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CONTACT 2009: Still Revolutionizing Photography

The theme of this year’s CONTACT photography festival, “Still Revolution,” functions as a subtle double entendre: not only does it conjure photography’s capacity to arrest a revolutionary moment on paper, but it also points to the medium’s ongoing potency as a tool for radical social and political change. With over a thousand artists participating in this year’s edition, the festival is bound to revamp the visual landscape of the city for dedicated gallery-goers and wandering pedestrians alike.

The feature exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, “Still Revolution: Suspended in Time,” offers a historical overview to the festival theme by showcasing works—including Stan Douglas’ seamless restaging of Vancouver riots and Martha Rosler’s collaged supermodels catwalking their way through modern warfare—that look back to “the revolutionary foundations of photography.” Meanwhile, Gallery TPW’s group exhibition “In May (After October)” likewise mines the past by investigating the political potential of aesthetic refusal as inspired by Russia’s October 1917 revolution and France’s May 1968 student protests.

Gentler meditations on change are also on view in shows like “awashawave,” an alliteratively titled exhibition at the Blackwood Gallery that examines the notion of being flooded or inundated by images in the work of Canadian art luminaries like Diane Landry, Michael Snow and Kelly Wood. Pristine representations of strange, claustrophobic, modern interiors by Grange Prize nominee Lynne Cohen also promise to provoke reflections on the corporate revolution of space at Olga Korper Gallery.

Finally, in a bid to bring photographic revolution “to the streets,” CONTACT also features a series of outdoor installations. Montreal artist Gwenaël Bélanger brings a Wizard of Oz-like tornado of household objects to the MOCCA courtyard, for instance, while the Toronto Transit Commission’s Onestop network of LCD screens on subway platforms will be creatively hijacked for installations about hope, progress and change as envisioned by Fastwürms, Mark Clintberg and others for “What’s Your Revolution?” Taken together, these image-based interventions with political aspirations aim to radicalize one of our most ubiquitous mediums.

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