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Winnipeg
Luther Konadu
Charlene Vickers at aceartinc.
November 01, 2017

Abstraction is a way to make audiences work a little bit harder. It is a way for an artist to own their agency and deny specificity for a more buoyant and sophisticated representation of a discursive self. For Charlene Vickersaceartinc. exhibition Accumulation Of Moments Spent Under Water With The Sun And Moon, abstraction is a language that comes from the body – a body rooted within specific histories and cultural traditions. Here, Vickers highlights these histories and traditions through her choice of material, with performative application of paint, and by leaving her resonance on the surface as a way of being present in abstraction.



Charlene Vickers, opening night performance

Gallery visitors who missed Vicker’s two opening night performances can see props and the remains of her activities. These traces are also intoned on her suite of watercolour and gouache abstract paintings, beaded moccasins, and felt ovoid embroidery. The props include arm-length cardboard megaphones that she uses as a tool for sight, amplification, and hearing. During her performance, she stomped in rhythmic patterns as she moved around the gallery and stared through the megaphone as though the audience were spectators witnessing her presence from afar. Her voice reverberated as she spoke through the megaphone, bringing to mind Rebecca Belmore's Ayum-ee-aawach Oomama-mowan: Speaking to their Mother.

The second half of her performance saw her fiddling with a synthesizer pad while two-channel footage was partially projected onto her. In one of the videos Vickers holds a sign that reads: OCCUPY ANISHINABE PARK 1974. It’s a reference to the contentious 1974 occupation of Anicinabe Park, a territory of the Ojibway Nation that is near the artist’s place of birth. This is juxtaposed with what looks like a home video of Vickers taking part in a band practice. The music gets louder as she layers up a live, reverb-drenched ambient soundscape that gradually envelops the gallery. Her languid voice enters into the mix, it rises above the surrounding sound textures and, in the end, you are transported.

Like the sweeping wordless vocals that filled the gallery, Vickers uses formal cues throughout her colorful and rhythmically patterned paintings that read like an ever-unfolding kaleidoscope. Her embroidered felt ovoids echo the colour-filled painted surfaces. The patterns allude to life by the sea – a nod to Coast Salish peoples on whose territory she has resided for the last two decades.



Charlene Vickers, installation view

At the center of the gallery floor is a circle of beaded moccasins stitched out of cardboard beer boxes and made in the size of the artist’s feet. This gesture points to the infliction of consumerist goods on cultural traditions. Across from the circle is a shelf lined with carefully folded blanket-like cloths with more of the beaded moccasins stacked atop and, for the first time in the show, we get direct hints into Vickers’ inner thoughts through a series of text beadings. We see phrases like: PAID LESS, CONSUMER TIPS, NATIVE WOMAN SEEKS ARTISTIC EMPLOYMENT, and THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT. She is addressing the commodification of her heritage and the social disparities she experiences as an Indigenous person and as a woman.

With the assorted collection of work in this show, Vickers signals the ability for Anishinaabe cultural production to be interdisciplinary. The artworks here move back and forth between sound, visual and performative traditions allowing for an expansive way to think about at what an abstract practice could be and how the body can present itself therein.


Charlene Vickers: Accumulation Of Moments Spent Under Water With The Sun And Moon continues until November 24.
aceartinc.: http://www.aceart.org/
The gallery is not accessible.


Luther Konadu makes things such as photographs, paintings, and prints which he occasionally calls art. He self-describes as a transcriber. He contributes content to a publication called Public Parking. Most days his favourite colour is green and one of his goals in life is to never be an art brat. He is Akimblog’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed on Instagram @public_parking.

 

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