Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The ARTISTS In Trumpet!

Here is write up sent to me by the director of "Visual Arts Alberta".  It details each individual artist in the coming "Trumpet" exhibition which shows at the Latitude 53 gallery here in Edmonton. I placed my section in red, have not read it as that sort of "ME" thingy makes me rather uncomfortable.

The Opening night is June 3 at 8pm.



"With the pride of the artist, you must blow against the walls of every power that exists the small trumpet of your defiance."
Norman Mailer

The exhibition Trumpet is framed by defiance: a reaction to the political climate in which we find ourselves and our need to be heard. Each artist shown use their work as a megaphone: to give warning, to speak out, to increase the power of their message.

Trumpet sought work by Alberta Artists who use their work to question new political realities, on a local, national, and international scale, and who may have a unique perspective that is under-represented or unrecognized within current exhibition and curatorial practices. The six selected artists - Barbara Amos, Lee Deranger, Kazumi Marthiensen, M.E.D.I.U.M., Alice Schoenberg and Gerry Yaum - question the world order in some way. Their art trumpets. It can be a loud lament about an issue, a call to action, a direct challenge to assumptions and oppressive power structures, a vehicle to further understanding or a way to redefine the world around us.

Barbara Amos raises questions, stimulates new conversations and possibly new actions; she offers a new way for people to engage with the world. Since establishing a studio in the Crowsnest Pass area of Alberta, Amos has sought out and engaged with the environmental groups that are fighting to preserve the trees on the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies  - an area experiencing the world’s highest rate of deforestation. Amos collaborates with others “in the field” to make political environmental statements. In the gallery, Amos use concepts of beauty (a moment of receptivity) to open us up to new connections and to an exchange of ideas.

Lee Deranger is a First Nations artist based out of Calgary, whose politics are at the heart of her creative practice. Deranger’s “Reconcile This” confronts a 268 year old “scalp law” that is still on the books in Nova Scotia. She offers the viewer three scalps: one for the British, one for Canada and one for Nova Scotia. Created after 2015’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and exhibited here in the year of Canada’s 150th  birthday, Deranger’s “Reconcile This” challenges privileged narratives and assumptions, and reveals the many blind spots in the dominant cultural discourse regarding the relationship between Canada’s colonial history and First Nations and Metis lives and history. This work slaps the viewer across the face; the slap is totally justified.

Kazumi Marthiensen has been exploring and questioning the environmental destruction and crime arising from the establishment of the American military base in Okinawa, Japan. Marthiensen recognizes and addresses the lack of understanding of the post-war experience in Okinawa by offering us a written explanation, a didactic statement that is all the more poignant for its simplicity.  This simplicity and attention to detail extends to the work itself, and presents an arresting testament to what is (still) happening on this small island 755 kilometers south of Nagasaki.  This work has a stillness, a silence about it, that underscores this under-told story, and exposes the complexities surrounding the defeat of Japan in the Second World War and the resulting American colonialism.

M.E.D.I.U.M. (Metaphysical Explorations, Divination, and Investigations Utilizing Magic) is a Lethbridge-based quartet comprised of Frater Tham, Madame Symona, Char Latan, and Dr. I. M. Auftenhazie. The performative personas are adopted by the quartet to subvert the notion of artistic “ego,” and take “authority,” out of the equation when making art. The collective is very much engaged in the world’s political issues, and use allegory, symbolism and magic to explore (and subvert) notions of what real or concrete truth is. The video and artifacts “Reduce, Reuse, Re-psychic” present us with an alternative “ritual curse and healing narrative” to heal the planet and the creatures upon it, including humans. M.E.D.I.U.M. provides us with new ways to both relate and react to our current political reality, and seek lasting change for the better.

Alice Schoenberg uses her body to create art that attempts to simultaneously divert and analyze the male gaze. As a queer female artist, Schoenberg sexualizes the representation of her embodied self, but retains control of this sexualization.  “Miss Dressup,” employs a childlike aesthetic to both expose and subvert the common cultural narratives around sexualized female bodies. These versions of self are not her - they are fragments of version of stories about what it means to inhabit a queer female shape that wishes to define itself on its own terms. Schoenberg’s art provokes a conversation about power, identity, control, sexuality, and how these forces impact our bodies.

Gerry Yaum is a traditional documentary photographer who works outside his culture and his comfort zone. This place of discomfort allows Yaum to do more than observe his subject; he strives to see them on their own terms. By the second or third visit to a place, Yaum notes, the people he photographs “know you are no longer a tourist.”  Like the artists in M.E.D.I.U.M., Yaum has adopted a ‘persona’ in an attempt to focus greater attention on the issues and ideas conveyed through his images (Yaum is a pseudonym). As records of lived experience, “the Families of the Dump” series presents a deeply uncomfortable vision of the world, the intention of which Yaum describes as wanting to “slap [the viewer] out of their indifference.” People living in ‘first world’ countries will likely never experience the extreme poverty captured in these photographs. The intent here is to provoke a level of discomfort that will lead us to question not only the present world order, but our own complicity in it.

Trumpet player Christian Scott describes his instrument as a political weapon; "I don't just play the trumpet because it's something that resonates with me: I play the trumpet because it's a means to help free a lot of people that ain't free." Like Scott, to get their message out, the artists of Trumpet ask us to question what we hold to be true. They force us to listen. They are Advocates, Activists, and Artists.

Chris W. C.
May 2017