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This Fall at Rodman Hall: Regina to Venice & Back Again

Once upon a time (in a land far far away) I had an editor who’d implore me for a “Fall Preview” or “Summer Preview” or “#artcriticfromhell anticipates this show in the year ahead.” It’s a tricksy proposition. I found them difficult, as I took it seriously, but any form of prognostication is sketchy (luckily, I’ve never had a problem with revising these, and saying “that show was much worse / better than anticipated.” I once expressed hope about a rare faculty show at the U of S, recommending it….and then apologized to my readers, saying they were clearly rare for a now obvious reason).

Worse, others unethically abuse this to aggrandize someone they’re shagging (looking at you, akimbo), or to selfishly pimp something that serves themselves (“oh, look at this show I’m curating / exhibiting in / sleeping with the curator / artist[s]”…now I’m looking at you, Canadian Art).

If I may, since I’m preaching: “I have seen thine adulteries, and thy neighings, the lewdness of thy whoredom, thine abominations on the hills in the fields. Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem! Wilt thou not be made clean?” (Jeremiah 13:27)

Now, before my latest tangent becomes untenable, allow me to rein in myself and offer some validity over vapidity.

There are many exciting things happening at Rodman Hall Arts Centre this Fall, all are open to everyone, and that explore issues and concerns in the cultural sphere locally but also globally. I anticipate seeing more of Mori McCrae’s amalgams of words and forms that both repulse and attract, and Derek Knight’s impressions of Venice, or Documenta, guarantee to interest, as he’s an intelligent and opinionated observer of fine arts and the larger space it seeks to inform and challenge. Sundry of my brethren have held forth on the Venice extravaganza, lauding or lamenting. I really want to hear Knight’s thoughts, as I hold more respect for his opinions than nearly any of the cancer of critics (like a murder of crows, or a gaggle of geese, hmm) who’ve pronounced so far….

So, let us go then, you and I, and consider what is happening at Rodman this Fall of 2017.

On Thursday, September 14th, Materials Girls (a touring show, curated by Blair Fornwald, Jennifer Matotek and Wendy Peart, originating out of Regina) will open with a reception, at 7 PM. Matotek will give a talk / tour at 8 PM that evening, too. A massive show, “Material Girls is about women taking up space [and] brings together Canadian and international emerging, mid-career, and senior female artists from across artistic disciplines and cultural backgrounds.” It’s always interesting gaging how exhibitions translate to different spaces and different places, and as this is up until December, I’ll offer opinions at a later date (I may / may not have read Paglia’s latest book to induce the appropriate frame of mind to enter this “space.”)

As usual, Rodman is providing adjunct events and programming around this primary exhibit: Colour Constructs, curated by Brock Faculty Catherine Parayre and Shawn Serfas opens on Thursday, November 30th. Like past projects facilitated by them (a notable one last year dissected and highlighted art writing, that dangerous beast), this will be a response to Material Girls, from students in Visual Arts, Studies in Arts and Culture, and French Studies. Niagara-based artist Mat Vizbulis will be a classroom guest during the semester, adding a unique experience to the discussion.

There will be a plethora of Hot Talks too: Niagara-based artist / DJ Marinko Jareb discusses his soundwork that spans back two decades on Thursday, September 28, 7 pm. Keep an eye – or ear – out for the latest in his site-specific collaborative performance series (in Rodman Hall’s Walker Botanical Garden) called Echo. The next version of this happens on October 1 (2 to 4 pm). The brief: “stripping back the layers of history from DJ and rave culture, one is left with the elements of communal experience and sound…gather and enjoy the Walker Botanical Garden…being animated by an electro-acoustic, acousmatic soundscape performance [also] featuring DJ Brian Gasbarini, Alex Ring with Sine Wave Generator, electronics by JFM, and cellist Grace Snippe. Bring a blanket, bring a picnic, bring your lover, your kids, or your dog, and enjoy some music outdoors.”

