Canadian Art

Steve Bates: On Memory’s Machines

Maison de la Culture Notre Dame-de-Grâce, Montreal Nov 10 2011 to Jan 22 2012
Steve Bates <em>Roadmovie</em> 2011 Detail © Steve Bates  Steve Bates Roadmovie 2011 Detail © Steve Bates

Steve Bates <em>Roadmovie</em> 2011 Detail © Steve Bates

The exhibition "For me the noise of time is not sad” presented two new sound- and video-based works by Steve Bates produced during a special residency co-hosted by Productions et Réalisations Indépendantes de Montréal and Dazibao. Though perceptually and structurally different, these pieces jointly stressed the theme of memory. They also continued Bates’ exploration of social forms—especially forms of communication—and how they shape our sensuous and conscious transactions with the landscape.

Bates’ hub-like projection and sound piece (also titled For me the noise of time is not sad) may be described as a digital and expanded slideshow. Three video projectors and two speakers placed low to the ground in the middle of the gallery carried the action. Sometimes there was only silence and the empty dark outlines cast by the idling projectors; but then, a speaker would emit a slowed-down recording of a camera shutter: Tr-clung! … Trr. Richly textured and highly detailed, these sounds were not “clicks” but abrupt, mechanical, spring-loaded rattlings. When quickly followed by a projection, they seemed to trigger the appearance of the image. The pictures were colourful snapshots of manicured natural scenes, mountain peaks and horizons; there were no portraits. These scenes flashed up so briefly (sometimes for a mere fraction of a second) and so randomly (they might appear on any of the three walls allotted) that they frustrated narrative expectations. They consistently caught you looking at the wrong spot—live training in listening’s pleasures and the frailties of sight.

Nearby, the poetic single-channel video Roadmovie documented Bates’ foray into the conventions of narrative cinema. Juxtaposing the artist’s thoughts on radio and territory with the story of a son’s drive across the continent to visit a grandfather suffering from Alzheimer’s, it encouraged free passage between the domains of memory and history. Fixed shots taken through the windshield of a car as it travelled down a night road evoked, in a minor key, the tremendous historical tax levied by single-point perspective on cultural imaginaries of the nation and the landscape. At the same time, intermittent cuts to a patchwork of greys and to curves on a road, experienced along with the surrounding darkness and the warm, crackling sound of radio frequencies, appealed to the limits of such visions. But like the nearby samplings of camera shutters, and like the stray field monitor discreetly screening an image of a satellite behind the viewer, these wayward signals appeared neither sad nor empty. Rather, they testified to something like the thought of alternative possibilities.

This article was first published online on March 15, 2012.


  • Steve Bates: On the Sound of Time

    Amid the many distractions of an information-saturated world, a quiet moment of reflection may seem rare, and even slightly disorienting. Artist Steve Bates (recently featured in the Quebec Triennial) taps this tension in new sound-and-video works showing in Montreal.

  • Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay: A Song of Myself

    The Montreal-born “artist, diarist and aspiring bon-vivant” Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay possesses a remarkable singing voice that he brings to his art-making. In a show of new work, he uses it to meditate on self, isolation and mirrored reflection.

  • Thomas Kneubühler: Electric Mountains

    Quebec ski slopes get the fine-art treatment in Montreal-based artist Thomas Kneubühler’s latest series, Electric Mountains. His documentation of the places where natural and artificial tendencies meet sparks fresh insights into landscape.



[an error occurred while processing this directive]


  • Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller: Black Birds

    New York critic Joseph R. Wolin heads to the Park Avenue Armory where Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller are creating a buzz (and other sounds) at the US premiere of a dark, nightmarish installation originally created for the 2008 Biennale of Sydney.

  • Grange Prize 2012: Hot Shots

    One of Canada’s largest cash-value art prizes—$65,000 in total with $50,000 going to the winner, $5,000 to three runners-up—announced its finalists this week. Take in their wide-ranging works in this slideshow.

  • Wanda Koop: Into the Woods

    A visit to Wanda Koop’s cabin near Riding Mountain National Park in southern Manitoba proves intriguing for Vancouver critic Robin Laurence. There, Laurence writes, Koop bridges old Grey Owl myths with a new series of paintings on our increasingly digital culture.

  • Brad Tinmouth: Survival Strategies

    The basement of an art gallery may seem an unlikely place to create an emergency shelter. However, Xpace's lower gallery is an ideal setting for Brad Tinmouth's “If Times Get Tough or Even If They Don't,” which evokes a cold-war bunker.

  • Wim Delvoye: Blame it on Paris

    Silk-covered pigs, lattice-cut car tires and a tattooed man are just a few of the works that Belgian artist Wim Delvoye has shuttled into the old, Gothic wing of the Louvre this summer. Jill Glessing reviews, finding a terrific amalgam of high and low.

More Online

Report a problem