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THE NEXT 7 DAYS:     EVENTS (18)     +     OPENINGS (7)     +     DEADLINES (6)     +     CLOSINGS (12)
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Deborah Margo
DEBORAH MARGO in Ottawa 02/07/12
February 07, 2012

Fireworks went off Friday night proclaiming the official start of Winterlude, complete with chic new changing pavilions (calling them “huts” would be far too pedestrian). Despite their exorbitant price, they are a welcome option for putting skates on then gliding along the Rideau Canal’s manicured ice. A less pleasant - though still spectacular - vision took place at the Filature art complex in Gatineau-Hull, where a New Year’s Eve flood brought in 2012. At Axe, Hugo Gaudet Dion’s installation was decimated. At DAÏMÕN, all archives and production equipment were irrevocably ruined. Insurance games and re-building are now being negotiated, but the losses to both venerable spaces were significant. With this in mind, the exhibitions I visited recently had me thinking about the effects of various transformations via the redundant and the profound, as well as the risks of grand cultural events.

Diane Gougeon, Losing Touch (view of facing walls of installation)

The diminutive Voix Visuelle is tucked away in a small house in residential Vanier, just east of Ottawa’s centre. Since 2007, its narrow staircase has led to two intimate rooms often dedicated to challenging contemporary sculpture and installation works. Currently up is work by Montreal artist Diane Gougeon. When I last saw her work at the Gladstone Hotel (yes, in Toronto), I found it suffered amidst the hyped visual and auditory cacophony of upArt. Here Losing Touch is familiar, yet in this context, much stronger. The hum of a wall-mounted light fixture emits long pulses of ultraviolet light. As it goes through its cycle, the light source illuminates then dissipates onto two facing walls. When at its most intense, a complex wallpaper motif of cherished pooches, set amidst complex rococo-esque patterns, throbs before paling to near white. This flux of day-glo intensity amidst a boudoir-like space is accompanied by two lenticular rondos with similarly jarring images. Think General Idea combined with the growing hysteria of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story The Yellow Wallpaper, bathed in serene Matisse-blue.

Karen Jordon, Slugs

At Karsh-Masson, Karen Jordon’s exhibition Slow Dance starts off haltingly, picking up full visual steam as her introductory themes expand across the two-floor space. A collector of detritus, she obsessively mines what could be diagnosed as fixated impulses into an examination of technological obsolescence. Central to this body of work is the cassette tape and constituent parts: audiotape, cassette slip sheets, magnetic shield, pressure pad, metal screws…with accompanying cassette case. In Arc, wall-like configurations are reminiscent of minimal constructions gone wonky, repetition pushed and sabotaged by the resilient cassette case multiplied ad infinitum. With her series of Slugs, ridiculous ooze-like growths are composed of wound-bound audiotape sitting in corner spaces, while others seemingly creep off the hard horizontal surfaces of a bench. Finally, her series of Acetates, composed of translucent slip sheets held together by celluloid tape, become ethereal fabrics or uncanny light emitters.

Donna Legault, Cymatic Imprints

I found previous work by Donna Legault resolutely precious, but with Cymatic Imprints her growing confidence is clear. Working at the confluence of digital art, sound installation, sculpture and performance, her exhibition at City Hall is not dominated by the wonders of tech’s insistence; instead what drew me in was a familiar space permeated by a softly shifting acoustic landscape. Subtle but not obscure, an association of multiple sources of cascading water was pitched at a volume that did not overwhelm but invited a contemplation I rarely experience in a public art space. The delicate shuffling of multiple vertical steel ball chains and the in-and-out of amplifiers opened up any didactic readings, my delight completed by the imprints on the floor of the chains’ slight movement in mounds of white sand. (Note: There will be an artist’s performance and talk on February 12 at 2:00 pm.)

Anne Katrine Senstad, The Sugarcane Labyrinth

Ottawa is not known for its daringness, so when I received the promotional materials for Preternatural, I was excited and intrigued. Lasting more than three months, curator Celina Jeffery has organized an ambitious project in three venues located in different parts of the city: a group exhibition at the Museum of Nature, a solo exhibition at Patrick Mikhail Gallery, and three installations shown consecutively at Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts (a deconsecrated basilica still imbued by its strong 19th Century Catholic-Baroque identity). Artists were selected from Ottawa, Hull-Gatineau, U.K./Germany, U.S.A., Norway, India, and Korea with media ranging from photography, video, sculpture, sound and light-scapes, and more. Jeffery’s thesis focuses on the how the “natural, unnatural, and supernatural collide” allowing for an exploration of “wonder and the extraordinary”. Whereas her choices of artists and work are often inspired and thoughtful, the mounting of the exhibitions is uneven and frequently compromised. Anne Katrine Senstad’s poetic film, The Sugarcane Labyrinth, follows the making of her Land Art project in Louisiana concerned with sustainable farming strategies. Her work stands out not only in its thematic inclusion but because of the effective simplicity of its projection. Unfortunately its loud and trite soundtrack negatively affects the viewing of the surrounding art works.

Finally, and not to be missed, Christian Marclay’s acclaimed video installation The Clock can be viewed at the National Gallery starting Friday, February 10. I’m told couches will proliferate with numerous free 24-hour screenings scheduled. 

Deborah Margo is an artist who combines different disciplines including sculpture, drawing, and ephemeral installations to question the contextual identities of public and private spaces. Since 1984, her work has been exhibited in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. She is represented by Patrick Mikhail Gallery. Margo is also a faculty member at the Department of Visual Arts, University of Ottawa, where she teaches drawing, painting, and sculpture. During the summer she works as a gardener. She is Akimblog’s Ottawa correspondent.

Voix Visuelle:
Diane Gougeon: Losing Touch continues until February 21.

Karsh-Masson Gallery:
Karen Jordon: Slow Dance continues until April 8.

City Hall Art Gallery:
Donna Legault: Cymatic Imprints continues until March 4. 

National Gallery of Canada:
Christian Marclay: The Clock opens on February 10 and continues until March 25.



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