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Winnipeg
Milena Placentile
MILENA PLACENTILE in Winnipeg 06/28/11
June 28, 2011

Although this happened back in April, I'd be remiss if I failed to mention Ming Hon's spectacularly choreographed and performed Private Dancer, a self-directed project featuring a duet performed with Hilary Bergen titled Nude is In and a solo work called Cleaver Piece that Hon has since presented in Ottawa as part of Prairie Scene. On this one night only affair, aceartinc. was packed with an audience held captive by two distinct experiences; the first playing wryly on the superficial nature of the fashion industry, the second flirting with a range of emotions through a darkly seductive look at the art of the butcher.



Ming Hon, Cleaver Piece, performance still (photo: Leif Norman)

Speaking of Prairie Scene, despite being unable to attend in person, I heard many great things about Winnipeggers raising a ruckus throughout the nation's capital between April 26 and May 8. There were far too many artists, art forms, and projects involved to mention here, but I'll give it a go and highlight a few: the Abzurbs at AXENÉO7, Freya Bjorg Olafson at Arts Court Theatre, Wanda Koop at the National Gallery, Diana Thorneycroft at the National Arts Centre, and Collin Zipp at DAÏMÕN. Hon's performance, by the way, was part of a show also featuring work by Hope Peterson, Divya Mehra, and Jeanne Randolph curated by Free Associates (Kendra Ballingall, Joanne Bristol, and Sigrid Dahle).



Abzurbs at the National Art Centre. The Abzurbs are: Dominique Rey, Lancelot Coar, Cliff Eyland, Bill Eakin, and Vanessa Rigaux with William Patrick, Kevin Kelly, and Rachel Schappert. (photo: Bill Eakin)

There are even more Winnipeggers on the move these days, this time to Paris to launch a large scale exhibition with a familiar title: My Winnipeg. Featuring over seventy artists, this multipart project came to life from an invitation by French artist Hervé di Rosa following his visit to Winnipeg in 2009 which was motivated by a desire to see the place so uniquely depicted in Guy Maddin's film. A small taste of the exhibition was hosted at Prairie Scene, and it finds it's full-sized stride in Paris at La Maison Rouge, a space usually dedicated to publically presenting the private gems of well known collectors. Co-produced with Gallery 1.1.1. at the University of Manitoba, the show will travel to Musée International des Arts Modestes in Sète before a version is presented locally as part of Plug In ICA's 40th anniversary programming in 2012. I'll tell you more about it then.

With so much happening outside of Winnipeg, folks unaware of just how hot our hotspot can be might worry we've been left devoid of the culture, but fear not, there's always plenty on. Here are a few examples:



Jackie Travers, Niizhwaaso/Swi, 2011, installation view (photo: Kevin Lee Burton; courtesy of Urban Shaman)

FRONTRUNNERS at Urban Shaman is curated by Cathy Mattes and pairs members of Professional Native Indian Artists' Inc. (aka “The Indian Group of Seven”) – Alex Janvier, Daphne Odjig, Joseph Sanchez, Norval Morisseau, Jackson Beardy, Carl Ray, Eddy Cobiness – with four local  artists – Louis Ogemah, Jackie Traverse, Lita Fontaine, Darryl Nepinak – to explore the legacy of contemporary Aboriginal art both in terms of its social activism and aesthetic dimension. The diverse selection of paintings, drawings, and prints provide an instant lesson in art history to anyone mistakenly believing PNIAI's work was limited to representational treatments of the natural and supernatural world. Of the more recent pieces on display, Travers' paintings illustrating the seven sacred teachings (honesty, humility, truth, wisdom, love, respect and bravery) stand out as a reflection on the continued relevance of these notions within the scope of contemporary life. Playfully drawing on the iconic styles of Morisseau and Beardy, she also gives viewers a chance to look back at historical works with fresh eyes. Nepinak's video, It's the NM JB CR EC DO Joe Sanchez and AJ Show pays tribute to the respected artists in classic Nepinak style – art as television, and in this case, sketch comedy. One skit includes the audience following Eddy Cobiness to the optometrist to witness his decision-making process about which set of lenses is better: the Picasso or the Janvier. Oh yes, definitely the Janvier! Ogemah's large painting, Canada, contributes to the political framing of the exhibition by reminding viewers of the distance still to be bridged between Aboriginals and settlers as two figures reach across a depiction of the apology to former students of Indian residential schools, but don't yet meet. Much is owed to the tireless work of the frontrunners, and it is up to subsequent generations to continue moving forward.



