The historian, curator and director of the Canadian Photography Institute at the National Gallery of Canada picks her best of the year - including Timothy Prus' exhibition The Cow and the Orchid
The Cow and the Orchid, curated by Timothy Prus at Arles
The Cow and the Orchid, along with its accompanying book, represents Timothy Prus’s 12-year journey through Columbia gathering 19th, 20th, and 21th-century photographs, “forcing time to fold on itself ”. Reminiscent of the creative Collected Shadows show by Archive of Modern Conflict in Paris Photo 2012 – also curated by Prus, who is director of the AMC – The Cow and the Orchid includes a wide selection of photographs drawn from a variety of sources, including private family albums and media images. Vintage photographs converse with more recent images in a poetic installation that plays on layering, overprinting, and a diversity of scales, mounts, and frames. As enigmatic as a poem, The Cow and the Orchid, reveals “a nation where image-making is pulsing like a fiesta in which we can all take part”.
The Reframing Family Photography conference and The Family Camera Network
The Family Camera Network is a collaborative Canadian project led by an academic and curatorial team of women from Ontario Universities. In this context, the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives and the Royal Ontario Museum collect vernacular photographs focusing on migration to and within Canada, and organise exhibitions and conferences. In Autumn 2017, an amazing international three-day conference, Reframing Family Photography, gathered influential speakers from diverse countries and varied backgrounds, genders, and communities, such as the author of Listening to Images, Tina Campt. The conference and the exhibition proved that family and vernacular photographs provide a very valuable alternative to other means of representing and understanding all communities and genders.
Arthur Jafa’s Love Is the Message, the Message Is Death at MOCA in Los Angeles
An immersive narrative of the African-American experience and representations, Arthur Jafa’s seven-minute emotional video installation was described by the New Yorker as a “crucial ode to black America.” Love Is the Message displays found images extracted from different media ranging from silent movies to YouTube, including citizen journalism, police images, anonymous private photographs, and footage of concerts and sports. Kanye West’s powerful song Ultralight Beam accompanies the images and determines its length. In 2017 the installation was notably shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and at Store Studios, London by the Serpentine Galleries and the Vinyl Factory. This remix demonstrates the violent role that photography and representation have played in relation to black people as well as the stunning beauty and power of their culture.
The Resident, the Alien at La Maison Rouge, Paris
The Resident, the Alien proves once again the relevance of exhibiting private collections. A collector is also an author, and collections are visions that should be preserved and shared as works of art in themselves. With works ranging from photographs to sculptures and paintings, this show unveils a significant part of the collection Marin Karmitz has assembled over 30 years. Its title echoes a passage from the Old Testament found in Leviticus 25:23. Well-known works by Lewis Hine, such as his child workers, are displayed alongside other less-known but powerful images such as those by Roman Vishniac, a Russian-American photographer who captured the culture of Eastern European Jews before the Holocaust. The sombre installation is totally stunning. It is made of corridors, cells, and rooms in which images are displayed alongside objects, nourishing an ongoing dialogue among history, emotion, still images, and the plastic arts.
The Polygon Gallery in Vancouver
Known as Presentation House Gallery for nearly four decades, The Polygon Gallery opened the doors of its new cutting-edge building in November. This “new” Canadian gallery dedicated to photography and media-based art is wonderfully located on the waterfront of Lower Lonsdale in North Vancouver (a seabus takes you there from downtown). Its inaugural exhibition, N. Vancouver, brings together 15 regional artists, Canadian and indigenous, including Stan Douglas, Jeff Wall and Raymond Bois Joly through commissioned and existing works specifically on the theme of the gallery’s hometown and surroundings. Enhancing North Vancouver’s early history as a Coast Salish village to its shipbuilding era to nowadays, this first exhibition is definitely about creating links and connections and bringing together communities.