Opening last week, the biennial – currently in its 14th edition – features 29 artists (emerging and established) from 11 countries who will exhibit at 16 sites across Montreal over the month long event. Four artists will present their work in Belgo Building galleries. Conceptual artist and curator, Joan Fontcuberta, conceived of this year’s theme, The Post-Photographic Condition. Each of the exhibits and the related discussions fit within one of the biennial’s three core conceptual frameworks, also conceived by Fontcuberta.

The first framework sees an exploration of the idea that we’re witnessing the establishment of a new visual order, which is changing the way images are understood and used. Images have now become immaterial, viewed solely as digital objects, and more easily shared than ever; the landscape is characterized by a massive increase in the number and the availability of all kinds of images. Their ubiquitous nature now means that photographs are not valued in the way they once were. Their ease of use, and ease of transmission, has also made communicating via images a day-to-day experience for most people.

Fontcuberta calls the second conceptual idea Reality Reloaded, with obvious reference to The Matrix. In the same way Neo plugged into the matrix, we are now able to engage with a parallel reality in the online world. Although the Internet can be said to act as a mirror of the real world, this mirror and our perception of the reflection is not always accurate. The line between reality and illusion, lies and truth, can be impossible to ascertain. Fontcuberta poses the questions: is what we see on our screens just an interface between subject and object, or is the online image its own reality – a documentation of the world in image form, and ultimately a new form of reality?

In the third framework, Reviewing the Subject, there is a dialogue discussing the way digital culture is changing our construction of society, and the fashioning of our individual identities. The “selfie” has created a new genre of imagery. It has had a huge effect on how people present their own image to the world – it’s the first time in history people have had complete and utter control over how their own personas are perceived by others. Even though, people’s reactions to these images are not always predictable.

The biennial also features a number of events, including: the presentation of the Dazibao Prize, artists’ talks, a portfolio review session, workshops, and guided tours. MPM will conclude with a three-day conference, “À partir d’aujourd’hui … Reconsidering Photography,” in which nine invited scholars will give papers and form panels to discuss the theme and its associated issues. The biennial runs until October 11, 2015.

The Belgo Building will host four artists as part of the biennial:

Centre des Arts Actuels Skols
Christina Battle, “The people in this picture are standing on all that remained of a handsome residence.”

Galerie B-312
Liam Maloney, “Texting Syria”

Galerie Joyce Yahouda
Paul Wong, “Multiverse”

SBC Galerie d’Art Contemporain
Isabelle Le Minh, “Tous Décavés”

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Some Species Will Thrive Wed, 09 Sep 2015 00:44:14 +0000 The idea that half of Earth’s animals will become extinct over the next 100 years is, for many people, an abstract idea. It’s difficult to believe or understand the scale of what this will look like. No matter its seeming implausibility, it is nevertheless the prediction of many scientists. Perhaps it then makes sense that it’s from a creative mind that we find a depiction of this somewhat “unimaginable” future.

Artist Ripley Whiteside’s exhibit A Peaceable Kingdom – on display at Pierre-François Ouellette Art Contemporain – is a series depicting the various species that will survive to cohabitate alongside humans in the future. The result is confronting. The works carry that intrinsic mix of melancholy and wry humour that is reserved for negative consequences that are seemingly inevitable.

The works are very much inspired by Montreal and its natural and unnatural environments. Each illustration is named after different quarters of the city like Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Côte-des-Neiges, and Pierrefonds. The selected animals can be found on the island of Montreal – either in the wild, in pet stores, on Kijiji, or at the Biodome. Whiteside arranged the creatures in a sort of constructed reality. Seeing them positioned against various somewhat bleak backgrounds, one has the impression these unlikely companions have been thrown together under unnecessary and arbitrary circumstances.

Whiteside said in his artist statement, “I am interested in what should or should not be considered natural, and in how absurd this line of questioning can become.”

“These works were born in the complicated corners of nature’s meanings, in the places where we attempt to insinuate ourselves within the natural or insist on our separateness from it; where we take what is natural and in so transform it into artifice; where we fear the natural and unnatural alike, and where we temper those fears with stories,” said Whiteside.

