Ottawa

The affective tourists: Holly King and Rehab Nazzal

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Half of the Holly King show at Art Mûr is a retrospective. She’s been doing this for 30 years. I’ll confine myself to addressing the new work, though it’s worth noting that while her work has become warmer in hue, it’s also become less romantic in tenor. Made up principally of photos and a few viewing contraptions, A la frontière du mystère features studio created landscapes blown up as large photo prints. Sometimes the backdrops to these images are painted with loose brush work in swirling Sunday painter style as mildly whimsical skies. Sometimes they are enlarged, glossy tourist getaway brochure type images filled with glinting pebbles. In both cases, she places what amounts to still lifes of largely dead plants and the occasional gewgaw in the foreground and in focus. Sometimes these are a bit glittery to play against the background. The few smaller, strictly still lifes against black play this angle more, covering the dark grounding with what looks like a shower of dandruff, or maybe it’s glitter.
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Human Scale: From Cradle to Grave at the National Gallery

Human Scale: From Cradle to Grave featured predominately sculptures from the National Gallery’s permanent collection with a newer addition dropped in. It had that thrown together quality. The works themselves spanned out over the large spaces they barely occupied, sometimes sitting a bit off-centre or slouching against the wall. Mostly nude, hyper-realistic figures, they cast few shadows. There was a grey hospital quality to the whole thing.

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some bagatelles on the misanthropy of art I: of sentimental activists and the question of taste

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Even if we admit that, as patron and inhabitant, his perspective on and memory of the project would differ from those of others, nonetheless, on the cusp of talking his nation into war, why did Hitler feel compelled to write about the aesthetic pain caused by ugly light fixtures?

Hitler at Home (25-26)

Of course, we all know that few people are more hateful, spiteful, envious, paranoid, weak, ignorant, underhanded, double-faced, narcissistic, and dull than artists. The whole social history of art, were one to seriously write one (and no one has bothered to), would consist of little more than listing these litanies of loathing and, depending on the author’s level of perversity, categorizing them with great care and attention to detail. This is not an insult. The worst one can say for hatred is that it is too close to love, too close to being smitten with some trivial element of the world. One ought – and this is the only ethical or moral sentiment of these essays – to hate far better than that.

That art is regarded as an affirmation of life and humanity, if not their ultimate affirmation, is a commonplace. It is also patently false. And this falseness, which is also a kind of artifice, is occasionally drawn up into a moral conundrum about the dangers of aesthetics. Panic mongering about the danger of aestheticized violence or exoticized otherness have been fairly lucrative intellectual industries in academia and the art industry over the past few decades. And art, as a program for objectifying intensities, has duly exploited such pusillanimous squealing.

To take a trivial but local example: Ottawa art galleries (lately at least) seem to display a penchant for bien pensant art-as-therapy. The few commercial galleries, generally stocking landscapes etc., are balanced by artist-run centres and other state supported galleries who tend to organize their seasons around displaying their political fantasies. Amidst all of these was a small commercial exhibit by Jonathan Hobin featuring photographs of various miserable looking children in what is now fashionably considered racist garb with anime sized tears running down their puckered cheeks. The tears are fake, of course, and kitsch plays a crucial role.

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Behind Closed Doors: Body of Evidence by Natascha Niederstrass at Gallery 101

Natascha NiederstrassBehind Closed Doors: Body of Evidence at Gallery 101 is an installation which examines the creation of Marcel Duchamp’s Given: 1° The Waterfall, 2° The Illuminating Gas (1946-1966) and draws on the elaborate manual that he created for its production. It displays a re-creation of his studio with the body parts from the work rendered as a chopped up mannequin. On the walls are photos of the infamous Black Dahlia murders. The exhibition text points to the Steve Hodel’s book, Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder, in which he suggests that his surgeon father George Hodel – an art connoisseur and associate of Man Ray – murdered Elizabeth Short. This historical event is then set up as an inspiration for Duchamp’s enigmatic work of art. (more…)