I’ve been watching Window, a Winnipeg artist-run centre, since it opened up in 2012, which is the same year I left the city. Occupying one window of the large Artspace building in Winnipeg’s historic Exchange District, Window installed one project a month in 2016, before switching to a bimonthly schedule in 2017. The space lacks signage or context, and interacts with the streetscape in a lively, confrontational way that few spaces in Winnipeg do. Following from afar and visiting occasionally, I’ve added it to the list of Winnipeg things that give me mild expat envy: the bars I can’t name, new restaurants I don’t know, the exciting art scene I’m not part of anymore.
Measuring six-by-six feet, Window is at streetlevel, on the downtown corner of Bannatyne Avenue and Arthur Street. The physical space and location is important; here, Mark Clintberg’s 2016 installation Entrance Lower Level advertised a fictional gay club called “Détournement,” and directed people to the club’s non-existent entrance (“lower level, south-east side.”). It actively engaged with passers-by in the borderline-mean way an art project can when its function goes unnamed. Presumably there were people who took the signage at face value, especially considering a well-known gay club in the neighbourhood, Gio’s, had recently closed after 31 years. Window’s integration into the downtown landscape forces people to question and interact with it. When highlighting the structures and cracks of the city, the monthly installations have often been a poignant comment on Winnipeg itself.
Theoretically, at least. I stood in front of Window on a frigid December evening. Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” played from a nearby restaurant, a reminder that despite the desolate street, there was life inside the surrounding buildings. Eventually someone walked by. Likely confused by the presence of a person standing in minus-31-degree wind chill, she stopped to look at Hannah Doucet’s I Never Recognized Her Except in Fragments. “What’s this?” she asked me. “It’s Winnipeg’s only 24-hour artist-run centre,” I said, parroting Window’s tagline. She glanced again and kept going. —KAARI SINNAEVE
Mark Clintberg Entrance Lower Level 2016 Gold adhesive vinyl on glass 1.42 x 1.42 m COURTESY PIERRE-FRANÇOIS OUELLETTE ART CONTEMPORAIN PHOTO KAREN ASHER