Sights and Sounds: Canada

April 25 - May 29, 2014

Sights and Sounds: Canada features new work by Robert Arndt, Julia Feyrer, Public Studio, and Kevin Schmidt, selected by Melanie O’Brian.

Installation view of Sights and Sounds: Global Film and Video in the Goodkind Media Center. Photo by David Heald.

Works by the Canadian artists Robert Arndt, Julia Feyrer, Public Studio, and Kevin Schmidt call attention to individual subjectivities and put forward a way of engaging with larger constructions of identity through shared landscapes and nationality, as well as colonial, political, and cultural histories. Issues of history and place are at the core of this selection: the location of self through everyday objects; the creation of a collaborative, performative art environment; dark missionary histories; language conflicts; and the vast panoramas that characterize Canada. Landscape has long been a defining factor in Canadian identity and art—from wilderness to interior space. In addressing such questions, these four artists reach beyond national borders.

Melanie O’Brian

Melanie O’Brian (b. Toronto, 1973) is director/curator of Simon Fraser University Galleries in Vancouver. Previously she was curator at the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, director/curator of Artspeak in Vancouver, and assistant curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery. She is the editor of;5,000 Feet Is the Best: Omer Fast (Sternberg Press, 2012)Stan Douglas: Entertainment (The Power Plant, 2011)Judgment and Contemporary Art Criticism (Fillip/Artspeak, 2010); andVancouver Art & Economies(Arsenal Pulp Press, 2007).


Robert Arndt, A Line Meant in Passing, 2010, video, sound, 10 min. Artwork © Robert Arndt, provided by the artist. Robert Arndt’s work subverts expectations by using familiar cinematic devices in unfamiliar ways. A Line Meant in Passing calls attention to the ways in which the objects and images we consume perform the roles we ask of them. The work itself is a long take (referred to in film theory as the ultimate representation of subjectivity) and can be said to reproduce our consumption of the world around us.

Julia Feyrer, Poodle Dog Ornamental Bar, 2009, 16mm film, transferred to video, sound, 9 min., 45 sec. Artwork © Julia Feyrer, provided by Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver. Feyrer constructed a “film set” in a Vancouver backyard, modeled on an 1890s local bar called the Poodle Dog Ornamental Bar. She activated the temporary, illegal bar with performances, readings, and other programs. These events and their audiences provide cast and soundtrack for this nonnarrative film, which places the historical past as a backdrop to its reinterpreted present. Among Feyrer’s tools are references to experimental film, performance documentation, and filmmaking-as-process.

Public Studio, Kino Pravda 3G #4, 2012, video, sound, 7 min., 18 sec. Artwork © Public Studio. The Toronto artist collective Public Studio is composed of Elle Flanders (b. Montreal, 1966), Tamira Sawatzky (b. Winnipeg, 1971), and Eshrat Erfanian (b. Tehran, 1958). This video is the fourth of Public Studio’s Kino Pravda 3G newsreels (protest films). The subject is public dissent in Canada and the relationship of Quebec to the rest of Canada, with a focus on recent protests in Montreal by students (whose symbol was a red square). Using found and reassembled mobile-phone footage, video, and taped speeches, the artists create a complex narrative of these events, reinterpreted as a fragmentation of people, country, and environment.

Kevin Schmidt, A Sign in the Northwest Passage, 2012, video, sound, 12 min., 30 sec. Collection of the Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton. Artwork © Kevin Schmidt. This video documents a journey the artist made to Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories to install a standing billboard sculpture with text from the biblical book of Revelation. The pontooned sign was placed on seasonal ice and left to drift in the Arctic Ocean, bearing its prophetic and apocalyptic message. Consistent with Schmidt’s interest in transplanted media spectacle, the work is performative and highly mediated through its distribution, offering a complex commentary on Canada’s colonial history and ecological future.

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