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Kim Neudorf
The Source at Rodman Hall in St. Catharines
September 23, 2014

The Source, emerging in part from Immersion Emergencies and Possible Worlds (an artist research group who met during two residencies starting in 2012) includes work by Nadine Bariteau, Raymond Boisjoly, Elizabeth Chitty, Soheila Esfahani, Gautam Garoo, Patrick Mahon, Colin Miner, Lucy + Jorge Orta, and Gu Xiong. This exhibition looks at the complex and shifting contexts and issues around water, including states of being outside of the rational or linear, water as perceived via culture and habits, through ways of taking water in (who owns or governs it), water as a cultural “flow”, and encountered through practices which emerge in relation to water as something that exceeds our knowledge of it. The exhibition includes a wide range of media, including photographs, video, performance, sculpture, drawing, and multi-floor installations which extend throughout the interior and exterior of Rodman Hall’s historic house and gardens.

Soheila Esfahani, Wish on Water, 2014, 120 glazed porcelain bowls, water

Gu Xiong’s trail of white boats, starting across grass and hill leading up to Rodman Hall and trailing throughout the main and second floor, visually suggest the stealthy pathways inherently made by water. They overlap with other work near ceiling height like a flock of birds, crossing invisible thresholds or mimicking others. As another kind of mimicry, Soheila Esfahani’s large grid of ceramic bowls (in reference to the prevalence of public fountains in her native Iran) both resemble and re-appropriate Rodman Hall’s original, colonial use of Oriental decorations. As both a translation into and gesture of containment, the idea of keeping hold of water is fleeting as water levels in the bowls will inevitably evaporate.

The daily ritual of retrieving water is the subject of a video by Gautam Garoo. In the day-to-day lives of people in Varanasi, India, the repeated, laborious gesture of moving and accessing water creates a community of interactions with its own logic and rhythm. In another video work by Garoo, the camera moves steadily in water filled with chunks of ice, materialized in the all-encompassing sounds of moving forward and through. In both works, labor through or with water is a seemingly never-ending state.

Colin Miner, Afterimage #21 & Afterimage #22, 2014, neon

The constantly shifting states of water appear in Colin Miner’s furry frost of noise in a chromogenic color print on black corkboard. In other works in video and photographic material, Miner creates situations where these states continue to transform via the mediation of photography. In two neon works whose titles reference the phenomena of afterimages, these nebulous forms coalesce into the veins of breaking ice. Raymond Boisjoly links the mediated qualities of his images with displacement and alienation from origins. In digital scans from video of Jericho Beach in Vancouver (originally the site of the Musqueam village of Ee’yullmough), granulated resolution produces strange sightings captured in flight over icy landscapes.

Patrick Mahon’s large-scale wall pieces of ink on wood reference submersion and shipwrecks while resembling whale skeletons with bones covered in waterlogged imagery from the past. The warning, groaning sound of chainsaws accompanies moments of Nadine Bariteau’s performance on video in which gestures of pulling, reaching, and dragging attempt to unearth or dislodge her body from the surrounding landscape. She strains for a foothold, slides in place, or hangs at a sharp angle, her body one half of a drawing stretched across the reflective water.

There is a lot more to consider in The Source, such as Elizabeth Chitty’s aerial video over nearby Twelve Mile Creek and her exploration of its life amidst a web of boundaries tied to ownership and governance, Gu Xiong’s photographic documents of a Niagara community of migrant workers, and Lucy + Jorge Orta’s dual-screen video, passport office, and life jacket as emblematic remnants of an expedition to Antarctica in 2007. Additional programming such as artist talks, panels, additional film screenings, and lectures attempted to cover more ground related to discussion of environmental and global issues around water. In the context of such a broad, complicated subject, it’s a relief to also ground these issues in the presence of artworks. What does water itself propose, as a state that we’re already in the midst of? Moving with and through pathways, using gestures of mimicry, shared access, temporality, community and restraint, and manifesting water’s shifting states of transformation: The Source suggests these might be ways to feel out a strategy or, more pragmatically, ways to be honest about our messy relationships to, habitual use of, and partial knowledge of something so iconic and monumental.

Rodman Hall:
The Source: Rethinking Water Through Contemporary Art continues until September 28.

Kim Neudorf is an artist and writer currently living in London, Ontario. Her paintings have shown widely in Alberta and at Susan Hobbs Gallery in Toronto. She has contributed writing most recently to Susan Hobbs Gallery, Cooper Cole Gallery, Forest City Gallery, and Evans Contemporary Gallery. She is Akimbo's London correspondent and can be followed @KimNeudorf on Twitter.



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