Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fake Lake Artist List: Who's Showing At the G20 Media Pavillion?


NOTE: This post deals only with the art situation that was described to me for the G20 media centre. The art situation for G8 and G20 political venues is different, and is described in a more recent post here.

There's been uproar aplenty about the fake lake in the G20's media pavilion--uproar that is certainly well deserved! Yet there's been little discussion of other aspects of the "Experience Canada" pavilion (as it's pegged), like, say, which artists will be representing Canada to the 3,000+ media representatives coming from all over the world.

Yes, that's right, the FAQ for Experience Canada promises "art installations" that will help media access "100s of hours of b-roll material to assist them in story development about Canada".

So who, exactly, are these artists? Mostly Muskokan, as it turns out. Just like the fake lake's chairs. Here's the list I got from a representative of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade:


Tom Bendtsen - The Ontario artist's Luminato installation—"a towering sculpture of over 15,000 books" currently showing at the Toronto Reference Library—will be moved to Experience Canada after L-fest wraps up. (photo from Bentsen's 2008 Nuit Blanche installation from Fuck, yeah! Books)


Max Streicher - This Toronto artist and former Albertan is known for inflatable sculptures that have been widely shown. Experience Canada will show his Horses. (photo from Flickr user Product of Newfoundland)


Lloyd Walton - A Muskoka landscape and still-life painter, formerly a cinematographer, whose exhibitions include the Canadian International Auto Show and the Canadian Consulate in New York. Yep! (image from Walton's website)


Brenda Wainman Goulet - A Huntsville/Muskoka artist who creates stone and bronze sculptures of trees, otters and canoes. (Image from Goulet's website)


Nathalie Bertin - A Newmarket artist who paints people, chickens, animals, moss flowers and Métis themes.


Ryan Coyne - A Bracebridge/Muskoka craftsperson who makes fine cabinets, chairs and tables out of wood. (Image - the largest I could find, sorry - from Coyne's website)


Vicki Sharp - A Muskoka jewelery designer (mainly beadwork) and painter of meadows, birds, lily pads. (Image from Sharp's website.)


Col Mitchell - A Muskoka artist who bridges cute chickadee paintings and renderings of Heath Leder's Joker, often using crumpled paper. (Image from Mitchell's blog)


Krysia Bower - A Muskoka artist who makes flower cards and prints (Image from Bower's website)


John Delang - A Muskoka woodcarver who does realistic models of waterfowl and other fowl. (Image from Delang's website.)

OK, so with all due respect to anyone who makes a living from creative production, it kind of goes without saying that this is a totally embarrassing megafail on the representing-Canada's-best-artistic-face-to-the-world front. We have tons of artistic talent in this country, talent that is recognized worldwide. Yet, Streicher and Bentsen perhaps aside, that talent overwhelmingly absent from this important international presentation.

Did I really expect any different? No. We are in fake lake territory here. And the media are going to be so strung out on politics they'll hardly be hard up for art.

Nonetheless, there are so many ways this could have been a no-brainer—getting the Sobey finalists to show, for instance, or the winners of the most recent GG awards, or RBC awards, or Grange Prize, or Ontario Crafts Council Awards. (I ain't against craft, far from it—I just think any work presented at the pavilion should be at an agreed-upon standard of quality and originality.) Alternatively, why not ask the National Gallery of Canada (an crown corporation, natch, and planning a biennial of recent acquisitions this fall anyway) to pull some works? Or even reproductions of works? How about asking the commercial galleries that used to get DFAIT grants to go to international art fairs to lend something out?

The pavilion was actually a bit on the right track with that Luminato crossover—let's do a little collaborating, folks!—and the DFAIT rep did clarify that it was "the Summits Management Office" (hardly a curatorial brand name) that made the call on everyone but Streicher and Bendtsen.

Still, whoa. I expected to see a strange field of art crop up, but this takes the cake for an international event.

Also, I have to say even the lack of regional representation is likely upsetting to many Canadians. Muskoka/Toronto=Canada? I don't think so.

