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Winnipeg
Luther Konadu
2017 Critic's Picks
December 13, 2017

In a year of women’s marches, solar eclipses, fake news, “celebrations” of Canada’s 150th anniversary of settler colonialism, Documenta, Venice, Skulptur Projekte, and other cultural spectacles, I was in mostly in Winnipeg savoring the city’s somewhat in-flux of the arts. Whenever December rolls around every year, it always feels like the last eleven months flew right past me. But as I comb through and take inventory of the highs and lows, I start to realize how long 365 days really is. This time around though, being in Winnipeg felt like an adequate supplement to my otherwise mainly URL arts and cultural consumption.

Often times, you do feel the drought in on-goings around the city; however, as I began to backtrack, it became harder to pick only three highpoints. So before I give my top picks, here are my honorable mentions: first, seeing my roommate’s face when we went to visit Fred Sandback’s overwhelmingly spare yarn works at Plug In ICA; later in the summer at the same place seeing Chris Kraus read an excerpt of her book on Kathy Acker months before it was published; getting to shake Ann Hamilton’s hands after her talk at the WAG; reading Steven Leyden Cochrane’s profile in Canadian Art; being giddy about Divya Mehra’s Sobey nomination; seeing Rebecca Belmore’s work at Platform; walking past Walter Scott’s Blinky is Reading vinyl installation all summer; seeing WUFF take off; Tau Lewis’ talk and Maya Ben David’s performance lecture at Plug In ICA; later in the fall, at the same place, being surrounded by the unyielding works of Lori Blondeau, Rebecca Horn, Ana Mendieta, Xaviera Simmons, and Maria Hupfield (to name a few) as part of Entering the Landscape; hearing AK Burns at Plug In ICA talk about her world-building ambitions; seeing Lisa Kehler Art + Projects end their conventional gallery run for a more looser ad hoc alternative; Ming Hon’s incredible Hotel Room performance at Forth Projects/Wall-to-Wall; witnessing Patrick Cruz’s performative walk-through in Tagalog or rather Taglish as he later described it and thinking about a future where other languages interrupt the predominately English (or French) art spaces; listening to FASTWÜRMS talk two hours as they chronicled their amassed poly-directional work; and lastly, being increasingly assured by the vibrant work Winnipeg’s emerging artists like Mariana Muñoz Gomez, Hannah Doucet, Kristin Flattery, John Patterson, and Katrina Mendoza are respectively asserting.


 
Pablo Bronstein (co-choreographed by Rosalie Wahlfrid), Peony Unfurling at Various Speed in Shopping Mall

For the first top pick, I almost reflexively jumped onto Plug In ICA’s performance and sculpture-centered inaugural Biennale: STAGES: Drawing the Curtain. (Full disclosure: I worked at the gallery for two months this year.) It resonates because it allowed me to move through the city and be pleasantly surprised by the criticality and form the various interventions had in public spaces. From intention to execution STAGES seemed effortless. It illustrated that the conventional gallery space isn’t sufficient for contemporary art today and that ideas can flourish in public space. From Ron Tram to Federico Herrero to Pablo Bronstein to Krista Belle Stewart to Erica Eyres to Kara Hamilton to Abbas Akhavan to Toril Johannessen to Divya Mehra, all nine participants understood the idea of the “stage” from diverging and considered points of contacts illuminating the various sites they situated as stages. My personal high marks included Johannessen’s immersive audio play, Bronstein’s baroque-leaning court gesturing number, and Stewart’s transporting performance with Jeneen Frei Njootli and violinist Laura Ortman, which took place in the basement at the Hudson’s Bay.

Next on my list is Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Insurgence/Resurgence. After what seemed like a continuously arid stream of showings by the gallery, this exhibition was a much needed and long awaited change as it presented audiences with an eclectic group of Indigenous voices asserting culturally and politically critical conversations through their various practices. The curation by Jamie Isaac and Julie Nagam brought forward works by emerging and established creatives like Amy Malbeuf, Dayna Danger, Kenneth Lavallee, Joseph Tisiga, Ts̲ēma Igharas, KC Adams, Ursula Johnson, Casey Koyczan, and Duane and Tanya Linklater, just to name a few. Some of my personal favourites included Frank Shebageget’s exquisitely pulsating sculptural work and Joi T Arcand’s neon language-based work that washes the gallery floors with its luminance.

Lastly, I discovered artist book library and shop Also As Well Too accidentally earlier in summer when they launched Frank Livingston’s book Journal: A Field Guide of Metropolitan Discovery. The nomadic artist’s bookshop, which had its humble beginnings in the living room of founder Alexis Kinloch, revived its way into a new spacious location with a plethora of artist’s books and additional one-off programs. This gem of a find not only expanded my peripheral grasp of these portable art objects, but it was nice to know that outside conventional spaces for exhibition, there was a place in the city championing alternate ways one can intimately be engaged in any piece of artwork.

If any of the cultural contributions and people I’ve name-dropped is any indication, then I’ll conclude by saying 2017 was above average for Winnipeg’s art scene. Let’s cross our fingers and hope it’s a signal toward an even more formidable 2018.


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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