FEBRUARY 27 – APRIL 3, 2015




COULD IT BE, WE’VE SURPASSED MATERIAL EXPECTATIONS is a curious exploration of abstraction, visual weight and materiality in new works produced by emerging artists SVEA FERGUSON, JAKE KLEIN-WALLER, GRAHAM MACAULAY and SARAH NORDEAN. Amongst the exhibition awaits a rhetorical proposition. COULD IT BE, WE’VE SURPASSED MATERIAL EXPECTATIONS, is an enchantingly sombre invitation to move away from consumer bliss and reconsider the objectification of the object.



SVEA FERGUSON is a Calgary based artist who recently received a BFA from the Alberta College of Art + Design. Ferguson’s work has been exhibited in pre-demolition projects Wreck City and Phantom Wing, and was recently included in a group show at Barbara Edwards Contemporary.

Calgary born artist GRAHAM MACAULAY received a BFA from the University of Victoria in 2014. Macaulay was recently awarded a BC Arts Council Early Career Development grant, and continues to live and work in Victoria as a board member of the Fifty Fifty Arts Collective and studio member of the Ministry of Casual Living.

JAKE KLEIN-WALLER is a graduate from the Alberta College of Art + Design. He currently lives and works in Calgary, with a studio at Capitol Hill Elementary School. Klein-Waller participated in the 2014 Mountain Standard Time Performative Art Festival, and is a founding member of HORSE collective.

Calgary based artist and educator SARAH NORDEAN holds a BFA from the Alberta College of Art + Design, and a MAA from Emily Carr University. Recent activity includes exhibitions at the 2014 Istanbul Design Biennial, the Charles H.Scott Gallery in Vancouver, and a solo show at Calgary’s Untitled Art Society.



“What ever the experience of optimism is in particular, then the affective structure of an optimistic attachment involves a sustaining inclination to return to the scene of fantasy that enables you to expect that this time, nearness to this thing will help you or a world to become different in just the right way.”1

My first inclination when sitting down to write about things that I am unfamiliar with is to begin to open books at random, to see if I can locate an abstract point of departure. When this fails, my next strategy is to start sending out enquiries to others, asking them what they are seeing when they are looking. These inclinations come from an interest in something I fear missing in any narration: a chance for conversation.

It is the very first time that I’ve seen any of these works, or experienced any of these artists. It is also, coincidentally, the first time I’ve ever been asked to write for a show comprised entirely of artists that I am unfamiliar with and works that I have never physically seen. Never experienced, in a room, or in any form in my actual, physical life. To task, I imagine I could write largely about the fact that I may only ever experience this show through documentation. This short paragraph about the exhibition says that I am being invited to reconsider the objectification of the object.


What exactly do I expect from an object that I do not expect from a photograph of an object? Much (this is an understatement) has been written about the difference between an exhibition viewed through documentation, and the experience of one in person. But what I fear losing, in the movement from lived experience to viewed documentation, is that which I mentioned in the first paragraph – the conversation. This work, that I imagine we do together (interacting, as audience, with the interactions between an object and its language), begs some form of proximity.

In an email, Jake Klein Waller says he has an interest in Phenomenology. Intersubjectivity constitutes objectivity? Perhaps, to avoid possible solipsism, I’ll imagine for a minute what an embodied empathy might mean to my particular dilemma (object and then, image of object). He describes his reflective materials as entry points or portals. Like reflective pool[s] in a Greek myth of sorts.

The dignity of the ordinary, says Sarah Nordean. Found through mapping, through repetition. Through document. She says, the works gradually build up and because there could be more, I am never satisfied. I always want more. This makes me think of Lauren Berlant, writing about her work, Cruel Optimism. “In all of these scenes of “the good life,” the object that you thought would bring happiness becomes an object that deteriorates the conditions for happiness. But its presence represents the possibility of happiness as such.”2

Repetition, accumulation, the possibility of happiness as such. Svea Ferguson notes that she is interested in Material Potential. She is also interested in depicting both the real and ideal simultaneously. Simultaneity can certainly promote similarity. Similarity is bound to a moment in time. That is a note I made while reading something last week.

And then, Meaning is accumulation. This is something Graham Macaulay says. So it has Material Potential? “And here we are again”. Simultaneity, similarity, mapping, time, a reflective pool. He also says, Cyclical form is endlessly making fruit. I find this sentence very pleasing.

Assembly through dismantling. Abstraction is a word that appears in the short description of this show. From where I sit, that word alone has a particular resonance.

Another note from last week – Methexis. Platonically speaking, methexis is the relationship between the Particular and its Form (for example – a beautiful object is said to partake of the Form of beauty. An optimistic object, then, partakes in the Form of optimism.) Methexis has another definition – in theatre, it means “group sharing”. This is a strategy derived from ancient Greek theatre wherein the audience participates, creates and improvises the “action of the ritual”.

Methexis – Is this the work we do together?

These objects, together, are working at determining what an object can do, how their shortcomings can be remedied through new proximities, what they then can say. What their rituals can do, how they can be revised, what they can then communicate. All of these works – re-determined conversations between the Particular and its Form, the audience and its role, interruptions and reroutings of the action of the ritual.

And then, between myself and them. What is this particular ritual? It is the group show, written about by a stranger, afraid to ventriloquize, instead assembling and dismantling. It is the objectification of the object, says this introduction, which should be somberly reconsidered. The somber work is the work done in the studio. It is also me, sitting alone writing, looking at images of objects, reading. The optimistic, the revision, is then the work of imagining these interruptions. New distances. New interactions. New mediations. Remedies to extant accumulations. New optimisms. Surpassing all material expectations, this is the work to be done together.

1. Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism (2011) 

2. Lauren Berlant, On Her Book Cruel Optimisms (June, 12, 2012)


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