Rendering of the fake lake from CBC

23 comments:

Lisa Deanne Smith said...

Great article! How embarrassing although not surprising... art and culture in Canada only seems to equal tourist dollars lately.

Anonymous said...

Good call. All of these artists on their own are fine but as a group it is a boring representation of Canadian art.

Leah Sandals said...

Hi, it's Leah, someone tried to post this comment and it didn't work so I'm posting for them:

I think you should direct your search towards the organism putting together the works, if my information is correct, I think it's called ADAC. Because without revealing anything, I'm somewhat on the "inside", and I can tell you, there will be great Canadian artists on display, none of which you have bothered to mention. It would perhaps go against your argument...

Leah Sandals said...

And this is me responding to the comment... sorry for any confusion

Good point. I think when you were trying to post this comment I was actually writing a new post about the fact that while the G20 media pavilion art installations look like a bust -- based completely on the information I was given by the official media people at DFAIT -- the Art Dealers Association of Canada just let me know they are installation art at the political summit venues: Metro Toronto Convention Centre and Deerhurst Resort. Think this non-media-centre installation, which DFAIT didn't mention to me, is what you are referring to?

I agree with you that the ADAC project makes for better G20 news (though I'm reserving full judgment until the artist and works list is released...) You can read my full post here:

http://neditpasmoncoeur.blogspot.com/2010/06/bit-of-better-g20-art-news-adac.html

Anonymous said...

Oh I am so disappointed! There simply aren't enough canoes, or moose, or Alberta wildflowers! The lack of wood! Where are the beavers?! Where are the deer?! The sound art of loon calls or video projections of ducks! Where are the igloos? Eskimos?!!!??? Zout alors!!!!

john m. said...

You failed to mention anything about what the g20 is all about and who benefits from it. Who cares what artists are in it. Maybe Red Bull Gallery should curate the show, they both represent similar interests right? If a fake lake being in bad taste is your problem with the g20 you need to pull your head out of the sand.

Leah Sandals said...

Hey John,

Oh, I hear ya! It did occur to me that if getting the art "wrong" meant summit organizers/the Canadian government was getting climate change action "right", I wouldn't have bothered raising the issue. Art concerns, I can see, are pretty irrelevant compared to issues like health care, child care, justice, government transparency, the environment, etc.

After some reflection, here's why I did post on this topic:

1) I suspect that this summit will suffer from a real lack of conscientiousness about what Canadians need and want on many fronts—employment, social supports, environmental protection, etc. For lack of action on these fronts in general, I'm very dismayed with our current government.

As someone who is involved in the cultural sector, I also don't think the government is doing a very good job on culture—I don't want to see any more Beatles singalongs standing in as policy, etc.

So it's possible, being someone who is generally art-focused in reportage, that I was using the art situation at the summit as a (valid) case study for my general dismay with the summit and with our government.

2) My curiosity regarding the issue of art at the G20 media pavilion was sparked by the online FAQ about the pavilion, which promised "art installations". Again, being someone who covers art, it seemed a bit of a matter of national cultural interest how Canada would be represented to the world through art at this venue.

If, on the other hand, there had been no art at all planned for the pavilion, I likely wouldn't have raised it as an issue. It's not key to me that there be art at the media pavilion, or the political venues, for that matter. But if art is to be presented, I would expect it to accurately represent the best of the Canadian scene.

I'm sure you can imagine getting up in arms about other issues around accurate representation of Canada at the pavilion—like perhaps the fact that the G20 media pavilion (even sans art) creates an image of Canadians as uniformly bucolic and cottage loving and possibly wealthy. And oh yeah, Ontarian, to name one of a few other categories.

Now I do think these kinds of labels/qualities apply many Canadians--that's totally fine. But we are also so many other things: diverse, urban, engaged, conflicted, critical, concerned, and passionate, to name just a very small few. If we can be concerned about how inaccurate stories about Canada in general might be told through the media pavilion, I think we can also be concerned about how inaccurately the story of Canadian art (if it's included) is going to be told through the pavilion too.

