1 of 6
Spring 2011 Cover
Spring 2011 Cover
2 of 6
"Te Putahitanga o Rehua"
Reuben Paterson (New Zealand), "Te Putahitanga o Rehua," screenprint with glitterdust on paper, 2005.
3 of 6
Doug Smarch Jr. (Canada), "Lucinations," installation, 2004. Photo courtesy of the artist.
4 of 6
"Circuit City II"
KC Adams (Canada), "Circuit City II," digital print, 2010, 20" x 20", collection of the artist.
5 of 6
"Mount Annivaara Utsjoki,"
Marja Helander (Finland), "Mount Annivaara Utsjoki," c-print, 2002.
6 of 6
Spring 2011 Cover
Spring 2011 Cover
Winnipeg's new voyage of discovery with Close Encounters: The Next 500 Years, the city celebrates a cultural capital designation with a monumental show of contemporary aboriginal art.
BY: Marlene Milne
The words “encounter narrative” carry considerable weight. Used to describe the moment when cultures and civilizations meet for the first time, they suggest a debarkation point, a view into the unknown — think of Christopher Columbus setting sail on his voyage half a millenium ago. Curators of Close Encounters: The Next 500 Years are potentially distilling the work of more than 30 widely disparate contemporary Aboriginal artists into an encounter with this particular point in time — reflecting on five centuries backwards and forwards. It will be the largest exhibition of contemporary Indigenous art ever held.
The curators have asked artists — invited from around the world to this show in Winnipeg — to consider the past and predict the future, taking into account the moment of discovery between native and non-native cultures, and looking forward through prophecy and potential apocalypse to answer the question ‘Where are we all headed?’
It’s fitting that this particular exhibition is happening in Winnipeg. The nominal “centre” of the country, the city has long been a champion of a wide range of contemporary Aboriginal art, and Close Encounters was chosen as one of the premier events celebrating the city’s designation as Cultural Capital of Canada.
It brings together four curators from across Canada, including Candice Hopkins, former exhibition director at Vancouver’s Western Front, and currently Sobey Curatorial Resident, Indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Canada, and Steven Loft, former director of the Urban Shaman gallery in Winnipeg, and the first Curator-in-Residence, Indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Canada. Jenny Western is a curator, writer, and teacher in Winnipeg, former curator of contemporary / Aboriginal art at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba in Brandon, and Aboriginal curator in residence at Winnipeg’s Plug In ICA and Urban Shaman. Lee-Ann Martin is curator of contemporary Canadian Aboriginal art at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, and former head curator at Regina’s MacKenzie Art Gallery.
Presented by the Winnipeg Cultural Capital of Canada 2010 organization and the Winnipeg Arts Council, the show has a primary exhibition space on Pacific Avenue in Winnipeg. Close Encounters will also be found at venues and galleries across the city, including partner galleries Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Manitoba Museum, Manitoba Hydro headquarters, Urban Shaman, and others.
The show brings together work by artists from across Canada, including new commissioned work by Rebecca Belmore, Edward Poitras, Faye Heavyshield, and Kent Monkman. They’ll show alongside work by artists from Europe, the U.S., South America, Australia, and New Zealand. They each bring both personal and cultural perspectives to expressions of the past, and inventions of the future.
“Encounters today are less a ‘shock of the new’ that defined first encounters in the early modern era,” the curators write. “Rather they are about possibilities of positive outcomes for the future.”
Some of the show’s artists are working with the lasting repercussions of that shock, and the conflict and advancing settlement that followed — K.C. Adams’ new series Circuit City is made up of aerial photographs that show endless loops of suburban housing eating up the land. Find a similar idea in Finnish artist Marja Helander’s image of a figure in traditional Laplander dress walking on an expanse of snow, framed in electrical wires.
Artists have also brought the theme of the conflict that comes out of encounters, and cultures’ attempts to repel the advancement. Mary Anne Barkhouse’s signature animal figures become The Four Horses of the Apocalypse – restored mechanical toy horses of the type that used to be set up outside grocery stores, each one wearing custom regalia. Postcommodity’s Repellent Eye is an installation of a 10-foot-diameter “scary eye” balloon — expanding the concept of the scarecrow to much larger proportions.
At its foundation, Close Encounters is an opportunity to showcase artists among the best working in contemporary art in Canada today, representing a wide range of cultures and aesthetics, from the large-scale portraits of Wally Dion to the intricate, coloured-pencil life scenes of Pudlo Pudlat, to the shape-shifting magic of paintings by Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun.
Musing on the confluence of histories, cultures, tensions, and portraits that have been brought together, the curators write “Close Encounters presents international Indigenous perspectives in a city that in many ways also epitomizes the future of Aboriginal people in Canada.”