By Donna Nadeem, Contributor
As part of a year-long residency at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, artist Reinhard Reitzenstein is exploring ideas of the natural world and technology through sculpture and drawing in collaboration with the Hamilton community. While an established artist, Reitzenstein’s residency has been an opportunity to reintroduce himself and his artistic identity to the public sphere.
Reitzenstein graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1971. His work explores the relationship between nature, cultural science and technology while utilizing installation, sculptures, drawings, photography and sound as his medium of choice. Over the course of his career, Reitzenstein has been described as an environmental artist with focuses on land and ecology, and an allegorical minimalist after creating his own art movement combining allegory and minimalism.
Allegory refers to abstract ideas and principles in forms of storytelling, figures and events, while minimalism is a style that focuses on the simplest of forms and techniques. A seemingly contradictory combination of these two concepts allow Reitzenstein to create visual pieces that are meant to change and unsettle the viewers' perceptions.
Entering the AGH exhibition, you’re greeted by a quote from the artist depicting what he understands his movement to be. “Allegorical minimalism: paradoxical synthesis of the material and natural world, challenging the perceptions of the spectator (as critic) while denying not only a fixed interpretation but the very possibility of interpretation itself.”
Reitzenstein began his residency with the intention of developing at least one or two projects and the capacity to focus on them for a duration of year. This allowed him to engage in a gradual creation process. The space itself was another dimension Reitzenstein had to take into consideration. High and vaulted ceilings along with windows bringing in natural lighting from every direction allowed Reitzenstein to push his sculptures and drawings further to produce larger work that force observation and interaction.
The exhibition features two communal projects that have created an opportunity for community members to contribute through various workshops and interactive tours.
The first piece, the Erable Project, is composed of an array of discs suspended in the middle of the room. The discs are individually cut sections of a tree and hung horizontally next to each other. Reitzenstein created some of the discs, while community members contributed to others, creating a diversity of unique colour choices and designs. Each piece is covered in an assortment of wet felt. The soft material requires constant repetitive motions to achieve a desired outcome.
“Some of the kids who were here working on the wet felting got really into it and it was incredible. There's something about the tactility [of felting] that connects to people and allows them to focus and concentrate. It seems to have a therapeutic effect,” said Reitzenstein.
The second piece is a large communal tree drawing done with white gel pens on a black wall. After reflecting on the diversity of languages practiced in the Hamilton area, Reitzenstein decided to ask community participants to add to the drawing by writing the words ‘tree’ or ‘maple’ in their own languages.
The piece includes approximately 58 different languages and counting. As more and more words in different languages get added to the drawing, the tree visually reflects on the cultural diversity of the Hamilton community.
“I wanted to make it a community project where, again, we do workshops with community groups. I thought it would be great too because of the multicultural aspect of our region now, and to make sure everybody has a voice here,” said Reitzenstein.
The David Braley and Nancy Gordon Sculpture Atrium is also filled with Reitzenstein’s bronze sculptures and other art pieces from the museum’s permanent collections. Reitzenstein chose the pieces to coincide with his exploration of allegorical minimalism throughout his residency at the AGH.
In Residence: Reitzenstein is still a work-in-progress at the Art Gallery of Hamilton (123 King St. West). It will be exhibiting until March 29 and is free to all McMaster students with a valid student card.
By: Drew Simpson
Over a month of Hamilton Youth Poet’s Black Poet Residency has passed. So far, the residency has taken place at the Art Gallery of Hamilton every Saturday and the weekly residency will continue until May.
HYP is an arts organization that launched in October 2012. The organization’s four main goals are to manifest a community of cultural understanding, offer youth tools to deliver their writing and literary skill, engage youth towards their academic ambitions and to support aspiring artists’ professional development.
Ultimately, HYP empowers young people by offering training as arts organizers and allowing youth to take part in the planning, promotion and facilitation of events. One of these events is the Black Poet Residency featuring Ian Keteku, a two-time national slam champion and multimedia artist, as a key facilitator.
