The first exhibitions of the 2014 season have arrived. At Harcourt House Artist Run Centre we are ringing in the New Year with three shows, thematically linked by mapping.
A map can represent and make the impossible – possible, the invisible – visible. To me, creating a map is an exercise in making what we may not see or touch into something slightly more tangible. Maps have the potential to be illustrations of something that we may not physically ever reach or be able to materialize – the ephemeral. Suddenly you can see the whole world on one piece of paper, which is an impossible place for it to be.
The Main Gallery features, All the World, by Clare Samuel. This photographic portraiture series explores the notion of perception and representation. Each photograph depicts an individual in their domestic setting, with a self-drawn map of the world in front of them. Samuel has been developing this body of work over a period of fives year. During this time she has travelled to Lethbridge, Montreal, and Haiti, finding participants in each location who were willing to be a part of the project. Participants are asked to draw the world from memory or imagination, with no resources. This exhibition features only her Canadian participants, and most heavily those from the province of Québec.
In 2009, Clare was an artist in residence in small rural Québec town called Saint-Jean-Port-Joli. It was there that she first encountered the term ‘tout le monde’, which means ‘everyone’ but literally translates to ‘all the world’.
Clare remarks that: “It was funny because it seemed so grand and excessive, especially if just referring to four of us in a room for example! ‘come on let’s all the world go out for a beer’! So I thought a lot about that phrase and when I started the work it was shortly afterwards that I decided this should be the title. It made me think about the idea of all of the world, of the whole world, what could that mean? Is it something we could even conceive of, such an entirety?”
This collection of portraits is wonderfully layered – visually and conceptually. With the individuals being expertly photographed, there is an aesthetic quality that can draw you in. Once engaged, the details of the body language, domestic setting and hand drawn maps unfold the longer you consider each work. There is vulnerability in these portraits; some of the subjects try to mask this with strong body language while others look, even a bit apologetic or embarrassed. It’s a show with so much personality and depth that you become engrossed in getting to know the subjects.
In our Front Room Gallery, we have Déjà Vous, a solo exhibition Edmonton based artist and Master of Fine Art candidate Emilie St.Hilaire. Déjà Vous is an ongoing self-portrait project, which takes the form of a large-scale installation work featuring thousands of pages pulled from the artist’s notepads, journals and sketchbooks. This is not a portrait in the traditional sense, but rather a visual and written record of moments of struggle, curiosity, and inspiration from the past ten years of the artist’s life. By removing these small pages and placing them on the walls, St.Hilaire recontextualizes them into a visual map of her personal and artistic development. Originally from St-Boniface, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Emilie has drawn on her Francaphone roots to name the exhibition.
I consider this work an effort made collectively by various instantiations of myself over time. While I can’t recall having made each and every piece, I do experience a sense of recognition upon each re-reading, triggering a sensation of déjà vu. I’ve chosen to reframe this experience as one of “déjà vous” to highlight the multiple selves who have created the works over time: I hope that “déjà vous,” rather than “déjà vu,” captures the uncanny feeling of re-recognizing my selves through these works.
Both these exhibitions play with representation and identity; they engage the visitor and have the potential to tap into our own experiences. You may catch yourself smiling or nodding as you read Emilie’s entries, acknowledging even commiserating with her questions or emotions; she’s made herself accessible. Samuel’s work on the other hand presents ‘others’ – she positions the viewer in the place of the photographer and as such automatically as an observer – someone outside the work. Both shows navigate the relationship of self and other, in a playful yet poignant way.
This year we also have a Hallway Project Space, which will feature ongoing project development from local artists and collectives. Starting on January 23 2014, The
Edmonton Wayfinding Project will take over the hallway space. This initiative has been called a conversation about getting lost and getting found as pedestrians in Edmonton. The project calls on citizens to engage in a conversation about wayfinding in the city. It is about imagining a better city. There will be more information about this project soon.
Please come explore these exhibitions – each offers a unique experience and perspective on mapping and how it can manifest.
All of our exhibitions and openings are free to attend.