Don’t bring marshmallows to Lee Henderson’s campfire. Henderson’s projected video of a thousand matches being lit, is part of “Folklore and Other Panics” where twelve contemporary artists have redecorated the third floor gallery of the Rooms.
Michael Waterman’s short-wave radio station ‘Pirate Radio’ feels like a tree house. The old rug on the floor, comfy chair and glowing red album invite visitors to flip discs and broadcast live throughout the gallery. Waterman will drop in on random Saturdays to deejay his regular CHMR show from the gallery.
Waterman’s installation breaks the ‘don’t touch’ rule in art galleries. Kay Burns’ work further illustrates the subversive qualities of folk art. Her alter ego, Iris Taylor, has stomped on globes for the Flat Earth Society. Personally, I have climbed Brimstone Head, Fogo Island, one of the four official corners of the earth, and the horizon looks pretty flat to me. Maybe Iris is right.
In addition to being subversive ‘Pirate Radio’ is collaborative. Likewise Mark Clintberg worked with seventeen quilters from Fogo Island’s Winds and Waves Artisans Craft Guild. Together they turned Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s mantra ‘Reason Over Passion’ on its head.
During a residency at Fogo Island (are you detecting a Fogo Island subtheme here?) Jerry Ropson hung around swapping stories about resettlement. Ropson wondered how communities with fewer then twenty people could summon the manpower to float houses.
“You just throw up a flag,” the men told him. A flag hoisted on a pole called people to a wedding, to a wake, or to lend a hand.
Ropson’s forty-foot mural of a landscape with flags, houses, stores, and stages, shows the places where we gather. Random words and phrases sifted through Ropson’s childhood in Pollard’s Point are included. As are comments made unwittingly by visitors who watched him paint during the first week of the exhibit, making this landscape another collaboration.
The exhibit is the brainchild of Mireille Eagan, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Rooms. It is her retort to attitudes picked up in Canadian Art circles that Newfoundland and Labrador art is “insular, charming, and slightly backward.” Four years of visiting studios led Eagan to invite artists to contribute work from their art practice. Eagan insists that Contemporary Art means art that is made now. But there are no paintings in this show. Instead “Folklore” includes conceptual pieces, site-specific installations, ephemeral sculptures, and the most non-participatory medium: the dreaded Art Video.
Four Come From Away artists were included so Eagan could connect the larger contemporary art scene with the art that has always been created in this place. Like Kym Greeley and Erika Jane Stephens-Moore’s installation, tradition is the wallpaper of our lives. Like Duane Linklater’s delinquent attempts to insert his presence into Wikipedia’s Cape Spear entry, folklore represents our transitive and subversive attempt to say that we—like the Beothuk—once stood here. “Folklore and Other Panics” provides a thoughtful, entertaining and provocative context for works from the permanent collection in “Truth or Myth?” opening February 27.