Although both the organization and event have poets within its name, participants may be beyond the scope of experienced poets. Those who wish to develop their writing skills, editing, computer literacy and even multi-digital processes will benefit from the residency.
“Those interested need not regard themselves as poets or require any prior knowledge of poetry. The residency aims to transcend simply writing poems,” explains one of HYP’s teaching artists, Akintoye Asalu.
This residency is in line with HYP’s focus on youth-focused events coordinated by youths, as it is aimed towards youth writers, performers and creative-minded individuals. As mentioned by Asalu, anyone who is interested in bettering their skills is welcome to attend.
“When our young people can tell and re-tell their histories in the context of public platforms, they are able to imagine and re-imagine their individual and collective identities and become culturally grounded in their own experiences,” explains HYP’s website.
The residency aims to provide an inclusive and supportive space which allows black youth to express their experiences and explore their voices. Such a weekly residency is necessary in Hamilton, to amplify often-silenced voices while also developing skills and building community. Asalu can attribute the prosperity of this residency as a participant himself.
“Being able to sit down and converse with people who understand the struggles that come with being a [person of colour] motivates me to keep using my art to help our community in as many ways as I can… My only hope is that the healthy dialogue that exists within the residency will spread to the rest of the community,” explains Asalu.
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Poetry and art directly combat the sense of isolation people of colour experience on a daily basis. Especially as they face daily experiences with institutions that were built without them in mind.
Asalu describes how poetry allows him to be the voice for those cast in silence; bringing light to silenced struggles. He also finds poetry as a healthy coping mechanism. Every HYP event puts youth at the center. Therefore, a Black-focused residency, puts Black youth at the center; a position that may be unfamiliar to them.
“I want Black people all around the city to feel comfortable talking about the things they go through on a day-to-day basis without fear of judgment from those around them. It is my belief that in order to enact change, we must first begin with constructive dialogue. Through this dialogue, constructive actions can be taken to improve the quality of life for [people of colour] as a whole,” explains Asalu.
This residency can be the defining moment for many Black youths in Hamilton. Raising their voices, attending to their mental health and finding support in community are never-ending obstacles for black youth. The ability to express struggles and unbox silenced concerns while doing so is a grand goal that when realized makes a positive difference in a young person’s life.
Robin Lamarr has been the only person of colour in a movement class. With this personal experience and her own desire to make mindful movement accessible, the movement educator and community activist had been thinking about how she could address the lack of representation in the movement community.
When she obtained a physical space for the studio she founded, Goodbodyfeel, she saw it as a good time to introduce a designated space for people of colour. The result was the first Movement Melanin Expression workshop on Feb. 24. The two-hour, three-part workshop was designed for individuals identifying as Black, Indigenous or people of colour.
“The intention is to create a space where folks who usually feel like they don't belong can feel belonging. And then, because it's an exclusive space, we can be open, raw, vulnerable and honest about what… we're feeling and why… [W]e can be super open about it without having to… defend ourselves against someone who might have white fragility for example,” said Lamarr.
The workshop was the result of a partnership with Hamilton-based visual alchemist and movement teacher-in-trainer, Stylo Starr. Starr joined the Goodbodyfeel Teacher Training last year when she met Lamarr and is almost finished her 200 hours of training.
Lamarr and Starr have collaborated on a similarly structured workshop before. Last summer, they ran a satellite workshop at the Art Gallery of Hamilton wherein Lamarr led a movement sequence followed by Starr leading a walking meditation involving collage material.
Similarly, Movement Melanin Expression began with Lamarr leading participants through her famed R&B Pilates movement sequence. The sequence starts slow and warms up the individual parts of the body before ending with an intense squat sequence wherein participants scream in order to release all their emotions.
After moving, a circle discussion took place. The discussion was intended to address how people of colour can take up space and reverse the lack of representation in the movement and wellness industry. Most importantly, the conversation was meant to be open and unrestrained. Starr hopes that the conversation acted as a catalyst for participants to discuss how they’re feeling with the people in their lives.
