Friday, January 25, 2008

Land: REProduction, Megann Christensen, Latitude 53 January 11 - February 9, 2008

At times, art is not about the final product but about the process and research that leads to tangible objects. LAND RE:PRODUCTION, by Edmonton-based artist Megann Christensen, is a prime example of an art exhibition conscious of its own incompletion. Currently exhibiting in the ProjEx Room at Latitude 53 Gallery, LAND is a culmination of new and old ideas melded together by the artist. Toying with big ideas of sacrifice, landscape, identity and globalization, the works in progress include a series of paintings completed this past summer that point to far greater research yet to be completed.

Turning her interests onto the political fields of surveillance, capitalism and the role of sacrifice and identity, a plain piece of paper with a sprawling thought web begins the exhibition. The sprawling thoughts match the ambition of the room where ideas have not been connected beyond their proximity to each other. There is an image of the excavated Tollund man, largely believed to have been a human sacrifice, that does not compliment the corporate mentality that the artist is striving towards. But Christensen is putting out these ideas to generate feedback, going so far as mounting a semi-started canvas with grid lines still intact, which she will return to once the exhibition ends.

By far the most interesting works at play are the series of photographs documenting the process from digital imagery to manipulated digital imagery and the stages in between. Taking note of the formal evolution of a single piece of work, the snapshot presentation traces the step by step intuition behind a painting, “HMLND01,” on the adjacent wall. The title nods to the painting’s digital origins, but the digital has roots in something more traditional.

Originally from Hinton, Christensen created a clay replica model of the Hinton hills that sits on display. Creating a source for her digitalized “fake landscapes,” as she calls them, all of the proceeding imagery stemmed from a prototype created from memory and from travels. Only from presence does she then create the landscapes, fake only in her comparative categorization of presence and product. The digitized landscape continues to be dominated by the irrefutable break across its center—the horizon—that signifies the formation of any landscape, real or otherwise. With a skin-like texture and colour, the Alberta landscape grows into a manipulated imagery of memory and biography, foregrounding a sky of columned text (pulled randomly from the business section of the newspaper). Though it may have been more appropriate to create an original body of text to espouse ideas of interest and research, the effort does reach the cusp of new territory.

Finding frustration in the sole focus of formal details of art, Christensen believes that art should be about greater things than itself. “Art needs to mean more to become relevant and important to our general society,” she says. “It needs to reach out more and say something. I see my job as an artist to communicate bigger issues and to maybe get people thinking about them as I learn about them, too.”

Image credit: Megann Christensen, 2007

First published in Vue Weekly, January 24 to 30, 2008 Issue #640

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