Five Notes: Favourites from the CONTACT Festival
By the Editors
Quebec-based photographer Musiol’s series of photographs, “Black Holes”, picture the latrines in the women’s prison at Auschwitz-Birkenau, presenting the horrors of the Holocaust in an abstract, yet also deeply human, way. The smallest details, like the metal rings to which prisoners would have been cuffed while using the facilities, are chilling. The arrangement of the images along the gallery walls suggested bullet holes, while the low whistling of the wind in an accompanying video seem like voices from the past trying to communicate from beyond.
2. Robert Canali and Noel Rodo-Vankeulen at O’Born Contemporary
This two-artist show, For the Lack of a Smile, felt like it contained the work of four or five photographers, so wide-ranging were the photographic techniques, images and approaches on display. This made for a rich viewing experience. Both photographers are concerned with the material properties of photography, and how they relate to the legacies of conceptual-based photography, memory and history – for example, the nostalgia that we now feel when looking at a printed photograph in this age of digital images. Standouts included Canali’s colourful confetti-like CMY and Rodo-Vankeulen’s vision-scrambling OP#1.
Oops! We've been informed that For the Lack of a Smile, while exhibited during the festival, was not part of CONTACT's programming. Magenta apologizes for this error. (But, we still like the work.)
Burtynsky’s latest series, “Monegros”, is a field-of-vision-filling surprise. Burtynsky is already world-famous for his photographs of humankind’s impact on the natural world in his series of images of marble quarries and oil fields, but here, he takes to the skies to capture plains of dryland farming in Spain. The images are his most painterly photographs ever. The writhing partitions of land and the almost uniform palette of black, white and shades of beige and brown bring to mind the abstract works of Dubuffet and Picasso, but still possess Burtynsky’s unerring ability to create images in which viewers can spend hours picking out the details.
4. Andrew Wright at Peak Gallery
The winner of CONTACT’s first annual BMW-sponsored ‘best exhibition’ prize, Ottawa-based Wright’s suite of six "Coronae" photographs must be seen in person to be truly appreciated. An experiment in ‘cameraless photography’, Wright produced the images by making a needle-thin puncture in the side of a canister of film and letting the light leak in for about 30 minutes. The results — small, prismatic clouds of light floating against large seas of darkness — are microcosmic and macrocosmic simultaneously, reading like gently pulsing energy forces slowing drifting towards viewers from across space.
For his latest series, "Memorandoms", Nizam scavenged materials from Little Mountain, which was once Vancouver’s oldest housing development. (It has since been razed to make way for condos and social housing.) Nizam was granted access to the building and set up a provisional photo studio in one of the rooms where he constructed makeshift sculptures of abandoned standard-issue architectural furnishings. The resulting photographs are utterly charming, from the Cascade of Doors, the staggered arrangement of which recalls the visual stutter of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, to the precarious Lattice of Doorknobs, which pictures a triangular stack of silver and gold doorknobs. The ephemeral nature of the sculptures seemed to reflect the constant changes in the landscape of the city.
Coming in the Fall issue of Magenta: Art, Sound and Music.