Bonnie Marin, Escaping the Farm, 2010.

Marcel Dzama, On the Banks of the Red River (2008), Diorama, Wood, glazed ceramic sculptures, metal, fabric, 2/3 + AP, 97 x 253 x 86", © Marcel Dzama, David Zwirner, New York, Sies ≠ Höke, Düsseldorf.

Making Art in the Provinces since before there was Dirt

Wanda Koop, Native Fires (from the See Everything / See Nothing series), 1996, Acrylique sur toile, 300 × 400 cm, Courtesy Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Royal Art Lodge, Unidenticals, 2010, Série de 68 peintures de 10.2 × 10.2 cm chacune, Collection Antoine de Galbert, Paris.

Kent Monkman, The Collapsing of Time and Space in an Ever-expanding Universe, 2011, Courtesy Plug-In ICA et de l’artiste.

Sarah Anne Johnson, House on Fire, 2009, Technique mixte, 81,28 × 61 × 66 cm, Courtesy de l’artiste.

Simon Hughes, Fortified coffee shop, 2007, Aquarelle, encre et autocollants sur papier.

Royal Art Lodge, The Red River, 2008. Courtesy Folkwang Museum Essen, Allemagne.

Guy Maddin, My Winnipeg, 2007, 1:19;59.

Guy Maddin, My Winnipeg, 2007, 1:19;59.

Shawna Dempsey & Lorri Millan, Forest Guards, 1997, Photographie réalisée à l’occasion de la performance Lesbian National Parks and Services, Photo © Donal Lee, Courtesy The Banff Center.

 

La Maison Rouge
10 boulevard de la Bastille
+33 1 40 01 08 81
Paris
My Winnipeg
June 23-September 25, 2011

By MIKE MILLER

What are art and culture but a hope — a hope for our better selves. So in this moment of history, this moment of a world made seemingly small by global information systems. would it not make sense that artists and art professionals, acting as legislators of hope, attempt to push art and culture into a globalized position.

We closely follow events in China where Ai Wei Wei's incarceration by the Chinese government and its eventual devolution into house arrest in which he is now able to work and make art, though under government observation.

We also take note of the United Kingdom and the well-paid travails of Damien Hirst, his meta-million dollar, life-sized platinum skull, For the Love of God, 2007, his shark in formaldehyde in a vitrine, The physical impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991, and take heart that artists too are capable of making large, dirty sums of money.

But in this Winter of International Longing there is another force at work — gravity. Accounts from the realms of quantum mechanicists tell us gravity is "the weak force," though strong enough to hold our ever-cozy relatively thin envelope of an atmosphere snug to the earthly firmament.

It must be gravity that makes art occur everywhere, not at the same time and not in the same way, whether by the agency of one (an artist) or many (collaborators) — art seems to happen everywhere.

At a time when the art world is said to be in a time of globalization, la maison rouge in Paris takes a closer look at centers of creativity with a little-known yet thriving arts scene, whose artists’ work is infused with the city and its province, history and myths.

Winnipeg is a prime example of how geographical location can shape artistic production. Long, harsh winters prompt artists to get together in their studios to work; the Winnipeg property market is more open than in Toronto or Montreal, giving artists access to spacious studios at reasonable rents.

Public and private bodies such as the Manitoba Museum, the Plug-In, a university arts center (Gallery One One One) and a quality international art magazine (Border Crossings) show art at local level, and promote and develop contemporary art and culture in the city.

Although the international art world is still unfamiliar with some of Winnipeg’s artists, others have caught the eye of critics and curators while continuing to make a rich contribution to the local scene.

Artists, their work and their cities form a close-knit and interactive network. Artists are inspired by the cities in which they live and, in return, the work they produce helps define the region’s identity. This identity is then carried in films, music, literature, performance art and exhibitions, conveying these artists’ vision around the globe.

The works shown at la maison rouge are nonetheless works in their own right. This series of exhibitions will not show works purely in relation to their geographical environment: its purpose in setting them in their context is help the observer understand what triggered their creation.

