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As part of our regular exhibition schedule we invite written responses by writers, curators, cultural theorists and artists. Each exhibition response can be found below.

Exhibition Responses

Joni Cheung’s (Snack Witch) and Sonali Menezes’ practices overlap wonderfully in thoughtful and layered explorations of care, interrelation, food, and identity. Both are engaged in multi-disciplinary practices that foster connection and reflection.

Joni Cheung’s practice is characterized by a deep engagement with her cultural heritage, experiences of growing up in Vancouver, and reflections on language(s). Personal histories often underlie her works and she reflects on longing and memory (both her own and collective). Cheung mines blogs, Facebook posts, and other online caches for stories, common experiences, and references to objects representing connection or nostalgia for the Hong Kong diaspora. Her sculptural and spatial interventions are conceptually rich representations of objects and places researched or remembered. She creates sculptures and installations that speak to the complexity of identity and belonging. Cheung’s work shows a profound respect for her heritage while being critical of social and political systems that oppress, restrict, or isolate immigrants and members of the Chinese diaspora. Joni Cheung is committed to interrogating ideas about access. This sometimes takes the form of an interest in items related to her heritage and noticing – then filling through collection or creation – gaps in access to foods and household objects. In this exhibition, Cheung takes up the “Good Morning” towel. Using this household object as a surface for silkscreen, she reflects on familial and cultural histories.

Sonali Menezes often chooses the zine, a format that allows democratic distribution, as her medium but also frequently works in video, print-making, performance, and writing. Her work takes a community-oriented approach to reflecting on social and political issues as they relate to the everyday and her own experiences. She approaches creation with the intention of connecting, supporting, and expressing. There is an aspect to Menezes’ work that is deeply personal and vulnerable. The work is often bold, sensitive, and raw while simultaneously incorporating a lightheartedness, sense of genuine curiosity and, at times, celebration. There is a curiosity about self, others, community, and society. Recently, Menezes has been working with mangoes – though the making of prints, photographs, videos, and performances she makes connections with her own heritage and with other members of the South Asian diaspora. While in conversation with relatives, the cutting, sharing, and consuming of mangoes creates opportunities for sharing stories, uncovering memories, and deepening connections.

Discussing the complexities of their experiences and intertwining their work in this exhibition, Joni Cheung and Sonali Menezes intend to create further opportunities for playful and fruitful explorations. Cheung and Menezes look forward to experimenting with silk screening using spices and other food in their upcoming, collaborative workshop at Martha Street Studio, titled marked and stained on August 24, 2024.


Alana MacDougall holds a Bachelor of Fine Art (Honours) from the University of Manitoba (2014) and a Master of Fine Art from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York (2016). She is a multi-disciplinary artist working primarily in drawing and sculpture. Alana’s work draws on the abstract qualities of medical imaging and the psychological impact of the familiar appearing unrecognizable. Layered drawings and sculpted forms with multiple associations explore the unnerving nature of the unknown and our instinct to find reflections of ourselves in objects and images.

Informed by her work as an ecologist, Lisa Matthias’ artistic practice explores the intricate choreographies and compositions of nature. In previous series, she has focused on the microscopic and immaterial, creating dense, lyrical woodcuts based on the cellular structure of insect wings, diatoms, and sphagnum mosses, the inflorescences of tiny flowers that comprise a single flowerhead, and the aural complexity of forest and meadow ecosystems. More recently, she has turned her attention toward more recognizable subjects, ones depicting or implying human presence. Printed Flight includes woodcut images of forested park landscapes where built structures facilitate human access to natural beauty, a stop-motion animated video where an eclipse of woodcut moths congregate around an unseen light source, and a series of massive woodcut prints depict songbird nests in striking high-contrast detail, encouraging the viewer to pay close attention to their architectural specificity and ingenious bricolage.

Matthias has accompanied these works with a soundscape: above the gentle din of insects and frogs, wind blowing through grasses, quiet footsteps on dry ground, and the low rumble of vehicles in the distance, the clarion-crisp trills and warbles of songbirds ring out. The artist’s juxtaposition of sound and image is vaguely melancholic: the auditory presence of birds in the soundscape makes their visual absence in the prints conspicuous. Likewise, Matthias’ nest prints, studies of specimens from the Royal Alberta Museum’s ornithological collection, are reminders that the birdsongs filling the gallery are disembodied voices, also pulled from the archive.

I have a sense memory of what the summers of my childhood sounded like: wind and thunderstorms, songbird songs and raven calls, chirping frogs and crickets, a shriek of bats in the evening, coyote howls in the night. I think it’s quieter now, but sense memories are fragile and unverifiable — their fallibility makes way for plausible deniability: I don’t hear as many birds and insects as I used to because I live in the city now. I was more attuned to my surroundings as a kid. I probably damaged my hearing in my twenties; so many loud shows and dance parties. But also: Prairie grassland bird populations have declined by nearly 60% since 1970.1 And globally, insects are declining by around 2% per year.2 I know human activity is to blame. I will these depressing thoughts to the back of my consciousness, but they resurface, particularly when I think about the kids I love, and the futures they face. Matthias is a parent; I imagine she must feel the same way sometimes.

My oldest nibling loves birds — they always have.3 When they were four, they received a hefty copy of The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America, toting it around like a security blanket. Now age ten, their fascination with birds has grown, as has their ecological and climate awareness. At their age, I was relatively unaware of looming environmental crises: though the link between industrialization, increased C02 emissions, climate change, and biodiversity loss were well-established, it wasn’t part of mainstream discourse. I ache for today’s kids, whose love of nature might be accompanied by fear or grief. I asked my nibling how they felt, loving birds while knowing the threats they face. They told me they were “more hopeful than sad.” They feel optimistic that future generations, with access to more knowledge, will be kinder to the planet. When I asked them about their future plans, they said, without hesitation, “I’ll be an activist — either an ornithologist or a mycologist, but definitely an activist.”4

Curiosity is an expression of love. Artistic and scientific inquiry are acts of love. And in seeking to understand the subject of our love, as Matthias does in her work, we might find ourselves vacillating between two contradictory states: feeling deep mutualism and connectivity with the beloved while simultaneously being compelled by their “impenetrable, intractable” otherness.5 Matthias’ work invites us to marvel at nature’s complexity — the patterns and systems that organize life, and their diverse expression. It reminds us that we are all inextricably, beautifully, devastatingly connected. 


1 Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada, North American Bird Conservation Initiative, “The State of Canada’s Birds” 2019, nabci.net/wp-content/uploads/2019-State-of-Canadas-Birds-1.pdf. 

 2 Julia Janicki, Gloria Dickie, Simon Scarr, and Jitesh Chowdhury, “The Collapse of Insects.” (6 December 2022: Reuters), https://www.reuters.com/graphics/GLOBAL-ENVIRONMENT/INSECT-APOCALYPSE/egpbykdxjvq/.

  3 A gender-neutral term for your sibling’s kids, “nibling” is a non-binary corollary to “niece” or “nephew.”

 4 Kiké Dueck, interview with the author, January 20, 2024. During our visit, Kiké also shared a ton of bird facts with me. We talked about the nest-building activities of bowerbirds and ovenbirds, hummingbird flight mechanics, how songbirds teach their songs to their young, and the puzzle-solving, knife-wielding abilities of crows. 

 5 Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments. Translated by Richard Howard (London, UK: Vintage Random House, 2002), 134.


Blair Fornwald (they/she) is an artist, curator and writer from rural Saskatchewan, now based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

  1. When I asked Okado who he was looking at, his answers surprised me, though I know well enough that the relationship between what an artist looks at and what they make is often tangled and unresolved. He mentions Ellsworth Kelly. The prints, mostly of plants. Not the drawings of plants, and not the colourfield work that one might expect, but the prints—the ones that move from line to impression of line, that reduce and then reinforce the basic shape of fruit or flower.
  2. Okada talks about Kelly, bringing his own careful looking at those prints, into Okada’s practice: “Kelly said abstraction makes artwork mysterious. My works don’t have to be mysterious but I like to keep it airy. When you see abstract art, you rely more on memories and feelings so I found it’s more fun and interesting. I like figurative works too but I always feel like it’s also controlling and somewhat preachy.”
  3. There is nothing preachy about the Kelly prints, and there is a lot that is airy–both airy like a room with a lot of space, a lot of light, a lot of ways to (symbolically) move around in, but also airy in the sense that what they do not depict is as important as what they do depict–that they crack open, let the light and the air in. The pleasure of the work is how they aren’t really mysterious, but also do not land or grind on a single idea or subject or context.
  4. The airiness of the work, the floating quality, comes from both a deep understanding of how a print has to be held loosely—a looseness that comes from time and energy spent observing–I am caught in how he describes the process of some of these works: “For example, ‘Summer Song’ in the show, was originally a two-colour print and the negative and positive were opposite. The fish shapes were originally negative. And also the shapes were about 5-7mm narrower. When I was cutting the second layer rubylith, all of a sudden, I realized that the line was perfect (the first layer line was not flowing) and everything made sense without the first colour so I decided to go for one colour and switched negative and positive of the image and printed.”
  5. The process here seems symbolic, to hold their own weight—the flipping of figures to fit better, the moving from negative to positive, the changes that occur in the middle of cutting, what flows and what impedes flow, which colours work and which colours fall apart. The prints are found in their own making, reduced to their basic elements–to one colour, for example, the interplay of negative and positive, remind one again of his reading of Kelly.
  6. This process is something that Okado describes as intuitive–as one which “goes with the flow through the printmaking process,” the end result reminding one of a single point in time, a residue or memory of studio practice, within a single object. The bodily memory of this process is clear in the subtle, and quiet processes transparent here.


Steacy Easton is a writer and visual artist, originally from Edmonton, who has lived in Hamilton for more than seven years. They have written on gender, sexuality, and country music for publications including Slate, NPR, and the Atlantic Online. Recent and upcoming books include Why Tammy Wynette Matters for University of Texas and a 33 1⁄3 Volume for Bloomsbury. They were the 2022 Martha Street Artist Residence in Winnipeg.

When I was a child and had a nightmare I would peel off my sheets, swing my feet off of the edge of the bed and pitter patter down the hallway illuminated by a small night light until I reached the right side of my parent’s bed. Once there, I would either gently shake my mother awake or pinch one of her eyelids open (depending on what level of fright and desperation I was in). She would first listen to me babble and cry about my bad dream, then try her best to encourage me to go back to my bed. She would reassure me that if I went back to sleep I would dream of something else, ‘because you never have a bad dream twice.’

When I graduated university I made the crappy decision of moving to Hamilton to live with a crappy boy in a crappy apartment his parents owned. Unemployed, using the overdraft on my bank account to make minimum payments on my credit card bill, I tried to escape my anxieties while sleeping. Shortly after falling asleep, and throughout the night, I would be woken abruptly by my crappy boyfriend shaking me. “You’re doing it again,” he would say. By “again” he meant grinding my teeth so intensely it sounded like two brutalist buildings trying to pass each other in a narrow hallway. 

In the years that followed as I cobbled together some underpaid work at artist run centres, the concrete on concrete teeth grinding continued. Only now that the student health insurance had run out and the crappy boyfriend was gone, my dreams were not interrupted by being abruptly shaken. Now I would be chewing a piece of gum, but something was wrong. I would reach inside my mouth to remove the gum with my back molar stuck to it. Roots and all. As I allowed my tongue to travel around my mouth inspecting the damage, I would realize that this piece of gum had loosened most of my teeth in my gums. And out they would fall, one by one into my hands. I would wake myself, go to the bathroom, drink some water, and ensure that the right antipsychotics were taken before bed. And as I would close my eyes, the dreams continued. You can have the same bad dream twice. In fact, you can have them many times. 

Alana Macdougall’s porcelain artwork Grin/Grim, reminds me of my dream that my teeth are falling out. A bad dream I have had far more than twice, over many years. Similar to techniques related to printmaking and creating multiples, she creates organic white vessels resembling teeth using a mold.  Alana then strings the vessels together so that they are reminiscent of a smile. For me, it is a wonky, haunting smile. For Alana, they are about a time where she needed to grin and bear it, where she was no longer in control of her body.

Alana works in large open series. Echoes is a collection of drawings, prints and ceramic sculpture about the body. The series begins out of what Alana calls a place of necessity. When she was undergoing treatment for cancer, creating artwork about her sickness and the procedures she was undergoing was a way for her to make sense of her treatment. Today, nearly ten years later she continues to make work about her body that has shifted to a place of curiosity and wonder.  The works in McDougall’s  exhibition echo haunting questions around pain, consent, agency and control as it relates to our bodies. For me, the vessels that make up Touch and Go reminds me of my experiences with pelvic floor physiotherapy. For you, maybe the works remind you of a dream you have had more than twice. 


Sonali Menezes is an artist and writer based in Hamilton, ON. While her work spans many mediums, she has been most recently focused on video, printmaking, and zines. She tries her best to eat three meals a day and is the youngest of triplets.

Principle of Correspondence, 2023, Vi Houssin. Seed beads, nylon thread. 4.5 x 2.5″.


Vi Houssin (they/she) is a beadwork artist and drag performer based in Winnipeg. Through their beadwork, they explore both traditional Métis floral motifs and contemporary expressions of their nationhood. Currently, they are part of Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (MAWA)’s Foundation Mentorship Program, working with legendary Métis artist Jennine Krauchi. They are a proud member of the Two-Spirit Michif Local.