The workshop ended with Starr’s collage workshop. As she did with the series at the art gallery, Starr led participants through a walking meditation, allowing them to find pieces that spoke to them and create something there. The creative portion of the workshop allowed participants to express and liberate themselves.
“I've seen firsthand how movement has helped my creation. It's just a way of accessing a part of your mindfulness that maybe sitting still might not do for many people… I think it's really important to mesh these worlds because it's often implied that they're so different but they're actually very similar. In creating sequences for classes, it's a collage of different movements and they might not always look the same,” Starr explaining.
Approaching creativity through the medium of collage is one of the many ways in which this workshop made itself accessible. Unlike other forms of art, collage is not very intimidating for the non-artist and allowed individuals to express themselves with lesser concern about artistic skill.
Like several other Goodbodyfeel classes, this workshop had a sliding scale in place to reduce the financial barrier for participants. The studio also has clean clothes for participants to use and provides mats and props. By removing these obstacles for participants, the studio is hoping that no one is priced out of accessing mindful movement.
“I've been practicing some form of mindful movement since 2000 and… it's been a really big part of my healing journey. And so since moving to Hamilton and starting this community, my aim is to have as many people as possible benefit and have access to the transformative effects of mindful movement.
Why does the movement community need to even address race and representation? Well, because it's incredibly beneficial to mental health and well-being and everybody deserves access to it,” Lamarr said.
At the end of the day, the most important part of Movement Melanin Expression was the formation of community through movement. Starr and Lamarr intend to continue the class so that people of colour can continue to take up space in the movement industry and discuss more ways to break down the barriers.
It has been said that life is a dance. No one knows that better than celebrated Canadian dance artist Peggy Baker whose dance installation Move captures the duality of caregiving. The free installation will be performed on Feb. 2 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton as part of McMaster University’s Socrates Project.
The dance installation takes place in a 28 by 28-foot square surrounded by a frame. It is 70-minutes long and is organized into four cycles. The cyclic nature of the piece and the fact that it rotates throughout means audience members can take it in from multiple angles.
The performers are not necessarily dancers by trade but members of the community who love dance. There are 16 of them dancing in pairs that reverse roles with each cycle. They were selected in November 2018 during a two-hour workshop and audition.
The story of Move began 10 years ago when Baker first presented the dance as part of Toronto contemporary art event Nuit Blanche. At that time, the dance was 20 minutes long and done on the hour every hour for 12 hours with 12 pairs of professional dancers. When Baker put on Move for the second time at the Art Gallery of Ontario a couple years later, she decided to extend the length of the piece and do it with fewer dancers.
It was while doing the dance at the Art Gallery of Ontario that Baker thought about using community members as the dancers. She has since put on several performances of Move with non-professional dancers, staging the entire performance in five three-hour rehearsals.
Baker’s own experience with caregiving formed a part of the inspiration for the installation. She was the primary caregiver to her late husband, who had primary progressive multiple sclerosis. She found that caregiving involves a beautiful rapport between the one receiving and the one giving care.
Baker was also inspired by art and dance itself. While teaching in Philadelphia, she was struck by the beauty of partnership when she had dancers pair up and help another during some difficult movement sequences. Also while in Philadelphia, she saw an exhibition of paintings by American painter George Tooker and was inspired by the images of people embracing one another.
The dancers changing roles throughout the piece represents the inevitability of being on both sides of caregiving. The choreography for the piece overall is formal and highly organized, mimicking the ritualized elements of human lives. The choice to have four cycles mimics the cyclic structure of the seasons and the fact that there are four cardinal directions.
“[I]t’s something universal. We all receive that kind of intimate physical care and physical nurturing as infants and children. We may all find ourselves in a position where we where we are called upon to give care to a parent or a partner or a child. And we may all eventually need to receive care,” explained Baker.
The electro-acoustic soundtrack, composed by musician and composer Debashis Sinha, is also organized into four cycles. It is subtle and atmospheric, not quite music but a sonic landscape for the audience and dancers to reside in.
