The Art Gallery of Ontario shares in the loss of Lynne Cohen, one of Canada’s finest visual artists. Lynne’s remarkable body of work took us to extraordinary, often-foreboding places — places we would be unlikely to encounter in our daily lives, except through her compelling photographs. Her enigmatic, real-world photographs of interior environments, uninhabited by humans, alluded to her sense of wit and irony.
An internationally collected artist, Lynne was nominated for the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize (then called the Grange Prize) in 2009, and the AGO is proud to have exhibited her work alongside the nominees from Canada and Mexico. Lynne spent her Prize-sponsored residency in Mexico, inspired by interior spaces that became new installations of extraordinary photographs.
Lynne’s legacy will be remembered by all who admired her vision, dedication to students, loyalty to those who knew her and her incredible strength the past three years. Our deepest condolences to Andrews Lugg, her partner of 50 years, who was closest to Lynne in every way.
— Maia Sutnik, Curator, Special Photography Projects at the AGO
The latest video project by Edgardo Aragón – a finalist in the 2013 AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize – tracks bison across North American, in Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories, in Yellowstone National Park and near Chihuahua in Mexico, his home country. We talked to him about the project, made possible by his AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize residency.
AGO: Of the three places you visited for your project, which was the most surprising, in terms of defying your expectations? Why?
Edgardo Aragón: I was very surprised and still I am about Fort Smith. Given the conditions under which people live in this place, it could seem impossible that there’s life there, but life exists, along with one of the strangest lights that I will ever see in my life.
Since going to these places, has your plan for the project changed?
Whenever I plan a new project, I always expect that the circumstances change the nature of the project itself. In this case the change happened, without a doubt. Natural conditions modify the project a great deal, complementing and giving body to it in a way that a sketch could not. I’m satisfied.
Many animal species migrate – why did you choose to focus on bison?
I chose the bison for two reasons. The first is that it had a natural frontier that would shift according to the climate conditions, modifying substantially the life of the First Nations people who depended on the bison to survive. They would conform to the bison’s behaviour. That’s why the project is not, in fact, trying to create a portrait of bison so much as one of the invisible men that has ceased to live in harmony with it.
The second reason is that this animal species does’t migrate. After nearly becoming extinct at the hands of the white man, it has endured some sort of domestication. Today it is a species in the process of recuperation in Mexico and Canada. It is curious to note that in the U.S., where there are more reserves, the bison is not a protected species and is limited to its territories. This domestication is an aspect of extermination as well, of the animal and its animal nature and, of course, of what little spirit of the First Nations people remains.
Why did you decide to use video for this project instead of still images?
Video is a more organic tool, more malleable. You can move it in many directions to generate a specific discourse or an open one. I think I choose video because I like having elements that are closer to a sense of physical presence, closer to the movement of the apparatus, to the presence of a witness and specifically to the manipulation of time. Duration plays a fundamental role in establishing the dimensions of the theme. The sounds of the places or the absence of such sounds plays a fundamental role in the atmospheres that I’m trying to convey and generate in the project.
When you gave an interview to the Northern Journal, you said, “In a way, the real subject of the video project does not exist…It’s an invisible phantom.” Can you elaborate on that? What is the real subject?
The subject I am portraying is the human who lived with the presence of the bison. That way of life is poorly understood by Eurocentric cultures. That was what I was interested in discovering or portraying. I followed the path of the bison because it represents the way First Nations people lived. All the vacant spaces left around the bison are the spaces left by earlier lives – lives lived within the cultural shock generated by contact with Europe – and the near-extermination of the bison. The creation of reserves for the native people of the Americas were really the extermination of a spirit that generated a sense of life.
With the westernisation of North America a philosophy of life was destroyed – a loss which we have not been able to fully understand yet. This is why I like to think about this video as a portrait of an invisible human being, a portrait of a philosophy of life inherent to the creative and cultural spirit of a human being that disappeared many years ago. The presence of reserves for human and animal species is only one of its forms of annihilation. This is the central objective of the project.
All photos courtesy of the artist. Keep up with this year’s Aimia | AGO Photography Prize on Twitter and Facebook.
