10th Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art

Various venues, Edmonton and Banff, Canada

There are many ways to measure two years, the arbitrary art-world standard for major exhibitions: a million minutes, a billion miles (the distance the earth travels twice elliptically around the sun) or, in Alberta, the extraction of 1.6 billion barrels of oil. The 10th Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art, titled ‘For the Time Being’, has been mounted in two of the Canadian province’s topographical extremes – its vast prairies and the Rocky Mountains – at the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) in Edmonton and the Banff Centre’s Walter Phillips Gallery. Purporting to address the capitalist distribution of wealth and labour, the exhibition includes works by 24 artists – some born, raised and currently based  in Alberta, others from Alberta but residing elsewhere, and others from outside the province who are navigating its complicated contours as new residents.

In keeping with the exhibition’s broad theme, at times the work feels disparate, despite the efforts of curators Peta Rake and Kristy Trinier to mitigate this through the ‘Banff Biennial Sessions’: a four-day mini-residency that brought the artists together a year before the exhibition to meet and brainstorm. Yet, the biennial’s most impactful moments transcend this sense of disjunction in quiet, tender and sometimes heartbreaking works that explore the personal. From the local clays used in Taryn Kneteman’s sculpture In Hospitable Home (2016–17) to Kristopher Karklin’s Home (2016) – a large-scale vinyl photograph of a naked white couple staring at a towering, beige suburban home – the familial and the domestic abound in this biennial. For instance, in her series ‘In the Skin of a Painting’ (2015–17), Tia Halliday – inspired by materials that belonged to her father, the expressionist painter Richard Halliday – transforms paintings into various skins worn in performances that are documented and then re-presented as two-dimensional works.

web_tia-halliday_circus-ii-in-the-skin-of-a-painting-cmyk.jpg

Tia Halliday, Circus II (In the Skin of a Painting), 2017, aluminum dye sublimation print mounted on dibond, 1.2 x 1.7 m. Courtesy: the artist

Tia Halliday, Circus II (In the Skin of a Painting), 2017, aluminium dye sublimation print mounted on dibond, 1.2 x 1.7 m. Courtesy: the artist

Suspended from the ceiling at the AGA, Akohp: A Blanket (2016), by Tamara Lee-Anne Cardinal, weaves together the personal – the artist’s intimate knowledge of and relationship to Cree ceremony and tradition – with colonial politics. In the shape of a seven-pointed star, the work is comprised of discrete sheets of handmade paper, sutured with sinew and embedded with medicines – tobacco, fungus, muskrat root, sage and hair. Its seven points represent the four cardinal directions, the earth beneath our feet, the sky above us and all that lies between them. Visitors are invited to find shelter under the blanket and experience an embodied sense of space, an important aspect of indigenous belief systems.

In order to see Mark Clintberg’s Do I Still Cross Your Mind? (2015–17), which has iterations in both Banff and Edmonton, one must look down to read what lies above. Clintberg’s tender, titular query – written incomprehensibly backwards in splotchy black ink on the ceiling at the AGA – is only legible when reflected in a collection of tarnished, antique metal serving plates, installed on small wooden stools. Clintberg’s question bounces as if in a funfair house of mirrors – the kind that makes it look like your body repeats ad infinitum, vertically from floor to ceiling, horizontally from Banff to Edmonton:  do I still cross your mind?

In Banff, small slabs of soapstone sit atop an expanse of mirror in Justin Waddell’s Float in Space and Drift in Time (2017). Like the stony palisades that surround the gallery building, Waddell’s forms are doubled, reflected back as though in the numerous glassy glacial lakes that sit quietly in the region’s valleys. In an accompanying 16mm film, the artist transmutes the static stones into flickering, colourful, grainy shapes. Waddell’s grandparents were held in a Japanese internment camp throughout World War II; they kept a carved soap-stone figure they made in the camp in their sand garden. Waddell’s soapstones remain uncarved: a gesture of both remembrance and hope.

