The meat world of the arts seem to increasingly become an endangered species. This is evident as most of us continue to be pinned to our screens and into the whirlpool of news, stories, memes, and whatever cultural artifacts that are flushed into the ether these days. I mean, wouldn't it be nice to live in a more decentralized IRL world where we can save our sweat trekking to the usual cultural hubs? I suppose that is why centers like Contemporary Art Daily understand this desire and makes us complicit to our streaming wherever you want lifestyles. That said, we continue to hold on to the vitality of museums, galleries, theatre houses, and the like. Because they continue to legitimize and uphold these things we collectively agree as being aspects of our culture.
Below, our staff of contributors offer their personal reflections on the past year. As you peruse through them, you'll find overlapping highlights which included those from travels, as well as local standouts both on and offline.
As I look back on 2017, I realize I could have spent less time watching the fish in my parent's basement and more time out experiencing Winnipeg's art and cultural scene. What I did experience, in Winnipeg, online and beyond, however, was as tantalizing and entertaining as 1000 dank memes. Zorya Arrow's new performance work "Much Too Much to Say" with the dance ensemble Company Link; included fellow artists and dancers Arne MacPherson, Arlo Reva, Emma Beech, Bo van der Midden. The performance was raw, emotional, visceral and incredibly real. What was so special about the piece (that will stay with me for a very long time), was the unspoken language told through the bodies, gestures, and movements in relation to each other and space.
This spring I took a course through the University of Manitoba in which I had the privilege of travelling by train to Churchill, Manitoba to visit Artist Micheal Belmore while he worked on his sculptural piece "Coalescence" for LandMarks2017. Along with my fellow classmates, I met Belmore in his studio, which was a semi-heated garage in the middle of the small town. He had dust all over his clothes and face from carving large stones that he would soon fit together with copper lining. I was slightly intimidated at the thought of meeting him, but those feeling immediately washed away as he generously let us into his process and experiences as a professional artist. His piece is now permanently located in Churchill, as the unprecedented flooding delayed the stones from reaching their original final destination at the Forks in Winnipeg.
One of my greatest discoveries happened online when I discovered the performance art of Bridget Moser. As I watched her gyrate with Nike Air sweatpants on, while she yelled "what do you know about air pants", I soon realized there is someone else on this planet that really gets me. Her art is over the top wacky, existential, disarming and incredibly funny, to say the least. I hope I get to see much much much much more of her antics in 2018.
Finally, I geeked out at the AGO when I saw some of the most inspiring photographs I have ever seen at the AMIA Photography Prize finalist show. The artist that stood out to me was Liz Johnson Artur, an analogue photographer that focuses on self-representation of African Americans. I was initially struck by the classical beauty of the photos themselves and then how the personalities of her subjects told their own stories. I took home a lot of inspiration from the show, and how the medium of photography is still so magical and experimental today as ever. This year, I may not have gone to every opening, but I feel as though I was at an all you can eat buffet of art and culture, where the shrimp was extra juicy. I'm looking forward to next year's buffet.
Early last February, I took a trip to Toronto. My friend took me to a gallery he had been dying to show me on Dundas Street W, It’s called Bau-xi. It’s a small space, polished wooden floors, and clean white walls. In fact, the size and space of the gallery added to my experience, as it wasn’t as intimidating as the typical “large white cubes”. I spent more time looking at the art and not recording Snapchat videos of the space (Definitely a sign that I was taken aback by the pieces), which leads me to the first Intriguing piece I saw at the gallery: Float By Vikki Smith: A magnificent 30 by 40-inch painting. It was so “pretty” and I honestly wouldn’t use any other term to describe it rather than that. Pale Blues, violets, and pinks, just like cotton candy forming the shape of a woman floating in water. The brush strokes were so beautiful, I spent so much time studying them, thick strokes with so much depth that reminded me only of cake icing and despite the delicacy of the piece, there was something about the woman afloat being a bit smudged out, especially in the face that left the piece open to multiple interpretations.
