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Terence Dick
Toronto
July 23, 2009

We begin this week’s report in an unfamiliar corner of Don Mills at the unfortunately located Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre where we find the Gendai Gallery. It’s a bit of a hike for those without a car, but there’s always other stuff going on at the JCCC and the Science Centre is nearby (but be warned, the SC is still exhibiting the same old gear that had your hair stand on end in grade four).



Yoshinori Niwa, Kite Flying with Local People, 2006-2009

Guest curator (and sometime Akimblog correspondent) Milena Placentile has put together an exhibition that serves the Gendai Gallery’s mandate of increasing audience participation through an Asian perspective by inviting two artists - one Canadian, one Japanese – who, each in their own way, revisit traditional Japanese culture through interactivity. Yoshinori Niwa’s Kite Flying with Local People is self-explanatory and a video documents the kite-making workshops he’s held in Toronto. The scraps of clothing and plastic bags that he uses as material make for a chaotic quilt of repurposed logos and recycled shirts spread across the gallery walls. The childish innocence and freedom that is inextricably linked to the triumphant attempt to defy gravity with a fragile assembly of string and cloth is inescapable here and it makes me want to run wildly through a field somewhere. Sandee Moore’s Youtopia bathhouse project adds video games and karaoke to the mix with an equally giddy sense of culture-making, though my joystick skills are weak, to say the least, and my off-key crooning would be too much for the friendly gallery attendant sitting nearby.



Keith Tyson, The Block (installation view), 2001-2002 (photo: Peter Mallett; courtesy Thea Westreich Art Advisory Services and Haunch of Venison)

Straight down the DVP to the Lakeshore, I end up at The Power Plant for their summer blockbuster Universal Code. Director/curator Gregory Burke has set himself the modest task of gathering artists who address “the universe, the infinite, and the eternal” in their work. With over twenty participants in the exhibition, there is a wide range of results. Some go for the obvious and depict the cosmos in various self-reflective ways. Cerith Wyn Evans merely notes an error made by early telescopic astronomers, but I’m not sure why he couldn’t have simply written this on a file card instead of pasting it on a wall. Others address the physics of time and space in ways that are clever, but also a little didactic. Janet Cardiff’s circular phone conversation about time and Keith Tyson’s looping model of model’s of the universe leave you with a lot to talk about, but their means feel inelegant.



Henrik Håkansson, Monarch - The Eternal (detail), 2008, 35 mm film loop (courtesy the artist and Galleria Franco Noero)

Others, however, manage to evoke something of the immensity of the exhibition’s scope while retaining their power as self-sufficient art objects that generate chain reactions of delight and intellection through immediate experience. The combination of Henrik Håkansson’s film loop, Trevor Paglen’s model of the earth’s satellites, and Tania Mouraud’s unspeakably unsettling video installation would more than suffice as a condensed experience of what Universal Code aspires to.




Tom Jones, Bill "Beaverhead" (Potawatami), part of the series Encountering Cultures, 2008, digital archive print

Nest door at the York Quay Galleries, there are a series of related exhibitions by Indigenous artists that bring me back to the personal and concrete experiences I found at the Gendai Gallery. Keesic Douglas’ photographs play off on familiar stereotypes of Aboriginal people with a biting sense of humour. The artist named r e a is screening a three-channel video dealing with the impact of colonialism on Australia’s original people. And then there is Alternation, a group show concerned with ongoing changes in Indigenous culture. The weird ways in which tradition and crossing-cultures mix and match is best documented in Tom Jones portraits of European hobbyists who work to re-enact the history and experience of “Native Americans.” These folks are going a long way to make their weekends historically accurate. Me? I’d rather fly a kite.


Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog.


Gendai Gallery: http://gendaigallery.org/
The Art of Togetherness continues until August 23.

The Power Plant: http://www.thepowerplant.org/current.html
Universal Code continues until August 30.

York Quay Gallery: http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/visualarts/yorkquaycentre.cfm
Exhibitions continue until September 13.
 

 

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