October 26th (7 PM) will feature St. Catharines-based artist Mori McCrae talking about her “pink work” (you may have seen variations at NAC or other venues in Niagara). These are “tactile sculptures of the female form in which she embedded poetry as a means of blending body and voice…[these are constructed] instinctively and from non-traditional materials including plastics and flocking.” This talk, along with Knight’s, are evenings I’m marking on my calendar, and anticipating. Former Director of the MIWSFPA Knight’s talk is evocatively titled “Art Confidential: Trends and Obsession(s) in Recent Art.” This happens on November 9th, at 7 PM (all these Hot Talks are at Rodman, unless otherwise stated). The blurb: “2017 saw the confluence of the Whitney Biennial, Münster Sculpture Project, Kassel’s Documenta 14, and the Venice Biennale. Derek [will discuss] the pros and emerging cons of the international blockbuster exhibition as well as his top picks, from Pierre Huyghe to Phyllida Barlow to Geoffrey Farmer.” Part of me sees this is continuing a theme from the fine show that Bill Burns presented at Rodman two years ago, about the vagaries and eccentricities of the “international Art world”, but as I stated earlier in this ramble, Documenta and Venice were maligned with an alacrity alternately accurate and excessive. Knight’s talk is another marker of how Rodman (and yes, Brock, they helped here, ahem) expand horizons.

Returning to Material Girls (“that’s alright with me / if they can’t raise my interest / I have to let them be” – I’m unclear if there will be opportunity for karaoke of the Madonna classic, acknowledging her role as a feminist pioneer, but I’ll let you know), there will be a further dialogue about the show on November 23rd (7 PM). Allyson Mitchell and Deirdre Logue “discuss their individual and collective practices [which incorporate] film, video, installation, and activism.” Both have exhibited widely, and just as Matotek, as a curator, can offer insight into Girls, artists within the exhibition can proffer diverse nuance. If you remember Reading The Talk, last summer, the artists talking about that show offered an interesting view into the collaborative nature of what we experienced, in the gallery.

There is more, of course: I come not to enumerate your Fall, but tease and remind. Post-Industrial Ephemera: Soundings, Gestures, and Poetics happens on September 23 (1 – 5 PM) and is an informal discussion about the April 2017 exhibition (of the same name) that happened at Silo City in Buffalo, New York. There will be brief presentations of several works from Ephemera “by participants from Sculpture, Arts, Comparative Literature, English Studies, Visual Arts, Studies in Arts and Culture, and French Studies at SUNY-Buffalo and Brock University. This can be seen as a “[completion of] this cross-border cooperation.” Artist, curator and art book maker Bernhard Cella, on November 1st (6 PM) will facilitate “Flip, flip & print: Unfolding the World of Self-Publishing”. This is another free community event. This: “Cella demonstrates and performs contemporary book making. Based in Vienna, Austria, Cella is the founder of the Salon für Kunstbuch (Art Book Salon), installed in the 21. Haus / Belvedere, and the NO-ISBN project, a register of contemporary self-published books and magazines that provides access to books, fanzines, and pamphlets that are often hard to find due to their small print runs and their independence from the structures of the commercial book trade. Cella published an expanded edition of his book No-ISBN: on Self-Publishing in 2017.”

And note: this is just what’s happening at Rodman Hall. There is yet the VISA Gallery in the MIWSFPA to consider, NAC’s upcoming exhibitions and Rodman Hall’s 5 X 2 Conversations (at the Mahtay) are all approaching. Not the least of this is also that the Rodman Hall Alliance will be presenting a potential plan for the future direction of Rodman, in early 2018…

Written by Bart Gazzola

Bart Gazzola (also known as #artcriticfromhell) is an arts writer/critic who has published with Magenta Magazine, Canadian Art, FUSE, Galleries West, PrairieSeen, Long Exposure and BlackFlash (where he was Editorial Chair for 3 years). He is Assistant Editor at thesound.rocks and a frequent contributor to various cultural spaces in Niagara.