In this interview with Christina Hajjar, collaborators Marlene Yuen and Vanessa Hall-Patch discuss themes of motherhood, labour, and lineage in their exhibition, WOW MOM. Supporting one another through their creative practices has emphasized the possibility for printmaking to validate the labour of caregiving. By collecting, observing, and replicating the objects of routine motherhood, artists Yuen and Hall-Patch consider their roles as artist mothers.

Christina Hajjar: The printed multiples, immersive installation, and use of repetition makes me wonder, what is your relationship with routine and labour?

Marlene Yuen: In my household I do a lot of domestic work like cooking, cleaning, buying groceries. I haven’t really achieved a level of equal equality with my husband. So it is very repetitive. It’s very much a daily routine. There’s always lots of laundry, thinking about what meals to prepare. It is a constant labour.

Vanessa Hall-Patch: I thrive with routine and the structure it creates. When it comes to my practice, labour is fine; I really enjoy working hard. With parenting, I feel the relationship is more complex, because the labour is hidden a lot of the time. Routine is essential, and there is labour involved in establishing and maintaining it. Decision making, planning, and organizing goes into family administration and small tasks add up. Sometimes I feel this weight of unlimited, unending labour.

CH: You previously spoke about how printmaking and parenting are both “physically demanding, repetitive, painstaking, rewarding, gratifying, messy, and frustrating.” What keeps you grounded during these processes?

VHP: I turn to Marlene or other colleagues for feedback and support. I love solitude so when I’m doing my own work, my happy place is definitely alone in my home studio with a cup of coffee, a podcast, and some sort of structure in terms of what I’m going to be doing for the day, so I really rely on lists and schedules.

MY: If I’m lucky, I go to the studio three times a week. The first thing I always do is buy a thermos of coffee. I make sure that I’m prepared, knowing that the time is quite short. There is a lot of testing in printmaking, and sometimes they don’t work out, so then because the time is sporadic, I have a bit of reset time and I think, “okay, how can I make this better?” or I’ll ask Vanessa or others in the studio for some tips and sure enough, it prints better.

VHP: We’ve reminded each other a lot through the process, that it will be what it is. Things are going to happen and we may not be exactly where we envisioned at the point of arriving at the gallery, but we’ve reiterated that it’s also about the process and experience.

CH: I’m interested in imperfection and I wonder if through these “failed” sessions, you have thought about including some of that in the show, to speak to the value of imperfection, or to embrace messiness within parenting?

MY: Yeah, I said, “I’m not throwing anything away, Vanessa; we should just include it—like, that was the failed day!”

VHP: That’s part of the volume of what we’re wanting to show and maximizing the gallery space will allow us to put up those failed attempts; it’s going to be absorbed by everything else.

CH: I love that you’re including those. With printmaking, I feel overly sentimental about even just a proof on newsprint.

MY: A lot of pieces are printed on newsprint, actually!

VHP: Marlene kept going back to the newsprint. As printmakers, we typically view work on newsprint as proofs, but ultimately it was the perfect match.

CH: There’s something about the disposability of it that gives you more freedom too.

MY: Yeah, the paper that we give our kids to draw on is very thin, very disposable—like those easels for kids to draw on with crappy paper. Also, when I printed the images with black ink on white paper, it looked very stark. It didn’t seem to work. It looked very serious, which I didn’t want.

CH: What has preparing for this show taught you?

VHP: It’s been a reminder that both parenting and print can be unpredictable, so you need to be flexible and ready to adapt.

MY: Maintaining one’s art practice and being a mother can feel impossible, but that’s not true. It is possible. We have to adapt. In September 2022, I went to a thematic residency, MOTHRA, at Artscape Gibraltar Point on Toronto Island. The idea of the residency is to demonstrate that we can create art with our children around. I brought my daughter and my partner to the residency. We made cyanotypes and they weren’t perfect, but it was a good feeling. I felt like, I can do it all!, and my daughter was like, “that was the best!”

CH: I often think about how culture is passed through mothers. How does your work think through inheritance, lineage, and legacy?

MY: There is a baby carrier image with my mom’s meh dai that she wore so that she could multitask. So if you have a child on your back, you can do dishes, or something else. Even my grandma would carry us in it; she was very strong. I’ve never used that carrier, but my mom gave it to me; it’s a family heirloom and I made a comic about it. It’s beautiful, there’s embroidery on it, and there’s Chinese characters that means “double happiness,” and it’s like “oh, look at all this labour, is it really double happiness?”

VHP: Two of the quilts seen in the prints were made by my grandma, and one crochet blanket is by my mum. They were passed down and they’re in my house now, so my kids have them. The process of print is laborious, so there is a lot of time spent with the imagery. Through printing the intricacies, I’ve contemplated the work that went into them and the creativity I have inherited from my family. My grandma taught me to sew and my parents are quite artistic. Now I sew, draw, and collaborate with my kids.

CH: What is your favourite “kid food?”

VHP: Grilled cheese or pizza. I absolutely hate macaroni.

MY: Ice cream cake from Dairy Queen.


Christina Hajjar is a Lebanese artist, writer, and cul- tural worker based in Winnipeg, Manitoba on Treaty 1 Territory. Her practice considers intergenerational inher- itance, domesticity, and place through diaspora, body archives, and cultural iconography. As a queer femme and first-generation subject, she is invested in the poetics of process, translation, and collaborative labour. Hajjar curates the SWANA Film Festival and co-edits Carnation Zine and qumra journal. She won a 2021 Broken Pencil Zine Award, 2020 PLATFORM Photography Award, and an honourable mention for the 2021 Emerging Digital Artists Award. Learn more at christinahajjar.com.

Hailey Primrose is a Queer/Métis artist, musician and feminist thinker whose ancestral homelands are shared between the Red River Settlement and One Arrow First Nation. She has spent her life exploring various art forms including illustration, collage, multimedia, and painting. Her current creative focus lies in songwriting and musical collaboration. In response to Laura and Andrew’s installation Keeping Time, Hailey examines the inconsistencies of time’s passing through textures, paint, and layered paper cut outs.

Through the use of performance, installation, video, text, and theory, artist and writer Roewan Crowe creates intimate landscapes, making space for connection and strange encounters. Their practice engages in material and poetic explorations, questions of form, site-specificity, and collaborative processes. Alongside co-pollinatrix Dallas Cant they recently launched the SWARM arc.hive, a sympoetic, more-than-human, artistic encounter with bees. with Gallery 1C03. www.swarm.greenhouseartlab.com This arc.hive holds Crowe’s most recent video work, “Hum of the Blue Hive,” a pixelated poem to the sounds of dreams falling apart interplanted with the sounds of liveliness in the garden. They are currently writing, “Violet’s Impossible Garden,” a queer sequel to the gritty, poetic western, Quivering Land (ARP). Crowe’s paid gig: Professor at the University of Winnipeg. www.roewancrowe.com

Floral Overload by Cynthia Dinan-Mitchell was on view at Martha Street Studio from July 29 to September 2, 2022.

Two identical loopy figure-eight forms sit side by side on a dark watery blue ground. Their thick black outlines are crossed with thinner lines, radiating outward where the eights loop around themselves. The background is a light off-white with faint grid lines throughout.

From my studio window I can see the ghost of a building. The outline of a slanted roof and stout chimney are marked in the tan-brick sidewall of an apartment block, as if black paint has been sprayed across a stencil of a house. A fence containing the yawning expanse of a parking lot traces the building’s absence at ground level. This city view often informs afternoons spent deliberating edges – the edges of a home, of a horizon line, of a coffee ring on paper, of ideas, of moments in time.

Scanning the series of prints included in James Boychuk-Hunter’s Horizon Line/Base Line – some of which are woodcut-etching hybrids and others of which are litho-etching hybrids – brings similar moments of recognition that are peculiar to peripherals and edges. Curving lines reminiscent of letterforms and punctuation seem balanced upon a black foundation. The tails of some dip below the dark line, and by doing so transform it into a horizon; my own edges turn one of these tails into a spiraling staircase leading to the infinities of a Borgeian library. More looking brings more abstractions that flow deeper into different configurations of perspective; the ensuing disorientation is akin to that caused by repeating a word to the point of its bare form of sound and breath, stripped of its linguistic meaning.

Falling further into Boychuk-Hunter’s orthographic landscapes reveals faint lines tracing placement and scale, the evidence of layering processes and the rhythmic tedium of construction. These markings hint at the way language holds evidence of its own history, drawing outwards from pages and tongues to impart a present that is built on remains. Avery F. Gordon describes these kinds of experiences as hauntings, which are “a new way of knowing, a knowing that is more listening than seeing, […] a practice of being attuned to the echoes and murmurs of that which has been lost but which is still present among us in the form of intimations, hints, suggestions, and portents.” (1) This logic reverberates throughout Boychuk-Hunter’s works and, by experiencing them, I have found myself noticing my own hauntings – letters on a page now appear more as dolmens framing vast landscapes, while each flat surface I encounter seems to anticipate the weight of language.

Boychuk-Hunter’s prints are accompanied by sculptural works that carry his meticulously placed two-dimensional forms into a scaled-up architecture which is both structural and precarious. One of the pieces, Inverted Excavation, features black granite core samples cut into equal sections and piled into a kind of landscape containing a plain and a pyramid. White paper has been woven around each cylinder to create undulating waves that separate the stones while offering them alternative connections through a more delicate material. The core samples contain layers of compressed clay, gravel, and sand. Each bears the formal and conceptual weight of a period at the end of a sentence, yet their accumulation transforms that singular punctuation into rows of trailing ellipsis…dots signaling an elision or nodding to referents beyond words.

The wayfinding processes prompted by Horizon Line/Base Line communicate a certain geography, a perception of the earth as a form of writing. With each instance of recognition that I experience with Boychuk-Hunter’s works there is a corresponding spatial reorientation offering a moment of weighted relief. By composing works that place the now of awareness at the edge, after a process of disorientation caused by uncanny and exaggerated forms, Boychuk-Hunter inverses processes of orientation – what informs that which is read as recognizable? In feeling out edges, pressing up against traced boundaries to encounter moments of soft yielding, I am invited to reach towards something else, towards that which transgresses the edges and dreams otherwise.

(1) Gordon, Avery F. 1997. Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis.

Jillian Groening is a dance artist and writer. They are drawn to the convergences of embodiment and textual forms, and find a particular delight when performances are brought to the page. Jillian’s work has been shown at A Space Gallery (Toronto) and WNDX Festival of Moving Image (Winnipeg), and they have contributed to The Dance Current and the Journal of Curatorial Studies. Jillian holds a BA(Hons) in Dance from the School of Contemporary Dancers/University of Winnipeg and a Masters in Theatre and Performance Studies from York University, where their SSHRC-funded research considers the artist’s book and/as site(s) of performance.

HorizonLine/BaseLine by James Boychuk-Hunter was on view at Martha Street Studio from June 10 to July 15, 2022.

Mother Tongue by Mark Laurin

Writing an essay to correspond with a show that you haven’t yet seen is a challenge. I’ve chosen to address this challenge by responding to the concepts that Laurin works through, while considering where these ideas fit historically, and presently. The first concept that caught my attention in Laurin’s work is his interest in the ways we use lines as symbols for making sense of our surroundings. This isn’t a new idea; in fact I instantly considered Mondrian’s Composition 10 in Black and White, 1915, Malevich and his Black Square, 1915, or to Twombly, and his expressive mark-making. Moving forward in time, we can look at Agnes Martin, and Dan Miller’s hectic scribbles. The history of mark-making is lengthy, with so many artists working through it differently, or at least building on their predecessors’ efforts.

I think of the line as coded language. In the most basic of conceptual paraphrasing of Saussure, the Father of Semiotics, the line consists of the signifier, and the signified. The signified is provided by the perceiver and is rooted in their own cultural understanding. This translates so beautifully to art, in that the signifier is presented by the artist, and the viewer of the work ascribes the meaning. Laurin’s work seems eager to push for the interpretation of the viewer to decode the marks he makes. For example, the artist uses semi-transparent media on which to draw these lines. The representation of ideas is blurred and becomes multi-dimensional. The marks are intentionally placed. Small scratches intertwine with long, flowing lines, and almost read as a road map for where the eye can wander. But the path the eye will wander is never going to be the same. The precision in the way some lines are drawn is also of note. Consistently spaced, and applied to the paper with the same pressure further confirms just how intentional each mark is. The longer you look at a particular work, the more meditational the process of looking becomes. He juxtaposes soft and hard, straight and curved marks and colours are faded, repressed, and subtle.

Laurin states that he relies on the viewer to translate the images, and this is where the engaging complexity of this series of prints comes into play. Writing about this body of work, my response is going to be heavily molded by my environment, my personal understanding of art, and of colour, This is perhaps the most interesting aspect of abstract art: the infinite possibilities to interpret what you’re seeing. I intentionally refrained from asking for titles of the eight screenprints comprising the bulk of the exhibition in an effort to move through the works in an uninfluenced way…my own translation.

Our minds are wired to make sense of what we are seeing. Whether forming words from symbols on a page, or abstract drawings on paper, we are conditioned to try to create something familiar in what we see. I could continue on to describe what I saw, ascribe meaning based on my own interpretation or translation; a topographical map, a landscape of mountains, a weather map. This serves the reader nothing in allowing Laurin’s goal to be met by each individual who will visit this exhibition. It truly is necessary for the viewer to process themselves.

