William Eakin and Rob Kovitz
Ghost Month/Ice Fishing in Gimli: The Gothic Unconscious
ABOVE: An image from Rob Kovitz's Ice Fishing in Gimli book.
BELOW: An image from William Eakin's Ghost Month series.
How are are we to wrestle with restless ghosts and tragic histories in the context of 21st century consumer culture? That is the question that was implicitly posed and performed by the exhibition, Ghost Month/Ice Fishing in Gimli, which featured work by two Winnipeg-based artists, William Eakin and Rob Kovitz.
In a new body of sumptuous color photographs entitled Ghost Month, Eakin uses the digital camera to interpret and animate a collection of beautifully crafted cardboard objects such as a gameboy, computer, cell phone, keyboard and rice cooker. These enticing, surrogate consumer goods are actually manufactured to be ritually burned as part of contemporary Asian ancestor festivals. In this exhibition, Eakin's intervention as an artist (rather than fire) poignantly rendered the objects into offerings or gifts that are suffused with longing, anxiety and hope.
Rob Kovitz's monumental, 1585-page, three volume bookwork-in-progress, Ice Fishing in Gimli, is to Manitoba immigrant history what Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project (1927-1940) is to 19th century Parisian shopping arcades. Kovitz, like Benjamin, uses volumes of found images and text to create a complex, labyrinthian narrative that critically and evocatively explores the ideologies, desires and fears that suture the present to the past and the future (the predicament of the contemporary artist-intellectual is Ice Fishing in Gimli's sub-text).
Link to Rob Kovitz website www.treyf.com.
The Gothic Unconscious exhibition series, which included work by over 50 artists spanning 500 years of image-making, (wildly) speculated that Winnipeg is a city haunted by the ghosts of its traumatic social history. This history includes (but certainly is not limited to) the genocide of First Nations peoples, the dispossession of the Métis, the hardships endured by Icelandic immigrants founding a new republic at Gimli, the arrivals of Russian Mennonites fleeing persecution and Jewish holocaust survivors in search of a safe haven, the exploitation of impoverished European and Asian immigrants (culminating in the spectacular 1919 Winnipeg General Strike) and the monumental struggles of women to attain full citizenship.
The Gothic Unconscious proposed that this aura of tragedy and impoverishment manifests itself in the abject, uncanny and surreal quality of much contemporary Winnipeg art, even when this work doesn't explicitly address the city's troubled histories. While Winnipeg's civic leaders are beginning to recognize that artists are key to the city's economic well being, The Gothic Unconscious served as a reminder that art has other equally important contributions to make. Contemporary art offers us a unique and potent means to process collective (historic) trauma. It weaves the present into the past and the future even as it invites us to consider our subjective experiences within the context of larger historical forces.
The opening event for Ghost Month/Ice Fishing in Gimli happened on Thursday 26 February 2004 from 3 to 6 PM. The exhibition continued until 2 April 2004 as the fourth and final exhibition of the multi-component project, The Gothic Unconscious, curated by Sigrid Dahle, Gallery One One One's curator-in-residence until April 2004. Gallery One One One hours: weekdays from noon to 4 PM.
Special thanks: the artists, The Canada Council for the Arts, The Manitoba Arts Council, Susan Chafe, Richard Dyck, Harlene Weijs, and student volunteers.
Click here to download the Ghost Month/Ice Fishing in Gimli poster (386K PDF)
A CD-ROM publication documents the The Gothic Unconscious investigation and includes material about other Gallery One One One shows. Gallery One One One, School of Art, Main Floor, FitzGerald Building, University of Manitoba Fort Garry campus, Winnipeg, MB, CANADA R3T 2N2 TEL:204 474-9322 FAX:474-7605. For information please contact Robert Epp firstname.lastname@example.org