Thursday, March 17, 2005 to Saturday, April 9, 2005

    • Friday, March 18, 2005
    History provides abundant examples of how social relations impact art. Traditionally the church, state, and wealthy patrons have funded the arts in order to increase their political power and prestige. Clearly that paradigm is overloaded with political relationships. But today, at least in North America, it is believed that large market forces determine the success or failure of art, loaded with capitalism's various mechanisms to be anything, but free of politics. Since labour and commerce are understood to be political spheres, then art, which is inextricably bound to those fields, is automatically part of a political process. Art with the underlying philosophy of "if we don't look at it, maybe it will just go away" is not apolitical, any more than art that is explicitly radical; whether approaches range from light and playful, to simultaneously cool and gut-wrenching, to conceptual and poetic expression. Art that is willing to engage the rules of its realisation and reception as the site of creative action results in complex and vital experiences that call for urgency and meaning, without losing any of the power art has to awaken us through our senses. Content or message notwithstanding, artists manipulate and transform materials into art. The fact that those supplies are created from the labour of others enables a political construct. Who makes art materials, how many hours are they paid, and under what conditions do they work? Seen in such a context, can any work of art truly be above politics? Artists are indisputably linked to the society and times in which they work. It might be possible for an artist to realise aesthetic triumphs while ignoring society, but willful unconcern to social matters is also a political position. Still, overpowering all these debates is our belief in the transcendent qualities of art, for both the artist and the viewer. We believe in the universality art plays in our lives to soar above the corrupt world of politics and the materialism of society. And even though artists, critics, writers, and audiences still wrestle with the issues of social-content art, the relationship of the social role of art and the formal characteristics and techniques continue to be expanded and redefined by artists. Through the presentation of Farouk Kaspaules and Josée Pellerin installations, Gallery 101 hopes to encourage discussion about our social responsibility and the power of artists to speak of a national and international connection and implication. Jessie Lacayo Director/Curator Since the Gulf War, various news reports, essays, and critiques have been published concerning the physical devastation brought through bombing attacks. No doubt, the ruinous aftermath of any war has an incredible impact on the environment, economics, and culture. However, Human Rights Watch documents how systematic bombardment of villages, widespread arbitrary arrests, torture, disappearances, summary executions, and forced displacement have reduced the Marsh Arabs from more than 250,000 to as few as 40,000. The marshes region, some 20,000 square kilometers located at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in southeastern Iraq, is the site of some of the country’s richest oil deposits. Prior to its destruction the marsh terrain was relatively inaccessible to security forces and provided shelter to political opponents and army deserters. The area that once constituted the largest wetland ecosystem in the Middle East has been declared by the United Nation as one of the world’s greatest environmental disasters.(1) People have been living in the area of the southern marshes for thousands of years. The ancestors of the Ma'dan are the Sumerians and Babylonians; although their numbers have been increased by immigration and intermarriage with the Persians on the east and the Bedouins on the west. Before the marsh drainage, the lifestyle of the Ma'dan centered around agriculture, particularly cultivating rice and dates, weaving reed mats, raising water buffalo, and fishing. The community and culture has been supported by usage and a barter system. As the marshes are drained, and the Ma'dan are forced to relocate from their homeland, this important part of their culture will disappear.(2) Farouk Kaspaules’ exhibition entitled, Traces focuses on the images and reality of the Marsh Arabs and the region of the Tigris and Euphrates, extending all the way from north Iraq to Kurdistan. As an Iraqi-born Canadian artist who left Iraq in the mid-1970s for political reasons, Kaspaules’ work weighs the formal structural makings of art with a distinct political content. The work utilizes techniques that challenge us and provide no easy answer. Each piece is about a moment of connection with the environment; highlighting moments of contemplation threatened by imminent danger. The images silk-screened on velum and paper, are presented as though processed through various filters, evoking a sense of human history as being faded, fragmented and erased. Traces carries an incredible affirmation of the beauty and impact of the land and people, even among the fragmented images. The hovering images of warplanes impose on the surface and disrupt the depth of perception. This infiltration on the surface of the works hints to the destruction of the region of the Ma'dan. It is this oscillation between the past and present that is important in Kaspaules’ artworks and ideas. The woks achieve a sublime nature via their serene quality, focused moments and landscapes. There is also a stimulation of our abilities and elevation of the self in sympathy with what we see in the works. Kaspaules’ works distinguish between space, time and a dynamic of power. Jessie Lacayo Director/Curator
    1. Reference information extracted from Human Rights Watch. 2. Reference information extracted from Human Rights Watch.