She once suggested to a respected, successful, and generous curator that a particular artwork be included in an exhibition alongside another. The curator dismissed the suggestion without pause: “those works are too similar, it’s too obvious” said the curator.
A Few Similar Things presents what its title suggests; it comprises four pairings of similar works, made autonomously by different artists. Mounted in vitrine spaces throughout the Arts Commons +15 pedway in Calgary, each installation is a coupling of works that in some way—aesthetically, conceptually, formally—are forthrightly alike.
Curating often prides itself on revealing the esoteric connectivity of artworks: the potential for juxtaposition to illuminate as-yet-unseen kinships, to tease out subtle thematic and formal tendencies or progressions, to build bonds between disparate objects. In this way, curatorial authority is engineered and maintained. A Few Similar Things plays critically with this impulse, questioning the relationship between power and curatorial methodologies.
In another vein, A Few Similar Things is situated in the context of a post-Internet ecology characterized by dizzying effluences of material—an environment that makes the avant-garde impulse of unique, novel creation appear impossible. How might artists faced with such a climate reckon with the act of creating? What can we understand from these similar works, made entirely independent from one another, each likely in complete ignorance of the other’s existence? How do art works become agents who operate outside of particular constraints of control, once unmoored from their artist's hand?
Rarely are we afforded the opportunity to look at similar images alongside each other. Instead, images are contextualized within an artist’s body of work, within a movement, a style, a regional artistic dialogue—their uniqueness highlighted in variation, rather than in their particularities. In A Few Similar Things, obvious pairings of like with like open poetic confluences between works, but also trace the rhythm of their small differences. In the space of the Arts Commons +15 vitrines, these pairings might become a kind of experiment: how do we reckon with sameness? Can the foundational impulses of curating be undone or de-familiarized by gestures of obvious combination? What might aesthetic closeness lend to us for understanding each other?
Tanya Lukin Linklater + Celia Perrin Sidarous
Celia Perrin Sidarous’ Chorégraphie de la main et de l’objet (2014) and Tanya Lukin Linklater’s short video Hands (2011) centre human hands as aesthetic units within a greater composition, alluding to the poetry of gesture. Rather than take up the hand’s use value—its capacity for labour, service, creation, etc.—each work captures the rhythmic, formal, and evocative potential of the hand. In Sidarous’ photograph, the hands are caught in mid-air, performing some unknown movement, whose grace points both to the construction of the composition, and opens up a space in which to imagine some unknown ritual significance. In Linklater’s video, by contrast, the hands are removed from any relationship to an object. Their movements take on an investigative quality, in motions that correspond to observing or being observed. At times, the hands’ gestures evoke touch between lovers, family members, caretakers, while at others they are reminiscent of banal activities such as handwashing. Linklater’s video moves through a range of human contact, recognition, and contemplation. In both works, hands become a vessel for performing the choreography of complex social relations, staged through the symbolic language of fingers and flesh.
A Few Similar Things is presented in partnership with Untitled Art Society + Stride Gallery + The New Gallery + TRUCK Contemporary Art
Tanya Lukin Linklater + Celia Perrin Sidarous
Maggie Groat + Simone Rochon
Scott Benesiinaabandan + Sanaz Mazinani
Vuk Dragojevic + Liza Eurich
Curated by Natasha Chaykowski + Alison Cooley
Natasha Chaykowski is a Calgary-based curator, writer, and researcher. She holds and MA in Art History from York University, and is the co-recipient of the 2014 Middlebrook Prize for Young Canadian Curators. Chaykowski was editorial assistant for the Journal of Curatorial Studies, editorial resident at Canadian Art Magazine and Curatorial Research Practicum at Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff Centre. Her writing has been published in Carbon Paper, esse: arts + opinions, momus, Canadian Art, and the Journal of Curatorial Studies, among others. Currently, she is Director of Untitled Art Society in Calgary.
Alison Cooley is a critic, curator, and educator based in Toronto. Her research deals with the intersection of natural history and visual culture, socially engaged artistic practice, and experiential and interpretative dimensions of art criticism. She is the 2014 recipient of the Middlebrook Prize for Young Canadian Curators, and her writing has been published in Canadian Art, C Magazine, FUSE, Blackflash and Magenta, among others. She is currently the Curatorial Assistant and Collections Archivist at the Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto Mississauga.
Tanya Lukin Linklater
Tanya Lukin Linklater's performance collaborations, videos, photographs, and installations have been exhibited nationally and internationally. She is compelled by relationships between bodies, histories, poetry, pedagogy, Indigenous conceptual spaces (languages), and institutions. Her work has been exhibited and performed at EFA Project Space + Performa, NYC, Museum of Contemporary Art Santiago, Chilé, SBC Gallery, Montreal, Western Front, Vancouver, Images Festival + Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, Remai Modern, Saskatoon, Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, and elsewhere. In 2016 she presented He was a poet and he taught us how to react and become this poetry (Parts 1 and 2) at La Biennale de Montréal - Le Grand Balcon curated by Philippe Pirotte.
Tanya's poetry and essays have been published in C Magazine, BlackFlash Magazine, Yellow Medicine Review, Taos International Journal of Poetry and Art, Drunken Boat, Ice Floe, and in publications by Access Gallery, Western Front, and McLaren Art Centre. Tanya studied at University of Alberta (M.Ed.) and Stanford University (A.B. Honours) where she received the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship and the Louis Sudler Prize for Creative and Performing Arts. She is currently a graduate student in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University. She was awarded the Chalmers Professional Development Grant in 2010 and the K.M. Hunter Artist Award in Literature in 2013. She originates from the Native Villages of Afognak and Port Lions in southern Alaska and is based in northern Ontario, Canada.
Celia Perrin Sidarous
Celia Perrin Sidarous holds an MFA from Concordia University, concentration Photography. Her work has been presented in solo and group exhibitions at Parisian Laundry (Montréal), the Esker Foundation (Calgary), the Dunlop Art Gallery (Regina), the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery (Montréal), The Banff Centre (Banff), WWTWO (Montréal), VU (Québec) and Gallery 44 (Toronto). Most recently her work was featured in the Biennale de Montréal 2016 – Le Grand Balcon, curated by Philippe Pirotte, at the Musée dʼart contemporain de Montréal. She is the recipient of a number of grants and awards, amongst them the Barbara Spohr Memorial Award 2011. Her works are part of several collections, including the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario. Living and working in Montréal, she travels frequently as a generative artistic approach.