 – – – – – – –

Lisa Kehler holds a Masters in Cultural Studies: Curatorial Practices and a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Art History, both from the Univer- sity of Winnipeg. She has worked with organizations across Canada, including the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Plug In ICA, and has contrib- uted writings to Canadian Art, Kolaj, and a member of the collective, curated. She was the founding director of Lisa Kehler Art + Projects, and has curated over 30 exhibitions across North America.

Terra Firma by Mark Laurin was on view at Martha Street Studio from February 25 to March 25, 2022.

Installation view of …& I’m done with the woods by Jonathan S. Green, 2022

Blackened with ash and smoke, sweaty, tired, roughened by five to six months lived almost exclusively in the wilds, “and I’m done with the woods” is a phrase uttered by forest firefighters at the end of each fire season. As ten-year veteran firefighter Adam Green tells it, the expression is a mixture of relief to be going back to the modern comforts of home in urban life, a reflection on the physical toil the job has taken on their bodies, and a sentimental nod to the shared experiences of their fire comrades. This while knowing full-well there is a very good chance they will be back in the woods next season – drawn by the duty to protect lands and properties, the exhilaration that comes living so close to nature, the satisfying paycheque filled with overtime hours, and by the downright adventure of it all. Adam is the brother of artist, Jonathan S. Green (and as guilty by association – my brother-in-law) whose ten-years of anecdotes and candid photos inform part of the context for Jonathan’s current series of printworks, so titled, …& I’m done with the woods.

The representation of trees, mountains, camps, cabins, and wildfires in this body of work may appear intentionally ambiguous in terms of location, time period, scale, and purpose. In fact, they are drawn from a variety of sources – Adam’s stories, along with historical documents like colonial explorer journals and maps, contemporary critical environmental theory, fictional narratives, and Jonathan’s own first-hand encounters as an avid hiker, skier, and backcountry enthusiast. Although these objects, texts, and images are combined by the artist in imagined (sometimes impossible) scenarios, their one-time existence as real-life elements translated by the effects of coal-black mezzotints and hazy, smoky mark-making are, in a word, unnerving. Particularly the recurring figurative object (and all-too-real context) of wildfire(s) like the shadowy, ebony depiction of fir trees going up as flames in A start (mezzotint, 2020), which feels a bit too much like peering helplessly through the woods at night – straight into the dangerous soul of a living, breathing, wind-blown, billowing boreal nightmare.

At one time, we may have lived as cohabitants with open flame in reshaping the landscape for agriculture, cooking our food, or heating our homes and camps as in the dreamy, backlit tent in Solace in darkness (mezzotint, 2020), or the welcoming, innocent glow of a campfire in A refuge (mezzotint, 2020). However, the existence of colossal, uncontrolled wildfires have quickly become an unreal reality today, both for anyone living in rural areas surrounded by dense, undeveloped forest, and those living in larger urban centres, presumably (yet not) far from the dangers of the so-called wild. During the summers, it is no longer unusual for the smell of smoke, sometimes faint, other times dense, to drift all the way into downtown Winnipeg accompanied by light grey haze-filled skies – even when miles from an actual forest fire. Or to pass through huge swathes of blackened tree stumps while hiking well-trodden trails through Provincial and National Parks well across the country. T.J. Demos describes the dreadful truth of today’s wildfires as “explosive lethality…threatening complete destruction…with such speed and force, fire constitutes a world-ending event, on many scales at once.”[i] Jonathan’s work is both a passive witnessing and an active processing of this physical and cultural devastation – the inevitable product of the Anthropocene, the Capitalocene. An explicit resistance to Thoreau’s cold, foolish Walden, and an admission of “the insufficiency of the image.”[ii] Caught between the endless grinding of the geological litho-stone, and the image-less letterpress, & there is a chance that I will not survive this (letterpress, 2019) no matter how much hope I leave in the pinky glow of Phos Chek to save us all.

[i] T.J. Demos, “The Agency of Fire: Burning Aesthetics” in Picture Ecology: Art and Ecocriticism in Planetary Perspective, Princeton University Art Museum: New Jersey, 2021, p. 289.

[ii]Ibid, 285.

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Dr. Riva Symko (PhD) is a writer, arts administrator, and curator married to Jonathan S. Green. They now live in Winnipeg, Manitoba (via Newfoundland, Alberta, and Alaska) with their Samoyed pup, Tekla. Riva is Head of Collections & Exhibitions and Curator of Canadian Art at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

…& I’m done with the woods was on view at Martha Street Studio from January 14 to February 12, 2022.

Installation view of floresence by Joy Wong

“You sure that’s the right spelling?” I hear as the vinyl lettering is handed across the desk to me. It is my favourite dad-joke, and yet, as I look with a chuckle, I realize it may not be a joke. A panicked Google search assures me that, yes, it is the correct spelling. ‘Florescence’ does not refer to the tube-light technology blighting most late 20th century office spaces, but instead, is the process of ‘flowering’. And now the light goes on, and the exhibition I am about to install a title wall for comes into a fresh new focus.

Back in the gallery, the walls are implicated in the sprawling, spiralling prints. Surface imperfections have suggested paths and waypoints for the forms in olive, tan, charcoal, umber, sepia, and cream tones. The smallest, and crispest lines, trace around blemishes in the paper and years’ worth of ‘gallery white’ paint. I find the super fine linework reminiscent of lichen and the worn surfaces of rocks in the shield where I long to be. There is also a topographical quality in places with the densest application of prints. I can’t help but pass by slowly, taking my time to peer into each arrangement. With my newfound understanding of the title, the work exhibits a livid undulation of forms. I can watch the collage blooming, and get a sense of the ‘contamination’ Wong mentions in the artist’s statement.

Joy Wong writes “The grotesque body is one with no beginning or end, and is taking up too much, and one with its environment”– a fitting epithet for both this prairie metropolis and the coronavirus. I first met Joy Wong outside the airport in the very wee hours of the morning. Their flight had been understandably delayed, and upon arrival, required ambulance intervention for one of the passengers. A quick mental assessment of ‘what to do when the visiting artist requires hospitalization’ was happily interrupted by a text letting me know the passenger in need was not them. This isn’t a remarkable scene, except, it was enacted fully masked, during a lull (if it can be called that) in the ongoing pandemic. Sitting in front of the airport at that point had become a courageous act of sorts, at least for me and my sequestered family. I kept imagining the scenarios where the novel virus could take hold of my life, contaminate my existence. Was the airport entrance the next ground zero, what sinister blooms were lurking? I opted to wait on the bench outside in an effort to better my chances of evading the biological boogeyman.

As prints were meticulously layered onto the walls, Joy and I rarely saw one another’s faces. ‘How to host an out-of-town artist during a pandemic’, curiously, had not come up throughout my belaboured education and subsequent career. The preferred course of action, in my case, was a Dim Sum outing with Joy, alongside my 6 and 9 year old, and a tour through the exchange district to the most unlikely of booksellers – Red River Books. This ‘bookstore’ is one of my favourite diving holes into expanding, repeated forms. A grotesque but fascinating collection that defies understanding. No matter where we went, the themes of ‘Florescence’ were always at the periphery. And much like the exhibition, rewarded a close inspection with growing details. Intriguingly, wearing a mask for both the book store and the exhibition allowed an even closer inspection, my breath contained and filtered from the space around me.

Over the course of the exhibition, as I became familiar with the installation, I found myself altering my route to and from the office to afford glimpses of favourite vantages. The light would stream through the acrylic sculptures hung over tubes of copper producing a slightly different shadow play each day. In the artist talk, Joy mentioned that normally this exhibition would be continually added to throughout the month. However, due to travel and the virus, this would have to be an uncommonly static presentation. I realized that instead of an additive approach, the slow and careful dismantling of the exhibition would create a reversed process of the florescence. Once again, I would be one of only a few to witness the performative, evolving nuances of the exhibition, and like a lichen bloom seen in the wilderness, or a virus ever present yet evaded, being a rare spectator made for an even richer personal experience.

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Jamie Wright is the Executive Director of Martha Street Studio. He is an arts administrator, instructor and a practicing visual artist and musician. He holds an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art and a BFA from the University of Manitoba School of Art.

floresence by Joy Wong was on view at Martha Street Studio from October 22 to November 26, 2021.

Installation view of gathered together. Image Credit: Sarah Fuller

The curators of gathered together, Adrienne Huard, Chloe Chafe, and Mariana Muñoz Gomez, discuss white supremacy and care, using art as a catalyst for political discussion, and the role traditional art galleries play in rejecting colonial narratives.

Julia: The curatorial statement says, “This exhibition focuses on the effective design that artists Chief Lady Bird, Isaac Murdoch, Lapiztola, Lido Pimienta, and Whess Harman create from a place of care and collaboration.” And goes on to say, “An ethos of care, empowerment, and resistance is imperative to identifying and undoing the oppressive mechanisms of colonialism.” Can you elaborate on this? Why is an ethos of care imperative to undoing colonial structures? And how can folks bring this care to their own practice/lives to combat white supremacy?

Mariana: White supremacy and colonialism are so ingrained in this world we live in. These systems are violent; a word that suggests they must manifest in explicit and conspicuous ways. But, these systems are also purposefully insidious; it’s difficult to identify every way that they show up in our and other’s day-to-day lives. Because of this, carrying on “business as usual” and without questioning why things are the way they are or questioning ourselves often means carrying on within these systems.

Caring for ourselves and for others whether they are friends, family, or strangers can prompt us to ask these questions. Care can also prompt us to share our questions and understandings of these systems with others, an act that can empower individuals to find community and support; and for me, art has been something that can communicate such questions, understandings, and beyond. Care is at the root of resistance – it’s people watching out for each other.

We can find ways to centre care and combat white supremacy in many parts of our lives. Some starting points to this could be to ask ourselves questions about how we make our way through the world and question our own privilege; to look to those who have already been resisting; and to continually educate ourselves as best we can.

Julia: The exhibition text reads, “Streets and online spaces become spaces wherein artists use graphics and direct engagement to facilitate communication in their communities amidst challenging political climates.” Can you elaborate on this? What do streets/public spaces and online spaces have in common? Why is it amidst challenging political climates that these spaces are used to facilitate communication?

Chloe: The basis for my research is rooted in a fascination with the evolution of street art translating to digital imagery and printmaking. The graffiti scene began in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s using spray paint text and colour on train cars to make messages move across urban city centres. The concept of occupying public space with graphic arts, such as graffiti and printmaking, is growing and changing rapidly due to digital design. This exhibition displays prints by artists that use bold colour, text and accessible ways to distribute their art to communities; drawing similarities to the origin of street art but expanding it to social media, downloadable images for wide distribution, wheat pasting and mural making.

Julia: The curatorial statement says, “Both Chief Lady Bird and Whess Harman’s art practices focus on the strength and power of their nations while rejecting colonial tropes that aim to disempower Indigenous Peoples. Much of their works are dedicated to taking up physical and conceptual space, within and outside the gallery walls.” What is the significance of artists being able to take up space both inside and outside of formal art galleries? Do art galleries play a role in rejecting the colonial tropes that are mentioned? How?

Adrienne: Art galleries certainly do play a role in perpetuating colonial tropes — I do not believe we can completely “decolonize” the very foundation of museums, galleries, major institutions, and even artist-run centres. It requires a dissolution of capitalistic notions of time and production, a complete and utter dedication to maintaining relationships with human and non-human, it demands repatriation and restitution, it prioritizes the safety and wellness of folks of the global majority (Black, Indigenous, and people of colour). Even with those demands, I remain skeptical that the “white-walled” gallery space will ever reject its fundamental desire to replicate colonial ideologies. Within the same vein, why should Indigenous Peoples sit on the periphery of the art realm? Why shouldn’t they be celebrated for their visual storytelling?

Having both Whess Harman and Chief Lady Bird’s artworks, printed large-scale and displayed on the walls of Martha Street Studio, as well as out on the streets in the form of murals, makes it difficult to ignore the reality that Indigenous creatives are normalizing body sovereignty and a willful rejection of violence committed by the settler colonial state. They demonstrate an assertion of Indigenous presence within spaces riddled with traumatic histories enacted by colonialism as a way to reclaim and empower. And for that, I am grateful for them and their visual expression.

Having created an art exhibition prioritizing collaboration and focusing on care, gathered together curators have created a space for contemporary art to exist outside of the boundaries and expectations of traditional art galleries.

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Julia Lafreniere n’dizhnikaaz. Camperville n’doonji, Treaty 4 territory. Waagosh dodem. Julia Lafreniere is the Head of Indigenous Initiatives at the Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq located on the traditional territory of the Nehiyawak, Anishininiwak and Anishinaabe, the birthplace and homeland of the Red River Metis Nation, and on the unceded territory of the Dakota and Dene Nations.

gathered together was on view at Martha Street Studio from September 10 to October 8, 2021.

Before I was asked to write a response to Tracy Peters’ newest exhibition Subconscious Terrain at Martha Street Studio, I followed her on Instagram @tracy_a_peters. I was attracted to her aesthetically beautiful and compelling observations of landscapes; she uses composition and light to draw the viewer into her sensitive understandings of the natural world. In her exhibition, she impresses the beauty, benefits and complex characteristics of peatlands/bogs using the Canadian Sphagnum moss as her muse. The visitors to the gallery embark on a visual, physical and auditory journey to better understand why we should care about peatlands.

