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Winnipeg
Luther Konadu
Logan MacDonald at aceartinc.
May 09, 2018

The landscape photography of North America has historically been about showing what is present: abundant natural resources and pristine, seemingly vacant, land up for grabs. It also does well in depicting what is not there: Indigenous inhabitants. This truncated view is continuously re-pictured and advertised. Photography becomes a screen onto which romantic projections of the “empty” landscape are layered. In doing so, representations of the land become an act of concealing what it leaves out.



Logan MacDonald

In The Lay of the Land, his solo exhibition at aceartinc., Logan MacDonald inserts himself into the conventions of landscape photography and in the process meanders contrary to that tradition. Sourcing from his own amalgamated pool of images and found objects collected from time spent traveling and actively engaging in a spectrum of Indigenous communities across Canada, MacDonald re-presents an intimate archive that intervenes with deceptively sublime stock images of the Canadian landscape that have long been circulated in collective archives. This collective archive (in the Foucaultian sense) is the authoritative one that governs what is allowed to be said and what is generally accepted as the truth and of value. The collective archive is also an ambient one that seems to float around everywhere, but is intangible at the same time. It collects what we all see and become used to, so much so it holds firmly our assumptions and discernments.

It is through this dominant context that MacDonald presents a set of personal concerns. As a means of sussing out his own complicated Indigeneity, being white-presenting and raised in settler Newfoundland, he offers an interwoven spatial collage of sculptural photos, paintings, drawings, and found objects. All together, they resist any snappy overarching storyline the viewer might try to frame.



Logan MacDonald

As visitors enter the gallery they are first met with three photo panels atop concrete blocks. All three depict the ground from different locations; one panel has NATIVE LAND written in all caps. What follows are a series of towering armatures holding up patchwork photos that drape onto the floor. They were taken at sites across the country. Printed on paper, fabric, and panel, in a variety of sizes, the photographs readily assert their materiality, often breaking their illusory smooth surface. The way they are displayed keeps you from being sucked into the images they contain. Instead, we are made aware of the gridded seams that hold the photos together and the threads that make up the fabric photo. Any pretence to representation is dissolved; instead, a suggestion of something uncertain within the photo is merely highlighted.

A pile of earplugs in the corner of the gallery, Félix González-Torres-style, references MacDonald’s own queer identity, which like his indigenous identity is a point of contention and deciphering. A painting of the artist holding his status card is another vested gesture of recording and decoding the politics entangled within his identities. Elsewhere in the installation, we see photos with their reflected doubles implicating one to pause and look again with sustained contemplation. Scattered through the exhibition are a number of brazen DIY signpost-like photo-sculptures that also depict the ground – this time with the shadow of a figure (likely MacDonald’s) or his feet on the ground. More references and images of collected signage are laid on a bed-like platform that includes a diaristic motley of objects and other juxtaposed detritus. The majority of this signage marks and names the land or territory they stand on. This is a way some the communities MacDonald visited protect the integrity of their land and cultural identity.

Macdonald walks a tightrope through his own self-examination. There’s an underlying push-pull in how he measures the parts of his identity that for him are conflicting and uneasy to parse. There’s barely any presence of a figure in these images. The few glimmers are impressionistic and unresolved. Macdonald enters the landscape with a critical distance, knowing very well the testy implications of doing so. But for him, there doesn’t seem to be an option to look the other way. “If I do that,” he asked in the exhibition walkthrough, “does it mean colonialism wins?” As a photographer, Macdonald is not a passive witness to the land. He is intimately tangled in the images he is constructing and cognizant of photography’s tendency to subjugate its subject. Above all, his montages and fragmented assemblages rupture a clean visual whole or an essentialized narrative. Instead, they present an elastic viewing and reading of space.


Logan MacDonald: The Lay of the Land closed on May 4.
aceartinc.: https://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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