Baker encourages audience members to walk around the square performance space, close their eyes or turn their back to view the art in the gallery. The space allows viewers to feel comfortable arriving after it begins or even leaving before it ends.
“I like it to be in a public place. I like it to be in a place that already is claimed by the community as being a place in their town or city like this is… an art gallery, a foyer of a theater, a market… [I]t needs to locate itself in the heart of the community… [I]t's about community building basically,” Baker said.
At the end of the piece, the dancers pour water for one another and drink it. One of the dancers in the group, a ceramic artist, suggested that the group each makes the vessel that they drink out of. At the end of one of their rehearsals, she guided her fellow dancers through making their own bowl.
The creativity and passion brought on by these community dancers give this installation of Move a unique tint. However, the beauty of Move is the universality of the theme and the way in which it can move anyone.
By: Natalie Clark
This year marks the 125th anniversary of the Women’s Art Association of Hamilton. To kick off celebrations, the WAAH is featuring their annual juried exhibition at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. The Celebrations! exhibit features art from current and past members of the WAAH.
The WAAH was created in 1894 by a group of women who feared that cultural and artistic pursuits would be lost in Hamilton’s booming industrial growth. The ambitions of the organization at the time were simple.
WAAH wanted to create a general interest in art, establish art scholarships, hold lectures and seminars, hold exhibitions of paintings, designs and sculptures and develop art and handicrafts in Canada.
125 years later, these ambitions still hold true, though there have also been some changes.
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Zorica Silverthorne, WAAH exhibitions chair and vice president, notes that technology and digital media have contributed to the recent changes made to the organization.
“Our website hosts online exhibitions featuring artist members, there is an online gallery for our members to exhibit their works and we are even digitally selecting some of our exhibitions,” mentions Silverthorne.
Meanwhile, old traditions are also being kept alive. From the tireless efforts of the founding women of WAAH to the current executive board have ensured that an annual juried exhibition has taken place every year since the organization’s inception.
For the past seventy-two years, the exhibition has made the AGH it’s home. Long before that, the organization played a crucial role in establishing the AGH itself. Needless to say, WAAH has a lot to celebrate.
“Our exhibition statement is ‘it is in our nature to celebrate’… whether with a large group of people, small intimate gathering or solitude… ‘Celebrations!’ is open to interpretation,” said Silverthorne.
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Some of the works of past WAAH members are currently on display in the gallery’s permanent collection. Silverthorne notes that this is an important aspect worth celebrating.
“Even if the woman is no longer with us physically, her work and what she’s contributed should not be forgotten… it’s a chance to bring new life and new exposure to her legacy and not to mention looking to our past and learning from it is always an advantage,” said Silverthorne.
Silverthorne gives special mention to various different women presented in the exhibit but mentions that it’s difficult to mention only a few given the many talented artists that are involved in the WAAH.
“Some artists to celebrate are Maria Sarkany who had a coin design chosen by the Canadian Mint, well-known local artists Sylvia Simpson, Claudette Losier and our award winners Jodi Kitto-Ward, Jodie Hart and Susan Outlaw,” said Silverthorne.
Kitto-Ward, voted “Best in Show” for the exhibit, joined the WAAH in 2009. She currently has two of her pieces featured in the exhibit; “Celebration” and “In the Forest (The Bruce Trail 50th Anniversary)”. Kitto-Ward has a background in accounting and was employed at an accounting firm before her beginning her career as an artist.
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“I always had a love for art and enjoyed drawing and visiting art galleries as a child, but I was very self-critical and didn’t think I had what it took to pursue art on a professional level,” explained Kitto-Ward.
Later in her life, Kitto-Ward decided she wanted to pursue what made her happy; art. As she began taking courses at Sheridan College, she finally started to feel more confident in her work as an artist. Kitto-Ward now balances art, accounting and being a proud mom.
