VOICES: ARTISTS ON ART (2017)
Artport Gallery, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, 2017.
Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge, Alberta, 2018.
Zayed University, Dubai and Abudhabi, UAE, 2019.
Voices: artists on art Foreword
The present is hollow without a future aware of its past. Fifty years ago, in 1967, the National Gallery hosted 51 artists in Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square. Dorothy Cameron’s Sculpture ’67 was groundbreaking look at what contemporary art could mean for a public looking to artists to help define a nation’s historical narrative.
That narrative continues to be defined. Cameron’s exhibition catalogue was a simple compendium of the artists’ engagingly thoughtful statements on their work. In a link to her exhibition and those reflections, Voices: Artists on art opens a door into the studios and remarkable insights of 51 artists currently working across Canada. As both a video project and an exhibition, it assembles not a historical judgment, but a possible narrative sketching out what the idea of contemporary can mean today. In Voices, we can hear brought fully into focus the dignity of passion, intelligence, and commitment threading through our collective life – at once immensely humbling and intensely provocative.
Yvonne Lammerich & Ian Carr-Harris
A video interview project in collaboration with Ian Carr-Harris; a hard-bound catalogue was published in 2020.
Voices: artists on art was conceived as both an exhibition and a video resource, and in this we were guided by the concept of the café or the library. Occupying the main space was a large central table on which were mounted 6 individual tablets with headphones, each containing – in alphabetic sequence – about 8 hour-long interviews with 51 artists.
Seated at the table by any of the tablets, the viewer was free to select from the list an interview they wished to watch at any one time. Demanding in its time commitment, we expected this to be an option attractive to the dedicated professional or the curious lay public.
Linked to the tablet interviews, the exhibition included a series of three hour-long video compilations of individual artists speaking to the questions that structured the interviews. Organized as a form of conversation intercutting different artists’ statements, each of these ‘cine-videos’ is divided into sections with headings and descriptions preparing the viewer to follow the thread of the conversation. Our purpose was to bring the artists together as a sort of round-table, permitting the viewer to listen to several artists speaking on a given subject in a short period of time.
Of course in the beginning was a book, the catalogue for the 1967 exhibition. While that catalogue was included in a glass-surfaced vitrine containing a number of important documents arising from the original exhibition, we decided to ‘open up’ the catalogue as a series of 51 scanned images of each spread page fixed to a thin metal backing. This enabled the viewer to see the work and read the statements of all the artists in the National Gallery’s exhibition. Placed on shelving that ran along one wall like a library’s magazine section, each scan was arranged in the same order as in the catalogue.
Three of those statements were by Iain Baxter&, Michael Snow, and Françoise Sullivan, and we were fortunate and honoured in that all three agreed to read their original statements on camera as a living document. In the exhibition, a special monitor carried their readings on continuous play.
For younger visitors, and school-based visits, the exhibition included a video on a free-standing monitor that answered to the question “How I Came to Be an Artist”. For this 30-minute presentation, we collated the remarks by several artists on the circumstances that led them to work professionally. Our aim was to demystify the role of the artist and to reveal the amazingly personal stories that lay behind their decision.
The exhibition included a glass vitrine with a number of important documents detailing events surrounding the 1967 exhibition. In addition, near the vitrine, a scrolling video catalogue of the 51 artists we interviewed played continuously on a monitor mounted on one wall of the space.
In the Toronto Harbourfront exhibition, the project benefited from the addition of six younger and two established artists profiled in vitrine cabinets within the Harbourfront Centre complex. These were included in the catalogue, along with a special photographic exhibition of Blake Fitzpatrick and Vid Ingelevics’ Mobile Ruin project that we selected for the Toronto space.
Artists make art to be heard. Making art is a process of gathering evidence – whether that evidence concerns the materiality of the world expressed in line and shape, or whether that evidence concerns the social constructs that dominate or infiltrate our experience in the world.
Art can frame what moves us, or destabilize our assumptions, and the artists in the Voices project interweave these elements in their practices. Art is a public enterprise, and without a public to receive and consider it, art is denied its vital resonance.
Yvonne Lammerich has shown nationally and internationally since 1973. Her work is included in museums as well as corporate and private collections.