My next standout was my summer in New York City. I could trail off on how wonderful it was if the tiniest memory came to mind but that’s a whole other story for a different day. I was at the Museum of Modern art twice; most of the exciting shows were off so I mostly saw the museum's collection. One of the most striking pieces I saw was Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s, The Myriad Motives of Men. It was a portrait of two black men, sitting, starring in the dark like they were oblivious that they were being observed. The richness in the tones of their skin alone was attention-grabbing but there was something even more mysterious about it. I did some digging on the piece and found an interesting fact, which was that these weren’t actual characters but figures forged from source material, and Boakye’s imagination- I guess you could say that’s where the mystery lies.
Chloe Wise “Of False Beaches and Butter Money”, Almine Rech Gallery, Paris, October 2017: It would be a terrible mistake on my part to leave out Chloe’s magnificent show. I simply cannot help picking an individual piece from the show; the entire thing was amazing from the installations to videos and paintings. Continuing on her topic of consumerism, she created amazing content with a touch of satire. I strongly recommend viewing the pieces from this show.
Three Thousand, 2017 by Isabella Weetaluktuk (Winnipeg Art Gallery; Insurgence/Resurgence): A beautiful part of the Insurgence/Resurgence show this year at the Winnipeg Art Gallery was the incredible video Three Thousand by Isabella Weetaluktuk. Being enclosed by soundproof walls, and the soulful sound of Weetaluktuk’s voice and strong visuals made me zone out and encounter a beautiful and intimate experience personal to the artist. Beautifully juxtaposing past, present, and future with archives from the National Film Board, Weetaluktuk skillfully shines a ray of hope on the future of the Inuit Nunangat people. Definitely a must see!
Driving to see and film the 2017 total eclipse in Alliance, Nebraska. Traveling to New York for the first time and not being won over by anything at the MOMA PS1 other than the building itself up until walking into the James Turrell installation and finding myself experiencing extreme serenity and peace. Experiencing the Whitney Biennial and seeing Anicka Yi’s film The Flavor Gnenome which was one of my favourite films I’ve seen this year. Being a part of LandMarks 2017; meeting with Micheal Belmore; having a studio visit with him in his workspace in Churchill; spending time in the town of Churchill; taking the train there and being on the last train that left before the trains washed away (May 2017); meeting with elders (Catherine); being on the train; considering space and place; making work; the experience of having this opportunity to be in this class that operates outside of the institution and allowed us as students to develop our projects in ways that conventionally wouldn’t be possible if this class ran like a regular class.
Mike Hoolbloom and Duke + Battersby for Gimli Film Festival 2017 / Winnipeg Underground Film Festival (WUFF) + Platform Center team up for Active Research Lecture Series for Emily and Cooper to give a talk a weekend with those three humans, talking about their work, practice habits and challenges in current/on-going projects. Wrapped it up with Emily and Cooper doing a talk, art is for empathy, their process, how they collaborate/work with each other, their connection with animals.
WUFF 2017 / most successful WUFF, lucky enough to bring in 11 visiting artists all of which, had work screening or were performing, all of which I won’t list off but, WUFF wouldn’t be possible without you, Ryan Betschart and Rachel Nawesake (film makers/ Directors of the San Diego Underground Film Fest) came and presented a program of work they curated which was the kick-off of the festival at Forth. the 90-second program followed this the next day at the Rachel Browne Theatre and was packed with local work and is always FUN (submit this year !!!). Ben Balcom and Alee Peoples’ work were shown in their own retrospective programs, watching Soda Jerk’s The Was and crying and smiling at the same time, see winninpeguff.com for the 2017 program + program notes.
2017 was an odd one. A lot of things changed in this past year at both personal and interpersonal levels. A geopolitical climate that is chaotic and devastating, career changes, displacements, and adjustments. What was constant was my own search of ‘good things’ (i.e., art, objects, food, books) that somehow have to exist in the midst of this mess. And indeed, art and trying to find new and interesting things to do, listen and taste is where I tend to find solace.
