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Toronto
Letticia Cosbert
I continue to shape at the Art Museum
September 19, 2018

Earlier this week, Jeremy Dutcher was awarded the 2018 Polaris Music Prize for his debut album Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa. After making his way to the stage, he showered his elders and community with congratulations and thanks in Wolastoqey before addressing the audience in English: “Canada! You are in the midst of [an] Indigenous renaissance. Are you ready–” hollering and applause interrupts “–to hear the truths that need to be told?” The room lulls. “Are you ready to see the things that need to be seen?” Dutcher nods, smiles ever so slightly, and in a lower voice says, “I think.” The speech continues, but these words are what remain with me as I consider the Art Museum’s I continue to shape, an exhibition that contemplates art’s ability to reanimate and reconstruct history, orienting it towards the future. But, as Dutcher says in not as many words, the future is now.



Lisa Myers, Strainer #1 and #2, 2018

There are many truths being told and things to be seen in I continue to shape. A clear standout is Lisa Myers’ work. Her hand-assembled vessels are located in the gallery’s large center room and form an oaken triptych. Strainer #1 and #2 are unsealed, halved, and partially filled with the residual ashes of the artist’s personal wood stove. Exploring new uses and, perhaps, redefining the misuse of materials, Myers has the ashes slowly slink between the joints of her barrel to leave behind slim sculptural piles, disjoined and ephemeral. Myers’ triumph continues in a rear room with straining and absorbing 1 through 5, short videos of her hands scraping what looks and sounds like blood (you will feel it in your teeth), but, innocently, are only blueberries. Behind these videos are the resulting not-quite-indigo, not-quite-violet clouds serigraphed onto paper.

Back in the gallery’s center room, Charlene Vickers and Maria Hupfield’s dazzling and ostentatious sculpture of construction paper, duct tape, felt, and buttons suspends from the ceiling. A ten-foot-long rejoinder to Rebecca Belmore’s monumental megaphone Ayum-ee-aawach Oomama-mowan: Speaking to Their Mother, Vickers and Hupfield dub theirs Jingles and Sounds for Speaking to our Grandmothers. Belmore’s piece was originally created as a response to the Oka Crisis and traveled to many First Nations communities, asking people to speak directly into it and, so, to the land. Vickers and Hupfield not only revise the scale, but embed imagined sound (jingles) into the sculpture itself, while looking back (and forwards?) to the generation of our grandmothers. Also notable is the significant shift from their to our. “Are you ready to hear the truths that need to be told?”



Nicholas Galanin, The Saved Man, 2012

In another rear room, Nicholas Galanin hacks away at a mask with his pickaxe (Unceremonial Dance Mask), attaches a guard to the blade, picks up the fallen shavings, and takes them back to a studio. He (re)assembles something different and amorphous (The Saved Man) as the audio of the mask’s original destruction loops in the background, affixing two parcels of horse hair to the top, before the two spontaneously appear and begin dancing before a fire in basketball shorts and a t-shirt. To witness the destruction of a mask feels surprisingly profane and its reconstitution is mesmerizing. “Are you ready to see the things that need to be seen?”

Through their works in I continue to shape, these artists are trying to tell us something about time, about history and the future, and about this present moment. You should listen. You should look.


I continue to shape continues until December 8.
Art Museum: https://artmuseum.utoronto.ca/
The gallery is accessible.


Letticia Cosbert is a Toronto based writer and editor, and is currently the Digital Content Coordinator at the Koffler Centre of the Arts. Letticia studied Classics, earning a B.A. from the University of Toronto, and an M.A. from Western University, where she specialized in erotic Latin poetry. Her writing and editorial work has been featured in Ephemera Magazine, Sophomore Magazine, The Ethnic Aisle, and publications by Gardiner Museum, YTB Gallery, Xpace, and Trinity Square Video. She can be followed on Instagram @prettiletti.

 

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