Walking into the gallery, you are faced with the piece called Greenhouse. Peters constructed a dome-shaped structure reminiscent of a miniature greenhouse, but it is a symbolic bog, a place of life and death. To understand this work, you need to know what makes up a peatland. It consists of the build-up of organic matter several meters thick, formed over thousands of years. With the lack of oxygen and the acidity of the stagnant surrounding water, plants such as Canadian Sphagnum are suspended in decomposition, like a ‘pickled state.’[1] Peters uses photographs of decomposing sphagnum moss, dull in colour, printed on a manipulated rock-impressed vellum surface to frame the outside structure. You are invited to crawl inside and lay down[2] on a lumpy buckwheat-filled cushion meant to mimic the fluctuating layers of a bog with images of live sphagnum moss printed on its fabric surface. The inside lining of the structure is lively, with bright colours of the moss. Peters is metaphorically placing you under the surface of the bog in a restorative state, preventing the decomposition of our bodies and, in a way, protecting us from the outside world of commodity-driven realities.

The following piece is Pressed For Time, a video installation placed above one’s head, that animates the scans of living sphagnum moss. Nearby, the negatives of the moss used to animate the video are displayed. They are laid out on a plexiglass shelf like specimens to be studied in a lab. In the video, Peters presents the scans in layers, like moving through a bog to highlight the undulating layers that make up this remarkable plant community. The animation starts silent but the audio eventually builds, like a distant blaze getting closer until the roaring flames mark our potential doom. The placement of the projection forces you to look up, physically situating you under the bog again. The imagery looks like flames licking amongst the frame; it reminds us how dangerous it is to drain a peatland. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), “peat extraction contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, annually releasing almost 6% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions.”[3] Manitoba has the second-largest distribution of peatlands in the country, and as of 2011, twelve companies have a lease to drain a portion of this land for extraction.[4] This has devastating effects on the wildlife that relies on this habitat and on our own clean water. Drained peatlands can potentially burn underground undetected for years, and can contribute to fires and drought. As Peters says, “We need to protect these important spaces for the health of our planet.”[5] 

Lastly, you come face-to-face with Bog Breathers. You are physically confronted with these six feet tall, airy fabric panels; enlarged photographic prints of living sphagnum moss, hung so you can weave in and out as you move through them. These ethereal prints hang like heavenly creatures dangling to mirror our own bodies. What you experience is a floating community coming together to create an environment that supports life. Bogs are a lifeline to so many creatures such as migratory birds, frogs and moose. They act as a filter and provide a source of clean water. By enlarging these plants, Peters reminds us of their enormous positive ecological impact on the environment and our bodies. 

With Subconscious Terrain, Peters introduces us to the intricate elegance of the Canadian Sphagnum moss. She is creating this work to encourage dialogue about the destruction of the peatland and presents us with a potential future: without intervention, our bodies and our world will be negatively impacted. Peters delicately proposes nurturing and caring for this ecological space–actions that are not valued enough within our capitalist world. What we do to these spaces directly impacts our own bodies–we must remember that the environment connects us all to one another.

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[1] RE-PEAT, “Peat 101”, accessed April 21, 2021, https://www.re-peat.earth/peat-101.

[2] At the time of this exhibition, visitors cannot enter the Greenhouse due to pandemic safety measures.

[3] IUCN, “Peatlands and climate change”, accessed April 21, 2021, .https://www.iucn.org/resources/issues-briefs/peatlands-and-climate-change

[4] James D. Bamburak, “Manitoba Peatlands”, Province of Manitoba website, Manitoba

Geological Survey, published June 13, 2011, Banburak, J. D., (2011). Manitoba Peatlands, Manitoba Geological Survey. http://www.manitoba.ca › region6 › PRES2011-13

[5] Tracy Peters in conversation with the author, April 18, 2021.

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About the author:

My nêhiyaw name is Flying Overhead in Circles Eagle Woman, my artist name is KC Adams. I am an artist, educator, activist and mentor, specializing in social activist art. My focus is on the dynamic relationship between nature (the living) and technology (progress). I create work that explores technology and how it relates to identity and knowledge.

Installation view of Futures Barren / Futures Abundant. Image credit: Sarah Fuller.

On a cold winter Saturday, I video-called April Dean to talk about her exhibition Futures Barren/Futures Abundant.1 We discussed the houseplant as a symbol, the concept of owning nature, and the connections she sees between plant clippings and multiples in printmaking. 

How did you start working with houseplants? 

I had a decisive moment in 2017 after working on and showing a previous body of work. I hit a wall and flippantly said, “I don’t want to do this anymore—I want to look at my houseplants and feel human or whatever…”. Although my reaction was flippant at the time, after that I began thinking of the house plant as a symbol of colonial dominance over nature, capitalism, and a desire to reconnect with nature and to nurture something other than human life. 

Also, houseplants were popping up all over the internet at the time. There was something that people were trying to articulate through visual language, something about our shared experience.

Most of the works in this exhibition were made in 2019, but they feel very relevant to the moment we live in, where we haven’t left our homes very much and have hung out with our houseplants a bunch. Have your ideas and understanding of this artwork changed  within the pandemic?

I have noticed that people’s relationships with their living space, the objects they live with, and their plant family have heightened. To me, that is such a beautiful thing. In its simplest form, this work gave to me the chance to pay attention. When you take care of plants, you really have to understand your surroundings, like the light conditions in your house. I am trying to escape the idea that nature is separate from me and relocate myself as part of it.  

I am wondering how you understand the relationship between plants and people. How is this a generative relationship? 

It’s a relationship that exists outside of language, where we need to engage our other senses and other kinds of knowledge required to build this relationship. 

The exhibition made me think about desire and the exotic. Most of the popular houseplants we are familiar with are from tropical areas, like the Spiderwort Plant whose image you use in your work, which is native to Mexico and the Caribbean. We go extraordinary lengths to keep these plants alive indoors during Canadian winters. How do you understand desire in relationship to houseplants?

Really, the houseplant is an endless fruitful symbol or metaphor for a culture of extraction, othering, and an expression of the colonial mindframe of going and taking. The houseplant is also involved in processes of re-situating and re-framing—creating new histories or totally detaching things from their history. 

In the series Shadow Clipping I-IX, you work with photos of plant clippings in water, presumably ready to be given away as gifts. You are also giving free prints as part of the exhibition. Why are these actions interesting to you? 

I learned to care for plants by growing them from clippings that I was gifted for doing favours for friends but also those I rescued from the printmaking studio at the University of Alberta, which is full of plants. The clipping became interesting to me in relation to printmaking. The print and plant clipping are both a multiple: forever regenerative, a resource that can be shared, traded, and freely given as an anti-capitalist gesture. We refer to printmaking as being the democratic medium and having anti-capitalist roots…there is generosity built into the medium. I see a triangulation there, or a metaphor, between the clipping and the reproducibility inherent to printmaking.

You say in your artist statement that printmaking has a community mindedness inherent to its practice. Could you expand on this?

Not everyone works in a community shop, but it has been mostly my experience through SNAP2 and other print studios. There is a reliance on shared resources which creates the potential for relationships with people who you might not otherwise connect with. To me, this is fundamental to what it is to engage with printmaking. 

 How did you approach making these works? 

All of the images in the show repeat somehow. I took photographs and re-framed them cycling them through different media and reproducing them at different scales. This pokes at the regenerative aspect of printmaking—how you can start with a small set of images and because the medium is so flexible and generous, you can build a whole show. I see the plant clippings as characters that move throughout the different artworks in the show.

What have plants taught you? 

Slowness and observation. 

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1. Parts of April Dean’s commentary have been edited for readability in the process of taking this interview from a conversation to printed text.

2. The Society of Northern Alberta Print-artists.

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Francesca Carella Arfinengo is a latinx settler working in Treaty 1 territory. She is an arts administrator, workshop facilitator and artist exploring diaspora and the connections between land and identity.

Installation view of Inversion by Jill Ho-You. Image credit: Sarah Fuller

Scrap tires are stacked in a careless pile amidst other gravelly debris; thin, tangled forms of broken wire fencing bends, twisting into itself, revealing a small opening fit for a hand to reach through; a star-like formation of an industrial building’s steel structural support beams beacons like a weathervane against a clear, cloudless sky. These bleak, industrial landscapes are depicted as delicately lined etchings on rice paper, covered with a gooey layer of agar, on which fuzzy mold and bacteria form. Deep ochres, tawny browns and fluffy whites speckle the simple illustrations with the relentless tenacity of rapid growth that molds do best when given the chance. The moldy transformation is controlled by the raised plastic edges of individual petri dishes, limiting the spread of each bacterial culture, and applying a scientific miniature world framework from which to view them. Within each of these meta-worlds, the illustrated objects and materials of heavy-industry create a collective barren landscape—each filled with an embodied memory of their own ghosts, presenting “a world haunted with the threat of extinction.” [1]

In Jill Ho-You’s recent body of work, Inversion, the objects and materials of heavy industry, of a kind of industry which is no longer practical, speak to the ways in which humans have propelled our earth toward what has been dubbed the Anthropocene: a cynical viewpoint of the current epoch, which is defined by human-caused destruction of the planet and its climate. The pile of discarded tires laced with waves of yellow-brown flecks of mold reminds me that rubber takes approximately half a century to fully decay, and that a semi-permanent graveyard is created even from the most ‘natural’ of industrial wastes. Graveyards, places which are generally reserved for humans after they’ve passed, carry the haunting memories of lived experiences and stories, and yet are not filled just with death, since with decay often comes new life. Similarly, the desolate, industrial landscape of Ho-You’s etchings reference various vacant factory sites in Detroit, Michigan, and the assembling of their rot-proof materiality highlights the impossibility of the future which the Anthropocene predicts, and the incessant ‘progress’ which our current state of capital requires. And yet, within the ruins of Detroit’s industrial graveyards—with all of their ghosts of a forever re-shaped landscape haunting the now-static rubbled remains—the potential for new growth, and a better future, still persists.

The resulting waste and material detritus left behind by the end of unsustainable manufacturing together create a kind of apocalyptic monument that will endure beyond our mortal presence on this planet. The transformational character of ruins, or ruined monuments, defines the haunted presence of a post-industrial landscape—and, more importantly, literally represents the trauma of pollution and its lasting environmental damage. In considering the disastrous effects of a lasting Anthropocene, theorist Donna Haraway suggests a collaboration with nature in her proposal of an alternative approach, noting that both “diverse human and nonhuman players are necessary in every fiber of the tissues of the urgently needed Chthulucene story.” [2] By introducing the notion of collaborating with other natural beings, sharing their spaces, and listening to their haunting stories, Haraway reiterates the significance of the present moment, and the importance of listening and looking at what quietly endures—like the mold which silently, yet continuously reproduces in Ho-You’s petri dishes.

With Inversion, Ho-You delicately proposes the concept of embodied memory as a strategy for interpreting, and perhaps solving, these strange, liminal spaces of a past life of self-serving progress, and a future of decay. If death is not the end of life, but the beginning of memory, of which ghosts may be the best representatives, then the mold growing on top of Ho-You’s images define the possibility of living in a radical reimagining of a possible, more sustainable landscape—one which learns from the past trauma of the ghosts of the industrial wreckage of the Anthropocene.

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[1] Anna Tsing, Heather Swanson, Elaine Gan and Nils Bubant, Arts of living on a damaged planet: Ghost of the Anthropocene, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 2017), G2-12.

[2] Donna Haraway, “Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene,” in Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016), quoted in “Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene,” e-flux, no. 75 (September 2016), accessed January 26, 2021, https://www.e-flux.com/journal/75/67125/tentacular-thinking-anthropocene-capitalocene-chthulucene/.

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Lauren Lavery is a Toronto-based visual artist, writer, and editor of Peripheral Review, an online and print platform of critical writing on art in Canada.

Installation view of Playground Chitchat. Image credit: Sarah Fuller.

Recently, a friend shared a video of a conversation between two of the toddlers they provide care for. It was snack time and they were exuberant in their appreciation for both the food itself, and the sounds it made while being chewed. So engaged were they with this sound collision that they continued, increasing in frequency and volume until the dialogue transitioned from a back and forth to a chorus as they began to chomp, smack, and voice in chaotic unison, each mouth-full utterance a nonverbal reminder to savour the sensory relationships that pass through my adult and self-protective body continually, more vulnerably. I cannot translate their rapport into English; theirs is a language of feeling and sensation. There is magic in those mumbles.

When I fall into the world of Bram Keast and Neah Kelly’s work, I feel similarly cocooned in a cloud of wonder and exuberant timelessness. Each artist’s use of material and colour is bright and modern. In Keast’s 2D and 3D paperscapes, the shadows cast by the rise off of the page or canvas stroll through carefully pruned orchards of negative space. Kelly’s sculptures recycle flat prints into forms which, at turns, seem plainly recognizable as existing on Earth–turn again and we find ourselves leapfrogging from one otherworldly prism of patchwork to the next. The kaleidoscope of textures created in each artist’s exploration and process recall ancient symbology, Celtic or druid runes, practices dating to before time.

Each artist offers an opportunity for jubilant, explorative interpretation by presenting pieces with such a range in dimension and spatial relationship. There are moments in the exhibition when the artworks activate the space around specific shapes and symbols or the space around an entire sculptural ecosystem. The way these works intersect (or not) with the space around them guides the experiencer to lean in and become intimate with the detail in the way that fits them in that moment.

