Monday, October 27, 2008

MEDIATION, Edmonton Small Press Association's 10th Anniversary Retrospective, ArtsHab, REVIEWED BY MANDY ESPEZEL

The Mediation exhibition at ArtsHab is a pretty overwhelming thing to walk into. There are posters and letters and collages and art books plastered all over the walls throughout the entire space. Anyone who has ever been to ArtsHab knows how narrow those exhibition hallways are. The amount of displayed material on the narrow walls became a tunnel-like experience, where every available space had an image or slogan waiting to be explored.

This sheer amount of material is part of what I think is most impressive, and important, about the show. Mediation is giving us the chance to view the Edmonton Small Press Associations ‘best of’ work from their permanent collection acquired over the years. It is actually an incredibly encouraging thing to see displayed all in one place. This is work that individuals have made completely independently from any outside support or influence. The common thread through everything on exhibit is the emphasis placed on communication. This is not passive image making. All these works strive to contain some sort of message, whether it be the examination of political ideologies, criticism of current governments, or the mockery of systems of value or cultural norms. This active interest and involvement in the construction of our society remains the driving force behind the creation of materials that challenge others to do the same.

Some of the pieces that manage this task most successfully use humour to get their point across. Which includes most of the show. There is a children’s colouring book that explains the destruction of the environment, perfectly titled “Super Fun Air Pollutant Particles Colouring & Activity Book”. There’s posters of protesters asking for the right to free speech, and hundreds of 'zines and artists books that make you laugh out loud with their ridiculousness and good nature. Within all of this is a lot of run-of-the-mill anti George Bush sentiment. Which is only to be expected, along with political cartoons and fast food collages. Its just so important to know that there is a huge amount of critical thinking and constructive dissent going on, completely independently and peacefully, and with such creativity. This participation is absolutely essential, especially given that our country just experienced such a horrendously low voter turnout this past election. It is a hopeful thing to know that there is this level of engagement within our masses, even if as a majority, we don’t always actively appreciate our right to it.

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