In her first solo museum exhibition in Canada, presented by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA), Caroline Monnet chose eighteen recent works for Ninga Mìnèh, many of which had never previously been shown. Following her rise to prominence in the local (2020 Pierre-Ayot Award), national (2020 Sobey Art Award), and international (2019 Whitney Art Biennial) art scenes, the interdisciplinary artist of Algonquin and French ancestry made her much anticipated full-scale entry into one of Montreal’s most heralded cultural institutions. Ninga Mìnèh focuses on the architecture of Indigenous communities in Canada, specifically the cheaply and hastily built reservation housing that further entrenches First Nations peoples into economic and social precarity.1 Conceptually striking and spatially inviting, the exhibition draws on postmodern codes and mediums with a politically and socially incisive subtext, thus interpreting new conceptual horizons for the artist’s practice.
Let’s pretend that we’re at a show. It’s sometime before last March, any night of the week. Early evening, but this is winter, and the sun has been set for hours already. We shrug our coats off into the all-black pile. I’ll retrieve mine later to wear it loose over my shoulders, following the smokers outside to revel in the cold between sweaty sets, after which I’ll fix my wandering eyeliner in my front-facing camera, since the available bathroom is the one with no mirror. You grab a water, maybe a beer, from the bar or your bag, depending on where we are. The night is full and warm and easy, and we maneuver through friends and strangers, angling for the right spot from which to watch other friends on stage. Then it’s your turn to go up, and the roles reverse.
In her 1976 essay “Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism,”Rosalind Krauss attempts to pinpoint the singular essence of video-based artwork, speculating on the possibility of the claim that the “medium of video is narcissism”. (1) For Krauss, the linchpin of this perspective was the (now taken for granted) instantaneity of video, which produces perpetual feedback that captures the subject in a closed circuit of “self-encapsulation”. (2) There is an implied intimacy in this simultaneity—while Krauss perhaps over-essentialized the quality of video, she shrewdly identified the implicit correlation between video and the psyche.
“If I want to imagine a fictive nation, I can give it an invented name, treat it declaratively as a novelistic object, create a new Garabagne, so as to compromise no real country by my fantasy (although it is then the fantasy itself I compromise by the signs of literature). I can also—though in no way claiming to represent or to analyze reality itself (these being the major gestures of Western discourse)—isolate somewhere in the world (faraway) a certain number of features (a term employed in linguistics), and out of these features deliberately form a system. It is this system which I shall call: Japan.”
Ana Mendieta’s work embodied the complexities of nature, sovereignty, and taking up space. In Libertad, shown at Dazibao in Montréal from September 7 to October 19, 2019, French-Colombian artists Karen Paulina Biswell and Laura Huertas Millán appear alongside Mendieta to examine the sensual and material forces that impact the experiences of women, and the function of freedom for those who pass between being subjects and ‘objects.’ However, to limit this reading of the show within the confines of womanhood and female agency would be incomplete. Weaving through conceptions of home and belonging, and a determination for survival, the artists expose a slippage of race, nation, and gender that is inherent to all identity: concepts unable to be fixed within immovable categories. Together, the works comprise a criticism of the systems of knowledge that justify domination, as well as the essentializing gestures that equate women with nature. Read More
You know this surface intimately. Walking past a window, you catch your reflection walking with you—an intangible body double, flat and eerily transparent, skimming the line between interior and exterior until you reach the building’s edge, and the reflected “you” disappears. In Gabriel Peña Tijerina’s more., the architectural glass surface is at once screen and mirror; an invocation of the ghosts of its own mass production. Glass and plastic invite looking at and through their surfaces at the same time, and a window is never just a window when your reflection is also blinking back. Both architect and artist himself, Peña Tijerina’s research into the modality of glass examines Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s adopted aphorism “less is more” (1) in Tap Art Space’s final exhibition, siphoning out the sticky substance of capitalism from our ever seductive mirrored selves in glass. Read More
I walk along St Charles street toward Charlevoix Metro, an April afternoon with a chill, and do so with speed, hoping that action, like rubbing sticks, gets me warm. The sun helps a bit—its eye lit wide in an otherwise undisturbed sky—but it is my moving body, my temporary companion, that really thaws me.
I pass through the Metro doors and pay my fare with blemished coins. Today I opt for the escalator over the stairs, not for a quicker descent but for stasis; my body deserves it after all the rapid movement. Forced into action again when the stairs fall flat into the floor, I make my way toward the subway tracks. With each step I move further into the sour air of the Metro’s basement, into an air that never changes, but waits, like breath, to be exhaled. It never does; instead it sits unreplenished in tiled corridors, the city’s wet subterranean lungs. Read More
Last winter the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts held a retrospective on Alexander Calder, which offered a rare chance to share space with his famous mobiles, arguably the precursors of kinetic art. Breaking the threshold between abstraction and figuration, Calder’s suspended creature-like objects were born from subtle mechanisms with slow reactions and a geometric formulation that lures and lulls, favouring a contemplative spectator. The American artist marked modern art with his conception of these performative sculptures, and continues to be an important influence on new generations of sculptors who have succeeded him. As part of this succession, the artist-run OBORO centre invited Toronto and Brooklyn-based sculptor Sherri Hay to produce new sculptural activations in their space during the fall of 2018. Calder and Hay—who seem to be working with, at times parallel and at others, divergent motivations—position their practices as a kind of metaphysical response. Equally preoccupied by contemporary concerns, Calder is interested in the phenomenon of movement and the relativistic notion of “space-time”, while Hay inclines towards a neo-materialism that helps unsettle some of the more entrenched conceptual limits of the Anthropocene. In both cases, the idea of a mechanical object’s agency compels a kind of radical empathy towards the material and confronts us with our imperious relation to the object. Read More