“I have experienced the support and opportunities provided by the WAAH first hand and I am proud to be a member and part of this historical and celebratory exhibition,” said Kitto-Ward.
“It’s important for me to be included in this exhibition… because of what this organization has achieved with women coming together for a common goal of supporting the arts, bringing so much to this city and beyond.”
The Women’s Art Association of Hamilton 125th Anniversary Exhibition: Celebrations! Is currently on display at the Jean & Ross Fischer gallery at the AGH until March 3, 2019. Admission is free and more information on the exhibit, and future WAAH shows, exhibitions and events can be found at www.waah.ca.
[spacer height="20px"]The AGH BMO World Film Festival is Hamilton’s largest Festival of international, independent, and Canadian film. This year over 60 films will be screened between October 11-21, and in honour of its 10th anniversary there are some extra-special things happening throughout the 10-days.
AGH Film Curator, Ryan Ferguson, works year-round selecting an impressive program of films that not only celebrate the power and beauty of film, but also highlight different issues in our present-day society.
There are many films for the LGBTQ+ audience this year. Love, Scott is a documentary about Scott Jones, a gay musician who was the victim of a hateful attack and is now paralyzed from the waist down. Scott will be attending the screening on October 17 for a Q&A period and will talk about his journey. Other highlights include: The Miseducation of Cameron Post (October 15) , starring Chloe Grace Moretz, and Rafiki (October 19), a film banned in its home country of Kenya. The closing-night party of the Festival will feature a screening of the documentary Paris is Burning (October 20) with a drag-show hosted by Hamilton’s own queer event planners #AdamandSteve.
If you like a little fun with your films, one of the Festival’s cult-classic themed events are sure to be an excuse to get a group of friends together. On October 13, join Girl on the Wing for a romantic screening of the 90s classic Romeo and Juliet set in a church filled with candles and other atmospheric touches. For another blast from the past, grab tickets to see Spice World on October 17, featuring the Spice Girls during their peak in the 90s. To cap off the evening, join us for 90s karaoke afterwards at Toast, a local wine bar, hosted by The Eye of Faith.
A film festival that takes place in October wouldn’t be complete without some horror flicks! You can expect classics like the haunted ballet academy flick Suspiria (October 11), unexpected beauty in the offbeat November (October 21), and a don’t-mess-with-me Nicholas Cage in the action-packed Mandy (October 13). These are all sure to get your Halloween season off to a spooky start.
To find out more information about the AGH BMO World Film Festival, head to www.aghfilmfest.com for the full schedule and to buy tickets. Follow along on Instagram @at_theagh or with the hashtag #aghfilmfest. Remember the days where you had to go to a video store to pick out a movie? Check out the Film Festival Video Store Pop-Up at Redchurch Cafe & Gallery (68 King St East), an interactive experience complete with retro VHS cases for each film! Take a look – with so many options at this year’s Festival, you’re bound to find a film that speaks to you.
Lene Trunjer Petersen
Last Saturday, Sept. 29, I attended the AGH BMO World Film Festival screening of the American documentary Out of Print. I knew from the trailer that the film was going to be kind of depressing, especially because I’m studying literature, and absolutely love the feeling of a book in my hands. My favourite Sunday activity is to sit somewhere comfortable, open a book, touch the thin paper and let myself disappear into the world of letters. But maybe in a few years it will be some sort of an e-reader that I have in my hands. An electronic device doesn’t have the distinct scent of a book, nor the beauty. Will the reading experience be the same?
Unfortunately it’s not only a battle between old-fashioned books and e-readers, but within our culture. The ability to read a book may be disappearing into an abyss of illiteracy. People use the Internet not only for gaining information, but also to read snippets of a book, or even just reviews, so they don’t have to read the whole thing themselves. Suddenly, it’s a matter of forcing kids to read, rather than being concerned about what they are reading.
I still remember my first encounter with a book. My mother would read to me at bedtime, and at the age of six I could read by myself. My all time favourites were Mio, My Son and The Brothers Lionheart, by the Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren. There is just nothing like feeling part of a written universe in which the characters are your new best friends - just for a while.
