Contested Sites: urban art at the FOFA
Christopher Moore joined forces with Concordia Faculty of Fine Arts gallery director Jake Moore to organize the exhibition and event series Contested Site: Archives and the City, which opens tonight. The idea began while Christopher was on the programming committee for the Universities Art Association of Canada conference, to be held at Concordia this week. It became clear a large body of relevant art work needed to be shown alongside the conference, but in a less academic setting. Luckily, the FOFA gallery was close by.
Contested Site brings together over two dozen artists, groups, collectives and researchers who are, or once were, associated with the faculty of fine arts, and whose work addresses two recurring themes in the papers submitted to the conference: archives and the city. “The idea was to extend the conference programming and to have a complimentary exhibition that could address some crossover issues between the two,” Christopher says. There are three parts to the show: an art exhibition, a resource center and a series of CAHiERS, publications created specifically for the project.
In the gallery, covering the east wall, are the colour photographs, in various sizes, of Celia Perrin Sidarous’ The Book of Things. “What struck me about this project,” Jake says of Sidarous’ delicately rendered still-lifes of body parts, objects and sites, “was she’s also been developing all these unique taxonomies about how to organize these works, [to engage] with the idea of archiving personal reference points. The photograph clearly lends itself to this idea of the archive, and it’s been so tied to information since its origin.”
Spread out over another wall, Shauna Janssen has created a diagram connecting all of the artistic projects she has helped to organise. Also displayed are Douglass Moffat’s two haphazardly assembled hybrids of hand-held lawn trimmers, altered easels, trolleys, voice recorders and video cameras, contraptions he designed to record his sound walks in Vienna and Montreal. A video by Andrew de Freitas follows a young couple on their walking journey through a vacant, futuristic Griffontown inhabited by random horses. Just outside the gallery are Thomas Kneubühler’s large, night-time photographs of bleak city buildings, their dismal, neon-lit windows in endless, skeletal rows.
There are also many extensions to the show, each in its own way dealing with memory, place and archive, particularly in relation to the city. Among them are a performance by Mélanie Binette in the EV building stairwell, a reading group hosted by Emmelyne Pornillos and Candice Tarnowski and a panel discussion, “Contesting Research-Creation: Challenges in and to Institutionalizing Creativity,” facilitated by Florencia Marchetti.
The resource center gathers much of the research material that served to create the exhibition’s works. You can look through books, diagrams, photos and preliminary sketches. “It kind of extends the work temporally. So you have your first interaction with what exists in the gallery, and then you can go forwards or backwards depending on what access points are available in the resource center,” Christopher explains. There is also a computer set up in there with an online site about the exhibition, which links to other sites, in turn linking it “out to individual project sites so that it’s a continual expansion.”
Contested Site is a fine prick to the intellect, an aesthetic constellation that branches out into geography, history, documentation, space and activism, finally bringing everything back to the gallery’s own contested site. “Its about points of contact,” Jake says. “We are not talking about some sort of labyrinthine impossibility, we are talking about a relational action, that things are in response to one another. And depending on what moment in time you come across something, you are going to have a very distinct experience… and to know that it’s that complex and it’s entirely simple.” ■
Contested Site is on through Nov. 16 at Concordia’s FOFA gallery (1515 Ste-Catherine W., EV 1-715). Vernissage Nov. 1, 7 p.m.