Canadian Art

See It

When the Mood Strikes Us: Altered States

PLATFORM, Winnipeg Sep 12 to Oct 24 2008
Colleen Wolstenholme  <I>Pill Mandala</I>  1999 Colleen Wolstenholme Pill Mandala 1999

Colleen Wolstenholme <I>Pill Mandala</I> 1999

From impressionist predilections for absinthe and surrealist experiments with hallucinogens to Warhol’s mind-altering Factory parties, narcotics have long been affiliated with the “bad boy” lifestyles of avant-garde artists. Drugs not only promise a transcendental state that art aspires to, but also offer the cachet of connections to marginalized subcultures.

The contemporary shift towards medicalizing certain drugs and commercializing others has changed our relationship to these substances, however; on television, ads for pharmaceuticals offering miracle cures with vague, disturbing side effects are as ubiquitous as car commercials.

Now, a new group exhibition at Winnipeg’s PLATFORM explores how these shifts in drug culture have changed the way artists represent “the poetics and politics of narcotics.” “When the Mood Strikes Us…” is the first exhibition organized by director J.J. Kegan McFadden, and it brings together recent works by six Canadian artists that investigate our ongoing search for escape through pharmaceuticals.

Imprinting corporate logos sourced from the Internet onto giant pill sculptures scattered across the room, Colleen Wolstenholme’s SPILL installation makes the prevalence of prescription drugs physical. Accompanied by her Pill Mandala photo series of medications arranged into fanciful patterns, Wolstenholme’s wry appropriations call up the over-prescription of antidepressants.

Vancouver/Berlin-based artist Jeremy Shaw’s One Single Hit White Clinical Acid (after Malevich, for Optimists) offers a minimalist depiction of a quarter-inch square of blotter acid referencing the search for a sublime experience that has preoccupied both artists and youth subcultures throughout the 20th century.

Meanwhile, Abbas Akhavan and Marina Roy’s collaborative video installation Victoria Day (Bombay Sapphire) invites the viewer to join in their West Coast–inspired drinking party, providing a flop mattress in a simulated field of grass where one can contemplate culturally acceptable forms of self-medication. Taken together, along with works by Winnipeg artists Paul Butler and Larry Glawson, the projects in “When the Mood Strikes Us…” offer a multifaceted perspective on continuing interests in achieving both chemically and artistically induced altered states. (121-100 Arthur St, Winnipeg MB)

This article was first published online on September 18, 2008.


  • Swarm: Creating an Art-centric Buzz

    Kids have the first week of school to viscerally remind them that fall has begun. Similar—but decidedly more fun—for Vancouver artists is the Swarm festival, Lotusland’s annual celebration of artist-run culture, held at the beginning of September since 1999.



[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