The filmmakers behind Out of Print emphasize the importance of reading, not only for learning, but to develop the ability to reflect, and think critically and abstractly. They question what happens with our own fantasy and development of empathy if reading does not challenge us. But it’s not really kids’ fault. They need role models and inspiration. How can we, as adults, give them that when the majority of the population is reading less than stimulating bestsellers, like Fifty Shades of Grey? Who will ever know Ishmael, laugh with Don Quixote, or sail alongside Odysseus, if they dare not open a classic book? They are not just dust and old words. They have real meaning and reach out to us throughout time.
In Out of Print, the American author Scott Turow raises additional question about the lack of diversity in our literary culture. Authors are fighting to earn a living from publishing their books. Their difficulty can be explained by a general societal reluctance to pay for literature. We look books up online, but Turow makes that excellent point that we don’t expect cars and electronic devices to be similarly free of cost - just information.
I am not here on a crusade to keep the printed book at the expense of e-readers and the Internet. I can’t live without my Internet connection, and I’m a big consumer of information both on the net and in printed form. But even though a lot of people are publishing online, we need to question the quality of what we read. I really wish that people would step outside their comfort zone, engage with different books, broaden their perspectives and remember their responsibility to inspire others to do the same. Literature is our very soul, and books can help challenge our thoughts about who we are.
So please, don’t let the printed book die.
Lene Trunjer Petersen
For a film enthusiast such as myself, the annual Art Gallery of Hamilton’s World Film Festival is an obvious reason to dive into great independent films and documentaries. To satisfy my curiosity, I spoke to Festival Director Annette Paiement about how the World Film Festival came to be and what the AGH has to offer during its fifth anniversary celebrations.
As I was waiting in the lobby at the AGH, a smiling woman with curly hair came towards me. She introduced herself as Annette Paiement, and we went to some chairs near the big glass facades that make the AGH so recognizable.
Of course, my first question was, “why Hamilton?” With a big smile she replied, “why not?” Then she elaborated. She said that the nearest movie theater that runs several independent films is in Toronto. In general, it is mainstream movies that are shown in Hamilton and the surrounding areas. That means that if you like more artistic, independent films you will have to drive to Toronto. Of course, there is also the opportunity to go to the Toronto International Film Festival, but the price and distance is a factor for people here. According to Paiement, a lot of people who live in Hamilton wish to see more complex and debatable films, and these are what the AGH wants to supply.
But how do you choose between so many films that are being produced each year? Paiement smiles again and nods, before she explains that there is a deep commitment to film in this community. A lot of people email requests, and the AGH has a selection committee that includes McMaster professors. She also points out that the most important thing is that everyone who helps plan the AGH World Film Festival is a film lover and wants to share that feeling.
In the end, the job of the festival director is to figure out how the films speak to each other, what people want, and what surfaces elsewhere. For instance, she attends film festivals, reads reviews and uses sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic in order to evaluate films. One of her main focuses is how to create a platform for people to meet and discuss the themes of a film. In this way, it is not just a film, but becomes a valuable instrument in an ongoing debate.
Next year, the AGH celebrates its 100th anniversary and she really hopes that it can be combined with the sixth annual AGH World Film Festival. As for the future, Paiement has two wishes. The first one is that the festival can get access to more places where they can screen films. She is very happy that this year Anchor Bar at Jackson Square is collaborating with the AGH. They are showing short films and are always open after a film screening, which provides people a convenient place to meet and discuss the films. Her other wish is that young people continue to attend the World Film Festival.
Before I am on my way, Paiement reminds me that AGH also runs the ilovefilmseries, for which McMaster students receive a discount. The series runs throughout the year, and continues with a screening of the acclaimed documentary The Act of Killing on Nov. 13.
As for the AGH World Film Festival, it runs until Sunday Sept. 29. So don’t miss this chance to buy a ticket to what might be your new favorite film.