Nelson Henricks, Outil, published in CUBE no. 5 (1998). Courtesy of the artist.

Yesterday was Once Tomorrow (or, A Brick is a Tool)

April 14 – June 23, 2016

Opening: Thursday, April 14, from 6 PM to 8 PM
(preceded by a guided visit with the curator at 5:30 PM)

Curator: Kegan McFadden

With works by: Shary Boyle, Charles Cousins, Geoffrey Farmer, Nelson Henricks, Jake Kosciuk, Denis Lessard, Annie Martin and Kathy Slade.

 

Yesterday Was Once Tomorrow (or, A Brick is a Tool) is an exhibition of Canadian art magazines, focusing on publications that were both established and terminated in the 1990s. As the 1960s and 1970s mark the proliferation of print as form in contemporary art, with many artists working conceptually through mail art and widely disseminated periodicals, the 1990s represent a pre-digital tailspin of such production. No longer were artists necessarily looking to subvert the gallery space through the dematerialization of the object into print media, but instead viewed publishing as a vehicle through which to promote dialogue among artists, encapsulate happenings or events taking place at the local level, and foremost to take the means of production into their own hands and produce printed matter that reflected their artistic community and its concerns. The output comprising these magazine projects varied from critical writing and interviews to reflective writing, poetry and diary entries. They often included reproductions of artworks, commissioned graphics, visual puns and jokes attempting to undo more prescriptive and commercial publishing models.

A spirit of irreverence and experimentation was the breeding ground for these short-lived forays into publishing throughout Canada during the 1990s. From Vancouver and Calgary to Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal, there existed various approaches to artist-produced magazines. Examples such as Boo, Flower, and CUBE were produced autonomous from any one institution, allowing for a heightened criticality and sense of play, whereas magazines such as Texts and The Harold were published by organizations such as The New Gallery and Plug In Inc. respectively, and therefore focused primarily on programming and other activities adjacent to each gallery. Whether independent or affiliated with an institution it is clear these publications represent a locus for creative approaches to the magazine as form during a specific period in the history of visual art in Canada. As an exhibition, Yesterday Was Once Tomorrow (or, A Brick is a Tool) attempts to manifest the aesthetic and exploratory ideology so prevalent in these publications.

Yesterday Was Once Tomorrow (or, A Brick is a Tool) is a timely re-visitation of the recent past, allowing many of its key players to take centre stage through the presentation of both original artworks and the reproductions of artist’s graphics. Curatorially this exhibition pinpoints, for the first time, a loose network of activity taking place in major parts of Canada. By making this research visible we can identify interlopers, emerging artists at the outset of well-recognized careers, artists who have fallen away, and desktop design treatments we might rather forget. These magazines found their ways through prison cells, had international correspondents, dealt with issues on the local levels, and even published book reviews by the baby sitter. They are an archive of activity through the most humble of means. Rather than predict the future or focus on the past, they dissected the present. The editors of these magazines reconsidered what was worthy of print, what was important to publish, and how to go about making information accessible to their communities.

Kegan McFadden, curator

 

A writer, curator and artist, Kegan McFadden has honed a practice that considers research as a creative undertaking. Often mixing contemporary art with archival material to interpret and intuit histories, McFadden’s method is purposely subjective, repositioning received narratives and highlighting alternative approaches to discourse. His work has been presented in artist-run, public, and university galleries throughout Canada over the last decade. Research for Yesterday Was Once Tomorrow (or, A Brick is a Tool) was funded by the Canada Council for the Arts, Manitoba Arts Council, Winnipeg Arts Council, as well as supported by Artexte and Plug In Institute for Contemporary Art.