Voting won’t begin until late summer, but the 2014 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize is well underway. Over the past few months, individuals around the world have been researching and discussing exciting new ideas and directions in fine art photography and putting forward the names of artists whose recent work has shown extraordinary potential. The nominators — a group of 13 curators, critics and artists — submit two artists each for inclusion on the long list, and then a three-person jury selects a short list of four. Later this year, the shortlisted artists’ work will be exhibited at the AGO and online, and the public vote will decide who wins the $50,000 CAD prize.
We’re happy to introduce you to this year’s jury, led by the AGO’s associate curator of photography, Sophie Hackett, and we hope you’ll follow along as the Prize develops in 2014. Keep an eye out for long-list and short-list announcements in the coming months, and follow the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize on Facebook and Twitter for more news.
This year’s jury:
Sophie Hackett is the Associate Curator, Photography, at the Art Gallery of Ontario and adjunct faculty in Ryerson University’s master’s program in Photographic Preservation and Collections Management. She has contributed to several Canadian art magazines, international journals and monographs, and she has curated or co-curated several exhibitions and public projects at the AGO, including Suzy Lake: Rhythm of a True Space (2008); Barbara Kruger: Untitled (It) (2010); “Where I was born…”: A Photograph, a Clue and the Discovery of Abel Boulineau (2011); Songs of the Future: Canadian Industrial Photographs, 1858 to Today (2011); Album: A Public Project (2012) and Light My Fire: Some Propositions about Portraits and Photography (2013-2014), a wide-ranging consideration of the photographic portrait, drawn from the AGO’s permanent collection. Upcoming projects include What It Means To be Seen: Photography and Queer Visibility and Fan the Flames: Queer Positions in Photography — both opening in June 2014. She is the lead juror for the 2014 AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize, a role she also held in 2010 and 2012.
Laurie Simmons (b.1949, USA) stages photographs and films with paper dolls, finger puppets, ventriloquist dummies and costumed dancers as “living objects,” animating a dollhouse world suffused with nostalgia and colored by an adult’s memories, longings, and regrets. Simmons’ work blends psychological, political, and conceptual approaches to art-making, transforming photography’s propensity to objectify people, especially women, into a sustained critique of the medium. She has received many awards, including the Roy Lichtenstein Residency in the Visual Arts at the American Academy in Rome (2005), and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1997) and the National Endowment for the Arts (1984). She has had major exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Baltimore Museum of Art; San Jose Museum of Art, California; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and she has participated in two Whitney Biennial exhibitions (1985, 1991) and was included in the 2013 Venice Biennial. Her work is represented in many noted collections including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others.
Okwui Enwezor is a Nigerian-born, German-based scholar, curator, and writer and has been director of Haus der Kunst since October 2011. He was adjunct curator at International Center of Photography, New York, and previously adjunct curator of Contemporary Art, at the Art Institute of Chicago. Enwezor has served as the artistic director of several leading biennials and international exhibitions and in December 2013 he was appointed as director of the Visual Arts Sector of the 56th Biennale di Venezia. Enwezor’s curatorial credits include exhibitions presented in museums and venues across the U.S., Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America, including Guggenheim Museum, Tate Modern, Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art Barcelona, Museo Tamayo, Mexico City, Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels, PS1 / MoMA, New York and the National Gallery of Canada. Enwezor has received numerous awards and honors for his work including an honourary fellowship from the Royal College of Art, London (2010) and an award for Curatorial Excellence from Center for Curatorial Studies and Art in Contemporary Culture, Bard College (2009). He lives in Munich and New York.
This year’s nominators were:
Grant Arnold, Audain Curator of British Columbia Art, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver
Veronica Cordeiro, curator, Centro de Fotografía de Montevideo, Uruguay
Moyra Davey, artist and nominee for the 2010 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize (then called the Grange Prize)
Jon Davies, associate curator, Oakville Galleries
Gary Dufour, adjunct associate professor, University of Western Australia and former chief curator/deputy director, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
Tamar Garb, Durning Lawrence Professor in the History of Art, University College, London, U.K.
Gauri Gill, artist and winner of the 2011 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize (then called the Grange Prize)
Marie-Josée Jean, head of the VOX Contemporary Image Centre, Montreal
Mami Kataoka, chief curator, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
Recorded: Oct. 17, 2013, at Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario
Paul Graham is a British photographer based in New York. Lauded as “a profound force for renewal of the deep photographic tradition of engagement with the world,” he was awarded the 2012 Hasselblad award for major achievements in photography.