Curators of the exhibition are Paula Aisemberg, Hervé di Rosa, Anthony Kiendl

Presentation of the exhibition My Winnipeg is the title of an exhibition and publication project that examines and documents the art and culture of Winnipeg, Canada for international audiences. The focus of the project is Winnipeg’s contemporary visual art scene, which has received burgeoning acclaim with the international success of numerous artists including Marcel Dzama, the Royal Art Lodge, Kent Monkman, and filmmaker Guy Maddin. My Winnipeg also explores the roots and foundation of these creators by looking at previous generations of artists including painters Eleanor Bond, Wanda Koop, and photographer William Eakin. Of particular interest will be a focus on contemporary, vernacular imagery, with roots based in a “prairie Surrealism,” founded over many years including historical figures such as Ivan Eyre, and the spiritualist photography of J.G. Hamilton. The project explores parallels in contemporary Aboriginal iconography, based upon the “spirited” work of the “Indian Group of Seven,” whose origins were in Manitoba in the 1970s.

The title of the exhibition is taken from the Guy Maddin film My Winnipeg, 2007, commissioned by the Canadian-based Discovery Channel and presented in the exhibition by ICA Plug-In.

The province, Manitoba, translated into Cree means “where the Gods live.” For centuries, Winnipeg (from the Cree word meaning “muddy waters”) was the site of trading among Aboriginal peoples at the forks of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. With the arrival of European immigrants, it continued to be an important centre of trade and commerce until the construction of the Panama Canal drew the massive flow of goods across the continent to the south. Nevertheless, Winnipeg has continued to inspire audiences with its dynamic cultural milieu. It is the site of Canada’s first professional ballet company, civic art museum, contemporary dance company and institute of contemporary art( Plug in ICA).

Media theorist Marshall McLuhan was raised in Winnipeg and called it home, and Canada’s arguably most internationally celebrated visual artists, General Idea, germinated in Winnipeg with university dropouts AA Bronson and Felix Partz first working together in Winnipeg prior to departing for Toronto. Musician Neil Young grew up in Winnipeg, and first performed some of his timeless compositions at Kelvin High School. Canada’s “Indian Group of Seven” a senior generation of acclaimed Aboriginal artists from across the continent first met and worked together in Winnipeg during the 1970s.

In order to draw together such a wide-ranging and diverse array of art and culture, Winnipeg is formed of several “chapters” making up both the exhibition and publication project. The chapters are devised to grasp the depth and scale of cultural accomplishment in Winnipeg, as well as explore and assess its implications, while acknowledging some of its leading artists.

Stryker The exhibition opens with views of Winnipeg, taken by director Noam Gonick for his film Stryker.

Shot in Winnipeg, the film tells the story of a confused young aboriginal Canadian turned arsonist, who runs away from Brokenhead, the reserve where he was born, only to be confronted with local street gangs.

The photos are hung in a single line around la maison rouge to create the impression of a long traveling-shot of Winnipeg, and present an authentic, non-idealized facet of the city.

There’s no place like home The Noam Gonick panorama leads visitors to the Winnipeg archive project, assembled by Sigrid Dahle.

This “exhibition within the exhibition” builds a portrait of Manitoba’s capital city through history, geography, climatology, sociology and art.

This curatorial project is set out library-fashion in a gallery where visitors can browse archive documents — photographs, postcards, found objects and other ephemera — and view contemporary works by Winnipeg artists. In doing so, they can appreciate the particular features of this vast city, the capital of a remote and untamed region, Manitoba, where flooding and swarms of insects are regular occurrences. Winnipeg is also famous as the coldest city in the world, and for the longest strike ever to take place in North America, in 1919.

Associate curator of this part of the exhibition is Sigrid Dahle, director of Galerie One One One, University of Manitoba, Fine Arts departement. She is also an independent curator and writer.

Royal Art Lodge The Royal Art Lodge (1996-2008) is a collaborative group of artists, founded in 1996 by six young artists from Manitoba University. They are Michael Dumontier, Marcel Dzama, Neil Farber, Drue Langlois, Jonathan Pylypchuk and Adrian Williams, at one time joined by Hollie Dzama and Myles Langlois.