Visually, he uses a series of techniques to bring the animals onto a more confronting plane. In many cases, the animals are depicted life-size. Though more imposing than this is the manner in which each animal meets the viewer’s gaze. Historically, the direct or returned gaze has held great meaning in Western art. For a long time the direct gaze, particularly the direct gaze of women, was something artists avoided. It was thought to displease viewers, male viewers, who preferred subjects to be looking away, making their bodies more visually accessible. Eye contact is thought to bring a more confrontational aspect to the character in question. Berger in his now seminal book, “Ways of Seeing” (1972), discusses how Manet’s Olympia was the first example of the female nude defiantly returning the viewer’s gaze. In her description of Whiteside’s work, Concordia University’s Julia Skelley refers to the returned gaze as signifying consciousness, agency, interiority, and potentially indicative of a soul. And it’s true that in the absence of words, a direct gaze is used to establish a connection and can be thought to force a sense of accountability into the consciousness of the viewer.

It’s also worthy of note that in nature wild animals rarely make eye contact for very long, if at all. Someone viewing an animal may meet eyes with one for an instant, but there is rarely sustained connection. Eye contact is often the first point in the initiation of a relationship between two individuals, the beginning of establishing contact. This facet of Whiteside’s work acts to greatly humanize his animals.

The environmental aspect of the artist’s series was inspired by Stephen M. Meyer’s The End of the Wild, a book in which the author outlines Earth’s biodiversity crisis. Meyer cites a current extinction rate of 3,000 species per year, and notes that if this continues half of all species will be extinct in the next 100 years. He argues that the surviving animals will be the “weedy” ones (pests and parasites), those that can survive alongside the environmental degradation caused by humans. It’s a tragic and disturbing idea that due to the actions of one species, ours, only the “weeds” of the animal world will survive.

Another strong influence for A Peaceable Kingdom is the work of Edward Hicks (c. 1825-49) and his series of the same name. Hicks’ work was firstly an expression of his Quaker ideals. He painted 61 iterations on the same idea – all inspired by a bible passage, Isaiah 11:6-8. It’s a passage depicting all animals, predators and prey, living together in harmony. In a practical sense, Hicks conveys this uniformity, or peace, through the use of colours within a restricted tonal range. This is a technique also employed by Whiteside. The significant difference between the two artists is that Whiteside’s work doesn’t contain the religious aspect that was very much a focal point for Hicks. Whiteside paints from a more animalist perspective.

In the gallery, the works  – made from natural, homemade, and manufactured inks – are exhibited unframed, and pinned to the wall. There were minimal alterations made to the original state of the works. They appear almost as if they have just been removed from the artist’s studio. The strength of their message doesn’t need any embellishment.

A Peaceable Kingdom is exhibiting at Pierre-François Ouellette Art Contemporain from July 18 – August 15, 2015.

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Structuring Space at Circa art actuel Sat, 01 Aug 2015 15:10:20 +0000 The surrounding colours were black, grey, and white, like a dystopian wasteland. There were rings, looped together en masse, and weightlessly suspended from the ceiling. Rock-like formations punctuated the floor.

Visiting Andrée-Anne Dupuis-Bourret’s recent exhibit at Circa Art Actuel was like taking a step into the artist’s inner landscape. An immersive, sensory experience of protruding shapes and suspended reality, the environment altered regular visual and spatial perceptions.

Moving around the installation was similar to walking through a forest, or entering new, unaccustomed surroundings for the first time. Stopping to investigate something that could be a plant, considering the view from each angle, experiencing your body in relation to the objects and organisms around you. As Dupuis-Bourret put it, her work is, “A path for the body and the senses to experience.”

The forms that inhabited the space were created using silk screened and twisted sheets of paper, which were covered with lines and pixelated patterns of different tonal qualities. The sculptures began their life as 2D objects, pieces of paper, before the artist transformed them into their eventual 3D formations, which came to resemble organic matter.

An interesting element of Dupuis-Bourret’s installation was its juxtaposition with its outdoor environment. The gallery’s open window let in the sounds from Sainte-Catherine, and allowed a glimpse of dreary office buildings across the street. The contrast was marked, and further highlighted the surreal quality of the work. In her artist’s statement, Dupuis-Bourret says that she is generally interested in the threshold between the real and imagined, the interior and exterior, the outside world and inner thought.

Documenting these processes, including the creation and assembly of her works, is an important part of Dupuis-Bourret’s practice. She posts photos of her installations on her research blog, Le Cahier Virtuel. These actions multiply the existence of her pieces, which become both in-gallery installations and online photographic records. The incorporation of the online consumption environment is interesting and something many artists are realizing is increasingly important in today’s Internet-centric world. Many audiences will only ever see her work online, which in some ways makes this digital format equally important to the physical manifestation.

