I left Victoria for a couple weeks in July to visit family in Manitoba. Miyoko continued working on her projects, tending the garden, and going camping on the island, visiting some truly spectaculr areas like Tofino, and enjoying some really fine weather -southern France style. I was going to the hot, dry prairies and hoping the bugs were not going to be the only stand out.
I wasn’t disappointed. I have a feeling that my visit to Platform Gallery in Winnipeg on July 23, 2016 will stand out in my memory not only because of the work, but because I had the unique experience of bringing my 80-year-old mother who is half blind and one of my nephews along who, despite being a decidedly harsh culture critic is pretty open to new things. Plus I needed him to help with his granny.
This exhibition was part of the 10th annual núna (now) Iceland Canada Art Convergence a unique two month-long festival that brings together artists from Iceland (and Icelandic backgrounds), Canada and the US to Manitoba, Canada. The work is contemporary (hence the focus on ‘now’), and includes a dynamic array of events and exhibitions throughout four venues in the historic Exchange District in Winnipeg that includes music and theatrical performance, performance art, video, installation, photography and other media and workshops, talks, and walking tours.
I was only able to attend the Since Then exhibition at Platform Gallery at the very end of the festival and it left me in a state of deep remorse that I had missed most of it, and yet thankful that I at least had the opportunity to see this one show. The theme of the exhibition wass about survival which the artists explore on many layers. Kudos, Kudos, Kudos to the curatorial committee, curator Keegan McFaden and the participating artists – this show was one of the highlights of my visit, second only to the Museum of Human Rights.
The theme of survival in Rebecca Belmore‘s potent four-minute silent video is a contemplation on silence, silencing, and the persistence of voice. The video starts with Belmore as an unfocused ball-like shape that slowly comes into focus to reveal her in a forward folded bend, like child’s pose. As she sits up she appears to be on a cloud, her mouth sealed with duct tape, a metaphor of her grandmother’s silenced indigenous tongue while at a residential school. Belmore sits serenely, hands relaxed on her thighs. Her gaze is direct and unflinching as she slowly removes the duct tape in an act to recover the lost voice (or at least the promise of it), shifting position to crossed legs and then slowly fades away.
I didn’t know how my family members would respond to the show and was particularly curious to see my mother’s reactions. Curiosity, bemusedly entertained, and straight out puzzled – all of these things occurred in various order and repetitions. Never derisive or negative, still open. Her response to Belmore’s video was unexpected. At first she wasn’t sure what she was looking at saying “it changes doesn’t it?”. As we watched more, she kept repeating how beautiful the woman was, not really noticing fully what was happening in the video. As I explained in brief what the gist of the video was about she continued to stare, nodding and smiling until the video concluded and as Belmore faded away my mother exclaimed, alarmed and disappointed sounding “Oh!, where did she go?”.
Later, back at my niece’s place she recalled the exhibit quite fondly as we all sat around the kitchen table. I was delighted that she was delighted, after all it could have been one of those raging anti-contemporary art moments I have come to expect.
I tried to video the installations and my conversations with my mother, but I had trouble with the camera and people kept walking in front of me anyway, so it was pointless. The piece “Your Heart” provided a disruptive clash to Belmore’s piece which I would have preferred to experience in a quiet, contained space. These irritations aside, I loved this show and look forward to seeing more at Platform and following Nuna Now in future.
To learn more about Rebecca Belmore visit http://www.rebeccabelmore.com/bio.html