Friday, October 23, 2009

Visual linguist RICHard SMOLinski and the art of Portmateau

About a week ago, Calgary artist RICHard SMOLinski introduced a participatory audience to the technique of portmanteau word-coinage and facilitated the collaborative composition of a narrative upon the walls of TRUCK’s resource centre. This event was presented as part of TRUCK Gallery's Contemporary Art Soap Box Series - an open format public lecture series in which cultural producers take the stage to explore different aspects of contemporary production.

"Infamously used throughout James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, by Lewis Carroll in Jabberwocky and currently being exploited in an advertising campaign by Koodo Mobile, the portmanteau blends two or more words to create new and unusual terms that may either renew or corrupt language. Armed with this technique and a thousand magnetic alphabetic characters, SMOLinski and his participants constructed a physical text upon the walls, doors and filing cabinets of TRUCK’s reception area."

Approximately 40 people were in attendance for this textual demolishtioconstrutionarritivegenisis, and as an observer I was stuck by the strength of the perfromative nature of this collaborative event. Of course the deconstructive power of the SMOLinski's technique was apparent in true Derridian style, the engagement by the audience in attendance spoke more to the power of language as a critical milieu. Few things are as contemporary, and as primal, as language. Indeed few in the room could resist the pull to participate in the exploration of a territory that is both familiar and unknown. This collaboration transformed the 40 or so individuals into a single Beast with a penchant for "word-coinage."

It would be easy to attribute the success of this event to a simple psychological dynamic revolving around word association, or a semiotic whirlwind of code associations, but the thoughtful, purposeful/editorial, aesthetically consensual approach that organically evolved suggested that the group engaged in the process of art making that engaged theory and technique without subordinating itself to it!

The text continues in our front reception area with an open invitation to all gallery goers to dive into the pool of magnetic letters laid out on our meeting tables to contribute to the narrative spattered across our walls.

Contributor: Renato Vitic

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sleepless Nights: Visions from Western Canada

Robin Arsenault, Ken Buera, Kay Burns, Jason de Haan, Craig Le Blanc, Robin Moody, Kris Lindskoog, Walter May (Calgary, AB), Phillip McCrum (Vancouver, BC)

Runs from September 5, 2009 through to October 4, 2009 @ Kling and Bang Gallerí at Laugavegur 23, 101 in Reykjavík, Iceland

Born near Víðimýri, Iceland in 1853, Stephan G. Stephansson immigrated to the United States as a teenager and later moved to Markerville, Alberta towards the end of the nineteenth century. As a farmer he worked the land by day and, an insomniac, by night he honed his craft as a poet. Referred to as “The Poet of the Rocky Mountains”, he never left Canada to visit his native country until he was well into his sixties. Nonetheless, despite a nearly lifelong residence in North America, his prolific output and broad acclaim gained him recognition as one of Iceland’s most celebrated literary figures. In 1908, Stephansson’s oeuvre was documented in a six volume publication entitled Andvökur, or Sleepless Nights.

Sleepless Nights: Visions from Western Canada, a group exhibition that brings together nine contemporary artists from the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, looks to (re)engage the cultural and historical connections between Western Canada and Iceland. This exhibition not only borrows from Stephan G. Stephansson in its titling but, as well, draws inspiration from his unique poetic style, which through experimental means looked to blend divergent cultural influences in the merging of traditional Scandinavian metre with the philosophies of North American freethinkers of the period. Stephansson’s use of intricate metaphor and neologisms, and his interest in themes such as the romanticized landscape and the transient nature of life, resurface in
new a meaningful ways through the current explorations of the artists included in this exhibition.

Sleepless Nights: Visions from Western Canada was developed in response to Sundogs: Contemporary art from Iceland, a 2008 exhibition that saw the work of artists Ásdís Sif Gunnarsdóttir, Erling T.V. Klingenberg, Hekla Dögg Jónsdóttir, Pall Banine, Ragnar Kjartansson and Sirra Sigrun Sigurdardottir on display at TRUCK in Calgary, Alberta. Curated by David Diviney, a Nova Scotia based artist/curator, these two exhibitions
serve as a continuation of his collaborative research with Icelandic artists and institutions that began over a decade ago.

This exhibition is produced by Kling&Bang Gallerí in partnership with TRUCK and is supported by Alberta Foundation for the Arts’ Cultural Relations Project Grant Program, The Embassy of Canada to Iceland in Reykjavik, and The Consulate General of Iceland in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Many of the artists in the exhibition have received individual travel and/or project assistance from various provincial and federal agencies
including Alberta Foundation for the Arts and Canada Council for the Arts.

For media inquiries please contact Renato Vitic, Director, TRUCK, Contemporary Art in Calgary, at or (403) 261-7702.


Jason de Haan
Barba de Sal (Salt Beard), 2009
Salt and borrowed sculpture from the collection of Museo Regional, Queretaro, Mexico