The AGA brings components of the National Gallery to Edmonton for the first time
For those that haven’t been to the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) in Ottawa, fret no more. The AGA’s new exhibit opening this weekend will give you a taste of some of the NGC’s great procurements from the last three years.
Since 2010, the National Gallery has been running a biennial exhibition to feature new contemporary acquisitions to the collection from the previous two years. This year however, is the first year international artists will be included amongst several Canadians. And fitting with this new change, the theme for Edmonton’s exhibition covers some increasingly present issues in the world.
“We’ve called the exhibition Turbulent Landings, and the idea is that most of the works in the exhibition somehow deal with contemporary, global issues around migration and immigration and questions of indigeneity,” says AGA Chief Curator Catherine Crowston. “We’ve purposely selected works that kind of have a dialogue with each other.”
She says the AGA show is more thematic and narratively curated than Ottawa’s, simply because herself and NGC curators Jonathan Shaughnessy and Josée Drouin-Brisebois wanted to rationalize why the various works of video, sculpture, drawing, and painting made the trek to Edmonton as a ensemble.
The artists featured are nearly half and half, with the majority being Canadian, both indigenous and not, and the other half making up several contemporary international artists, such as British filmmaker John Akomfrah.
“[His] work explores the history of slavery and the movement of people from Africa to North America,” Crowston says, “but also ties that to global expansion and the impact of that on the environment.”
She says one of the more interesting aspects they found when forming Turbulent Landings is that many Canadian artists are also working with quite similar themes and concerns to the international artists.
Canadian filmmaker Kelly Richardson’s film Mariner 9 touches on themes of movement beyond earth, discussing climate change and the impact it has had and will continue to have on humanity.
“On the one hand, Mariner 9 hints at grave concerns about where we are headed as a species,” Richardson says via email. “On the other, it asks us to recognise that there is a great deal to fight for. But time is fleeting.”
She attributes much of her inspiration for the piece to the increased frequency of natural disasters.
“In recent weeks we have witnessed deadly hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, their strength and frequency of which are tied to the effects of global warming,” she says. “In lesser dramatic, but equally worrying news given its implication, Scotland’s oldest snow patch dating back 300 years disappeared this week.”
Egyptian filmmaker Wael Shawky instead looks to the past and frames the Crusades through a Muslim perspective breaking down the concept of conquering people in the name of Christianity.
Showing until early January of 2018, Turbulent Landings is a perfect example of how connected the world has become and how far-reaching the themes and issues touched on are.
“Particularly now, when we’ve got the refugee crisis happening around the world and we’ve got lots of people moving,” Crowston says. “The idea of migration and immigration that we see now, in a contemporary context also links back to other histories of the movement of people, which was actually more about colonization.”
The AGA was selected as the only gallery to host a component of the NGC’s contemporary pieces as a part of the biennial show. Crowston says the AGA is eager to show some of the new acquisitions to the NGC’s collections and to display international works in the company and context of Canadian artists.
Sat., Sept. 30
Turbulent Landings: The NGC 2017 Canadian Biennial
Art Gallery of Alberta