Andrée-Anne Dupuis-Bourret works across: collaborative and evolving site-specific installations, paper sculptures, images, photographic documentation and artist’s books. She has exhibited at galleries in: Canada, USA, Mexico, Holland, Italy, Israel, and Australia. In 2011, she was awarded the Governor General of Canada’s gold medal for her Master’s degree project. She is currently completing her PhD in interdisciplinary approaches using print media at UQAM. She also teaches printmaking and is the author of two blogs: Le Cahier Virtuel, and Le Territoire des Sens. For a preview of her upcoming work, take a look at her recent blog about her summer atelier.

Circa art actuel
May 16 – July 11, 2015

]]> 0 The Staging of Experiences Tue, 23 Jun 2015 01:52:44 +0000 Days pass: we interact, we buy, we login, we make dinner, we share, we speak.

What role are we playing in these exchanges? Why do many encounters remain static, identical, leaving no space for thought or connection? Days can play out like a formula repeatedly entered into a spreadsheet – CTRL+C, CTRL+V, CTRL+C, CTRL+V.

Les Territories, is currently presenting the work of two emerging artists, Maria Meinild and Émilie Franceschin, who both explore life and societal norms as purely a performance. By examining the daily behavioral patterns that are embedded in our notion of normalcy, the artists allow the questioning of these ideas.

Maria Meinild’s video, Curtain, explores life as a staged presentation of our expectations and preconceived ideas of what life is, and what it should be. Incorporating elements from both theatre and film, and expressed as a dialogue with slight variations and repetitions, she forces the viewer to question the theatrics of daily life, and how necessary the performance is to maintain one’s identity.

Maria’s short video features two main characters, at times reading from a script and at times speaking naturally. The female character repeats the phrase, “It takes solid preparation to provide spontaneity,” at different speeds and intonations – like she’s practising a line. Someone is introduced into the video as a “stranger” in the same way characters can be announced in theatre. The woman repeatedly corrects herself like she’s made a mistake on a line and is restarting the scene. Artificial visual creations scatter the set; there are oranges, skewered with cocktail umbrellas and arranged on a table. At Les Territories the video is projected onto a round surface that feels almost like you’re looking through a telescope or a pair of binoculars.

Émilie Franceschin’s series, Secrets, is presented in an adjacent room to Maria’s work, and is more tactile and tangible in its exhibition. It includes an assortment of objects, images and a video, which all culminated in a performance on Saturday June 20. The act called, I’ll Be Back Soon, saw the artist invite attendees to step into her journeys to understand her repeated struggles, real and imagined.

The objects created in advance of the performance are on display at Les Territoires for the duration of the exhibition. Her photographs, drawings and artifacts interact to reveal the work behind her performance, during the conception and before the execution. These objects offered audience members a new way of approaching the performance, which ultimately must be experienced. Viewers entered the act having seen these tangible materials and with a deeper understanding of the history and motivations that have driven the artist’s work. Émilie explores the body, its visceral quality, and intimate relationships with its surroundings. The performance, like a secret, is something that can’t be spoken – it must be experienced for it to become real and tangible.

The interactions between these two artists in the Les Territoires space is a fascinating one in that both approach this idea of life as performance in particularly unique, and moving, ways. Émilie’s idea draws its power from her very personal selection of artifacts, and her moving live performance. Maria’s approach is impactful by forcing a sense of detachment and unreality between the characters in her video. Additionally, her piece is scripted and produced in a way that presents many layers for audience interpretation.

Both exhibits are on display at Les Territoires in the Belgo Building until July 4, 2015.

Maria Meinild

Maria completed an MFA from the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen; she has also studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Working primarily in video, but also extending to photo, collage, and installation, she has exhibited at New Jörg and Kunstverein Das Weisse Haus in Vienna, at Fauna in Copenhagen, and at ReMap4 in Athens. She was born in Karlshamn, Sweden, and lives and works between Copenhagen and Vienna.

Émilie Franceschin

Émilie is a graduate of the Toulouse School of Fine Arts, and has presented at performance festivals in France, Italy, England, Belgium and Germany. She has also participated in residencies at Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, and in Dusseldorf. Recently she participated in the European Museums Night at the Calbet Museum in France. She lives and works in Toulouse.

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