Reactivated Memories

The works brought together in this issue look back at events in relatively recent history that have reverberated to the present day. These are prolific works, with multiple iterations, embodied in artistic forms and processes that reflect the complexity of their subjects: the mobility of fragments of the Berlin Wall, the exhibition at the Christian Pavilion at Expo 67, and the contributions by women to the avant-garde of the modern era.

For fifteen years, Blake Fitzpatrick and Vid Ingelevics have been collaborating on a project, Freedom Rocks: The Everyday Life of the Berlin Wall, through which they follow what has happened to various fragments of the Berlin Wall after its dismantlement. Last fall, two Toronto exhibitions presented recent results of their research. The first accentuated the mobility of these artefacts, from small fragments, authentic or facsimiles, to sections of wall that have become monuments, to ephemera of all sorts gathered in showcases.

In the second, Fitzpatrick and Ingelevics uncovered the ideological thrust – caught between commemoration and triumphalism – that underlies how these elements are displayed. Memories of the Christian Pavilion, designed by Charles Gagnon, have resurfaced in recent exhibitions and publications on Expo 67. Inspired by the model of The Family of Man, Gagnon built an immersive environment within which more than three hundred images exposed all aspects of life in society at the time. His film The Eighth Day, also presented in the pavilion, was a montage of current and archival images offering a searing critique of war technologies, violence, and postwar consumer society. In 2017, Emmanuelle Léonard transposed this work into a video installation, composed of images taken from the Internet, exposing contemporary realities of conflicts and war from the almost-banal angle of the daily life of combatants and affected civilians.

Carol Sawyer’s The Natalie Brettschneider Archive is also a long-term project. For twenty years, Sawyer has been creating a variety of works around encounters between a purely invented artist and a dense community of women active in the European avant-gardes of the 1920s and 1930s. Sawyer pays tribute to these women’s contributions to modern art through fictional self-portraits and reprises of works as a way to restore their legitimacy. The exhibition that has been touring Canada for two years has also offered Natalie Brettschneider the opportunity to similarly highlight the work of women in Canadian modern-art circles.

The theme of looking back, reinterpretation, and remembering is also present, in a different way, in the Focus section. Akram Zaatari’s works reactivate the tasks of preserving and displaying a photographic heritage in which he participated with the Arab Image Foundation. Jonathan Monk, among others, revisits a series of solo exhibitions by deploying their photographic documentation at a monumental scale. Finally, a group exhibition offers a portrait of the soul of the former Royal Victoria Hospital.
Translated by Käthe Roth

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