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“Sundogs”: The Idea of North

For most, thoughts of northern life carry an exotic appeal. From historical accounts of polar exploration to popular portrayals of native life to modern vacations in luxury ice hotels, the arctic landscape provides seemingly limitless possibilities for the southern imagination. Of course, living in northern latitudes is often determined by less romantic extremes: isolation, endurance, climate and the crucial importance of community. It is in these common realities that circumpolar cultures find shared ground.

“Sundogs” makes an interesting case study of this global idea of north. For the exhibition, curator David Diviney has gathered a group of six Icelandic artists—Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir, Erling TV Klingenberg, Hekla Dögg Jónsdóttir, Pall Banine, Ragnar Kjartansson and Sirra Sigrun Sigurdardottir—whose work explores, as he calls it, “the theatre of the commonplace…within an increasingly global community.” With art that runs the gamut from video to installation to photography, “Sundogs” is infused with a wry sense of humour and magic realism reminiscent of the fantastic visions of fellow Icelanders Björk and Olafur Eliasson. Still, there’s a lingering sense that the defining uniqueness of the work owes much to the fact that it comes from a close-knit art community at work slightly north of European and North American cultural borders. So is it the volcanic landscape, the quality of northern light or the island-state remove? Maybe you have to truly be a northerner to figure it all out. (815 1st St SW, Calgary AB)

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