The touchscreen recently installed in the Thomson Collection of European Art (Gallery 107). Photo by Craig Boyko/Art Gallery of Ontario.
The Thomson Collection of European Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario includes about 900 objects, mainly northern European sculpture and decorative arts dating from the early Middle Ages to the mid-19th century.
In addition to the collection’s cornerstone artwork, Peter Paul Rubens’ The Massacre of the Innocents, it has both sacred and secular objects including a renowned group of medieval and Baroque ivories, as well as fine examples of silver, Limoges enamel, boxwood carving, medieval manuscripts, carved portrait medallions and nearly 100 portrait miniatures from the 16th to the 19th centuries. It’s a varied collection that captures visitors’ interest, and they’ve told us that they want to know more.
Staff from our Digital Services department worked hard to create a new entry point to the Thomson Collection, in the form of an interactive touchscreen. You’ll find the screen close to the AGO’s entrance (Gallery 107), a room that also contains two paintings (from the Thomson Collection’s Canadian works), a ship model and a vitrine full of small objects from the European Collection.
These objects and paintings represent the Thomson Collection’s European, Canadian and Ship Model components, and each object has a story behind it and reason, including why Ken Thomson collected and appreciated it. In addition to getting an introduction to Thomson and the legacy of his collection, visitors can learn about the objects in depth by selecting them on the touchscreen. They are also directed to other spaces in the Gallery with more of the same kind of object.
Photo by Craig Boyko/Art Gallery of Ontario.
How’d we do it?
The display screen is Microsoft’s 55-inch Perceptive Pixel touch display (learn more about it here). To get the project up and running, AGO photographers had to re-shoot each item using “focus stacking.” This process extends the depth of field in a shot (making more of it in sharp focus) without losing file data using multiple exposures and post-production software.
A folding knife with boxwood handle from the Thomson Collection of European Art. The image on the right — created using the photo-stacking technique — has an extended depth of field.
A shallow depth of field has always been an issue with macro photography. The objects included in the touchscreen project are almost all very small, so we adopted this photo merging or “stacking” software as a new approach. It allows the viewer to see these detailed objects more clearly than ever before.
What’s next? Our Digital team is full of ideas on how to make the experience even better, including enhanced way-finding and the ability to create personalized tours. We hope you’ll spend a few minutes with the touchscreen on your next visit. And if you’ve already had a chance to try it out, share your thoughts on the experience in the comments below.
Vince Timpano (left), with 2013 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize winner Erin Shirreff and AGO director and CEO Matthew Teitelbaum.
In November 2013, before an excited crowd at AGO First Thursdays, Canadian artist Erin Shirreff was named as winner of the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize. Shirreff receives the $50,000 cash prize and will head to the Maritimes in spring 2014 for her residency. Meanwhile, visitors to the AGO can see her work and that of the other shortlisted photographers — Edgardo Aragón, LaToya Ruby Frazier and Chino Otsuka — until Jan. 5, 2014, inside the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize exhibition.
In the new year, another exciting part of the Prize program begins. The Aimia | AGO Photography Prize Scholarship Program will award three $7,000 scholarships each year to students entering their final year of study toward Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees with a focus or major in photography. The scholarships are awarded to students at select Canadian academic institutions who have shown extraordinary potential throughout their undergraduate studies. This year’s partner schools are OCAD University, Ryerson University, Concordia University, Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University (NSCAD), Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD), Université du Québec and the University of Manitoba. The program also awards $1000 CAD honorariums to the schools of the winning students.
Starting in March 2014, each academic partner institution will form a jury of three faculty members to review their students’ submissions and select one finalist, and the finalists will be evaluated by the Scholarship Program jury, consisting of two representatives from the Art Gallery of Ontario and a previous winner of the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize.
In November 2014, the three winners of the scholarship and a faculty member of their respective institution will be invited to Toronto to celebrate their success, where they will meet the artists short-listed for the Prize and attend the winner announcement celebration.
