Daniel Bowden, Hanna Claus, Angela Inglis, Grant McConnell, Sally McKay, Alison Norlen, Steve Venright

Curated by: Mary Anne Barkhouse & Reid Diamond

1 April 1999 - 8 May 1999
Opening Reception 1 April 1999 8pm

Main Gallery:

Faking History

Nobody ever suggests that there was anything
interesting going on before our planet came along,
just a lot of solids and liquids, a lot of heating and
cooling and spinning around, and a lot of splitting
and rejoining of things.

– Sally McKay, How it all Began…

SCIENTISTS have recently discovered that, technically, Pluto no longer meets the qualifications for being a planet, and that it is, in all probability, a rotating sphere of ice. Astronomers are split ion the question of whether or not to strip the celestial body of it’s title as farthest planet from the Sun. A vote amongst the scientific community is being considered to define Pluto’s current status. This is an example of viewing history as a field of motion, the object being not to dismiss historical claims, but to build upon, or add to existing information. In this way, the historical never stops. Like the starlight which reaches us some seventy years after its initial projection, history is forever arriving. For Faking History, we have selected works in which each artist has adopted a notion of history as an intrinsic element in the process of construction. In the age of immediacy and high cultural turnover, how is the concept of history being addressed?

But maybe before planet earth there were a billion planets just like it, with dinosaurs and cavemen and plankton and TV. Maybe the universe operates just the same as everything else. – Sally McKay

Sally McKay’s visual presentation Giant Animals with accompanying leaflet How it all Began… offers a re-jig of conventional thought of evolutionary history. Avoiding the fantasia of Star Trek and time travel, McKay suggests that it may be arrogant to think we’re not existing within our own little pools.

We have rocket ships and nuclear missiles, pets, breakfast cereals, marketing and desktop publishing. We have Walt Disney and simulacra, famines, wars and a hole in the ozone layer. We have natural fibres, fossil fuels and art museums, sci-fi encyclopedias, and much much more.– Sally McKay

While McKay adopts the simple language and imagery found in grade school history books, her view is deceivingly complex. Like a strand of DNA, the information within reaches beyond its formal constraints.

On viewing Daniel Bowden’s video installation A2K, the impression is given that we are standing on the Earth at an undefined moment in time. The evening stars move forward over a barren landscape, giving the illusion of the globe spinning faster than its normal revolution. It’s not when but where that is most evoked; the realization that we, individually are the point of contact between past and future. A soundtrack of chirping crickets heightens the drama, a suggestion of a shared community of sentient and (supposedly) non-sentient beings.

Alison Norlen’s window installation Pinball VIIIis a continuation in her series of large scale drawings that are concerned with the machinations of history. Annexing the pinball machine’s standard thematic presentation of an environment for play, Norlen re-tools the table, offering lateral views of the social utopias that are presented to us for consumption. For this new work, Norlen presents imagery of the Yukon, mapping out the territory between Whitehorse and Dawson City. A landscape is littered with decades-old, abandoned gold digging dredges, some standing three stories high, testimonies to both a history and a future of hype, hysteria, hope and hardship. Meanwhile, a Yukon showgirl spins and dances throughout.

Grant McConnell’s approach to depicted history is to use it to pose questions. What if, as in his painting Speaker’s Chair, the centre of power in the House of Commons was at one time moved from town to town? McConnell questions our insistent use of precedent to validate current structures and, in doing so, helps to redistribute our notion of the myth of centralized political entities.

Hannah Claus shares a similar view of cultural antecedents. The doily, a symbol of domestic propriety, is accessed as a representation of a new cultural presence. Using its imprint in four panels of encaustic and beeswax materials, Les Plaies suggests that the story of the doily is not yet over. Likewise, in her beaded works traditional Iroquoian narratives take on a personal context. Her internalization of old stories and formats results in a reinvigoration of vocabulary, one that speaks to issues surrounding the rights of the individual to self-representation and evolution within the mega-datastream of historical context.