The process of making imbues Keast’s and Kelly’s works with magic. There are spells cast in the symmetry of Kelly’s stitching. To use her term, the ‘visual lineage’ of her work is rich in contemplating the complexity of evolution possible when shifting perspective on something familiar as she reinterprets her prints again and again. The placement of curves, angles, and empty space in Bram’s doodlework enchant the surfaces and atmospheres they exist within. They become charms for protection and safe introspection.

I want to encounter each piece of work like a toddler, full palms and gripping fingers. A curious tongue perhaps. I want to sit and have conversations with these creations. Ask Neah’s shapes to share their histories and release their secrets that want an audience. Pose query to Bram’s jumping doodles and ask what dances they do when the lights go down. In Playground Chitchat, the provocation is open and welcoming and it glistens in matte paper: to imagine, to dream, to pay attention to cycles of our thinking even while inside the thoughts themselves.

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melannie monoceros is a poet and interdisciplinary artist exploring polysensory production and somatic grief through text/ile. Their work considers the collective qrip (queer+crip) consciousness by connecting to marvelous bodies living with complexity as sick or disabled. A Black, Taino, Arawak creator, they live in Treaty 1/Winnipeg, MB.

Installation view of Solar Noon. Image credit: Sarah Fuller.

you fold press
shapes and solar flares
muted visions
collecting at the corners
of your eyes
catalyzing crystalline forms
echoing a pattern
universal design
your careful hands holding
a memory
the order of things
retrieved from the whorl of a shell
written on the land
the conduit between us and them
a mediator
the hand the tool the point of connection
the palm to the petal
a gathering of light
an eye
all eyes tracing the orbital trajectory
of time place space

The work of Leigh Bridges invites us into a space of intricate connections. Her careful assemblage of elemental components into structural forms asks viewers to access in themselves a place of stillness and presence. From this point of access we become aware of the minutiae of the biological world, and at the same time, the orbital patterns of the cosmos of which we are all a part. The artworks in Solar Noon range from what appear as intuitive, spatial blueprints obscured in fog to firmer, intricate structural pieces that seem to work towards defining the indefinite. The evidence of human interaction with nature is ever present throughout her works, asking us to look closely at what mediates our connections to the external world.

Land serves as marker and metaphor, remaining untouchable and distant or conversely present and visceral.

In her series Energy Collectors, Bridges brings a delicate precision and detailed focus to her work, drawing on her skills in design technologies. The works seem to echo naturally occurring structures positing that in all the ways we shape nature, nature also shapes us.

Her short film work, Solar Array, traces the trajectory of the sun across the sky, an infinitely reoccurring pattern that is the basis for all life on earth. Bridges leads us to wonder about our place in correlation to the intricate systems and structures that surround us everyday and perhaps how we can better coexist with the rhythms of the land and the cosmos.

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Jaime Black is a multidisciplinary artist of mixed Anishinaabe and European descent. Black’s art practice engages in themes of memory, identity, place and resistance and is grounded in an understanding of the body and the land as sources of cultural and spiritual knowledge.

Echoing through Suzie Smith’s exhibition Patch, Mend, Piece Together is a window, heavily patched with red and blue vapour barrier tape.  Cracks score through the glass and splay in all directions, creating unique and abstract expressions. The abstract complexities, which unravel into forms and shapes, were created out of something broken, but not discarded. Smith saw the window in question on Portage Avenue last year and has used it as a metaphor for process, concept and a handling of materials within her current work.

To define the work as reclamation would be too simple. To reclaim something is to take it to repurpose it and make anew. In her screenprints, Smith often highlights what has been torn up, discarded and made whole again, without hiding the origin of the material. Present in this strategy is the tradition of printmaking as Smith both uses and subverts the idea of multiples. Historically, printmaking has been centered around the output of a single version of an artwork and multiplying it. Repetition is alive and well within Smith’s recipe of making, where no two prints are the same. The result is shapes and patterns merging onto multiple pieces of paper such as in Patch Work. Shapes multiply and spread out, forming an improvisational quilt-like wallpaper. Underscored is the inherent invisibility of the repetitive gestures in printmaking, made visible in Smith’s work. Wallpaper sinks into a space like camouflage stuck directly to the wall, and is typically made by hand and unseen female labour. Here Smith, references quilting and wallpaper and elevates them by creating imagery influenced by the architecture of Martha Street Studio.

Site is an important element to Smith as she has worked, facilitated, taught and practiced in the studio. History and site create an immediate conversation between the work and the space, as Smith has had a unique opportunity to create all her prints directly in the studio and onto the architecture. It is as site specific as art could be wherein an immediate positive feedback loop is born out of the ability to cross reference: from work to space and back, like creating puzzle pieces.

The recipe takes shape through a process of making within and outside of Smith. Contemplative, her frame of reference for ideas and content explores modalities and structures she is inherently a part of. She embeds in the work a loose self-examination of biases, societal structures, current calamities and movements. A curious unpacking, unraveling, and deconstructing and re-building is evident in all the pieces, most prominently in Rubble Work. Rubble Work is a series of prints of a brick pattern torn up into pieces and re-arranged into different forms–an analogy for re-imaging old patterns and ways of thought, and using what surrounds us to speculate what could be made of them in future.

Unlike previous works, here Smith doesn’t hide or cover up what came before. She reuses image positives and inks, and reworks her compositions to allow for spontaneity and play. Flashes of colour, neon pinks, greens and yellows create pleasurable bursts throughout the show. These fun colours hold space for wonder and fantasy, as seen in one of her works depicting a group of printed hands stacked on top of each other holding paint brushes with neon pink and green stripes bursting out of them. The hands are printed sculptures enacting their own collective life and public fantasy of a vibrant future. Again, here Smith is reminding us that we can re-write and remake the future together.

Suzie Smith’s larger-than-life printed “wall paper” and sculptures are tangled up in the history and traditions of printmaking as a framework. Yet, they manage to slip through the knots to give way for spontaneity and play. To rework and undermine old structures, it is up to the viewer to sink into our own questions of how we are situated.

In closing, Smith and I played a word game which I believe illustrates the launching point she graciously gives her viewers: a chance to rework, patch, and mend our own structures in ways that are small and interpersonal or as grand as the planet. This method is loose and can mean whatever you want it to. The words I gave her as prompts are on the left and her responses are on the right:

Play – Openness
Colour – Shimmering
Structure – Push
Process – Thinking
Imagination – Constructive
Shape – Contain
Multiples – Difference

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Jean Borbridge is a multimedia artist and writer based out of Treaty 1. With a focus on painting, photography and performance, she works to understand representation of the self and others and the fallibility of such endeavours. She is currently the st.ART Coordinator at Graffiti Art Programming. st.ART is a program which provides free visual art, music, and dance workshops throughout Winnipeg’s Downtown and North End communities.

Outside, the river is white and heaved, the ice telling a story of its formation: flow speed, temperature, humidity, day length, cloud cover,–all of this accumulated in its crust. It speaks of fleeting and deep geologies, of the places it has moved through, of its stillness as part of the motion of winter, of its undercurrent silently moving beneath this temporary shell. We are here, in this rivered city, where we watch for flood waters and listen for cracks.

Inside, we find the river rising up to meet us as large as life. In the gallery, the overwhelming image resurfaces the walls in fractioned fluttering parts. Kelsey Stephenson’s work offers the river agency, letting it rush over and through us. Mimicking the tones and flows of earth and water, she lends material form to our relationship with these waters; we feel the earth-river awaken in our breath as we move through the room letting it swallow us. Stephenson’s art embodies the conatus of riverine movement, that is, its elemental impulse toward being and becoming, persisting as flowing, mesh-working.[1] The ruffling walls of wet terra move in the wake of viewers’ passing bodies and the rhythmic waves of the HVAC system. Stephenson inscribes river- and human-being on sheets of rice paper; the viewer is part of the work, their presence creating its own current. She notes that while the sheets might appear fragile, but they are strong and resilient.[2] The affect foreshadows the hopes we share for our vulnerable planet in this historical moment.

Trace elements constrains, preserves, and reproduces river basin materialities using paper and pigments which symbolically, representationally and physically interact with water and earth elements in the production process. The artist creates digital prints on rice paper, then saturates them to introduce acrylic ink in broad gestures, allowing the ink to move through the paper. Stephenson welcomes the happenstance of these materials, letting them do what they will, providing conditions to support but not control this interaction. The dramatic immediacy of this wet process is layered onto a static, distant, satellite image of the river that has been reduced to precise spidery veins and reticulations. This aerial view, available to the eye only through technological mediation, is subsumed in the mass of Stephenson’s action caught in this shifting pigment and water. This vast landscape engulfing the viewer is a composite of many prints, pushing and pulling our ability to see the river as concurrently fragmented and whole.  This is the heart of her art’s power—it captures the physicality of her process and simultaneously troubles the points of perspective flickering between distant and overwhelming, parts and whole, static and in motion, uncontrolled and regimented by the rectilinear frames that are singularly anthropogenic. Thus, the tensions between humans, natural elements, and digitally-mediating technologies energize all phases of the work.

In conversation with Stephenson about Trace elements, she cites her experience of going to graduate school in the States as formative to this body of work; not because of what that place was, but because of what it was not. “There was a different sense of the land and river, they were tamed and benign. Sometimes we have to be far away from something in order to see it.”[3] This physical and cultural distance from home forced her to realize her connection to a particular feature of the Canadian prairie landscape, that up to that point in her life had been a constant character: she found herself wading in the cold rushing waters of the North Saskatchewan river and understood home. 

Canadians are familiar with powerful representations of landscape being used to construct and unite our identity. Significantly, the Group of Seven created images that didn’t simply propose to preserve an endangered fleeting nature as European paintings did; rather, they extolled a colonial-settler view of the land offering monuments of nature, indomitable, uninhabited lands that were beyond the reaches of the effects of industrialization’s sullying forces. Recent expressions of monumental landscape work such as the Earth Art and Art Povera projects celebrate an opposite method of mastery over landscape by either altering its form (containing and commodifying these creations as photographs), or by violating it and dramatically displacing it into the white cube. 

While Stephenson shares a lineage to these voices, her work and sensibility are in direct contrast to them.  Instead, she directs our attention to the prairie’s fragile circulatory system to call up its continuing aliveness as a changing and responsive geological element.  Rather than premeditated restructuring or violating acts upon landscape that exert ownership, she empowers delicate sheets of rice paper to revive the feeling of the river by embracing the unintended and uncertainty that feeds her process. The repetition of pages is used to literally let the river flood its banks and wash over the viewer’s space.  

Stephenson brings river space in by activating her materials so that they speak the visual language of the river basin. She makes it possible for the participant/gallery-visitor to sense and be part of the elemental powers of earth and water, as transformed by their own natures and by the artist’s work.[4] Of course, we are all already part of our river basins. Here we dwell in them, feeling the vertigo of rushing water and dizzying movement. She asks us to let go of control, and be like these materials, feeling our way through the room, finding the right places to rest and gather.

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[1]Baruch Spinoza, Ethics: Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, and Selected Letters, trans. Samuel Shirley, ed. Seymour Feldman (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1992) as quoted in Jane Bennet, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010) 

[2] Kelsey Stephenson in conversation with Seema Goel, January 20, 2020. 
[3]Ibid. Is this also an allusion to the artist’s use of satellite imagery in the work? Only from this distant view can we take in the whole river and understand its history and connections.
[4] Importantly, we read this as a feminist action which counteracts the tendency of masculinist work of the Earth Artists (largely male artists), who impose their ideas on the landscape to share their brilliance with gallery visitors.
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Seema Goel is a Canadian intermedia artist from Saskatchewan. Her work focuses on human-animal, human-place, and human-human relationships. Using an eclectic range of materials to explore these themes, she draws from her dual background in the arts and sciences to produce multilayered works.
Stephanie C. Kane researches the political ecology of water. Her non-fiction creative writing brings geoscience, engineering, law, social life and art into conversation to highlight social justice and environmental justice.

Briana Palmer’s multi-layered installation might appear whimsical at first glance – a miniature world designed for entertainment and delight. But her references to trains, toys and childhood all have deeper, troubling meanings.

Palmer grew up in Revelstoke, BC, a small city near the western edge of Canada’s colonial frontier. The railway passed through town. Towering trestles featured in everyday life. At night, the sound of rail cars crashing over the tracks soothed children to sleep in their beds. For Palmer it was a comfortable life. Troubling terms like “settler” and “colonial” only emerged for her after she left Revelstoke, gained more life experience, and began to question what she calls the “white bread” assumptions of her upbringing.

In Canada’s dominant mythology, the railway brought the nation together and fostered economic wealth. But Palmer’s train disrupts this narrative. It chugs along from place to place, not a symbol of prosperity, but a vehicle of disruption. Palmer wants us to consider colonizers’ displacements of Indigenous communities that severed their embodied connections with the land; as well as the forced labour of Chinese and Italian immigrants, many of whom died while building the railway, and all of whom were subjected to racist violence on the project.

Model trains, invented in the late 19th century, had become a popular toy for middle-class boys by the 1950s. Palmer asks, “Historically, who gets to play with model trains? Who creates these miniature Utopian worlds, constructing their own idealized versions of society?” Palmer’s diorama does not present a comprehensible social order, but rather a world of floating and disjointed biomorphic forms in which absurdist juxtapositions defy structured, Western narratives of home and place.

