Free Rein
January 17 to March 16, 2020
Central Gallery
Feminist Land Art Retreat
Feminist Land Art Retreat (FLAR) is a conceptual project that was initiated in 2010 with a poster advertising an unrealized event. Appropriating the style of a 1960s protest poster, the artists inverted an image of the canonical land artwork Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson to transform it into an image of the female reproductive system. Through this simple gesture FLAR asked the viewer to reconsider the terms “feminist,” “land art” and “retreat” and the resulting associations that emerged. By doing so, an art historical moment was reimagined. Since that time FLAR’s practice has involved advertising forms including posters, site-specific billboards and clothing, as well as videos, sculptures and performances. Their work draws upon the material, conceptual and political work of feminist artists, land artists, activists, theorists, writers and musicians.

Free Rein brings together a major body of work which began in 2017 and includes new work made specifically for the Kamloops Art Gallery. Including video, sculpture, sound and text-based work, this exhibition plays with tropes of the Western cinematic genre, particularly the character of the cowboy or Lone Ranger. By drawing from strategies of feminism, science fiction and social utopianism, FLAR proposes an alternate world in which the historical trajectories of land and gender relations exist without ownership or prescribed hierarchies. Their 3-channel video installation No Man’s Land: The Trilogy unfolds in three divergent locations (Berlin, Germany, Heffley Creek, BC, and Galisteo, New Mexico) and features three protagonists: the solitary rider, the horse and the landscape. Embedded cultural myths of the “West” are replaced by images of mutual reliance, presented through a critical feminist lens to complicate the relationship between human, animal and land.

An additional video made for this iteration of the project centres on the horse’s point of view. A wall drawing acts as an abstracted map that could be for a horse or a human, recalling dressage patterns drawn in the sand and then performed in No Man’s Land. Creating tension between a sense of comfort and control, larger-than-life horse blankets and a bridle are shifted from their everyday use to infer an otherworldly dimension. A ceramic bowl burnished with horse hair featured in No Man’s Land serves as a speaker playing a Western-style theme song. Body Language Poems describe visual cues of a horse’s body in a relaxed and aggravated state on mirrors, implicating the viewer. The project also expands outside the Gallery with a large-scale banner of a horse’s eye that connects to two advertising banners inside featuring the landscape and rider, completing the trilogy.

This body of work proposes alternative images of wildness, freedom and autonomy to the ones that have catalyzed colonial settlement and constructed feminine relationships with nature. Subverting expectations of the Western genre, FLAR’s concept of the “West” is supple, offering a story of land relations beyond ownership and one where land is tied to multiple female perspectives.

FLAR initiated No Man’s Land: The Trilogy with curator Amy Kazymerchyk in 2017 and completed post-production of the video in residence at Western Front, Vancouver, in the spring of 2018. The exhibition Free Rein was first presented at the Audain Gallery (part of Simon Fraser University Galleries) in Vancouver, May 31 to August 4, 2018, curated by Amy Kazymerchyk. The exhibition premiered No Man’s Land: The Trilogy, which was supported by SFU Galleries, the Western Front Media Arts Residency, Canada Council for the Arts, British Columbia Arts Council and ACUD Gallery. The first chapter of No Man’s Land was presented at ACUD Gallery in Berlin, April 29 to May 28, 2017, curated by Elodie Evers. Free Rein was most recently shown at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, Ontario, January 19 to March 31, 2019, curated by Leila Timmins. This iteration of Free Rein is curated by Charo Neville, Curator, Kamloops Art Gallery.

Feminist Land Art Retreat's recent solo exhibitions include Heavy Flow: The Re-Release, Ginerva Gambino, Cologne; Duty Free, Studio for Propositional Cinema, Düsseldorf; and Last Resort, Kunsthaus Bregenz Billboards, Bregenz. They have participated in group exhibitions at Nottingham Contemporary, UK; De La Warr Pavillion, UK; 500 Capp Street, San Francisco; Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover; Kunstverein Düsseldorf, and JTT Gallery, New York City, among others. In 2018 they produced a series of aerial artworks and live radio broadcasts supported by the City of Vancouver and the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver.

Watch Charo Neville's tour of the exhibition, filmed by Jon Fulton at the opening reception, January 17, 2020.

Curated by Charo Neville, Curator, Kamloops Art Gallery
Generously sponsored by Fiona Chan, Pamela & Jason Fawcett and Ross Hill & Jane Irwin
View images of the exhibition here.

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