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In contemporary North America, youth is commonly understood as the period after childhood when young people learn life skills and explore their identities in preparation for impending adulthood, within the formative, protective structures of family and school. This view of youth, however, is a relatively recent one and stands as a distinguishing feature of modernity in the Western world. Many pervasive ideas about youth come from psychology, anthropology and sociology—fields that came to the fore in the twentieth century. Within the social sciences, young people became a category to be studied, understood and conceptualized. In the wake of such theorizing, notions of youth have become persistently linked to wildness, authenticity, freedom and idealism—seductive qualities that have been cast as both dangerous and desirable.
Kids these days focuses on a selection of recent photographs, videos, drawings and prints by Canadian artists. In their examinations of youth and youth cultures within a North American context, the artists employ strategies that echo methodologies used in the social sciences. They document and study the physicality, expressivity and behaviour of young people, concentrating on their tastes, thoughts, communication methods and leisure activities. The works suggest an underlying desire on the part of the artists to capture and comprehend the essence of youth or to affiliate themselves with its attributed characteristics. Popular ideas around youth are also present in the books on display, in the artists’ reflections on their works and in written responses by Gallery visitors.
Concentrating primarily on representations of girlhood, Kids these days offers various views on youth and gender as social and cultural constructs that are also experienced as intersecting lived processes. In other words, youth, like gender, is constructed not only by those who study it but also by young people themselves who, in various ways, actively perform, physically embody and acutely feel it. Kids these days aims to explore this phenomenon as it is articulated within a selection of recent Canadian contemporary art practices.
This exhibition was first presented in 2014 at the Foreman Art Gallery of Bishop’s University in Sherbrook, Quebec, under the title Bande à part/Kids these days and was subsequently remounted by MSVU Art Gallery in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 2016. The curatorial research for this exhibition was supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.
The category of youth is not a straightforward one. Beyond its designation of the stage of life between childhood and adulthood, it encompasses a complex multifaceted “imaginary”—one that is rich in analogous associations and imagery. In its most negative light, youth is denigrated as the incarnation of debauchery and excess, but in its most positive light, youth is idealized as the embodiment of pre-socialized authenticity, unbridled potential, creativity and freedom. The celebratory virtues typically associated with youth strikingly correspond with those sought after by many artists within their own art practices.
A fascination with youth’s attributed imaginary is vividly articulated throughout the artworks in superyoung, a companion exhibition to Kids these days. Displaying an aesthetics of youth, the featured artworks capture and embody an overarching youth-inspired perspective, mindset or way of communicating. Unlike many of the artists in Kids these days who predominantly assume the role of observer, the artists in superyoung unreservedly adopt and appropriate attitudes, styles, vernaculars and modes of expression commonly ascribed to youth and youth culture. This youth-inspired performativity also manifests itself less explicitly through the creation of artworks made within a coded sensibility of youth—as if made by youth themselves.
Comprised of drawings, collages, textiles, sculptures and videos, superyoung presents a wide range of work marked by aesthetics, styles and strategies that broadly evoke youth and youth culture. These works often display an unpolished, unschooled aesthetic or conversely, a naïve, romantic expressivity. Some recurring tropes are heightened emotionality, nostalgia, humor, playfulness, irony, cynicism and an appreciation of D.I.Y and pop culture.
The curatorial research for this exhibition was supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.
Macintosh draws on his own personal (and web browsing) history as a point of departure to explore problems and possibilities related to the way mystical “experience” is coded into practical and linguistic activities. Bringing together modernist practices, relics of contemporary culture and foundational cultural texts, falsevoid uses the language of instant gratification to speak to the long-haul game of self-realization. At times overwhelming, quiet, disturbing and funny, the work speaks to the inadequacy of cultural production alone as a vehicle for liberation and explores the losses and gains achieved by rendering the ineffable into signs, symbols and practices.
Currently Curator at the Kamloops Museum and Archives, in his artistic practice Matt Macintosh works with found images and objects, painting, video and sound to explore the effects of erasure, systematization and repetition on cultural canon materials as they relate to fundamental human experiences.
While one aspect of “post-humanist” studies explores the issues around artificial intelligence and the transformation of our bodies and culture by technology, another looks at alternative ways of seeing the symbiotic relationships between people, animals and land. This latter view proposes a kind of re-enchantment with the world we live in and extends the possibility of sentience and agency to all living creatures and many places as well. The selection of artworks from the Belkin Art Gallery’s collection could be seen to be about animal/human transformation or landscape/human transformation.
Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun is one of many First Nations artists claiming that Indigenous cosmology insists that the land is a living physical and spiritual entity to be profoundly respected. Humans and animals transform into each other and the Creator speaks to us through nature. Reading Emily Carr’s accounts of her painting experience, we realized that her work could also be seen in light of these concerns. Her process involved her becoming landscape, not just depicting landscape. Geneviève Cadieux's Loin de moi, et près du lointain (1993) is a literal transformation of bodies into landscape. And the Viennese artist Rudolf Schwarzkogler performs a kind of alchemy with fish and paint. The idea of becoming animal/becoming landscape allowed other works from this collection to be included which expand the conversation in ways to stimulate and surprise.
Becoming Animal/Becoming Landscape: From the Collection of the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery is organized and circulated by the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at the University of British Columbia with support from the Canada Council for the Arts.
This selection from the Kamloops Art Gallery’s permanent collection is drawn from a recent substantial donation of work from Ann Kipling to the Gallery and builds on previous donations of drawings and prints from the artist, establishing the Kamloops Art Gallery as a primary long-term home for her life’s work. Ann Kipling's drawings are remarkable in their skill, rigour and complex beauty. Representing the span of her career and the dominant themes of her work, this selection reflects Kipling’s enduring focus on expressive mark-making and the depiction of everyday subjects from her life. This companion exhibition to Becoming Animal/Becoming Landscape: From the Collection of the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery similarly addresses the transformation of animal/human/landscape.
Laura Findlay’s project questions the current role of history painting through notions of narrative, empathy and the sublime. Her recent work examines historical events from fragments of evidence, re-examining the past through landscapes of dormant volcanoes. Having researched environments such as Volcanoes National Park in Hawai’i and Wells Grey Provincial Park north of Kamloops, the artist collected documents, images and data of historical and current geologic records. This exhibition includes an array of objects with cylindrical imagery and textures meant to be observed from all sides, revealing the static but shifting landscape of vessels.
Findlay's sculptural objects play against static painted depictions of the wall of The Cube, shifting focus between object and image, natural and human-made landscapes. The works move in relation to each other much like viewing a hierarchy of mountain range and landscape slowly hiding and emerging new views as one moves through the space, hinting at clues gained and lost to history, both geological and human.
The body of work developed for this exhibition emerged from research over the past year and her time living and working in Kamloops.