Prints and wall drawings further extend Palmer’s critique. Trained as a print-maker, she conceptually connects the printing press and the railway because both disseminate Western ideologies. The Gutenberg Press was used for the first mass-produced Bibles, spreading literacy but also imposing top-down models for social behaviour in a burgeoning capitalist economy. Further probing her own “white bread” upbringing, Palmer uses print-making to repurpose nostalgic illustrations from children’s encyclopaedias. She disrupts their familiar narratives with quotes from racist micro-aggressions that she has personally witnessed in her daily life.

A large, black and white woodcut banner spans the gallery walls. While aesthetically sumptuous, the imagery of barbed wire and ruined landscape speaks of war and devastation. During a recent residency in Slovenia, Palmer was struck by a stone road made by Russian POWs in WWI, thousands of whom lost their lives. “Now,” she says, “it’s just a route for tourists hiking up a mountain to a park.” The barbed wire also resonates with a Canadian war-time context. “Slocan, one of Canada’s biggest internment camps, was just down the road from where I grew up,” Palmer explains. Again, Palmer invokes a sense of home, but, no longer comfortable and complacent, this home is fraught and troubled with the settler-inflicted violence of Canada’s colonial past.

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Sally McKay is an artist and writer based in Hamilton, Ontario.

This text was originally published by Alberta Printmakers in conjunction with Briana Palmer’s exhibition Traversing the line, with no fixed point from  April 26 – June 7, 2019 and is reproduced here with permission from the writer.


Alison James has been working with the de/re/con/struction of memory through the mediums of screen printing and stop-motion animation during the five years that I have been following her art practice. Over time, the angle of view in her animations has decreased, so that the view of events depicted is more and more close-up. Alison’s 2014 BFA final exhibition project illustrated a whole backyard (Construction); Breathe from 2015 encompasses the scale of a room; and the two most recent videos in The In-Betweens (Bite and Glare, 2019), are framed tightly around a person’s face. One effect of this overall zoom-in is that the animations are progressively more challenging to make; Alison must use ever-closer observation skills, and must analyse in more sophisticated fashion, in order to understand the subtle nuance of human movement, especially in facial expressions.

A second effect, partially brought on by the first, surprises me. Alison’s evident mastery of observation and representation reminds me of something like omniscience, and the magnitude of minutiae in the project (e.g. Glarerequired over 70 drawn frames just for the eyes) leads me to think about other detailed investigations gathering data about human bodies. The power of data and its potential misuse are apparent almost daily, through the real-life exploration of AI and robotics, through pop culture offerings such as the TV show Westworld, and through the everyday reality of biometrics, Fitbits, home DNA kits, and location tracking.

But then, on the flip side, I am also reminded of what may be positive about the attainment of knowledge of bodies and movement – the uncanny beauty of mimicked movement in puppetry, for example, and the self-reflection and expression that are made possible from it. The awe-inspiring understanding and harnessing of precise movement in dance. The importance of discoveries for health and mobility.

And in this exhibition, of course, Alison has offered her analytical effort for our benefit. It is truly an incredible amount of effort: to first draw a memory, then to deconstruct the drawing into layers, which are then used to make screen prints (a whole subsection of process which I won’t even get into here); and then to cut out those screen prints in order to construct paper figures and objects, often hinged with pins so that they’re little low-relief sculptures, and then to shoot a stop-motion animation with those figures and objects (which would still have to be edited in post-production!), is kind of mind-boggling. 

Alison undertakes this intensive, dedicated process in order to give us animations which are visually enticing, engaging, and which work. They are a generous visual offering for the viewer. And the process, besides fascinating, is conceptually significant – deconstructing and reconstructing her memories as externalized records (artwork) parallels what happens in the mind when a person accesses a memory, especially if it is shared with another person. Each time a memory is remembered, it is changed through that act of remembering. This is because the person remembering does so from the vantage point of their “personal present” (A. James, personal interview, August 27, 2019), which colours or alters how the information is remembered, but also how it is stored for any future access/remembering.

Herein lies another striking piece of altruism from Alison: in offering her precious memories, they are damaged. The memories in The In-Betweens are Alison’s private ones – they were never documented before now, and she has rarely or never verbally shared them with others; there was “no contamination through sharing them” (Ibid). But here they now are, excavated, brought to light for all those who visit the exhibition. Through the intensive process they underwent to be reconstructed, and through each visitor’s viewing, they are contaminated. Alison James has donated some of her private past for research.

The animations and screen printed objects in The In-Betweens may trigger questions regarding who is gathering information about bodies and why, they may delight us with the marvel of observed movement, or they may make us ponder the activity of memory and its connection with emotion and identity. I appreciate the rich layering of content in Alison James’ animations, as well as the chance to see the physical layers that contributed to their making.

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Sarah Ciurysek is a visual artist exploring the relationships we have with the ground.  Soil figures prominently in works that revolve around photography, while including installation, video, audio, text, and textiles.  Sarah lives in Winnipeg, where she is an Assistant Professor at the School of Art.

Obscura by Angela Snieder. Image credit: Ally Gonzalo.

What can I tell you about this place? The sound of the wind. The dust on my hands. The rain and the sound of rustling, nighttime. Theres wind in the grass, and wind through a crack in the door. There are voices in the distance, and engine noises. Thunder

Sitting here in the near-dark, immersed in Angela Snieders Field, I can feel the movement of my mind as it begins the process of trying to build a picture. Somewhere in the back rooms of my thoughts, I splinter each sound and image into fragments, naming and rearranging them. As they pass over me, into me, I compare them to pieces of my known world, slowly cataloguing

From Latin, the term camera obscura translates to dark chamber, and inside Snieders camera obscura the light passes through a photo-enlarger lens, showing us the black and white interior of a handmade diorama, projected onto the gallery wall. Although the projection is video-like, it is fundamentally unlike video in that it is ephemeral, unrepeatable. For me, it recalls the months I spent living with my elderly grandmothercooking and cleaning and talking and listeninglearning something about memory and other interior architectures.

During this time, I began to think that our memories and stories might live not only within us, but alongside us, symbioticallybreathing and stretching, changing as we do. Their bodies eventually failing as ours do, either in or out of synch with our own bodies

As my grandmothers memories began to falter and re-form, I felt the possibility in my own mind: all the names disappeared from thingsthe sharpness of my memories softening into the liquid of a feeling. Lines drawn looser around objects, gradually slackening and falling away:

The walls of her world are caving in around us, slowly. Theres moisture in the mortar, and the concrete blocks are falling, loosening. There are tree roots reaching into the foundation and shaking with the noise from the trains. Meanwhile, everything left outside disappears into dirt, and any one person begins to resemble another person, over time. The fabric of her memories is worn thin, though theres always something else there to fill in the hole. The boundaries between things are decayingground down into nothing

Speaking over the phone, I learn that Snieder has built each of these pictures from clay and sticks and roots and light: making dioramas out of cardboard boxes before photographing and printing them, or revealing them through a camera obscura. The austerity of each image contradicted by the whimsy of its own making.

Through the use of centuries-old image-making technologies, Obscura also invokes the pastadding another layer of unknowability and abstraction. The shadowy architectures are both cavernous and permeable, breaking open and crumbling away. Seen together, they carry a certain gravity, but also an openness, an unexpected playfulness. They reveal a slippage between physical and psychological space, and bring to mind the fragile scaffolding of pattern and memory, truth and narrativestructures we have each built up around ourselvesrepairing and maintaining them in order to survive.

Ultimately, the work reminds me that any account of myself is always partial, haunted by that for which I can devise no definitive story…” [1]

Here there is no certainty. There is only provisional structure.

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[1] From Judith Butlers Giving An Account of Oneself (Fordham University Press, 2005) p.40

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sophia bartholomew (they/them) is an interdisciplinary artist who uses text and textiles, photographs and video to explore emotional and ecological reciprocity, physical fragility and decay. Since graduating with their BFA from UBC in 2012, their practice has been guided by open-ended conversation, and collaborative work with other artists.

Sequences of Territories by Ilana Pichon. Image credit: Larry Glawson.

[English follows]

101 km + 101 km + 101 km + 101 km + 101 km + 101 km + 101 km… Vingt-cinq segments de 101 km pour parcourir en voiture la distance entre Québec et Winnipeg. Vingt-cinq segments de 101 km pour parcourir en voiture la distance entre Winnipeg et Québec. Vingt-cinq arrêts pour observer et vivre l’unième kilomètre et la traversée. Le temps pour se rendre d’un point à un autre et pour ne s’attarder ni sur un point, ni sur l’autre; le temps d’étudier la banalité d’un bord de route qui ressemble à un bord de route qui… ressemble à un bord de route québécois, ou ontarien, ou manitobain – assurément canadien. Des espaces anonymes que nul ne s’approprie, mais que l’artiste exhibe, non-lieux qui revendiquent la singularité de leurs détails insignifiants[1].

Par une segmentation artificielle du trajet, Ilana Pichon réduit les distances et préfabrique une succession définie de repères visuels et sonores qu’elle réorchestre à l’infini. Structurés en motifs graphiques synthétiques, réitérés sans compter et sériés en un processus répétitif intuitif, ces repères se superposent en sérigraphie dans un agencement de couleurs dont les variations englobent la partie pour saturer l’atmosphère du tout. W2608Q exploite ces motifs dans une composition cartographique divisée en zones macroscopiques où le détail se perd. Dans Think, Pichon multiplie impressions et surimpressions pour supplanter la forme au profit d’une déclinaison chromatique dont la linéarité ondoyante préfigure le travail vidéographique.

Dans un semblable souci de grésillement d’une image finale consciemment floutée, les montages vidéo suggèrent à l’œil surstimulé du spectateur la reconstruction mentale de paysages urbains et naturels banals. L’enchâssement des plans capturés au travers l’objectif grand angle crée un effet sphérique qui transfère à l’asphalte la valeur d’horizon par la mise en volume de la lecture linéaire qu’induirait la projection d’un plan unique. Laps distincts d’un écran à l’autre, répétés en boucles désynchronisées pour multiplier les possibilités narratives, les plans superposés en transparence sollicitent la mémorisation visuelle des repères retenus par l’artiste. Le traitement séparé de la trame sonore unique favorise les associations aléatoires entre images et son, et ajoute ainsi un récit suggestif autonome qui vient renforcer l’abstraction interprétative de la perception d’ensemble.

Dans le contexte mondial actuel, la mobilité généralisée des personnes et la circulation facilitée des idées par le biais des réseaux virtuels déjouent les frontières physiques et tendent à dissoudre repères et cloisons, pourtant indispensables à l’éthique de soi et des autres[2]. Les dialogues rephrasés entre Pichon et sa traversée traduisent à leur façon la quête identitaire d’une artiste en mouvement permanent, qui construit ses marqueurs d’appropriation non dans une structure géopolitique imposée, mais dans la fabrication de souvenirs uniques qui la définissent. En jouant sur la rythmique pour diversifier les interprétations d’un même territoire sans jamais s’imposer, Pichon ancre l’idée d’un espace partagé, participant d’entités affectives, culturelles et sociales multiples, que chacun visualise et (re)construit selon son histoire personnelle. La volonté de l’artiste de perpétuer ce processus de traversée, où chaque itération ajoute à son œuvre une nouvelle dimension artistique et renforce la familiarité des lieux, se perçoit aussi comme une invitation à prendre le temps de nous arrêter, de regarder et d’écouter le territoire pour mieux l’apprivoiser. Changer le regard sur le quotidien, multiplier les points de vue, les souvenirs s’interfèrent, se précisent, se superposent ou se succèdent, mais toujours contribuent à aider chacun dans son appropriation d’un espace anodin.

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Oeuvres Cités

[1] Augé, Marc (1992). Non-lieux : introduction à une anthropologie de la surmodernité. Paris, Seuil.

[2] Kerekes, Anna (2018). La pratique artistique comme souci de soi et des autres : arts du quotidien, de la mémoire et du montage. Thèse de Doctorat en études et pratiques des arts. Montréal, Université du Québec à Montréal.

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Diplômée en histoire de l’art et muséologie à l’École du Louvre (Paris) et en gestion des organismes culturelles aux HEC-Montréal, Céline Le Merlus a travaillé 10 ans à la conservation et aux expositions du Musée des maîtres et artisans du Québec. Commissaire, auteure et gestionnaire culturelle, elle est cofondatrice du Centre d’exposition Lethbridge (Saint-Laurent) et dirige depuis 2015 la Galerie d’art Stewart Hall (Pointe-Claire). Elle s’implique également sur plusieurs conseils d’administration d’organismes muséaux ou de diffusion en arts visuels.

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[Translation from French by Alexandre Payer]

101 km + 101 km + 101 km + 101 km + 101 km + 101 km + 101 km… Twenty-five 101-kilometre segments to drive the distance between Quebec City and Winnipeg. Twenty-five 101-kilometre segments to drive the distance between Winnipeg and Quebec City. Twenty-five stops to observe and experience the one hundred and first kilometre, and to cross it. There is time to get from one place to another without lingering over one place or the other; time to study an ordinary stretch of road that looks like another stretch of road that… looks like another stretch of road from Quebec, from Ontario, or Manitoba – all unmistakably Canadian. Anonymous spaces which no one takes up, but which the artist reveals as non-places asserting the singularity of their insignificant nature. [1]

By artificially segmenting the journey, Ilana Pichon compresses distances and prefabricates a series defined by visual and auditory landmarks recomposed ad infinitum. Structured into endless graphic iterations and sequenced following an intuitive and repetitive process, these motifs act as reference points, overlaid in screen prints in an arrangement of colour in which variations encompass a part to saturate the whole. W2608Q uses these patterns in a cartographical composition divided into macroscopic regions where details get lost. In Think, Ilana multiplies printing and overprinting to supress form in favour of chromatic variations and a rippling linearity that foreshadows the artist’s video work.

