MAIN SPACE EXHIBITION
NOVEMBER 17 – DECEMBER 9, 2000
RECEPTION: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2000 AT 8 PM
LOCATION – STRIDE GALLERY
722, 11 AVE S.W, CALGARY, ALBERTA
CURATED BY MARY SCOTT
For this exhibition, Fredette created a flyer to be distributed to gallery visitors to accompany poster-sized photographs which were installed in the gallery. Fredette recently exhibited in Calgary in the summer of 1999 for the Sculpture Project site specific exhibition hosted by Truck Gallery which saw Frame produce an interactive Hot Dog Vendor entitled Paintings in Three Colors. This exhibition curated by founding member Mary Scott, to commemorate the 15th Anniversary of The Stride Gallery, features 2 artists from the maritimes, John Murchie exhibited several small, site specific installation which incorporated a minimal aesthetic with an elaborated historical situation; the results of these pairings are what Murchie refers to as a “monument”. Two of the six monuments displayed at Stride Gallery are entitled Monument to Bertolt Brecht and Monument to Thomas Alva Edison. Both pieces are created using vinyl lettering, an electrical cord and light bulb, with a specific sculptural work included to complete the implied narrative. Another monument of Murchie’s, entitled Monument to Canadian Culture was recreated in the Gallery’s water closet. The piece requires a room to be wallpapered in the arts section of the Globe and Mail with a bare light bulb illuminating the newly changed interior.
FREDETTE FRAME was born in Uranium City, SK in 1953 and later moved to Sackville, NB in 1990. She studied art at Mount Allison University and graduated with a BFA degree in 1994. Fredette currently resides and works in Sackville, New Brunswick.
JOHN MURACHIE graduated from the University of Colorado where he studied English and Philosophy. From 1972 through to 1990, John Murchie worked at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design as the director of the library and other things. Since 1990, he has worked as a writer, curator, editor and in 1996 Murchie held a fellowship in Historic Canadian Art at the National Gallery of Canada. Murchie currently resides in Sackville, NB. where he serves as the President of Struts Gallery, and makes his living as a cook. Murchie also recently curated an exhibition by Gary Neil Kennedy at the National Gallery.
MARY SCOTT was born in Calgary and educated at the University of Calgary and NSCAD. Since the late 70’s she has been exhibiting at a national level in solo and group formats. Mary is a co-founder of Stride Gallery and an instructor in the Painting/Drawing department at ACAD since the mid eighties. She has an avid interest in literature, psychoanalysis, and critical speech.
(OPENING UP SPACE)
FOR WANT OF SOMETHING ELSE
A MANIFESTO IN HONOR OF FREDETTE FRAME, JOHN MURCHIE, MARY SCOTT
& STRIDE GALLERY
Shared cultural spaces – television, roadways, shopping malls, the Internet, magazines and newspapers, to name just a few – offer us an evermore limited range of visual, textual, auditory and material symbolizations. We are constantly being persuaded to embrace something-or-other (a new and improved product, a lifestyle, a value system, an identity). Or we are tossed endless bits and bites of decontextualized information (The Globe and Mail’s “Collected Wisdom” feature is an example). Often our sentiments, fears and desires are manipulated in highly predictable ways (“reality TV” leaps to mind). Radically simplified and easily digested forms predominate; cute, muscular, fast , cool, survival and bottom line rule the day (Hel lo Ki t ty™ is moving at the speed of business™).
It is as though our responses have been anticipated and accounted for even before we arrive. At best, our subjective interpretations are deemed unnecessary or eccentric; at worst, they are considered undesirable or even dangerous. All we need do is swallow whole what is dished out for our rabid consumption.
A steady diet of such experiences has left many of our citizens anxious and distrustful when confronted with objects and images that confound one’s expectations; that invite us to thoughtfully consider their effects and potential meanings.
In other words, the conditions of contemporary life contribute to the perception that contemporary art is obscure, irrelevant or boring and widen the gap between what artists hope to accomplish when they exhibit and the kind of art the general public hopes artists will produce.
Symptomatically, artists – and, more often, art writers like myself – are called upon to justify and explain artists’ values, methodologies and practices. Even more insidiously, we are asked to translate their work into the favoured dialect of our times – “information.” Which is why didactic panels and explanatory essays – texts of the most banal kind – frequently accompany art exhibitions.
I have to confess, I’m more than a little ambivalent about didacticism in any form. The first dictionary meaning of “didactic” given by The Random House Dictionary of the English Language is “intended for instruction, instructive.” But I have no desire to teach you about John’s or Fredettte’s work. Rather, I believe that every citizen by virtue of their rich personal and social history, brings with them to an exhibition – to any exhibition – everything they need to engage with an artwork – any artwork. For it is the audiences’ subjective associations – your curiosity, memories, intellection, musings, reflections, dreams, stories, knowledge, limitations, beliefs, desires – that will activate an artwork and bring it to life; it is you who will make it subjectively, and ultimately, socially and politically meaningful.
The artworks I find most compelling give viewers plenty to chew on. They are constructed to both welcome and elicit diverse responses. Because they are evocative, complex and conceptually open-ended or incomplete, they need and desire the inter-active physical, intellectual and emotional involvement of an audience. This species of art has the potential to generate a great deal but it requires just as much from the viewer.
Fredette’s and John’s practices embody this ethos. I particularly appreciate how their work makes visible the processes by which the ordinary or utilitarian – that which is virtually invisible because it is so integrated into our day-to-day lives – can be transformed into a representation or gesture rife with personal and social significance. These artists’ productions fulfill my desire (indeed, need) for experiences of the symbolic kind. Their work doesn’t aim to cajole or convince; nor is it designed to teach or to disseminate information. Rather, it “opens up a space” in which I can consider how I interpret my world; it enables me to identify that which matters most – to me.
Which brings me back to another difficulty I have with didacticism. “Inclined to teach or lecture others too much,” is the second dictionary meaning of the word, “didactic.” Sometimes the texts accompanying an exhibition imply that specific “interpretations” or “meanings” embedded in an artwork await discovery. I believe that the meaning of an artwork changes over time and is dependent on the context in which it is exhibited as well as the person who is looking, reading, touching, eating, thinking and listening. The meaning is located neither “in” the work nor “behind” the work; rather, it is made and remade in encounters “between” the art object and its viewers.
The third dictionary meaning of didactic is “teaching or intended to teach a moral lesson.” As an art writer, I have no interest in using this occasion, these artists’ practices or my subjectively informed interpretations to make us “better people.” I am committed, however, to an ethics of collaboration in terms of the relationships that artworks, exhibitions and institutions facilitate between artists, art objects and audiences. I am committed to art experiences that challenge our habitual perceptions and interpretations. I am committed to staging cultural events that respect our citizen’s interpretive abilities, that implicitly and explicitly acknowledge the considerable pleasures involved in