Friday, October 26, 2007 to Tuesday, November 27, 2007

    • Friday, October 26, 2007
    In Collaboration with The Aboriginal Curatorial Collective Stephen Foster and Maria Hupfield both create tension and balance in their staged photographic tableaus. The works address power relations that are equally personal and community specific, and reflect broader social and political issues. Balance and tension are the effect created by the presence of either double personas or the use of ‘twins’. This is at the centre of Foster and Hupfield’s conceptual and visual strategies. The presence of a second individual implies a symmetrical relationship which is intentionally left ambiguous: are they equally matched in a struggle or addressing collaborative problems through dialogue? Interested in physical and psychological cognizance and respondency, the tension created is paramount to their exploration of the dynamics of changing social relations. Stephen Foster is a video artist who works primarily with multi-channel video installation and digital photography. Through narratives rooted in his own experience his work explores political issues of indigenous representation in popular culture. Interested in the shifting ground between personal imagery and political discourses, he deals with the “colonial legacy of nation-building and hybridized identities, drawing on a wide range of cultural sources to create multi-layered textual references that deconstruct myth and doctrine.” (Foster, artist statement) Foster addresses colonial politics, ideology and historical conflict in Canada with perfomative gestures. His created personas assume opposing roles in his staged photomontages. Tension is created by rival characterizations, in the work Death of Empire are a British colonial captain and a Native Chief and in the The Gunfight 2 are a cowboy and Indian. In his critique of representation, power relations are played out in a confrontational manner. Using irony, sarcasm and humour he focuses on relationships between western European and Indigenous culture. Foster’s personas are engineered yet relatable. His work implies an identity theme, a possible inner tension, though it is also designed to complicate and contradict cultural representations within mass media. He sets his figures up in opposition; however, because each is given equal emphasis they also allude to collaborative problems. While a need for reciprocity is implicit in Foster’s work, Maria Hupfield is explicit in emphasizing the necessity of balance. Hupfield is an interdisciplinary artist whose mixed media pieces and installations explore images of Native women and gender issues, deconstructing stereotypes through a blend of traditional and contemporary styles. Her work is about “reclaiming space, moving forward, shifting expectations and making a positive as well as assertive mark in a redrawing of the lines that define us and the space through which we move.” (Hupfield, artist statement) Hupfield’s chromagenic prints depict two female figures in relationship to each other and their environments. The figures are connected through touch within urban manmade environments, addressing how women and landscape have been historically portrayed. The figures can be viewed as twins or sisters as they represent “the power dynamic that shifts between women in Aboriginal communities; one of support, struggle, pain, endurance, and strength.” (Hupfield) Their positioning in these settings allow for attention to be drawn to the underlying relationships of support and opposition. Both artists embody the struggle for equilibrium by placing themselves in their work. Both adopt the roles of two ideologically differing personas in order to present symbolic confrontations: Foster through his costumes; Hupfield through her physical interactions. Power dynamics and internal and external conflict are examined through the tension created between Foster and Hupfield’s figures. Foster’s work contemplates relations between communities; Hupfield’s work relationships within community. Their works speak to the “human dependency on relationships, with each other and how we are implicated in our environments.” (Hupfield) Encouraging contemplation of self- and cultural awareness, these constructions present dynamic realities that challenge internal expectations and those within popular culture. Through their confrontation of historical and contemporary representations and narratives, Foster and Hupfield open complex spaces that recognize tensions while identifying the possibility of balance. - Michelle LaVallee, Curator Michelle LaVallee is a practicing interdisciplinary artist and a community arts based educator and curator. LaVallee is of Ojibway ancestry, and a member of the Chippewas of Nawash Band, Cape Croker, Ontario. Born in Newmarket, Ontario she currently resides in Toronto. Recent recipient of the Canada Council for the Arts Assistance to Aboriginal Curators Grant for Residencies in the Visual Arts, she has spent the past year developing programming and conducting research at A Space Gallery in Toronto. LaVallee has guest curated at the Canadian Clay and Glass Museum in Waterloo and has curated several exhibits for ANDPVA (Association for Native Development in the Visual and Performing Arts) including at Toronto City Hall and the Canadian Aboriginal Festival Pow Wow at Rogers Centre in Toronto. LaVallee holds a BFA and BEd from York University, Toronto.