In a similar focus on the static and the deliberate blurring of the final image, her video montages present the viewer’s overstimulated gaze with a mental reconstruction of ordinary natural and urban landscapes. The footage, shot with a wide-angle lens, wraps around itself to create a spherical effect that turns the road into a horizon, adding a third dimension to our traditionally linear reading of single film shots. Each screen increases the narrative possibilities of the whole by showing a distinct set of sequences in desynchronized loops. The superimposed shots, in transparent overlays, stimulate the visual process of memorizing of the artist’s chosen landmarks. The separate treatment of the single soundtrack encourages free association between sound and image, adding an independent and evocative story that reinforces the interpretative abstraction of the overall piece.

In the current global context, widespread mobility and the free circulation of ideas on social media tend to eat away at physical boundaries and reference points necessary to maintain ethical interactions with others and with ourselves. [2] In their own way, the rephrased dialogues between Ilana and her crossings convey the quest for identity of an artist in perpetual motion, who constructs visual and cognitive markers outside of an imposed geopolitical structure, as both self-defining and unique memories. By playing with pacing to diversify the interpretations of a single territory without ever imposing her own, Ilana anchors the idea of a shared space made up of multiple affective, cultural and social entities that everyone can (re)construct following their own life story. The artist’s focus on perpetuating a process of crossing—where each iteration adds a new artistic dimension to the work and reinforces the familiarity of these spaces—can also be read as an invitation to take the time to stop, look, and listen to the territory, so as to better embrace it. In changing one’s outlook on the everyday, in multiplying one’s points of view, memories overlap, become sharper, superimpose or follow one another. Nevertheless, they always help to provide one with the tools to recontextualize ordinary spaces.

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[1] Augé, Marc. Non-places. Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, New York-London, Verso, 1995 (ed. or. Non-Lieux, Introduction àune anthropologie de Ia surmodernité, Paris, Seuil, 1992)

[2] Kerekes, Anna. La pratique artistique comme souci de soi et des autres : arts du quotidien, de la mémoire et du montage. PhD Thesis in art studies and practices. Université du Québec à Montréal, 2018.

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Céline Le Merlus has a degree in art history and museology (École du Louvre, Paris) as well as in management of cultural organizations (HEC-Montréal) and has worked for over ten years curating exhibitions and managing the collection of the Musée des maîtres et artisans du Québec. Curator, author and cultural manager, she is the cofounder of the Lethbridge Exhibition Centre (Saint-Laurent) and has headed the Stewart Hall Art Gallery (Pointe-Claire) since 2015. She is also actively involved on the boards of trustees of various museums and other organizations committed to the dissemination of visual arts.

A Constellation of Sorts by Andrew Testa. Image credit: Larry Glawson.

“Photography is privileged within modern culture because, unlike other systems of representation, the camera does more than just see the world; it is also touched by it. Photographs are designated as indexical signs, images produced as a consequence of being directly affected by the objects to which they refer. It is as if those objects have reached out and impressed themselves on the surface of the photograph, leaving their own visual imprint, as faithful to the contour of the original object as a death mask is to the newly departed.”

                        —Geoffrey Batchen, “Vernacular photographies”


At the heart of Andrew Testa’s A Constellation of Sorts, the solitary “An Uncanny Self-Portrait (state 2)” directs us in how to view the rest of the pieces in the show. The portrait combines physical characteristics of the maker with facial features taken from photographs of those he holds dear. It has the look of a well-worn document but it is entirely constructed and reworked, a collection of parts, brought together to form a whole. A new whole, neither real nor entirely imagined, taken from multiple mechanical images, but held together by the manipulation of the hand. It is not impressed by nature, it is constructed.

 None of the images in this exhibition are photographs. At first glance one might think these are found fragments of photographic prints, but upon closer inspection we see that they are in fact treasured, delicate sculptures. They are carefully manipulated prints, placed thoughtfully in relation to one another, not touching, inviting the viewer to draw lines, create connections, make stories. Testa uses mezzotint, photopolymer gravure, screen printing, and chine-collé techniques to transform family photographs and found images. With these slow, intentional processes he selects, edits, and manipulates the images into new forms that isolate specific gestures, and create relationships between one another. Together they speak of the ubiquity of vernacular photographs, and yet here they are treated individually, touched, worked, considered, placed carefully in relation to one another. Here they transcend their fragile materiality and reveal personal histories.

 At a distance “Remainders/Reminders” resembles a map — sections of land, individual entities with borders separating them. But step closer and see the bodies of land are in fact fragmented images — details of clothing, facial expressions, captured gestures — held very specifically in relation to one another. Lean in even closer and the hand of the maker is revealed, the intentional folding of the images, the gentle wrinkle-like creases in the paper, drawing attention to the subtle details in the fragmented images. Focus on just one of the many image-objects and you are drawn into that world, confronted by the sharpness of the details, expression, texture, quality of light. Now step away again and the individual forms begin to speak to one another, new shapes and connections emerge.

In “To be left/ By one’s side,” a series of ten diptych prints focusing on the subtle gestures of multiple hands, Testa draws attention to both their particularities and similarities. Resting gently, awkwardly strewn across the body, tightly gripping, partially hidden—the work of these hands feels familiar and yet also entirely individual. These fragmented forms leave space for the viewer to imagine a time, a place, particular circumstances, stepping out of the body, once again, to draw connections to these works.

 Through his careful work of printing, folding, assembling and arranging these personal and found photographs, Testa invites the viewer to join him in the exercise of drawing the lines, connecting the dots between these fractured pieces of history, personal and imagined, found and treasured, as he creates an intricate self-portrait.

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Mandy Malazdrewich is an artist, a maker, an archivist, a mother and a partner. She is a settler living on and engaging with the original lands of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and the homeland of the Métis Nation.

Not Yet Earth by Madeline Mackay. Image credit: Larry Glawson.

While I live, my body is flesh. When I die, it will be meat. My consciousness will cease to exist, but my corpse will persist. It will be buried in a box in the ground. The chemical bonds that hold the organic materials of my meat together will be broken down, their energy released and repurposed to suit the needs of whatever living thing consumes my remains. Just as I digested the meat of countless plants and animals to fuel my earthly vessel while I was alive, my carcass will pass through and become part of thousands of bugs, bacteria, and plants, until it is unrecognizable as what it once was. It will become part of the environment; traces of me will be spread throughout the soil, the air, the grass. I will no longer be a single entity, but a small piece of everything. I will be the earth, and the earth will be me.

While poetically compelling, the process of rot and decomposition is often viscerally disgusting in practice. A dead body is sad. A decomposing body is repulsive. Why?

Troubling the line between what is self and what is not in the context of the body creates disgust. For example: on your head, your hair is beautiful, luscious, and thick. You toss it from side to side as though you are in a shampoo commercial. Enjoy this moment, puny human, for several weeks later, balled up in the drain, removed from and perversed of its original context, it is revolting. That you used to find it so appealing makes its present state all the more vile. Look at what it has become! Look at what you have become.

I am watching a video. A thin person with long brown hair, wearing a white t-shirt and underwear, arranges irregular strips of a stringy grey material in a muddy puddle. The video is titled Meat Drawing. Without this titular designation, I doubt I would recognize the pale flesh in the artist’s fingers as such.

The creator of and performer in this work, Madeline Mackay, doesn’t think of meat as food – she’s a lifelong vegetarian. I’m not. Is this why I find the video so difficult to watch? I rarely look at meat this long even – especially – when I’m eating it. Raised on fish sticks and chicken nuggets, I prefer my meat pre-butchered, shredded, dyed, and pressed into familiar shapes and textures. The wet crunches of tendons between my teeth and the jiggling wetness of fat on a bone makes me lose my appetite. I didn’t grow up thinking of meat as dead creatures and I don’t like to be reminded.

While it is true the meat we see comes from an animal intended for human consumption – the sinew, fat, and skin in Not Yet Earth‘s video and print works were pulled from a butcher’s trash and cut into strips by the artist – to fully understand the discomfort and impact of the work we must look further than meat’s relationship to food. Juxtaposed with the artist’s living body and a muddy pool, the meat shreds are forced into relationship with both. Recognizable as an indistinct part of an animal body, but not yet unrecognizable enough to be part of the earth, the flesh exists in a transitory state.

The artist was compelled to create this work after contracting a flesh eating disease wherein her immune system attacked her own blood platelets. In reference to her illness, she states, “I have never been more aware that my flesh has an existence that is independent of mine.” Sickness, much like gore and guts, has a way of forcing one to recognize the disconnect between a sense of self and the bodily vessel within which it is carried. The body and the mind become two distinct parts of the self, one over which we might have dominion and another over which we do not. Mackay’s artistic investigation into dead meat manipulates this unique substance in an effort to regain control and understanding of the materials of which she is made. Through observing this work, we gain a new understanding of self – what we are made of, where what we are made of ends, and what happens when what we are made of is no longer us, but not yet something else.

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Kelly Campbell is an artist, musician, and songwriter. Their artistic interests include labour, gender, colour, craft, disposability, horror, fantasy, and cute pictures of animals. Find them on the internet @kellygrub.

Kelly grew up in so-called Nova Scotia, territory of the Mi’kmaq people, and currently resides in Winnipeg, Manitoba, which sits on land lived on, travelled over, and protected by Anishinaabe, Néhiyaw, Dakota, Dené, and Métis people long before Kelly or any of their ancestors knew it existed.

Making Our Mark III: Interface. Artwork pictured by Michelle Pichette, left, and Andrea von Wichert, right. Image credit: Larry Glawson.

Making Our Mark III: Interface is an exhibit featuring three talented and dedicated artists; Miranda Kudajczyk, Michelle Pichette, Andrea von Wichert. The exhibition runs from November 2nd – December 1st, 2018, and is the culmination of work these three artists took on during the Making Our Mark program, a professional development program created as a partnership between Martha Street Studio and the Arts AccessAbility Network Manitoba. Through the program the artists learned different printmaking techniques including linocuts, monoprinting, lithography, etching. The print studios were open for the artists to use as they wished and to continue their practice of printmaking once the classes were finished. Each artist used their newfound knowledge in different ways, experimenting with the medium of printmaking. Some of these results are part of the Making Our Mark III: Interface exhibition. All of the work made during the program is not necessarily on display within the exhibition, as each artist has curated their own work for the show.

 Shortly before the exhibition was to be mounted I was lucky enough to do studio visits with each of the exhibiting artists, who generously spent time with me, showed me their work, told me about what they learned through the program, and talked about what they would be exhibiting in the show. The exhibit is very diverse conceptually and displays a mix of print methods.

 Miranda Kudajczyk is a young and eager artist. She is currently enrolled in her first year at the School of Fine Art at the University of Manitoba. For someone who is embarking on an arts career, she is focused, and has a strong urge to make. When we met for our studio visit I interrupted her in the middle of making a monoprint and when we sat down to look through her work she brought out over a hundred prints, the majority of which were monoprints. One thing that is evident in Miranda’s monoprints, and that she herself appreciates, is that the technique allows her to experiment and consider what it means for a print to be one of kind. Many of the prints were finished with individual touches, such as smudging of ink after the print was done, but before the ink dried. Others have imprints in the paper and hand painted markings. Miranda was not focused on a concept for this body of work; instead, she wanted to learn as much as she could about monoprinting, and you can see the progression in what she learned from her early prints to the ones she made later in the program. Miranda is building on the idea that ten thousand hours of focused work will make you an expert by refining technique, learning about the medium, and building concepts from knowledge of the work of printmaking.

Michelle Pichette said that she likes the idea of making ‘happy prints’: art that made her feel good, but also made her think a lot about her time in Palestine in 2008. Her work is less about the physical form it takes and more about the emotional labour of what goes into her art. In this exhibition, Michelle has included a series of digital prints that were combined from a project called Operation Finding Joy. She had many examples of different printmaking techniques she worked with throughout the Making Our Mark program, but ultimately, she felt she needed to explore the concepts of happiness and joy through the digital prints more than exploring printmaking in other forms.

Operation Finding Joy focuses around an image Michelle took in Palestine of a series of paintings by children depicting  everyday things like flowers, water, and dancing. The digital prints in the series reflect the children’s paintings by capturing the subjects they explore in real life. The subject is political, but is not backing up any specific political message. It is a way of showing everyday life in Palestine, communicating that there is joy to be found even in the worst situations. One of the key points Michelle made was that in the time Palestine has been occupied, almost every single person living there would have been a child during the occupation, and that through all of this, there are still ways to find joy.  