Next year, the Prize cycle will begin again, with nominators and jurors named in early spring, long-list and short-list announcements over the summer, before a new round of voting next fall. We hope you’ll follow along with us and discover some of the world’s best photo-based art in 2014.
Stay connected with the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize on Facebook and Twitter.
Toronto-based artist Sara Angelucci is the AGO artist-in-residence from November 20, 2013, to January 20, 2014, and we’re so happy to share her work with you. Working primarily with photography, video and audio, Angelucci incorporates archival materials such as home movies, snapshots, and vintage portraits into her work and recently has turned her focus to research on endangered and extinct North American bird species.
During her time at the AGO, Angelucci will explore works from our Canadian collection, particularly those with Canadian nature, aviary and forestry subjects. She’s planned a number of initiatives that will activate this research and provide points of engagement for AGO visitors and for staff, including:
a performance in February entitled A Mourning Chorus and featuring a cappella singing that will explore the sounds of disappearing North American song-birds through the historic framework of women’s public mourning rituals;
the installation of two works from Angelucci’s Aviary from November to February 2014 in our Canadian galleries;
a Meet the Artist talk in January, when she will talk to artists Spring Hurlbut and Marla Hlady about their work; and
a panel discussion, also in January, entitled “Art & Ideas: A bird’s eye view on art & extinction,” to be followed by a three-course meal served in FRANK restaurant, specially prepared by executive chef Jeff Dueck in consultation with Angelucci.
As Angelucci settles into the artist-in-residence studio in the Weston Family Learning Centre, we wanted to know what inspired these plans. Here, she offers insight into her practice and its relation to the environment, her fascination with birds and her approach to residencies.
AGO: Do you consider yourself an environmental activist/conservationist as well as an artist?
Sara Angelucci: It is unfair to the true activists out there to call myself that. But, like many people, I’m deeply concerned about what is happening to the environment and in recent years the problems seem to be accelerating as we see weather conditions around the world becoming more extreme.
Where did your interest in songbirds come from? Do you have a personal connection or did you grow interested in them through your practice/research?
I’ve always loved birds and thought they were beautiful. I think a number of things have brought me to thinking about them in a more focused way. I have been spending more isolated time in the countryside and watching them there. Also, in my recent photographic series Aviary I combined images of endangered and extinct North American birds (which I photographed in the ornithology collection at the ROM) with images of anonymous cartes-de-visite.
Although the process by which I came to making this connection is a long one to explain, I think there are interesting overlaps between the craze for collecting cartes-de-visite in the 19th century and the craze for collecting natural specimens. Aviaries become hugely popular at this time, as did taxidermy. The Victorian parlour was a place where both the photographic album and these specimens came together. With this project I’ve been doing a lot of reading on birds and the challenges they face today, which include habitat destruction and pesticides amongs other things.
How do the actions of your residency — the installation of your Aviary portraits, the talks and special meal in FRANK, the chorus — relate to and inform one another?
All of these projects are an attempt to contemplate our relationship to the birds, and by way of extension, the natural world, in a directly embodied way. When we are implicated in a direct way, by combining images of the bird/human, through what we eat, or through the human voice, we cannot separate ourselves from nature. I feel very strongly that one of the reasons we are in such dire straits environmentally is that as humans we see ourselves as apart [from] or above nature. This disconnection is very dangerous for the earth, its species and, ultimately, for us and we are seeing its catastrophic implications.
Do you plan to continue to produce work related to these themes after your residency?
It’s hard to say. At the moment I am very focused on the projects at hand. It’s highly possible that I will, but I try not to get too far ahead of myself on projects.
You’ve done a number of residencies, at NSCAD (Halifax), the Banff Centre, and at Biz-Art in Shanghai – how does the AGO’s program differ from the others you’ve experienced? Did you do localized research during those residencies that influenced your practice afterward?
They have all been extremely different. In each case I have tried to think about what I can do which is special to that place, the people I encounter there and my interests. It sometimes takes a little while to figure that out.
The residency in Shanghai was in some ways the most challenging and so far the most fulfilling. China was a complete culture shock, and I was extremely jetlagged for a good week. So it took me some time to find my footing, and I couldn’t speak to many people. It was very interesting to be silent. You have to find different ways of communicating and making yourself understood. And you have to use keen observation to figure things out.
