Arts Arts and Culture Exhibit

Datura at Espace Maurice brings the Rust Belt to Montréal

The show features works by Alex Patrick Dyck, Cléo Sjölander, Ariane Gagné (éli del), Tom  Roeschlein, Julien Parant-Marquis, Justin Apperley, Jason Van Hoose, Dylan Weaver and Paul Jackson Burgess.

The morning after my visit to Datura, the latest offering from Espace Maurice, I was confronted with a seemingly endless stream of people walking past me in their Sunday best: puffy jackets, Arcteryx tuques, and shiny sunglasses. They all appeared to be going to brunch, dressed up in their finest to go spend more money; a sign that the capitalist machine is happily turning. 

I noticed it because it couldn’t have been more different than what I was confronted with at Datura the day before. The group show, curated by the gallery’s founder Marie Sègoléne C. Brault, a Concordia graduate, features a wide variety of artists and practices whose works are entangled with the darker side of capitalism. 

All the works in the show were made in Youngstown, Ohio, many of them as part of a 10-day residency that took place during last fall. Through their subject matter and materiality, the artworks reflect the long lasting effects felt by a city that suffered greatly from the closing of factories during the 1970s. A number of the pieces were made by reusing materials like car window frames or rusted nails. 

Alex Patrick Dyck, thorn apple (trumpet flower), 2023, Found objects, antique air horns & trunk, mother of pearl, transparency film, tattoo ink. In Datura at Espace Maurice. Photo by Manouska Larouche.

The residency came to be—thanks to Brault who, upon viewing the documentary Greyland (dir. Alexandra Sicotte-Levesque), was taken with the story of Youngstown and got in touch with one of the local residents featured in the film, Rocco Sait. This marked the start of a collaboration that resulted in the Ohio residency in which artists from New York, Montreal, the Yukon, and Youngstown gathered to create the art currently on display at Espace Maurice. The show represents a small fraction of what was produced during the residency, but it is accompanied by a catalogue that documents the works as they were installed in Youngstown at a warehouse owned by Sait. 

This show considers the lived experiences of those born and raised in the shadows of shuttered steel factories, and poses the question: What about those who stay? The answer is found in the form of sculptural works that use wood, ceramic, nails, candlesticks, wrought iron, and plastic tarps used in construction, as well as in the form of paintings that reflect on the violence bred by economic inertia.

In some ways, the show’s curation mimics the imagery of places like Youngstown or Detroit, which are all too often defined by the distant memory of economic prosperity—images of abandoned mansions in disarray dominate the visual landscape in these places. This show engages with this visual mode, but with an added level of care and intention. 

On the floor beneath a painting on one wall is a selection of carefully lined up tchotchkes, like a silver letter opener and a small heart-shaped piece of resin with nails sticking out of the top. A similar object sits atop one of the light switches along another wall. The show rewards a desire to look in unexpected places—the floor, the light switch, and the window. 

The show’s namesake flower, datura, also known as moonshade or devil’s weed, is a member of the nightshade family. It is a poisonous flower, with psychoactive effects that can induce delirium. Indeed, there is a sense of delirium in the show. One can easily get lost within the works on display, and I would encourage everyone to do so. 

Datura will be on view at Espace Maurice until Feb. 16.

Dylan Weaver, Horse on The Runway, 2022, acrylic on canvas. In Datura at Espace Maurice. Photo by Manouska Larouche.
Arts Arts and Culture Exhibit

You are here: Tania Lara’s “Autogéographies”

Lara’s solo exhibition is open at La Centrale galerie Powerhouse.

Inside everyone’s head is a map. It tells us how to get from home to work to school and back again. Maybe it requires some nudging from Google Maps sometimes, but ultimately it guides us through our corner of the world, and it is always changing. 

“Autogéographies” by Tania Lara, exhibited this fall at La Centrale galerie Powerhouse, graciously offers its viewers a look inside the artist’s personal map. Lara questions the assumed authority of the map by carefully embroidering tapestries with parts of her own mind’s map. Her work combines textiles and personal narrative while simultaneously stitching together disparate parts of visual art, geography and philosophy. 

 A feminist, artist-run space dedicated to the dissemination of multidisciplinary artistic practices, La Centrale is the ideal locale for Lara’s project. Founded in 1973, the gallery is one of the first artist-run spaces in Canada and has a long history of putting artists first and encouraging experimentation. Their archives are housed at Concordia University and are accessible online and in person at the Vanier library on Loyola’s campus.

“Autogéographies” combines textile, installation, and video work resulting from a research-creation project undertaken in part during the artist’s time pursuing a master’s degree in visual and media arts at UQAM. 

Throughout the exhibition, Lara focuses on the idea of porous borders, bringing into question the authority bestowed upon borders and exploring the liminal space between them. The gallery has a soft, gauzy feeling created by the semi-opaque material of the flowing tapestries that take up most of the space. Displayed with videos of hand-drawn topographic lines projecting on top of them, the works are in constant flux, resisting the static display of classical maps. 

View of the gallery, Tania Lara’s Autogéographies. Courtesy of La Centrale galerie Powerhouse. Photo by Lucie Rocher.

These pieces move with the breeze of people passing by and change according to the projections. Motifs of home take the form of place-settings with knives and forks, windows, checkered kitchen floors and flowers which are peppered through the tapestries, giving the exhibition a playful feel.

The exhibition as a whole is set up on a diagonal axis, further throwing the idea of a guiding map into question by tipping the axis of the North-South cardinal points. Greeting the viewers as they enter are two textile pieces, installed side by side on a diagonal wall. 

The first textile piece, “Autogéographies 1 (2021),” is one of the smaller ones in the show.  It is a quilt showing multiple scenes including a dinner table, a moving train, a garden, a fire, and finally hills receding into the distance, all in a colour palette of oranges, blues, and greys. 

Tania Lara, Autogéographies 1 (2021). Courtesy of La Centrale galerie Powerhouse. Photo by Lucie Rocher.

The second, “Autogéographies 2 (2021)” is another quilt in grid formation with each panel showing a different map, some with handwritten interventions on top. Together the two pieces set the tone for the show by playing with the idea of a map and rendering it soft in its materiality and personal in its content.

One of Lara’s noted influences in the project is Caribbean philosopher Édouard Glissant’s theorization of opacity as a response to colonial intervention. He questions the necessity for the transparency found in Western thought, and proposes opacity—the inability to see, the unknowable—as a method of self-determination, as though to say, you don’t need to know all of me to exist with me. 

Detail, Tania Lara’s Autogéographies. Courtesy of La Centrale galerie Powerhouse. Photo by Lucie Rocher.

Glissant writes in his seminal text Poetics of Relations, “opacities can coexist and converge, weaving fabrics.” Indeed, Lara weaves together opacities, allowing for moments of both transparency and obfuscation. Mapping is always an act of translation, from 2D to 3D, from the land beneath our feet to the pixels of the cell phones between our hands. Lara’s personal map is on display, and the key to its translation is just beyond our grasp. Perhaps it will always remain that way. 

“Autogéographies” is ongoing until Nov. 9, 2023 and is free to attend.

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