Andrea von Wichert has immersed herself in printmaking. Entering her studio, there is evidence of what she has learned through the Making Our Mark program everywhere. The walls are covered in prints. These prints tell a story of someone who lives a life of making art, and who is making art about their life. The images are of her partner, her pets, friends, and herself. Most of the time the work starts with an image, often selfie style, and then is made into a print. Andrea experimented with all forms of printmaking taught during the program, but found some suited her practice better than others. Methods like monoprinting, lithography, and linocuts fit in with her practice, which she describes as fast paced and prolific. Similar to Miranda’s monoprints, the prints are individualized and each one has a special touch, making it different from the others. Although Andrea is not exhibiting all the prints she made during the program, I saw hundreds of prints in the time I spent with her. There was a lot of practice and experimentation with the medium, and then a body of work was created specifically for the exhibit called Send in the Clowns. This project is shown in part at Martha Street Studio. Andrea plans to continue building on the work and hopes to exhibit it in other spaces in the future.

 Send in the Clowns focuses on Andrea and her partner in the role of clowns, examining the absurdities, tragedies, challenges, and joyful moments of everyday life. The volume of prints being shown really lets you immerse yourself in Andrea’s thoughts and feelings, but is also an amazing example of how strong of an influence the Making Our Mark program can have on an artist and their practice. Andrea gained a large amount of knowledge that she fostered over a short period of time.

 Making Our Mark III: Interface is an example of the ways one medium can influence three very different artists. The presentation of their work shows artists exploring very different ideas. Each found influence in varied places: Miranda strongly focuses on a specific method of printmaking, monoprinting, experiments with it, wanting to perfect her craft; Michelle found inspiration in printmaking, causing her to revisit a trip that had a profound emotional effect on her years ago, and took the time to think through the feelings of the time and space she was in; Andrea immersed herself in printmaking, constantly creating, and explored a body of work through prints. Andrea works in a space surrounded with her prints, and wants an audience to immerse themselves in the work too. It isn’t uncommon that three artists would create very different work out of the same medium, however, Miranda, Michelle, and Andrea have created very special work based on the processes they learned.

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Jennifer Smith is a Métis curator, writer, and arts administrator in Winnipeg, Canada. Jennifer has been working in arts administration for ten years, and has worked for organizations such as the Costume Museum of Canada, the Manitoba Crafts Museum and Library, the Winnipeg Film Group, and currently at Video Pool Media Arts Centre. Jennifer is the President of the board for the Coalition of Canadian Independent Media Art Distributors that runs VUCAVU.com. She has curated exhibits and video programs for the Manitoba Craft Council, Video Pool Media Arts Centre, Open City Cinema, MAWA, and the Manitoba Crafts Museum and Library. Jennifer was the Indigenous Curator in Residence at aceartinc. from March to August 2018.

PARK by Derek Dunlop. Image credit: Larry Glawson.

Ann Cvetkovich asks, within her broader project of uncovering queer, affectively charged, archives, “what happens if the histories you want to know have left no records?” (Carland 76).

For queer subjects, our collective history has been doubly devastated, both by the erasure of queerness from dominant historical narratives and by the sheer losses occasioned by the advent of AIDS in the late 80s, particularly in communities of men who have sex with men.

In PARK, Derek Dunlop, whose theoretically informed practice has been primarily rooted in painting and printmaking techniques, explores a multi-year engagement with various cruising sites across North America where men have gathered to collectively partake in queer behaviours both away from, and still fully in view of, a heteronormative public. 

Theorist José Esteban Muñoz, in Cruising Utopia, turns to the photography of Tony Just to explore how to establish connection with, or render visible, queer spectres that haunt physical sites, as well as our queer collective memory. Just meticulously cleaned public restrooms in New York City known, at some point in time, as gay hookup destinations, and photographed them in this newly sterilized state. Fixing them in a condition of hyper-sanitization only drew attention to their historical queerness through negation, by highlighting the forcible erasure of all remnants of their gay counter-histories.

Making visible this invisibility allows access to, what Muñoz terms, a “hidden queer history of public sex outside the dominant public sphere’s visible historical narratives” (Muñoz, 1996, 6). Dunlop similarly employs negation, the historical lack of the past, to commune with disappearing queer spaces.

A barrier to the formation, and transmission, of queer archives rests in the ephemeral nature of queer acts and performances, as survival was often bound up in the ability to be rendered selectively invisible within heteronormative society and institutions. In response, queer historical evidence must also deviate from a straight path, remaining in “traces, glimmers, residues, and specks of things.” (Muñoz, 1996, 10). And, in the open-endedness of these terms–traces, glimmers–possibility resides. 

Pulling pieces of metal from the muddy banks of the Assiniboine river–near the Forks–from a previously popular cruising destination, Dunlop materializes the site’s spectral queer history, surfacing through these traces like the objects themselves emerged from their resting place over years of slow excavation. Catalogued and arranged in archeological fashion, these warped and softened objects begin to resemble human remains in their oxidized skins and suggestive forms. And, in a sense, they are.

Witness to the “ghosts of public sex” (so-called by Muñoz), these hand-forged objects have hauntingly endured (albeit in slow decay), while their human counterparts moved on, fell to the AIDS epidemic hollowing out queer communities in the 90s, or likewise remain somewhere, also in decay. These objects speak across time, stand in for memories and performances of queer pleasure that disrupted public space by rendering the public queer. Each metal tool is a carnal remnant, a gravestone, a proxy body, that reminds: we have always existed, no matter how covertly. 

Heather Love suggests that “the longing of community across time is a crucial feature of queer historical experience,” affirming that the archival impulse is also located in a desire to speak back to, or dialogue, with a shared past  (Love 37). Dunlop attempts a spiritual communication with his queer ancestors through the preparation of a series of mono prints.

Using flora plucked from a popular cruising trail in Stanley Park, in Vancouver, Dunlop performs a spontaneous and irreproducible queer act via the printing press, connecting him to a legacy of queer activism in the form of printed materials. The magic of alchemy, represented by the oozing pink and lavender repurposed from early queer propaganda, rejoins the past by reactivating it for the present.

Other traces showcased in PARK do not so easily offer the promise of repair. This tension is palpable in the photographs taken in Bonnycastle Park, in Winnipeg. In “Graffiti” the word “gay” is barely visible on the restored limestone barricade/planter, its faint imprint the only reminder of what once transpired here, in this place. As public spaces are renovated to serve revisionist, sanitized, historical narratives, even the glimmers of their seedy, raucous, queer counter-histories disappear.

 To be queer is to be alienated from, and displaced within, a heteronormative structured public. It is also to be haunted by a painful awareness of an absent historical archive and an inability to repair, reconstruct, or even fully know, what has been lost. Our archives then, too, follow a twisted path, like the tangled root system Dunlop photographs in Bonnycastle Park with his camera: bound up together, not easily trailed, folding in on itself in a series of indistinguishable and interconnected knots. 

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Carland, Tammy Rae. “Sharing an Archive of Feelings: A Conversation,” Art Journal, Vol. 72, No. 2 (Summer 2013), pp. 70-77.

 Love, Heather. Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of History. Harvard University Press: 2007.  

Muñoz, José Esteban. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York University Press, 2009.

Muñoz, José Esteban. “Ephemera as Evidence: Introductory Notes on Queer Acts,” Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, 8:2 (1996): 5-12.

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Dunja Kovačević holds an BA Hons in English and an MA in Cultural Studies from the University of Winnipeg. She is an editor, co-founder of feminist print anthology Dear Journal, and an emerging cultural critic. Lately, her work explores the formation (and inheritance) of alternative, affective, archives for displaced queer individuals and communities.  

Sea Levels by Laine Groeneweg. Image credit: Larry Glawson.

Laine Groeneweg’s exhibition Sea Levels contains 25 pieces that use the print media of mezzotint, dry-point and soft ground etching. The artist/printmaker’s labour is explicit in their making; reflecting the traditions of craft in the creation.

Although Groeneweg has had a history of working in the digital world and still enters it in many parts of his production, his current interests are very much grounded in the physical world of analog. It is that historical world of the analog that guides the nature and narrative of his art.

His narrative speaks to the antiquity of Cabinet Cards of the late nineteenth century. The classic staging and composition found in this form of photographic portraiture offers a framework for the mood of his mezzotints. Mezzotint offers its own sense of mystery. There is an inherent noir quality in mezzotints that creates both a darkness of mood and the physical darkness created by the chiaroscuro light of life.

Groeneweg wants his prints to reflect the love of craft as well as the love of art in his work, noting that his “work speaks to the strengths found in the process of traditional print media.” He enjoys the dedication to labour and problem solving found in the traditions of printmaking. Working on models as a kid has influenced his passion for the intimate scale that is found in image-making on a copper etching plate. The small scale of these pieces draws the viewer into examining the meticulous detail and the emotional connection within his stories.

Sea Levels takes the viewer into the underwater world of the ocean. It is a world that is a part of our life on earth and yet can be as foreign to us as outer space. For children, it is the world of fantasy and adventure. It is a world of strange and fanciful creatures, and it is a world where we can fly with the rules of gravity reversed.

Groeneweg considers all the elements of production: the colour and tone of black, the way that a plate is wiped, and the inherent nature of the paper used to accept the image. Copperplate paper accepts the lush velvety blacks of mezzotint like none other and thin Gampi tissue accepts the direct marks of dry-point as skin might accept tattoos. Everything contributes to the final piece. Additionally, the physicality of direct and committed mark-making with evidence of original human thought and error all add to the print’s tactile presence. It is the work of a printmaker’s printmaker.

From the inner mind of Laine Groeneweg, this show is: “Inspired by a dream. Sea Levels has come to represent an intriguing underwater playground where multitudes of sea creatures harmoniously co-exist. This whimsical setting is reminiscent of nautical folklore and serves as the reference point for my imagery.”

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Glossary of print terms

Dry-point is a direct form of engraved mark-making that raises a burr in the copper. This burr will also retain some ink during the wiping of the plate.

Mezzotint creates tones rather than lines. First, the plate is roughened by a rocker covering the entire surface with a burr that holds ink. Various tones of light are then worked into the darkened surface with scrapers and burnishers. This creates the appearance of light falling on an image.

Soft ground etching can emulate the physical appearance of soft lines. A sticky resist covers the print plate. Then,a thin paper is placed over the resist. Any pressure from drawing marks that are applied to the paper will lift the ground from the plate and adhere to the underside of the paper. The plate is then submerged into an acid bath that eats into the open image areas of the resist. The areas etched by the acid hold the ink while printing.

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E.J. (Ted) Howorth’s passion has been printmaking throughout most of his artistic career. Apprenticed under Wilfredo Arcay of Atelier Arcay in Paris, he worked in many international print studios and exhibited in numerous international juried print biennales. In 1995 he was appointed to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

Natasha Pestich Presents: A Survey of Jan Xylander Exhibition Posters. Image credit: Larry Glawson.

Ask anyone who Jan Xylander is, and he or she will immediately rattle off at least three different exhibitions that were required readings in art school. Many revere the works of Xylander as paramount in the world of art, dedicating entire books, classes and festivals to the study and celebration of his work. Although the complex work is a common stumbling block for even the most seasoned critics, his varied tales of love, hate, fear, betrayal, laughter, defeat and victory are just as fitting today as they were yesterday. He is amazingly timeless. Yet, while we might know what Xylander is, will we ever really know who Xylander is?

Much about the artist is a mystery to even the most scholarly enthusiasts. The hard facts that are actually known about him could fill one neatly handwritten page, but what is speculated and complete legend could fill volumes of books. So, what is fact and what is fiction? According to the little documentation that chronicles his life, Xylander was born in April. Even his actual date of birth is somewhat of a mystery. It is presumed that Xylander made it to London to begin his career, but the exact date is not known for sure. There are enough legal documents and records though, to know that Xylander goes on to possess a generous amount of real estate, hold shares in an acting company that built the Globe Theatre, and become a principal artist in the group The Kings Men. There are many theories and stories floating around that seem to fill in the gaping holes in his timeline, but since this information doesn’t appear on record, we don’t know what is fact or fiction. Everything beyond this is myth and legend, which most certainly adds to the attraction of his works. His brilliant works can only be enhanced by the mystery and anonymity surrounding his life.

Historians say that Xylander pumped anyone he could for information when creating his works. However, others feel that pumping friends or locals could help with broad knowledge, but really could not enable him to convey the atmosphere of a country or to add small, rather insignificant details which could only come from an artist who had actually experienced them. In addition, familiarity with languages, literature, law, politics, history and geography found in Xylander’s works, are all inconceivable for a commoner. No evidence points to Xylander ever attending a University. Yet, whoever created the works must have been highly cultured. It is pure speculation that some say that he is indeed an artist.

Although the subject of the true authorship of Xylander’s works will probably never be laid to rest, it will always contribute to the enjoyment of studying his work. Students of the subject are compelled to study and re-study the works in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the artist. Debates involving fact and fiction keep the name Xylander in constant movement, reminding us that we have not outgrown him, not even after four hundred years. The work of Xylander, whomever Xylander is, is a gift for us to continue unwrapping, and pass down to our children to appreciate as well. One must hope that the mystery will never be solved, so that it may never lose its magic.

In conclusion, curiosity has indeed been aroused for many, many years. Hundreds of theories and shreds of proof have been gathered, but the world will always wonder and waver between doubt and belief in Jan Xylander. So, the question still remains, is Jan Xylander really Jan Xylander?

Compiled from open source online essays about authorship, suspect and anonymity.

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A multidisciplinary artist from Winnipeg, MB, Collin Zipp obtained his BFA from the University of Manitoba’s School of Art in 2005 and his MFA from the University of Lethbridge in 2011. His work explores notions of viewer experience, expectation and authorship. Interested in trickery and deception, Zipp’s work challenges viewers to assess their perceptions of what they think art is or should be.

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