Get Hold of This Space: A Geography of Conceptual Art in Canada
February 7–September 5, 2014
Coordinating Curator, Barbara Fischer
Associate Curator, Catherine Bédard
Canadian Cultural Centre
The Canadian Cultural Centre presents, in two successive parts, a major exhibition on the conceptual art that developed in Canada, from the East Coast to West Coast but also in the Arctic Circle, between 1960 and 1980. Comprising works and archival documents from major museums, artists’ personal archives and private collections, this exhibition is a fresh new look at the diversity of contemporary art in Canada as well as at the various centres and out-of-the-way places where it was made.
For the first time in France, Get Hold of This Space: A Geography of Conceptual Art in Canada presents a selective focus on artists’ contribution in Canada, whose vast territories, cultural diversity, and artistic networks led to multiple experiments forming a complex identity and an exceptional ensemble whose artistic impact may now be measured nationally and internationally. There will be a particular focus on the crucial importance of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, which became a hotbed of conceptual art internationally, involving artists such as Daniel Buren, David Askevold, Lawrence Weiner, Jan Dibbets and John Baldessari.
Canadian conceptual art tackled many issues linked to geography, politics, the body, language, institutions and the definition of art itself. These questions were the object of a large-scale exhibition, Traffic: Conceptual Art in Canada 1965–1980, which traveled across Canada between 2010 and 2012; an adaptation of this exhibition was recently presented at the Badischer Kunstverein of Karlsruhe, Germany. Reconfiguring the German version of the exhibition, the Canadian Cultural Centre has focussed on two aspects that will constitute the two parts of the exhibition.
The first part focuses on the criticism of institutions and the development of networks, particular via magazines and exhibition centres managed by the artists themselves. It shows various types of artistic practice that abandons the traditional forms of art, confronting both artist and viewer with reflection, performance, commitment, utopia and irony, not to mention ennui and humour. In this first part of the exhibition, the spotlight will be on the highly impactful undertakings by the collectives General Idea, N.E. Thing Co. and Image Bank. There will also be consideration of the infiltration of art into the world of business and public spaces as evidenced by Vincent Trasov as Mr. Peanut running for mayor of Vancouver in 1974 or the restaurant-gallery Eye Scream opened in Vancouver in 1977 by N.E. Thing Co. whose menu included Cubist Salad and Group of Seven Snails.
The second part of the exhibition, presented from May 17 onward, will explore the political, cultural and social dimensions of the geographical distance specific to Canada. We will see how artists were led to explore new forms of communication and transmission in order to expand beyond provincial and international borders, prefiguring the connectivity and current proliferation of globalized networks.
The exhibition was conceived by Barbara Fischer (Director, Justina Barnicke Gallery/University of Toronto), Grant Arnold (Curator, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver), Vincent Bonin (Independent curator, Montreal), Catherine Crowston (Director, Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton), Michèle Thériault (Director, Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Montreal) and Jayne Wark (Professor, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University, Halifax).
We gratefully acknowledge the operating support from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, with additional project support from the Badischer Kunstverein (Karlsruhe).