Home » Archival Dialogues at Ryerson Image Centre: A Taster

Archival Dialogues at Ryerson Image Centre: A Taster

For anyone who missed it, here are a few photos from the inaugural exhibition at Toronto’s Ryerson Image Centre. Titled Archival Dialogues, the exhibition brought together eight Canadian artists who were asked to make work in ‘dialogue’ with a chosen perspective on the famous Black Star Collection of about 292,000 photojournalistic prints from the 20th century, which was donated to Ryerson in 2005.

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David Rokeby, Shrouded. Image: VoCA

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David Rokeby, Shrouded. Image: VoCA

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David Rokeby, Shrouded. Image: VoCA

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David Rokeby, Shrouded. Image: VoCA

The exhibition was curated by RIC director Doina Popescu with independent curator Peggy Gale.

My favourite part of the show was how the first three works, photographed here, prepared viewers for the rest of the exhibition. David Rokeby, of whose work I have been a long-time fan, opens with a piece on the new media wall. Softly blurred images slowly reveal themselves, forcing the viewer to spend a few minutes examining closely each photograph. Then each one flips around, so you can read details of where it was taken, by whom and of what. After a few minutes, it’s clear you are in the realm of an archive of historical images.

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Michael Snow, TAUT, 2012. Image: VoCA

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Michael Snow, TAUT, 2012. Image: VoCA

Next, Michael Snow’s TAUT is, typically for Snow, very simple and very effective. A set of school tables and chairs are set out in front of a blackboard and all covered in white photo paper. Projections of Black Star images are placed, by the artist’s gloved hand, on the wall as if by overhead projection. As they cast their images onto the furniture and up the wall, Snow plays with centering the image as much as possible on the blackboard. The lack of sound or explanation emphasizes the questions asked by imaginary schoolchildren, or indeed, the viewer.

Finally, the last piece before entering the exhibition is an engrossing archival study by Vic Ingelvics. A photo of Pierre Elliott Trudeau is scanned, casting a bar of bright light across the screen. The archival process is documented and we see a woman tearing up large photographic prints, reminding us of the nature of photography as easily reproduced medium, but also of the complexities of photographic rights and ownership with such an important archive.

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Vid Ingelevics, Conditional Report. Image: VoCA

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Vid Ingelevics, Conditional Report. Image: Canadianart.ca

The exhibition continues inside the gallery with a strong, touching work by Vera Frenkel, gorgeous photographs by Stan Douglas, an intriguing video by Stephen Andrews and pieces by Marie-Helene Couisneau and Christina Battle. I’ll explore the work further in a review I’m writing for Ciel Variable magazine, out in 2013. Until then, here’s a review of the show by David Balzer from Canadian Art Magazine.

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