Favourite Album of the Year: Orlando Gloom’s David In the Void (Birthday Tapes) Dave Shaw’s latest project called, Orlando Gloom. It was a joy to witness the production of his latest album. The cover art and title are deceptive: its title signifies a rupture from any sunny and luscious greenery atop the coral background. It is this exact juxtaposition of moods where Shaw carves out his niche and shows us his latest full-length EP under Winnipeg label, Birthday Tapes. Shaw’s characteristic baritone and catchy 80s synths have the potency to charm and swoop anyone of their feet, even those who dare not to dance in public without having a drink prior to his sets (i.e., me). Shaw’s expertise in combining pop melodies with grave lyrics makes him a singular and idiosyncratic figure on the periphery of the Winnipeg music scene.
Favourite Exhibition: On October 5th I attended Never Apart’s fall Vernissage in Montréal. Composed of works by twenty artists, it included video installations as well as sculptures and paintings. I was very excited about attending a Vernissage as it was the first time I’d ever been to one. Vernissage literally translates from French as ‘varnishing,’ and it was a practice done by artists the day prior to the opening of the exhibition.
Artists such as Claire Milbrath explore sexuality in dream-like scenarios with Gray, through We live in a Fantasy while others such as Erin M. Riley’s Head On confronts the sexuality and violence encountered in dating through hand-woven tapestries. Liam Young’s Hello City takes us on a city tour where a smart city operating system drives through a network of software systems. The speculative architect’s film is an audio-visual exploration of a city that lays between the present and what is predicted; the real and the idyllic, cobbled together from real landscapes and designed urban fictions.
Favourite Show: Black Marble Unbeknownst to me and my boyfriend, Black Marble were playing the day after I arrived in Montréal. Three other bands opened, but we were only able to see the third band’s last bit of their set and the last opening show was by local artist, Xarah Dion, whose industrial sound was the perfect predecessor to Black Marble. The room was crowded and interesting. A man in the crowd wore a cowboy hat and had perfectly teased/fluffed red hair. The kind of look I strive for after brushing out my curl to only discover a blob of frizz.
Favourite Cultural event: Visiting a Cacao Hacienda. I’ve been visiting my family in México over this year’s holidays. We went to a nearby municipality where at a hacienda, they grow and produce their own chocolate. It is a beautiful building and the green areas are packed with cacao, cinnamon, and banana trees, among others. The aroma they emanate is indescribable. As you go along, you are surrounded by brightly-colored flowers, bugs, heat, and reptiles, you can taste a cacao seed and it makes for an interesting experience. As the seed is surrounded by a gel-like film/membrane that you can eat and its taste is very mild, and once it has been removed, they wash and let dry those seeds under the sun. Seeing the origins and learning about the product you are about to eat, makes for a mindful consumption of the food. It is a very straightforward chain of events that occur from the growth of the plant to the selling of it, and it forces you to reconsider whose business you are supporting.
In retrospect, 2017 was quite a year. I managed to quit a job that was making me miserable, travelled, found inspiration and finally, met the love of my life. For me, 2017 was all about ups and downs but remember that everything is always for the best. I greeted this year with open arms, ready to overcome every obstacle it tackled me with.
Iceland was my top bucket list travel destination. For 12 days I explored and met lovely human beings that came to Iceland for the same reason as me: peace and quiet. The Icelandic art scene is one of the most versatile I have seen. Perhaps because the small island is isolated from outside influences, it seems as every style that had its own time period in North America is happening at all at once. An Icelandic artist I found very intriguing was Louisa Matthíasdóttir, in the exhibition held in Listasafn Reykjavikur (Reykjavik Art Museum) which was a retrospective to her whole career as an artist. The exhibition was titled Calm and it was exactly that. Matthíasdóttir was deeply connected to her native land and painted the landscape of Reykjavik and Iceland even when she was abroad. Walking around her work rekindled my own love of the land, and inspired me to find out how could I find that connection again now that I live in Canada. This trip ignited in me a desire for more travel, for more art, to exploring every corner of my own being and how I connect to my art.
