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Vancouver
Aaron Peck
Vancouver
December 13, 2011

Vancouverites, at least those interested in art, have a reputation, warranted or not, for what might be called “discourse.” In some ways, this is changing, but let me start with a recent symposium: Artspeak and Fillip’s Intangible Economies. Organized by artist and Fillip contributing editor Antonia Hirsch, who is now based in Berlin, this event attempted to think through economies that are “intangible.” Instead of phrasing it in the regular word order (“economic intangibles,” which implies intangibles as things that function within the economy), this series attempted to think through economies that are by definition themselves intangible, for example the art world or, as guest speaker Jan Verwoert tried to argue, love. In some ways, the series could be seen as an extension of Hirsch’s work itself, particularly her piece Invisible Hand (After Adam Smith), wherein she considered the relationship between representation and economics, the way in which economic realities are abstracted by representation. Intangible Economies, the symposium, corresponded to an issue of Fillip titled the same, in which the contributors’ essays appear. The series, hosted by Jane Irwin and Ross Hill’s Grey Church Collection and Project Space, spanned one weekend in late November with presentations from Monika Szewczyk, Olaf Nicolia, Candice Hopkins, and Juan Gaitan, among others. What parts I couldn’t physically attend, I watched via livestream on Fillip’s website. Each day at Grey Church was at capacity, and on Sunday, the day I attended, I heard it said that more people on Saturday had watched via the livestream than were capable of attending. The discussions ranged from loose presentations to fully formed papers and the debates during the roundtable were spirited, especially when Clint Burnham responded on Saturday. Even if the series didn’t have a highlight per se (except perhaps Gaitan’s suggestion we think of the tangible aspects of an economy, such as paper money and how money functions as a representation - a counterintuitive inversion of the premise), the talks were all enjoyable. They provided, one could say, a certain intellectual surplus value.



Roy Arden, Orpheus, 2011, oil and oil stick on canvas

Roy Arden’s Vox, currently at Monte Clarke Gallery, sees him continue where his CAG show earlier this year left off. In this case, Arden is addressing representations of the voice: either the musical voice or the poetic voice through collages, sculpture, paintings, and prints. On first entering the gallery, I was somewhat disappointed. His previous show UNDERTHESUN transformed the way I thought of his work. He’d turned every assumption I had of it on its head; coming into Vox my expectations were high. This show is not another departure, rather a continuation, so, in that way, it was less surprising. A friend commented that the show felt connoisseurial. Arden, he said, was making work about things he liked: Elvis, the poet Jack Spicer, or a reproduction of a poster for a Loretta Lynn concert, for example. But I beg to differ, because this observation feels simplistic. It wasn’t about the references because, in the end, they were moot. It was how the work attempted to represent one thing (voice) with another (images and objects). Did these works evoke voice? Did they try to represent visually? Vox is not an easy show to engage with, but its difficulty is exactly why I liked it so much.



Corin Sworn, Endless Renovation

Every now and then, erstwhile Vancouverite Corin Sworn returns, and it’s always a pleasure to see her around. I ran into her at Intangible Economies and we had a brief chance to catch up. Seeing her reminded me that I had missed her opening at the Contemporary Art Gallery earlier that week, so I promised to check it out. I’ve been following Sworn’s work for years and Endless Renovation, her latest show at the CAG, was, much like Arden’s, a departure. The exhibition revolved around a box of slides that she found in an alley not far from her apartment in Glasgow. This chance discovery proved to be a boon. The images were mostly of clocks that a have Dieter Rams aesthetic to them. But the clocks are unconventional: they were designed to represent time as a graph with a horizontal and a vertical dial instead of the traditional circular one. Other slides included images of domestic spaces or landscapes. The pictures are presented as a looped slide show and a recording of Sworn’s voice, musing on the images, accompanies it. In her voice-over, she discusses how we relate to time, particularly in relation to these found slides, and she wonders who this rather eccentric clock-maker may have been. But, perhaps even more pertinently, the images of the clocks lead her to think about how we often conceptualize time as cyclical. This meditation, of course, reminds us of the cyclical nature of the slide projector itself. Along with the slide projection, a few objects are presented - objects to which we have no access. They function in the same way the slides functioned to Sworn: if we are going to make sense of them, we have to give them a narrative.



Elizabeth McIntosh

It has just occurred to me that I’ve never thought of Elizabeth McIntosh’s paintings as palimpsests, but her work has a lot of similarities to the practice of writing on a piece of parchment previously written on. Her exhibition Three Oranges opened this past Friday at Exercise, a new project space in the Downtown Eastside run by artists Nicole Ondre and Vanessa Disler. While chatting with Ondre, she informed me that McIntosh’s works were responses to still life paintings by Matisse and Bonnard. McIntosh took details from the still lives and then repainted them as abstractions. In this way, they function, in a sense, as studies, and in these paintings we can see McIntosh working through some ideas about composition. The paintings feel both looser and more immediate than her previous work, and they’re also smaller. However, in keeping with the way she works, she also painted the wall of the gallery a light peach colour, creating a kind of network of painting, to paraphrase David Joselit. And this is where I’m reminded of the palimpsest metaphor: the wall on which the paintings are hung, then, becomes a painting itself. And the paintings, as I’ve said, are detailed studies/abstractions of other paintings. So here we have a painting of a painting displayed on top of a painting, all in relation to one another.


Aaron Peck is the author of The Bewilderments of Bernard Willis and, in collaboration with artists Adam Harrison and Dominic Osterried, Letters to the Pacific. His recent art criticism has appeared, or is forthcoming, in artforum.com, 01 Magazine, Art Papers, Canadian Art, C Magazine and Fillip, as well as an article in La Fábrica's Spanish-language magazine Matador. He has also contributed to numerous exhibition catalogs and is Akimblog's Vancouver correspondent.


Monte Clark Gallery: http://www.monteclarkgallery.com/current.php
Roy Arden: Vox continues until January 7.

Contemporary Art Gallery: http://www.contemporaryartgallery.ca/
Corin Sworn: Endless Renovation continues until January 15.

Exercise: http://www.exercisecanada.com/
Elizabeth McIntosh: Three Oranges continues until January 15.

 

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