This past week, a slew of new art exhibitions opened from the depths of UBC to the nearby city of Surrey, and while I have never been fond of seeing work during an opening or even writing about it based on this haphazard encounter, I will record the going ons as the following post:
Going backwards, I ventured out to The Surrey Art Gallery on Saturday to visit the opening of Beyond Vague Terrain: The City and the Serial Image, the new group show curated by Jordan Strom, whose name I once associated with Fillip Magazine. The journey in and out of Surrey was by far the most interesting part of the evening, as I managed to convince a friend to go on a public transit adventure with me for both of our first trips into the second largest city in British Columbia.
Image credit: Helma Sawatzky “The Phoenix Complex” 2012
As with the progression of each train stop and bus transfer, the essence of Surrey started to take shape. Before arriving at what I first thought was a skating rink, noted was how demographics started to shift and phantom memories of Sherwood Park, Alberta emerged as the six lane traffic rumbled by. A mixture of being turned around and also being asked directions by (other) recent newcomers, my first foray into Surrey was limited, but I know what I saw en route and what I saw in the gallery were not exactly compatible.
Beyond Vague Terrain carried heavy hitters like Jeff Wall and Ian Wallace, along with the next generation such as Khan Lee and Owen Kydd, and as far as works go, I paused at length before the works of Chris Gergley. His “Vancouver Apartment” series was only outstanding in its direct address of the housing shortage issue that in many ways defines Vancouver’s vague terrain. I had to wonder if these portraits of the charming early to mid century Metro Vancouver walk-ups situated in Surrey were seen as fantasies, or maybe an affront to what Surrey lacks in choice and history. The majority of the works in the show engaged with Metro Vancouver’s facades, but having no nostalgia attached to the city, and no invitation by any of the works to engage further than what was presented, I left Surrey learning nothing new about Vancouver.
I missed all openings on Friday night, but I ducked into Or Gallery and Centre A on Saturday afternoon for a quiet look around. In the former, a premiere of Annika Rixen’s solo exhibition was up in the gallery’s Vancouver location. The bulk of Sciences of Observation was inspired by 19th century physicist John Tyndall’s Six Lectures on Light, and I was absolutely mesmerized by “Verification of Physical Theories,” a video loop of what I can only imagine as a stationary perspective of a translucent moon’s orbit around the sun. In the latter, waiting for was a group show of four young artists addressing migration and displacement, but in irony, I got there early to took a look around and decided I was not going to be waiting for the artist talk after all.
Image credit: Annika Rixen “The Rendering of Invisible Rays Visible” (Video Still) 2012
On Thursday night the evening went on longer than I would have thought. Still going backwards, the last opening I attended that night was at Catalog Gallery. If you’ve never heard of the place, I doubt you’re the only one; if you have heard of the place, I am guessing you were born in the 90s. There were some paintings in the front room by Andrew Young, and while polite convention would lend to comments like “technically good” and “new figurative,” the bulk of action stayed in the backroom by the kegs and DJ. In some ways, the work was primarily conservative compositions of the young and jaded, so a nice parallel was drawn from the room in the front to the room in the back, but I don’t know if that was intentional.
I had been having a conversation in the back room of another gallery earlier that night, chatting with new and old acquaintances at grunt gallery that also seemed oblivious to the show in the front space. Christoph Runné’s video installation maybe did not warrant any impassioned discussions, but a good chat was had about the tight parameters of critical discourse in Vancouver. I was told a possibly true story about others in accountable positions who were a bit too vocal of dis-satisfactions. They were scolded by members of the higher echelons to stop this impolite behavior, who were only trying to help the misguided young person. I believe the moral of the story was that Vancouver isn’t critiqued enough.
Earlier down the street, Ian Wallace appears for the second time with his new solo showing, Masculin/Féminin, at Catriona Jeffries. In comparison, his collaboration with Neil Wedman at Surrey looked really interesting, and if you have seen both, you will know what I mean. Wallace has more than proved himself to be an important figure to Vancouver’s art history, but this new work came off as derivative of successful Wallace’s from times past, and I am disappointed.
Image credit: Ian Wallace, from series Masculin/Féminin
And the night that never seemed to end started at CAG for a talk/response to Corin Sworn’s Endless Renovation by Nancy Gillespie. Gillespie’s advertised credentials caught my attention, as they were relating to past doctoral research on some of my favorite writers that shattered the limits of English poetics such as Djuna Barnes and Mina Loy. But beware of credentials. Endless Renovation may currently exist as an installation, but the work began as a performance of Sworn’s now-recorded disjunctive monologue. Having traveled from warm receptions at Glasgow International and TATE Modern, the majority of discussions relating to Endless Renovation have been focused primarily on the visual references in how we construct and construe meaning, and no exceptions were made at the CAG as Gillespie also sidestepped any poetics analysis in favour of New Lacanian readings. In my humble opinion, New Lacanian theories exists only to postulate Old Lacanian theories as still relevant. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned in desiring a discussion of literary strategies employed throughout Sworn’s text, but hey, New Criticism is still younger than Old Lacanian theory.
And at the beginning of it all, I started the exercise with energy on Wednesday at UBC. I wrote a full account that can be read here.