(FYI there are some very strong Canadian artists who present critical perspectives on society, politics, labour, etc. and you can bet your hiney you'll be seeing zero of them at the media pavilion, just like you’ll be seeing zero criticism in other formats.)

So... these points may just seem to be extensive self-justification, and hell, maybe they are. As I tried to point out at the top of this post, there are many vital issues that in my heart of hearts I wish progress is made on at the summit and in our government—though I'm pessimistic on both counts.

In the end, I guess what I'm trying to underline is that representation is a political issue. The way we represent Canada to ourselves and to other nations (or our individual notions of Canada, as the case may be) is a matter of no small importance, even if it *is* smaller than cleaning up the Gulf, finally taking freaking action on climate change, campaigning for equitable maternal health initiatives, and so on.

I'm also trying to say that it's disconcerting to me that if the government/summit can't get a "small" thing like art "right" by reaching out to appropriate colleagues and agencies, it gives me even less confidence that they can reach out and do the networking and sharing involved to solve the daunting global issues that face us today.

Earl Miller said...

Hi -

I am curious about the following info. I got on a press release re. G8/G20 art that says Bill Huffman is curating work for ADAC (Art Dealer's Association of Canada) throughout the summit locations. I have a feeling Bill did not have a say in this work but may make some interesting offerings elsewhere. I know nothing more than what I am pasting below:

"Installed throughout both summit venues, the sprawling installation will be one of the largest visual art initiatives undertaken in this context. In addition to the participation of its member galleries, ADAC has invited Toronto curator William Huffman to provide overall thematics and design for the project. With a curator in place, development and installation of the Canadian Collection is being conceptualized as a national exhibition – providing an important Canadian, visual narrative for the numerous visiting international leaders."

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the post, and your lengthy reply/comment, Leah.

John m, with all due respect (and no nastiness intended), this was a blog about art. So I enjoyed it, and the perspective. Not every discussion has to be about one set of topics - no matter how serious. I never took Leah's blog to somehow indicate other issues (all listed above) were somehow less necessary or relevant to discussions. But this one was on art. I'm okay with that.

Leah Sandals said...

Hi guys,

Thanks for your comments.

Earl, yes, Bill is curating something for the political venues of the G8/G20 and I posted on that subsequently here:

http://neditpasmoncoeur.blogspot.com/2010/06/bit-of-better-g20-art-news-adac.html

Still, the list I posted remains relevant to the media pavilion/fake lake zone.

peter d harris said...

I'm sure at some time during this conference people will also be served Tim Hortons coffee and timbits, maybe even some poutine, and if they're lucky those little maple sugar candies in the shape of maple leafs. Perhaps while enjoying the rocking sounds of Canada's own BTO (nothing like "Taking care of business" to get the politicians revved up).

When all is said and done, they probably get a grab bag of Canadiana stuff to take home too. I can see Sarkosy and Carla Bruni now in their matching Roots sweaters and caps, maybe Obama with a little Canadian flag that he could sew on his luggage the next time he heads to Europe, and I'm sure Berlusconi will find a place in Italy for the miniature inukshuk he's bound to receive.

I'm happy Leah, that you're not so cynical about our governement that you actually expected better!! For me, this Canadiana sales job was dialed up to "11" for the olympics and it hasn't abated. The art choices seem pretty consistent with the cliched images of Canadians the government loves to project to the world. They missed out on the complexity and diversity of Canadian art, but if the idea was easily digestible bits of culture, success! It'll go down as easy as a timbit....

Col said...