web_mark-clintberg_do-i-still.jpg

Mark Clintberg, Do I still cross your mind?, 2015-17, installation view, metal serving trays, cut paper, adhesive. Courtesy: the artist and Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain, Montréal, Canada

Mark Clintberg, Do I still cross your mind?, 2015-17, installation view, metal serving trays, cut paper, adhesive. Courtesy: the artist and Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain, Montréal, Canada

In the span of a single year, Nicole Kelly Westman lost more than can possibly be measured; If You Weren’t There (2017) traces the outlines of that loss. Two chairs face a projected film of the artist’s handwriting that flashes and fades as a memory might, in which she asks visitors to imagine the unimaginable: life without those you love. An acoustic sound work emanates from between the chairs and washes over those sitting in them. Two eulogies sit on a small table between them, written by the artist for her grandmother and brother; they wind through memories – beautiful and unremarkable, happy and hurtful. When coping with trauma, time and its measurement cease to matter at all.

As these works suggest, the threads of personal narrative woven throughout the exhibition tie it together in more poignant ways than the broad themes of its curatorial premise. Perhaps this biennial would have better measured the passage of two years by focusing on such narratives and the complexities of individual experience. 

Main image: Kristopher Karklin, Home, 2017, (detail), vinyl. Courtesy: the artist 

Issue 190

First published in Issue 190

October 2017

Most Read

The US writer, who died last week, brought a quality of inestimable importance to the modern novel: a mind that was...
The $21M painting was the highest price ever paid for a work by a living African American artist at auction
Royal bodies, the ‘incel’ mindset and those Childish Gambino hot-takes: what to read this weekend
In further news: women wearing rainbow badges beaten in Beijing’s 798; gallerists Georg Kargl and Richard Gray have...
‘Coping as a woman in France is a daily battle: the aggression can be subtle, and you always have to push harder to...
The rapper and artist have thoughts about originality in art; Melania Trump tries graphic design – all the latest...
The dilapidated Nissen hut from which Rachel Whiteread will take a cast
Yorkshire residents complain that the concrete sculpture of a ‘Nissen hut’ will attract excrement, vandalism and litter
Poul Erik Tøjner pays tribute to Denmark’s most important artist since Asger Jorn
Toyin Ojih Odutola’s portraits of a fictional aristocratic Nigerian family push toward an expanded definition...
Photographer Dragana Jurisic says her account was deactivated after she uploaded an artwork depicting a partially naked...
In further news: open letter protests all-male shortlist for BelgianArtPrize; Arts Council of Ireland issues...
From Sol Calero’s playful clichés of Latin America to an homage to British modernist architect Alison Smithson
Everybody’s favourite underpaid, over-educated, raven-haired art critic, Rhonda Lieberman, is as relevant as ever
‘Prize & Prejudice’ at London's UCL Art Museum is a bittersweet celebration of female talent
The curators want to rectify the biennale’s ‘failure to question the hetero-normative production of space’; ‘poppers...
A fragment of the brutalist Robin Hood Gardens will go on show at the Venice Architecture Biennale
‘Women's role in shaping the history of contemporary art is being reappraised’
Three shows in Ireland celebrate the legendary polymath, artist and author of Inside the White Cube
The legendary performance artists will partner up again to detail their tumultuous relationship in a new book
An open letter signed by over 100 leading artists including 15 Turner prize-winners says that new UK education policy...
Naturists triumph at art gallery; soothing students with colouring books; Kanye’s architectural firm: your dose of art...
Avengers: Infinity War confirms the domination of mass culture by the franchise: what ever happened to narrative...
The agency’s founder talks about warfare in the age of post truth, deconstructing images and holding states and...
From hobnobbing with Oprah to championing new art centres, millennial crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is following a...
A juror for the award last year, Dan Fox on why the Turner Prize is and always will be political (whatever that means)
The argument that ancestral connection offers a natural grasp of the complex histories and aesthetics of African art is...
One of most iconic and controversial writers of the past 40 years, Tom Wolfe discusses writing, art and intellectual...

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

March 2018

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018