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Imitation of Life

Imitation of Life

Lois Andison, Daniel Barrow, Kota Ezawa, Adad Hannah, Faith La Rocque, Lorna Mills, Allison Schulnik, Skawennati

Opening Reception February 13, 2016 at 8 PM
Reception sponsored by KPMG

Curated by Crystal Mowry

A strategy… A reconsidered history… A performed narrative… To stir… To give motion… To quicken… To come alive…

With films such as Ex Machina and the trippy images of Google AI “dreaming”, both released last year, it would seem that anxiety around sentience is definitely in the air. Seeing as we can build our own archives of images, broadcast our experiences, earn incomes and even protest with a single device, it’s no wonder that to be flesh can seem quaint these days.

Imitation of Life takes myriad definitions of “animate” as its point of departure. It may be used to describe actions as diverse as giving motion to still forms or the enthusiastic performance of a narrative. At its core is a meaning that is both complex and inspiring: to make something come alive. The works in this exhibition employ a range of strategies and technologies that simulate living. From appropriated systems and software to existential cartoons, from still photos that carefully re-imagine locomotion to kinetic and intangible sculpture which prompts rumination on the nature of entropy in human life.

For artists such as Skawennati and Kota Ezawa, animation becomes a strategy for creating a parallel world informed by historical events. Skawennati’s episodic TimeTraveller™ follows a fictional Mohawk man named Hunter as he travels through history with the aid of an “edutainment” console. With a similar attentiveness to the past, Ezawa mines a collective history to re-animate moments from the twentieth century. His three-channel video work entitled Lennon Sontag Beuys illuminates the tension that exists between an effort to capture likeness and the shortcomings of memory.

Speculative propositions for locomotion and sentience can be found in new works made for this exhibition by Adad Hannah and Faith La Rocque. Hannah’s James (standing long jump after Muybridge) is rendered as a sequence of 12 images wherein feature-less bodies serve as an apparatus for the movement of a single actor. The possibility of unconventional intelligence surfaces in the interventions of Faith La Rocque. By introducing reactionary plants and synthetic hormones into the gallery space, La Rocque courts immateriality to both absurd and poetic ends.

In recent years, an understanding of what constitutes life has become increasingly nuanced. An emphasis on quality, authenticity, and autonomy has demonstrated that the terms of life are far from a simplistic alive-or-dead binary. Cloning, artificial intelligence (AI), and services like Death Switch that offer post mortem communications make it possible to “participate” in the world after we die. A framework for living that was previously predicated on biology is being redefined and renegotiated by technology. It is within this context that the works in this exhibition invite us to consider how philosophy is key to the creation of alternative options for existence.

Imitation of Life is organized by the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery.  Funding assistance from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the City of Lethbridge, Musagetes Fund held at the Kitchener-Waterloo Community Foundation, Allan MacKay Curatorial Endowment Fund, established by the Musagetes Arts and Culture Fund, and Christie Digital.  We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.

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