There is a lot to gripe about re the ultimate representation of the diverse, skilled, and accomplished artists living and working in Muskoka, but there is also a lot to respect and appreciate about the experience itself.
As one of the artists mentioned above holding more information about the hows and whys behind this particular representation, I can attest that much like the fake lake fuss, your musings on the 8 Muskoka Artists are similarly skewed. The decision to include artists from Muskoka stemmed from Muskoka Tourism and Huntsville/Lake of Bays Chamber of Commerce and replaced a previously planned activity (reasons unknown to me). The call out for local artists happened in June, was limited to 16 in number and had a response deadline of less than 24 hours, and some chosen in the first round ended up declining. The artists were there as volunteers (they were not paid for their time or exhibition fees), Muskoka Tourism is financially responsible, and the logistics and organizing efforts occurred after selection (meaning we, the artists, participated on a wing and a prayer); an effort by Muskoka Tourism to include a cultural element to their marketing efforts while fulfilling some of the points outlined in the experience Canada FAQ:
"Each zone (and this list of 8 artists were in the Muskoka zone) includes an immersive environment, interactive experiences (speaking with a local Muskoka Artists and viewing them at work) and informative audio-visual displays. Within (notice the “within”) these zones, there will be additional programming such as food tastings, demonstrations, and art installations Media will have access to 100s of hours of b-roll material to assist them in story development about Canada."
Eight artists, slated into the Muskoka zone, do not in any way shape or form represent all of Canada and the artistic achievements held within it. Fortunately, for those who were present at the DEC, the intent was not lost and a welcomed, genuine experience with the artists was had. I might even add excessively attended, photographed and interviewed. It seems a more appropriate activity at the media centre than wall gazing.
Col Mitchell, emerging artist, Muskoka.

Leah Sandals said...

Hi Col,

Thanks for sharing your perspective on how all this came to pass.

gwen said...

I also find it upsetting that none of the artists were paid an artist fee. Meanwhile I know that contractors for the summits were so well paid they have boasted "I am set for life from this one contract."

John de Lang said...

Hmmm -- I can tell you that John de Lang's "models" (usually referred to as "carvings") have received many first-place awards in national bird-carving competitions, adjudicated by international judges, as well as at the Ward World International Wildfowl Carving Championship in Maryland, which attracts competitors from all over the world. With each carving representing over 100 hours of work, they are evaluated as far less than 'mediocre' by those who are trained to judge, and are deemed to be a valid contribution to Canadian artistry. I believe that you've done some fine artists a grave disservice with an amateur, uninformed and off-the-cuff opinion.
Marilyn de Lang

SAVOUR Muskoka said...

Wow, your account of creative production really lacks, chefs and farmers are srtists in their own right and a very important demographic of the creative economy. More importantly there canvas and paint is directly effected by changing seasons and consumer trends, they indulge all the senses, touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. Food caputres the imagination and identifies a sense of self and place. Your tunnel vision of what is creative and what constitues art is a cliche, the experience Canada portion featured local, rural food, farmers engaging media on how Canada has grown in its production of artsinal products and chefs who work with a perishable often underappreciated products to produces works of art that indulge all the senses and leaves the guest with a memorable expereince. Not only Muskoka Chefs and farmers were present but food and chefs from throughout Ontario had an opportunity to tell the story of food to international media.
Not sure where to leave this, creativity and art come in many forms and as Canada grows and widens its horzons we must take into account all sectors when making references to art and creativity, but the art from Muskoka really represnted the landscape and creative economy - rural communities, you needed to be present to experience food and art and these can not be judge by a website tour. I would of loved it if you could of been present and expereince the energy that this area produced for international, tired international at that, media. Even better your more the welcome in Muskoka anytime.

John de Lang said...

Well, what's life worth if you can't enjoy a laugh at yourself. As the indignant (but overworked and tired) wife defending my talented husband's excellent artwork (bird-carver at the G20 centre), I note that I mistakenly wrote that his award-winning pieces were judged by experts as "far less than mediocre". Oops -- would all kind-hearted people please mentally replace the word 'less' with the word 'MORE' to redeem my championship of his fine work.
How embarrassing!
Marilyn de Lang

Leah Sandals said...

Hi John/Marilyn De Lang and Savour Muskoka,

I appreciate you taking time to comment on this post.

