Danny Singer, "Rockyford," HD video, 5:47min, 2010.
DISCUSSING TIMELAND: HOSTED BY THE ART GALLERY OF ALBERTA
By Amy Fung
As Timeland, the 2010 Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art, provoked an ongoing provincial dialogue about identities and regional representations, its accompanying panel discussion did little to shed light on the laudable and the discordant elements of the exhibition.
The discussion itself began with moderator Robert Enright’s introduction on place and identity (via a throwback to Northrop Frye) and brought together some all-too-familiar faces to shed light on the exhibition, including Enright, senior editor of Border Crossings, the Calgary Herald’s respected and long-standing art critic Nancy Tousley, curators Candice Hopkins and Andrew Hunter, and Timeland curator Richard Rhodes. Touted as a conversation featuring the country’s top thinkers, brought together to discuss notions of geography and identity, there was some confusion between Rhodes the critic and Rhodes the curator, as he offered nothing new in addressing his own exhibition. Enright, who probably had the most to say, was unfortunately kept in the role of moderator.
The panel brought out a few interesting perspectives on how contemporary artists, curators, and researchers view geography through time. Hopkins mused on Julia Kristeva’s idea of “monumental time”, which reconsiders how we perceive time, borders, and identity as eternally shifting concepts, but while the topic of time was continually mulled over, not much was actually said in relation to the art in Timeland.
By the time all four panelists had finished speaking, it was clear that there was an embarrassing lack of focus about the exhibition itself. The majority of panelists apologetically stated they had just flown in, so had yet to spend much time with the exhibition proper.
Though Tousley was the only Alberta resident on the panel, she still positioned herself as an outsider coming in, first as an American to the Ontario art scene, then as an Easterner into the Western art scene. Her sentiment in approaching different art communities from an undefined periphery seems to address a greater theme, which Rhodes has tried to counter with his own discussions of Timeland — that “here” versus “elsewhere” has already collapsed, and there are no longer centres and peripheries.
As much as I would like to believe in such a possibility, especially living and working from the Canadian prairies, it should be noted that it takes great luxury and privilege to comfortably dismiss the concept of centrality, and live out what Rhodes embraces as the “glocal”, which at its root remains an economic initiative. As art and economy certainly exist within the same reality, though often forced to opposing ends of the value spectrum, a discussion on time, geography, resources, and industry may have proved to be a far more fruitful and contemporary discussion than one on art and artists in Alberta.