Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nina Rhode, Friendly Fire, DCA, Dundee, *First published on The Huntly Review

Image credit: Nina Rhode, C Major Harmonica, 2009

Image credit: Nina Rhode, C Major Harmonica, 2009

Friendly Fire, the first UK solo exhibition by Berlin-based Nina Rhode, shakes you down deep into your internal core, reverberating a resonance that draws you in before it spins you back out.
As the first major survey show of her kinetic and aural workings, Friendly Fire is not a culmination of her past projects via monikers like Ninja Pleasure, collectives like Honey-Suckle Company, and collaborations with musician Chilly Gonzales. In some ways the exhibition marks a watershed moment for an artist working undefined across disciplines, making work that tries to answer her own self-affirming question, “If it can be done why do it.”
As an artist that has not necessarily made work for a gallery system, Rhode here makes a deft impression of what it means to experience our visual and aural pleasures in a controlled environment. Elements and expectations of alchemy and transformation are inherent throughout Friendly Fire, from the melted street bin seamlessly emerging from the gallery floor greeting you upon entry to the undulating sensation of mirages in her combination of motors and mirrors, Rhode conjures up the playful mad scientist efforts of Roman Signer and Fischli & Weiss with an awareness of the bodily malaise.

Starting with a gong, or simply titled “Gong”, hanging overhead near the entrance of the gallery, a tree trunk embedded with a long thick rope hangs dutifully between two large stone cutting disks inviting audiences to strike the improvised gong. The ceremonial nature of striking such a resonance, often done so to mark a passing of time, especially to your neighbors, is here done so to ring in the activation of your physical senses, to send a reverb through DCA’s cavernous space to say we can see, hear, and feel all that is around us.

The call to participate and engage with her works runs throughout, as many of the works require you to manually spin or adjust the speed of light repetition (“3 RAD”). Coming back to “Bin”, which was inspired by the street vandalism of the May Day Riots in 2009, an event that reinvigorated the thought for self organization and socially engaged participation, Rhode subtly inquires into the value of participation on all levels of engagement by casting this bin, symbolic of the anti-capitalist riots, and transforming this object into an art object that once gain fits into a capitalist value system.

While every work gave me some level of joy, especially the soundless yet organ-shaped “Procurator” composed of once audible and visually explosive firecrackers and I fell hopelessly for the alluring siren hum of “C Major Harmonica”, I was actually most enraptured by the artist’s self portrait of “Es It”, a photograph of a round head-like mirror over a red arm chair resembling a body in repose. The photograph is stately, as is suggested by its self reference to a throne, and lit naturally by daylight, which was only visible in the mirror along with the artist’s face in profile and her one hand, which is holding a half moon mirror, reflecting back the image ad infinitum. The photograph is as perfect a self portrait as I have ever seen, as the endless refractions of perception and identity are contained but in a reflection. The viewer is made aware, but only of what we cannot see and what we do not know.

Nina Rhode, Friendly Fire, Curated by Graham Domke, runs 21 May 2011 - 31 July 2011. Check DCA for further information.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Review: PopSEX! Illingworth Kerr Gallery, Calgary* First published in FUSE Magazine

Inspired by Rainer Herrn’s 2008 group exhibition Sex brennt/Sex Burns at The Charité Hospital in Berlin, PopSex! showcases 12 artists from Berlin and Calgary. Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz, David Folk, Jean-René Leblanc, Kurtis Lesick, Wednesday Lupypciw, Anthea Black and Mr. and Mrs. Keith Murray, Mireille Perron and Heather Stump, Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay and RICHard SMOLinski were brought together by the curators to respond to the remnants of Magnus Hirshfield’s archive from the Institute for Sexual Science.

The exhibition was an extension of a related conference that took place at ACAD, which focused on the role of media and sexuality in early 20th-century Germany, the subject of Hirshfield’s Institute. Founded in Berlin in 1919, Hirshfeld’s Institute for Sexual Science was a place of research, political advocacy, counseling, and public education — decades ahead of what Alfred Kinsey would go on to accomplish in America in the 1940s and 50s. Inspired by the world’s first gay rights organizations, the institute was a close ally for several groups fighting for sexual reform and women’s rights. In 1933, during the infamous Nazi book burnings, the bulk of the Institute’s archives were destroyed. At the same time, Hirschfeld’s scientific research was co-opted and turned around by Nazi Germany to argue for racial and biological purity . . .

Read the review in full in the Spring issue of FUSE Magazine. FUSE 34.2. can also be downloaded, and will be the last free downloadable issue

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Feature: Shary Boyle's Flesh and Blood, CAG, Vancouver, First published in Galleries West, Summer 2011*

Image credit: Shary Boyle, "The Lute Player" 2009

Fueled by her own unstoppable imagination, Shary Boyle’s work shatters life into visually stunning narrative shards, breaking down hierarchies between humans and animals, men and women, and transforming the fi gurative genre into a form that eerily looks back at its viewers.

For 20 years, Boyle’s work has eluded being categorized into any one medium or genre. Long heralded as an outsider in terms of her non-referential, anti-institutional methods, Boyle is now coming off a landmark year — and she shows no signs of slowing down. She took home the 2009 Gershon Iskowitz Prize, which came with a $25,000 award and a solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The highly lauded Flesh and Blood was curated by Louise Dery of the Galerie de l’UQAM in Montreal, where the show ran earlier this year. This summer, Flesh and Blood travels to Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver.

While future projects include a 2012 live presentation for children in Toronto, Boyle’s work has long been aptly described as “intense”. Little has been said about the root of that intensity, an energy that is dark, yet highly imaginative, if not joyfully absurd. Her work boils down to a highly attuned and perceptive sensitivity to the state of being alive, and inherent in each piece is an innate curiosity that emerges from a sense of being different. As an artist, she doesn’t hold back in expressing a sensuality and honesty rarely visible on the surface of contemporary art. From wistful drawings of strange and vulnerable young women to haunting porcelain sculptures sprung directly from a wild imagination, Boyle intervenes into the arc of art history with a potentially polarizing feminist narrative . . .

*To read the article in full, pick up the Summer 2011 issue of Galleries West