Personally, John/Marilyn, I am super-impressed by well-crafted objects. This is partly why I love to check out craft-related shows in Toronto and other cities I might get to visit, and why I actually thought John's work looked like some of the technically strongest in the G20 offerings. Definitely!

Also, Savour, I really appreciate the invitation to visit Muskoka. It's an area I really would like to get to, and I'm glad to know I won't be run out of town if I one day do make it over : - )

However, I guess what it comes down to is that if this event had actually been held in Muskoka the presentation of such a Muskoka-centric media centre might have made more sense.

But... the pavilion was called "Experience Canada." I've lived in a few different parts of Canada myself, and to me, Muskoka does not well represent Canada as a whole. What I'd expect/want to see at an "Experience Canada" centre is some sampling of the best of our entire nation's offerings, whether it be in art, food, technology or what have you.

In the realm of visual art, we already have awards like the Governor General's Prize (governmental) and the Sobey Award (non governmental) to parse which artists are of most current national importance. These prize decisions aren't always agreed on by everyone in the art community, but they provide a pretty reliable barometer of what is representatively strong in Canadian art. Same goes (we can hope!) for items that might be found in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada. It seems both inaccurate and major missed opportunity that these types of prizes and institutions were not consulted as guides to what a real Canadian art experience might be.

So... it's all to say that I WAY appreciate what you are doing. And in a Muskoka context, it might have worked very well for the media centre. But in an "Experience Canada" context, located in Canada's largest city, my feeling remains that it did not work well, and was not suitable for representing Canada to international media.

Leah Sandals said...

Hi John/Marilyn De Lang and Savour Muskoka,

I appreciate you taking time to comment on this post.

Personally, John/Marilyn, I am super-impressed by well-crafted objects. This is why I love to check out craft-related shows, and why I actually thought John's work looked like some of the technically strongest in the G20 offerings. Definitely!

Also, Savour, I appreciate the invitation to visit Muskoka. It's an area I would like to get to, and I'm glad to know I won't be run out of town if I one day do make it over : - )

If this event had actually been held in Muskoka the presentation of such a Muskoka-centric media centre might have made more sense.

But... the pavilion was called "Experience Canada." And I've lived in a few different parts of Canada, and to me, Muskoka does not represent Canada as a whole. What I'd expect/want to see at an "Experience Canada" centre is some sampling of the best of our entire nation's offerings, whether it be in art, food, technology or what have you.

In the realm of visual art, we already have awards like the Governor General's Prize (governmental) and the Sobey Award (non governmental) to parse which artists are of most current national importance. Not everyone agrees with these prize decisions, but they provide a pretty reliable barometer of what is strong in Canadian art. Same goes (we can hope!) for items in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada. It seems a major missed opportunity that these types of prizes and institutions were not consulted as guides to what a representatively strong Canadian art experience might be.

So... while I WAY appreciate what you’re doing, my feeling remains that the Muskoka-centric strategy was not suitable for representing our nation’s art under the Toronto-centre umbrella of “Experience Canada.”

Leah Sandals said...

Hi John/Marilyn De Lang and Savour Muskoka,

Thanks for your comments.

Personally, John/Marilyn, I'm super-impressed by well-crafted objects. This is why I love to check out craft-related shows, and why I actually thought John's work looked like some of the technically strongest in the G20 offerings.

Also, Savour, I appreciate the invitation to visit Muskoka. It's an area I'd like to get to, and I'm glad to know I won't be run out of town if I one day do make it over : - )

If this event had actually been held in Muskoka the presentation of such a Muskoka-centric media centre might have made more sense.

But... the pavilion was called "Experience Canada." I've lived in a few different parts of Canada, and to me Muskoka does not represent Canada as a whole. What I'd expect/want to see at an "Experience Canada" centre is a the best our entire nation has to offer, whether it be in art, food, technology or what have you.