Coming back from Iceland made me realize how unhappy I was with my situation at the time, and in which ways I wanted to change it. I quit the job that made me angry and unfulfilled, started eating healthier, and made more time to create the art I wanted. I felt free to start seeking out new art, excited about what the city could show me. The Winnipeg Art Gallery had a productive year, with exhibitions of Picasso, Rodin’s Thinker, the photographer Harold Edgerton, and most recent exhibition INSURGENCE/RESURGENCE.
My favorite exhibition was A Greenhouse. Evening by Ray Fenwick. He explores the possibilities of conversations and play. Set in a dimmed room (the Evening), a Greenhouse stands alone, and visitors can enter the greenhouse, which hosts plants, and a cassette player with cassettes next to it. The visitor is invited to interact with the cassettes, and have a conversation with the greenhouse. Ray seeks to expand our understanding of a conversation; when it ends, when it starts, if it’s boring or not, with whom you are speaking, etc. I found it compelling to have a conversation with someone I could not see. I was still able to have a lovely conversation, but kept wondering whether I’d made it up or if it had actually happened.
One last installation that caught my eye was Since We Last Spoke by Sophie Sabet, an emerging Iranian-Canadian artist. She invites the visitor to view a modern Iranian-Canadian home, and how it has changed due to immigrating and adjusting to a new life in a foreign land. Being an immigrant myself for the second time in my short lifetime, (having emigrated from Russia to Israel, and 17 years later to Canada), I understand what it does to a family and how we adjust to a new life, a new language. Some families are torn apart and some grow stronger, it all depends on how we cope. Sophie’s installation reminded me of the turbulences my family went through, making her work so powerful to me.
Looking at different exhibitions and shows of interest during 2017, I ended up focusing mostly on one week spent in New York. After going there for the first time, and during a very busy time for art galleries (Frieze Art Fair and the Whitney Biennial), shows seen in that time period are what I think of most with reflecting on the year.
First, Guggenheim – there were two pieces there that left an impression, including Anicka Yi’s Life is Cheap and Maurizio Cattelan’s America. Both of these pieces sat in odd spots in the gallery, one being outside of the main spiral staircase and the other being an actual bathroom that was commonly used, just as a bathroom. Life is Cheap includes an installation focusing on human mentality and society, depicted in sculptural diorama’s including live ants in the place of humans. America, on the other hand, considers how viewers take in art, even if it is in the form of a golden toilet that you can actually use. Frieze Art Fair was a cluster of artwork and food stands that looked like they might be excellent but might not be. The one area that made me really stop was the William Eggleston room, where I was finally able to connect to his work in person with relaxed, slow moments in his photography. Before this, I tried to see every room within 10.5 seconds and was generally unsuccessful.
Whitney Biennial – Coming from Winnipeg and not seeing many galleries with more than 3.25 floors, 8 floors was a treat. Certain pieces in the Whitney Biennial itself stood out as exceptional (kind of including the controversial Dana Schutz piece) and could have worked on their own, such as a favourite piece of 2017, Real Violence by Jordan Wolfson. Using a VR headset, Wolfson shocks viewers with a seemingly pointless violent act, questioning why we consider any violence to have reason.
Winnipeg mentions Ray Fenwick – A Greenhouse. Evening. at Plug In ICA. One thing from Winnipeg that I could not get over was Ray Fenwick’s Greenhouse. Installation and interactive pieces, especially with sound and animation somehow incorporated rub me the right way.
Alyssa Bornn - mappings at Flux Gallery. The combination of prints, objects, video, and even lighting seemed to perfectly match in scenic harmony, making every piece interesting based on each other. Bornn shows that atmosphere increases experience.
Music to add to each gallery that I’ve mentioned: As much as I hate the ending of this song, Sunset Rollercoaster – My Jinji is pretty great to coast through a gallery within the background. Best album – Everything Everything – Fever Dream. Best song to generally walk around in public and listen too – MGMT – Little Dark Ages (In a time where people are obsessed with Stranger Things, this is the only thing that confirms my nostalgia to the 1980’s Suspense/ Horror)