Aleesa Cohene, Like, Like, 2009, video still

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, PLATFORM centre for photographic + digital arts set itself the task of programming without the usual strategies such as, for example, producing a group show comprised of past exhibitors. And, instead of patting itself on the back, it opted to consider issues such as lost opportunity, malaise, and uncertainty. Two exhibitions (under the banner Haven't We Been Here Before?) are featured, both with very au courant titles: Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time curated by J.J. Kegan McFadden and So Many Letdowns Before We Get Up curated by Kim Nguyen.

Presented in a small gallery with one dividing wall, the work in both shows share many common features, the most obvious being very human and often heartbreaking content. That aside, there is no denying the moody spell cast over the space as a whole by the slow acoustic music oozing with yearning from Aleesa Cohene's two-channel video installation, Like, Like presented as part of SMLBWGU. This work is, in many ways, the most alluring piece in both shows, pulling together clips from 1980s films of lonesome heroines caught in emotional turmoil over unrequited love. The figures dialogue in vain across two monitors, never connecting, never giving or getting what they seem to need.

On the other side of the dividing wall (SLAGIATT's side), Jim Verburg's For a Relationship tenderly animates two years of still photographs overlaid with an intimate monologue reflecting on coming out and embracing one's sexuality as a movement into real experience beyond the action and reaction of existing structures such as family, church, etc. Glen Fogel's black and white diptych, First Love, Summer 1994, offer two softly blurred images: one of a teenaged boy holding a basketball, the other of a hand reaching to touch the edge of a net. These images, tucked away on a small wall between the gallery's office and secondary exit, are like glimpses of a memory caught between other memories – the sort of glimpses into things that didn't seem important at the time but, looking back, are idealized as the way things should have been and probably never were.



Lauren Hortie, Gay & Night, installation view (photo: Karen Asher; courtesy of aceartinc.)

Completely opposite the sentiment enshrouding PLATFORM is the vibe at aceartinc. Gay & Night by Toronto-based artist, educator, and DJ Lauren Hortie, which kicked off on June 3 with a killer Pride weekend party, is bent on telling feelings of failure to piss off through a full-on embrace of all “weird” as wonderful.  Turning pop culture inside out and letting camp do its thing, the interdisciplinary work presented in this show celebrates lives lived to their fullest. Joyful – yes! I wrote it – joyful drawings of people rocking a good time with glittering expressions bedazzled ever so slightly thanks to gold and silver leaf are paired with cheeky party posters and witty costumes, as well as video clips from fantastic cabaret performances while awesome indie music fills the gallery. My favourite costume is a toss up between Burlesque Queen Tanya Cheex's rubber chicken pasties and a creepy “OMG! That totally looks like Rob Ford!” mask. These items sit pretty on pedestals under lighting that almost forgets their not-so-secret lives as objects that have danced the night away, making them seem somewhat like relics despite being part of a history still in the making. I wonder how the show would be read if the opening party had never been cleaned up since a moodier glow and a messy floor would help the works live more truthfully.

And finally, after months (and months!) of waiting through untold amounts of immigration-related administration, Video Pool Media Art Centre finally welcomes its new Director, Melentie Pandilovski. Arriving most recently from Macedonia where he served as Director of the Visual and Cultural Research Centre at the Euro-Balkan Institute in Skopje, Pandilovski brings a wealth of experience, ideas, and energy. His presentation at the Winnipeg Cinematheque on June 14 offered an interesting look at the work that stimulates this curatorial practice and may well contribute to moving Video Pool into a new era. Welcome!


Milena Placentile is a curator and writer living in Winnipeg. She is Akimblog’s Winnipeg correspondent.


Urban Shaman: http://www.urbanshaman.org/ 
FRONTRUNNERS continues until July 17.

PLATFORM: http://www.platformgallery.org
Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time & So Many Letdowns Before We Get Up continue until July 23.

aceartinc.: http://www.aceart.org/
Gay & Night continues until July 25.

 

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