1. Cabin Fever at Platform Centre for Photographic + Digital Arts
Chalk it up to synchronicity, but on the brink of an impending snowstorm, I ducked inside Artspace on my final day in Winnipeg and literally caught “Cabin Fever.” This exhibition at Platform posed a question: Is it feasible to satiate such undulating hunger derived from being nowhere by creating your own somewhere? As I had just spent a week attending a civically driven arts conference addressing that very same issue, the mystery of why artists stay in Winnipeg certainly seemed connected to more than just cheap rent. Curator J.J. Kegan McFadden successfully contextualized a mix of media and photo-based artists for a wholly meditative exhibition on how we as humans collectively deal with the inescapable sense of our own ennui. Highlights included the lacklustre denouements of Jon Sasaki’s older works, such as 24 lbs., and Deirdre Logue’s Rough Count, an ongoing installation of the artist multiplied across a monitor grid, spanning (and repeating) time and gesture as she counts confetti. “Cabin Fever” seemed all too apropos as a show that melded creation with circumstance and complicated boredom as both experience and inspiration.
I feel I ought to mention the new Art Gallery of Alberta, as the Randall Stout redesign did officially open on the last weekend of January 2010. But as I look through the year’s archive of articles, tweets and ticket stubs, waves of uncertainty, rather than fond memories, flood in. To trace it to opening night, there was an undeniable surge of energy as Alberta’s artistic community came together from all four corners of the province to get a glimpse of their new gallery. Here was a new space to bring in museum-standard shows like Degas and Goya. But apprehension was heavy as many wondered where local and provincial artists would fit in—if they still fit in at all. After that weekend, community members once again went back to their respective corners, but here’s hoping that future gallery programming (and not another building opening) will give everyone reason to come together again.
3. Shary Boyle: Flesh and Blood at the Art Gallery of Ontario
This fall, I trekked out to Toronto to hear Lucy Lippard speak on Eva Hesse, and while that was fully worthwhile, it’s Shary Boyle’s “Flesh and Blood” that continues to resonate. Curated by Louise Déry, the show will travel to Montreal and Vancouver next year, but it’s uncertain whether the AGO experience can be recreated. While there was an abundance of new work to marvel over, it was the contrast of Boyle’s porcelain figurines set against old masters from the AGO’s European collection that was entirely captivating. Astoundingly estranging—a feat considering the already estranging lineup—this warp and collapse of Western art history was a wholly surprising intervention, which, of course, is the best kind of intervention. And definitely specific to the AGO was the White Light peephole, or what a colleague and I discerned as the ultimate art-filled glory hole.
Amy Fung is an art critic based in central Canada and is the founder of prairieartsters.com.