While each artist continued to work individually, the Royal Art Lodge also produced an abundance of group works, distinguished by the diversity of techniques and media: drawing and collage, both a major focus, as well as video, sculpture, music, puppets and costumes.

Their work incorporates numerous hybrid figures, inspired by comic strips, science-fiction, film noir, horror movies, and the TV shows (such as The Muppet Show) that were very much a part of their childhood. This part of the exhibition shows a significant number of works by the group, and individual works by each member.

Landscapes Landscapes are one of the major themes to run through the exhibition.

Since the very first landscape paintings by the Group of Seven, pioneers of a new Canadian art movement in the 1920s, the genre has continued to reinvent itself in Winnipeg.

Recently, Diana Thorneycroft reused the Group of Seven landscapes as background to dioramas which emphasize the relationships that exist between Canada’s landscapes and its national identity.

In the 1970s, the Indian Group of Seven reprised this tradition of landscape painting with the purpose of celebrating Canadian aboriginal culture and civilization, in particular through a program to assist the emergence of an aboriginal art scene. Aboriginal culture is also a central theme for Kent Monkman, an artist of Cree ancestry who uses humor and anachronism to address the question of colonialism in paintings and installations which often feature the artist himself.

Indian culture is again depicted in some of Wanda Koop’s works, such as the two fires that burn on and on into the night, on the shores of the Red River which runs through Winnipeg.

Simon Hughes, Eleanor Bond, KC Adams, Bob Kovitz, Shawna Dempsey and Lori Milan, and Sarah Anne Johnson a-propos portray other kinds of landscape, from the cozy, indoor scenes in Johnson’s (House on Fire, 2009) to Eleanor Bond’s deep perspectives of northern Canada or the city of Winnipeg (The Spectre of Detroit hangs over Winnipeg, 2007).

Collage Party by Paul Butler For the past dozen years, Winnipeg artist and itinerant gallerist Paul Butler has been organizing Collage Parties at exhibitions where artists and visitors are invited to make collages using material from mass media publications.

For My Winnipeg, Butler has worked with designer Craig Alun Smith to create a large worktable in the patio at la maison rouge, where everyone taking part in Collage Party can make and display their work, transforming the table into an ever-expanding collective artwork.

Hauntings (2010) by Guy Maddin The renowned Winnipeg director Guy Maddin presents, for the exhibition, Hauntings: an installation of 11 short films in black and white.

Through this recent work, in partnership with the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Maddin continues to explore the history of film, which he describes as “a haunted medium, a projection of people, places and things not really present.” He summons F.W. Murnau, Fritz Lang, Hollis Frampton, Victor Sjöström, Jean Vigo, Kenji Mizoguchi and Josef von Sternberg, and rescues cinematographic ghosts from oblivion. Consigned to limbo, now resurrected and remade, he projects these masterpieces so that they might continue to haunt film history.

Winter Kept Us Warm This chapter explores Winnipeg not simply as a geographical location, but as a mytho-poetic territory of the body and desire. In presenting the work of multiple generations of artists dating as far back as the 1960s, and up to the present day, this chapter builds upon burgeoning recognition of Winnipeg as a distinctive site of art production that is somewhat outside and yet urgently relevant to mainstream politics and aesthetics. Winter Kept Us Warm, takes its name from David Secter’s 1965 film, Canada’s first entry into the Cannes Film Festival, which in turn took its name from a passage in T.S. Eliot’s Wasteland. In order to create a sense of this “other” place, by turns wasteland and utopia, this chapter features a broad range of artistic media, from video art to sculpture and photography, all in multiple ways connected to the city’s physical and erotic aura.

Associate curator of this section is Noam Gonick, filmmaker and independent curator.

Diana Thorneycraft, Bob and Doug, 2011, Diorama detail, 70 × 70 cm, Courtesy de l’artiste.

Guy Maddin, Lilith and Ly, extrait du film Hauntings, 2010, Courtesy de l’artiste.