An Entwined Present | Chika Modum & Dong-Kyoon Nam | June 27 to July 26, 2014

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I find that I am knitting with language again. The end is absorbed in the process, becoming more and more elusive. Blanks spaces on the page chart gaps in my comprehension as lines run on. The constricted essay must hold together a number of details describing An Entwined Present by Chika Modum and Kyoon Nam.

Pick up on one trail and you will be channelled down another – the circular logic of labyrinths, ending where you start. In the material investigations of Modum and Nam, two individual artists presented convergently for the first time, the way into the work is a matter of wading through – immersed in its particulars. The form of the coil and the braid offer a visual throughline, unifying the exhibition. Loose ganglia of copper wires cascade from Nam’s Eyeless Dragon, stripped of their insulation to expose the conductive centre. It is as though “the line has shed its skin.”2Ropy sinews pile up in a kind of physical drawing practiced by both artists in the exhibition. If muscles can memorize a gesture through repetition, the hands of these artists have become prolific mechanisms of production.

One hand feeds what the other consumes... a string of actions. With his installation Red Break, Kyoon Nam introduces the notion of the electrical circuit into the space. Masses of red power cords writhe together, forming a tangled loop tethered to the wall. The coil grows tighter, concealing the appliances it supplies. A foot pedal protrudes, inviting viewers to exert their influence over the sculpture – setting off a lightning-fast chain of connections speeding towards an uncertain conclusion. It takes the will of another body to complete the exchange.

Hyperbolic braids course through the gallery, legible as an extension of the body. Chika Modum casts a spell of giganticism over her subject as these forms appear to propel themselves of their own volition, penetrating through furniture in Vanity and crawling across walls as a kind of cursive handwriting in Ideal Beauty. Plaited garbage bags read as synthetic hair extensions writ large. But these appendages are only husks – a cosmetic prosthesis. The impersonal nature of the plastic yields to the rhythmic process of braiding, the warmth of hands suffusing them with a supple quality suggestive of the process of affixing braided hair extensions to the scalp – a ritualized task, by turns, both tender and severe.

Time can be told through work and accumulation but it can also be experienced as reversal, shedding or extinguishing. Hunched over our labours, the lidless eyes of light bulbs bear witness to mundane and consequential moments. In the work of Nam and Modum we are confronted by material quantity. The sheer physicality of these installations locates them in our experience of the present. The ephemeral passage of time is represented even as it is not – as tangible as clock faces lining Nam’s Event Horizon, as intangible as the openings held in tension along the intervals of a braid...

1. Alexandria Peary, Control Bird Alt Delete. (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2014) p. 63 2. Peary, p.62

Jenna Swift is an emerging writer and curator, currently pursuing a double degree at the University of Calgary. Jenna’s interest in museology is greatly informed by her own studio practice, exploring themes of transience and ephemerality through site-specific installations and other collaborative projects. In 2014 Jenna was awarded the Canadian Art Foundation’s Writing Prize for her essay "The Dilated River," exploring the creative research of Watershed+ artist-in-residence Rachel Duckhouse.


Chika Modum studied Fine and Applied Art at the University of Nigeria, graduating with a BFA in 2003 and an MFA degree in Sculpture from the University of Calgary, in 2012. In 2009 she was included in the ‘Younger than Jesus’ artists-directory published by the New Museum, New York. Her works have been exhibited at The Art Gallery of Alberta, Stride Gallery +15 space, The New Gallery and Harcourt House Arts Centre.

She has participated in numerous international exhibitions which include the Dak’Art: Biennial of Contemporary African Art in 2012. She was recently included in the U.K Aesthetica Magazine’s Art Prize Anthology: “100 Contemporary Artists”, published in March 2013.

Modum has been the recipient of Edmonton Arts Council’s Cultural Diversity in the Arts and The Queen Elizabeth II awards. Modum’s work draws from familiar processes and textures originating in her West African and North American spaces.

Reapplying an array of mass produced objects such as industrial or domestic products - often banal and disregarded - Dong-Kyoon Nam deliberately transforms them into uncertain states of proliferation, repetition and pressure. His work offers a penetrating critique of mass production, consumer society, comfort and discomfort, and potential cracks and threats over controlled society.

For Nam, the restoration of the mundane object in sensory perception and space is paramount. Adding and subtracting with minimal interven- tion, Nam questions the boundaries between presence and absence, perception and representation, physical reality and cyber space.

These counter definitions are deeply rooted in the core of Buddhism and resonate in the well-known phrase from the Heart Sutra scripture, which inspires Nam, “Form is nothing other than emptiness; Emptiness is nothing other than form”. Nam emphasizes that ideas and experience are interconnected like ‘breathing in / breathing out.’ We breathe ‘in’ then we breathe ‘out’ – we ‘experience’ then we ‘think’ or vice-versa. The point being they do not happen simultaneously. One after another.