The State of Viewing: Distinguishing Between Wayne and Shuster is a response to a number of concerns that can be placed under the loose heading of “civics”. In its two previous shows PLACE AND SHOW explored the relationship of artworks to a given location and its community. Doing an exhibition in Ottawa allows us to pursue this investigation at the level of national culture. We have recreated a museum context in an attempt to analyze some of the practices that inform concepts of identity and community. The National Capital Region speaks the language of museums and historical landscapes. Its civic institutions and national landmarks provide a substantial backdrop against which we can engage different issues surrounding iconic objects and cultural histories. In touring these landscapes of nationalism, it is our intent to consider the ways we see the things we are directed to view. Much has been said to the effect that the Canadian identity is shaped by an intrinsic sense of irony, which is made evident by the way Canadians perceive themselves. The various sites that endeavor to establish and confirm this identity are usually in turn subjected to a reading that is particularly Canadian. As a rule, this reading involves adopting an attitude of mockery and self-depreciation. The Canadian identity fluctuates in a continuous process of assertion and denial, which gives rise to a general feeling of anxiety. PLACE AND SHOW encountered a similar feeling of uneasiness in its critique. As artists and as Canadians we realize our complicity in the mechanics of cultural production. We are drawn to our institutions which present a distinctly Canadian order of things, but we are concerned (in typical Canadian fashion) that this may be contingent on a sense of mastery and exclusion. PLACE AND SHOW would like to present this feeling of doubt as a positive attribute of the Canadian psyche. By acknowledging this trait, it follows that our exhibition will probably raise more questions than it will provide answers. If this situates PLACE AND SHOW on the proverbial Canadian fence, then so be it.
Saturday, October 24, 1992 to Saturday, November 14, 1992