In the realm of art, we have awards like the Governor General's Prize (governmental) and the Sobey Award (non governmental) to parse which artists are of most current national importance. Not everyone agrees with these prize decisions, but they provide a pretty reliable barometer of what’s strong in Canadian art. Same goes (we can hope!) for items in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada. It seems a major missed opportunity that these types of prizes and institutions were not consulted as guides to what a representatively strong Canadian art experience might be.

So... while I WAY appreciate what you’re doing, my feeling remains that the G20 media centre was a disappointment in terms of representing Canadian art to the world.

Nathalie Bertin said...

My response to Ms. Sandal's original post is in two parts due to its length.

Part 1:
How unfortunate, Ms. Sandals, that you could not get a press pass to actually attend the Experience Canada event at the G20 Media Centre, otherwise, you would have been able to check your facts and see for yourself that there was much more to it than what you opine about. You see, had you actually been there, you would have seen and heard all about the various wines and foods from regions across Canada – yes, all the way from BC. You would have also seen the digital display that speaks to our capabilities in broadcast and within the film industry. But since we’re talking art here, and the selection of artists, you would have also learned that the artists were not just part of the Experience Canada event, but actually part of the Northern Ontario pavilion. As such, it was quite appropriate for the eight artists to be from the Muskoka and Parry Sound area.

As for why not going with award winners and artists who are already recognized internationally through government and commercially sponsored contests? Well, how about letting the world know what else we have in Canada? In fact, had you done some real research, you’d know that Muskoka was officially named an arts destination in 2009 and over 30% of the working trades in Muskoka are related to the arts. You don’t need to be a mathematician to understand just how huge that is. That said, it’s quite fitting that artists from Muskoka were front and centre in the Northern Ontario pavilion, regardless of whether or not they participated in a contest. There is more art out there than what is being seen by those artists who apply for awards. After all, awards are subjective too.

Nathalie Bertin said...

Part 2:
As for me, when you went to my web site, did you even notice that I also have a studio in Muskoka, participated in NuitBlanche in 2009, that my paintings and photographs have been published in various national publications, or that I recently won feature placement at the Mayor’s gala for the arts in Newmarket? Did you even care to know that, in addition to creating “Métis-themed art”, I teach workshops in historical Métis design patterns to prevent the loss of some of our real Canadian art history that goes back to the 1600s? Is entering and winning a commercial art contest more important to you than preserving art history that spans the entire country? (FYI, the media I spoke to all felt that the history I was telling them about was quite important AND interesting.) Had you actually spoken to me, you would have also found out that I’ve sold work internationally. And just because you chose an image of my work to show on your blog, you didn’t choose an image that accurately reflected the art I was demonstrating and discussing at the G20. Further, let me guess that you didn’t notice the copyright line on my web site requesting that anything from the site not be reproduced without my expressed permission. You didn’t actually ask for my permission to use the image of my painting in your blog, otherwise I would have directed you to use something more representative of the G20 demonstration. Did you ask anyone else for their permission to reproduce their intellectual property? That in itself could be construed as a lack of ethical integrity on your part even if – technically -- you may not have broken any laws.

Ms. Sandals, you may very well be a good writer but, frankly, your opinion in this instance, is worthless. It’s riddled with inaccuracies and half-truths, not just typos. I might consider your thoughts valid had you actually seen the art in person, participated in the event or simply spoken to/quoted the journalists who did. Your article is skewed to suit your argument and your research is lazy. Bottom line, in future, might I suggest you make full, proper use of your talents and intelligence instead of writing for the sake of being on a popular media bandwagon.

PS: If you do care to actually see the art from the G20 artists -- whether or not it justifies anything you wrote about -- feel free to check out “Eight Back From the Lake” at The Art Space on Queen Street in Huntsville. It would do you some good to have a real look at the art you so easily dismissed as boring and substandard for international scrutiny.

N Bertin said...

Some blogg... Tried to send part 2 of my response and I keep getting a 404 error message. So much for good communication. Hey, maybe I should put down your choice of blogg forum in an article!