At the AGO I feel like I’m in luxury. There is so much going on at the gallery that I am invited to be a part of, and so much support for what I want to do. Everyone has been incredibly welcoming, and the resources at hand for an artist are amazing — from technical support to research and curatorial support. Also, it’s my hometown, so it is exciting to be sharing this experience with my family, students and friends as it is unfolding.
AGO Director and CEO Matthew Teitelbaum (left), with three of the four photographers shortlisted for the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize 2013: (l-r) Erin Shirreff, LaToya Ruby Frazier and Chino Otsuka, and President of Aimia Canada Inc., Vince Timpano.
On Nov. 7, join us at the Gallery to celebrate photography and congratulate the winner of the $50,000 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize. The announcement will take place at a special edition of the AGO’s monthly First Thursdays party series, which will be followed by a performance by Polaris Prize nominee Zaki Ibrahim. Tickets to the event are available now from ago.net and more details about the night’s programming are here.
All four nominees will be present for the announcement, which will feature special presentations by local personalities about each of the artists. In addition to the $50,000 grand prize, the winner will also receive a fully funded six-week residency in Canada. The three other finalists will each receive cash honorariums of $5,000 and artist residencies.
You’re also invited to unleash your inner photographer and share images of their favourite AGO spaces and features on Instagram. Photos hashtagged with #MyAGO will be displayed on screens all night long in Walker Court.
Visit the Prize’s website to watch videos featuring the artists in their studios, view their artwork and cast your vote. If you’re in Toronto, see the artists’ work up close in the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize 2013 Exhibition, on view at the AGO until Jan. 5, 2013.
What does David Bowie look like in Toronto? The exhibition David Bowie is contains many images of the cultural icon in his many guises — including iconic portraits by Brian Duffy and Masayoshi Sukita — but getting to see him on stage in our hometown is a rare opportunity.
While living with Iggy Pop in Berlin, Bowie collaborated on two of Pop’s solo albums, The Idiot and Lust for Life, and also toured with him. In this guest post, photographer Vince Carlucci recalls a 1977 Pop concert at the Seneca College Field House in Toronto, when Bowie performed a rare supporting role. (Carlucci captured many stars around that time. In a post earlier this year, he shared photos from a late-’70s Patti Smith performance in the same venue.)
See more shots and Carlucci’s memories of the concert below.
Click to expand
“The photos depicted here were shot on March 14, 1977, at Seneca Field House, Toronto. This was Iggy Pop’s The Idiot tour, supporting his first album without the Stooges and the first of two albums to which David Bowie contributed songs and/or production. The following record, Lust For Life, was released in 1978.
“This is a rare moment in rock-and-roll history, where Mr. Bowie can be seen as a supporting or background musician, in a relatively small venue, compared to his own larger extravaganzas.
“There was a wild round of applause, shouting and general hooting as Bowie smiled and took his place behind the keyboards. Bowie sat with his back partially to the audience, hence snapping a good photo took some patience and manoeuvring. Two rock icons on the same stage in a small venue: a very special moment.”
All photos were taken on a Pentax SP1000 35 mm camera.
Film: Kodak Tri-X
Besides being one of the world’s most influential and most talked-about contemporary artists, Ai Weiwei is a cat lover. The artist lives with about 40 of them in his Beijing studio home, and they have become a constant element in his life, both public and private. Alison Klayman’s 2012 documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry begins with a scene in which the artist ponders one of his pet’s special skills, linking it to the power of the individual: “Out of the 40 cats, one knows how to open doors. If I’d never met this cat that can open doors, I wouldn’t know cats can open doors.”
During a recent interview with ARTINFO, Ai took photos of cats lounging in between him and the writer, noting that they can’t keep away when a recording device is nearby: “Are they national security guards? Or are they’re just interested in sound?” Ai asked. For an artist known for work that investigates serious and sometimes grave issues like his government’s restrictions on freedom of expression and mishandling of national tragedies, Ai’s Instagram feed offers fans a rounded view of his life at home, his friends, family and visitors and what brings him joy, including his cats. Lots of cats. Have a look at Ai’s recent cat-snaps below, and follow @aiww on Instagram to see what else is happening in his world. Read the rest of this entry »