CONTEMPORARY CALGARY March 16 to July 30
This three-part exhibition looks at the role of monuments, public art and city planning in developing national identity. Here, one of the curators explains the ideas that have influenced the shows.
NATE MCLEOD: The first component of the exhibition, “When Form Becomes Attitude,” asks about the political life of buildings, monuments or historic markers, to consider their roles in constructing cities, nations and ideologies— and how they can serve as architectural or materialized devices of resistance, performance and subversion. Curated by Noa Bronstein and featuring artworks by Maria Flawia Litwin, Bear Witness, Kotama Bouabane, Morehshin Allahyari, Christian Jankowski, Isabelle Hayeur and Shelagh Keeley, it reflects on the negotiated intersections of design and power in which monuments are materialized. These artists resist the kind of one-to-one, unidirectional relationship that we might think monuments have to a specific history. Instead, this project makes clear that monuments tell us more about contemporary conditions rather than any one history. Even though the idea is to memorialize through monuments, these objects, buildings or sites often tell us more about what we are willing to forget.
In Jankowski’s Heavy Weight History (2013), the artist follows and films a number of Polish weight lifters he hired to go around Warsaw attempting— and mostly failing—to lift historic sculptural monuments. He took footage of these actions, then, in his presentation, mimicked something you’d see on television, in a parody of broadcasted sports programming. The monuments mostly can’t be lifted, making them all the more unsettling.
Allahyari references artifacts destroyed by ISIS in 2015 and fabricates them in 3-D printed renderings. Each of the sculptures in this work, Material Speculation: ISIS, contains a flash drive with images, maps and pertinent information about each artifact and where it came from.
“Research Station”, the second component, is curated by Lisa Baldissera and myself, and will feature existing and research-based work by Calgary artist Mark Clintberg and London, UK, artist Nils Norman, respectively, as they each develop new projects for the Centennial Planetarium (the future home of Contemporary Calgary). The third component, ”Architecture and National Identity,” is curated by architectural scholars Colin Ripley and Marco Polo, and looks at 21 projects that were developed in celebration of Canada’s centennial in 1967 (one of which is the Centennial Planetarium). It will be circulated by Confederation Centre of the Arts, and opens on May 4.
Kotama Bouabane NYC, China COURTESY ERIN STUMP PROJECTS 2011