The Collectors Symposium, presented by National Bank Private Banking 1859, was established to give participants an opportunity to share in the experience of sitting on an art acquisition committee. Much appreciated by art lovers and collectors, this unique evening also offers those less familiar with contemporary art a chance to discover contemporary works and the important role they play within a museum collection. In the last years, the Symposium, which is closely aligned with the mission of both the Foundation and the museum, has allowed major works to be added to the MAC’s collection.
Red Film (2018) is the third part of a film trilogy, along with Soft Film (2016) and Rose Gold (2017), that questions how desire is manifested through objects. Although the work focuses on the contemporary economy of infinite choice and the production lines of beauty and value, it delves more deeply into the subject of colour. It takes a lucid, critical look at how colour operates politically, socially, and historically, especially with regard to the definition of beauty. Ubiquitous references to colour create connections among consumer objects, artworks, and a broader concept of capitalism. The narrative is structured by a male voice and the artist’s own, as they quote from writings by historical figures and contemporary critical thinkers. Their observations on colour are linked and superimposed, as a constellation of images illustrating how colour is used to reify constructions of gender, race, and class flash across the screen. Using a philosophical tone, Red Film critiques the constant and persuasive pressure exerted by capitalism to conform and consume, and it questions how the names of some of modern art history’s most famous artists are used to sell merchandise.
In Red Film, Sara Cwynar’s compilation of signifiers, images, and quotations consolidates our complex relationship with desire in an opulent world of options and choices, of things to buy and to look at. With the inclusion of reproductions of artworks and references to male figures from modern art, such as Cézanne, it becomes obvious that the history of Western art has contributed to creating many market values by using artists and artworks for marketing purposes.
Janet Werner has been accumulating magazines and illustrated books in her studio for many years, building up a huge bank of images drawn from fashion, film and popular culture. She uses this resource as the inspiration for her paintings, works on predominantly “feminine” themes that challenge the classical conventions of representation. Since the 1990s, Janet Werner has been developing her own distinct brand of fictional portraiture using found photographs and a “cadavre exquis” technique that involves cutting the images up, rearranging their parts and then further transforming the figures in paint using various stylistic operations. The resulting works illustrate complex psychological states and reflect an ambiguous attitude to beauty, conjuring a dreamlike world of transformation, loss and disobedience.
Janet Werner, born in Winnipeg in 1959, lives and works in Montréal. Holder of a master’s degree in fine arts from Yale University (1987), she has been teaching at Concordia University since 1999 and exhibits her work regularly in Canada and internationally. She is represented by Parisian Laundry (Montréal), Birch Contemporary (Toronto) and Anat Ebgi (Los Angeles). This fall, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal is presenting a compact survey of the artist’s work from the last decade, a period when references to humour and the carnivalesque have receded somewhat, giving way to an approach that focuses more on her practice’s context of production, portraying the studio as a worksite where source photographs and paintings cohabit. Beast is a key work from Janet Werner’s most recent production – a compellingly expressive meditation on the iconic character of images that unleashes the viewer’s imagination and power of projection.
In his photographs from the series titled The Other Night Sky, Trevor Paglen maps and photographs the most covert American surveillance satellites currently orbiting the earth. Using a specially adapted astronomical software program and amateur observational data, he creates a model of the orbit of a given spacecraft so that he can accurately predict when and where it will appear in the night sky. He then employs a system of programmed-exposure cameras to record the satellite’s path. This trajectory often goes counter to the natural orbit of stars, which has the effect of highlighting the craft’s unnatural presence in the sky. The ultimate irony is that in taking these photographs the artist is performing the same act as the satellite, but in the opposite direction.
In recent years, the status of images has undergone a major transformation: the vast majority are now created by machines for other machines, and exist in the form of data never intended to be deciphered by the human eye. INTRUDER 5A in Cygnus (Ocean Reconnaissance Satellite; USA 160) Note: Other Satellites Are SCOUT X-4 Rocket Body and Unknown) explores this new state of affairs and raises questions about the implications of the radical change it represents.
Skawennati was born in the Mohawk territory of Kahnawake in 1969. Concerned with the absence of indigenous people in the collective imaginary of the future, this Mohawk artist uses media arts to create an indigenous presence in cyberspace. Skawennati’s work is mostly known due to her “machinimas”, films set in virtual environments. In these, the artist choreographs the actions of avatars whose voices are supplied by members of her community. Her “futuristic” representations of indigenous people allow to undermine the stereotypes spread by the media and to assert the vibrancy of a current indigenous culture with a long future ahead of it.
Presented at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal for the Biennale de Montreal 2014, TimeTravellerTM, 2007-2014, is centered on a series of nine short machinimas. In them we follow the story of Hunter, a young Mohawk of the 22nd century, who, using the technology of TimeTravellerTM glasses, goes on a virtual quest on which he visits the milestones of indigenous history and meets Karahkwenhawi, a young Mohawk woman from the present. In another machinima artwork Onkweshòn:’a: Words Before All Else Part 1, 2017, an avatar recites in English, French and Kanien’kéha the first section of the Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen, which means“Thanksgiving Address”, words traditionally spoken at the beginning of all Haudenosaunee (“Iroquois”) gatherings.