Angela Inglis’ the how and why library consists of a volume of aged instructional books that have been mulched, glazed and re-presented on the wall as an altered physical form. The books become a different kind of storehouse of knowledge. Inglis’ re-coding of the texts becomes a stand-in for our own selves as the ultimate manifestations of accumulated information. As we interact with the world, we express our knowledge through our actions, activities and representations. We are what we know, the same way that we hold onto books we may never read, there are stories we may never get to tell.

The good news is that Jesus has returned. The bad news is that he’s brought his family. The result is that nothing will ever be the same again (not that it ever was).

– Steve Venright, The Long And The Short Of It

Steve Venright’s bookwork The Long And The Short Of It starts with his own interpretation of one of the grandest of narratives, but rather than taking an ironic stance, the voice of a confidant is imparted.

The good news is that the earth is round (or roundish anyway)… The bad news is that it’s floating in space. The result is that we’re going to have to think fast.
While Venright baits us and tosses us back, it isn’t out of a sense of playing with us but, rather, of us playing together. Venright also presents a series of veriegraphs, visual works that invite a sense of (I) futalgia, a stylized remembrance of what the future was once rendered to be. While the works are reminiscent of a scene in the film (I)2001: A Space Odyssey, in which we are propelled in a spacecraft through acid tripping colours into the future, the origins of these modified laser prints are more primal: they are finger paintings. For his last stanza, Venright leaves us, with no pull back:

The good news is that Art is long. The bad news is that Life is short. The result is that you should invest in Art while you’re still alive.

While these artists temporarily turn the lights out on standard notions of history, our eyes adjust to the dark. Wherever you are standing on the Earth is how the stars will appear tonight. There’s no stopping history now.

– Mary Anne Barkhouse & Reid Diamond

Daniel Bowden is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design. He has lived in London, England and New York City, but feels that the sun revolves around Toronto, where he lives beside a very nice park.

Hannah Claus is a mixed media artist and a recent graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design. She has exhibited in Toronto, Ottawa and New Brunswick. In 1997, she traveled to Madagascar as an artist participant in the Jeux de la Francophonie. Her work often examines cultural issues involving her colonial Canadian heritage and her family’s Mohawk past.

Angela Inglis born was in 1964 in Calgary, Alberta and has lived in various places throughout Canada and the U.S. She returned to Calgary in 1989; she graduated from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 1994. She is a co-founder of the Untitled Art Society, a studio collective in Calgary. Inglis has exhibited in Montreal, Toronto, Alberta and in Prague in July 1999. Inglis is represented by the Trepanier Baer Gallery in Calgary.

Sally McKay spent most of her childhood in rural southwestern Ontario. She received her BFA at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and moved to Toronto in 1991, where she continues to live and work as an artist, writer and transportation activist. She was co-editor of Lola and an active member of ARC (Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists).

Grant McConnell is a painter who lives in Saskatoon. He has exhibited across Canada and abroad, and teaches studio and art history at St. Peter’s College and through the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

Alison Norlen was born in Winnipeg in 1962. She received her B.F.A. Honours from the School of Art, University of Manitoba in 1987 and a M.F.A. from Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut in 1989. Norlen has participated in numerous exhibitions in Canada and elsewhere. She currently teaches at the School of Art, University of Manitoba.

Steve Venright lives in Toronto, and is the author of four books of short prose, including Straunge Wunder[sic], Tortoiseshell and Black, 1996 and the forthcoming Spiral Agitator(Coach House Books, 1999). He is the founder of Torpor Vigil Industries, a vulgar attempt to transform life on earth and trigger the rapture.

Mary Anne Barkhouse was born in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her father was in the R.C.M.P. and her mother is a member of the Kwakiutl First Nation, giving her a unique perspective on history and current affairs. Barkhouse is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design and has exhibited her work across North America. She currently lives with two terriers in Minden, Ontario.

Reid Diamond was born into an R.C.M.P. family and raised on the prairies. He escaped to Toronto in 1979, where he has been active musically with groups such as Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet and Phono-Comb. He is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design, and has exhibited his art throughout Canada and the United States.

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