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Milena Placentile
Dana Claxton at Urban Shaman
November 06, 2012

Known as a poet first, and later for minimalist videos highlighting her spoken words, Dana Claxton roamed Winnipeg for six weeks in 2007 in search of sights and sounds. Translating her observations into abbreviated glimpses of a city, she captured unique moments of beauty, sometimes veiled by darker elements, other times punctuated with humour. Thinking about how to transport these moments into physical space, she recalled being struck by Winnipeg's seemingly endless sky, with its sweeping clouds, twinkling stars, and spectral glow from the occasional aurora borealis that, to the surprise of everyone who sees it for the first time, is visible from within the city limits.... Just look up.

Dana Claxton

So inspired, Claxton created a softly ethereal space using simple tools – the glow of LED spotlights and slowly swirling lights reminiscent of a mirror ball or maybe fireflies, if you stretch your imagination a little. Like the city situated on top of nature, her use of these technologies evokes a natural world that isn't quite there, thus creating the feeling of being between two places: one city filled with beautiful social exchanges, another marked by adversity.

Contained within the installation at Urban Shaman are short texts projected as animations and a series of watercolour paintings produced in collaboration with Kim Soo Goodtrack. The animations are presented in an LCD mono font, and transition in and out like an old fashioned train schedule board, possibly recalling Winnipeg's heyday as a junction point for the transfer of people and goods. The animation thus echoes movement between places and spaces, and the transition itself is subtly nostalgic while also creating a forward-looking sense of anticipation.

In He Who Walks So Very Slow, the single moving image of moccasin-clad footsteps across a natural earth is set to the empathetic words of a poem paying respect to the people involved in an incident downtown on rough pavement that shouldn't have been, but is all too often. That everyday strength and struggles so frequently go unnoticed unleashed a flood of emotion Claxton harnessed with so much honesty that to quickly express it here would only be a disservice.

In the intersection of the spoken word video and text-based installation, Claxton reinforces the possibility of multiple places that we can, if we so choose, flow in and out of and in between, yet typically don't as a consequence of busy days and surroundings otherwise taken for granted. It is through the eyes and words of someone who doesn't live here that we can better see and learn to listen.

Urban Shaman Gallery:
Dana Claxton: TXT4WPG & He Who Walks So Very Slow continue until November 17.

Milena Placentile is a curator and writer living in Winnipeg. She co-runs Atomic Centre and is Akimblog's Winnipeg correspondent.



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