March 2009, Review of Between Us @ Western Front

March 2009, Review of Between Us @ Western Front
Luis Jacob 2008, courtesy of Western Front, Vancouver (left); Paul de Guzman 2008, courtesy of Western Front, Vancouver (right)

Between Us
Western Front
303 East 8th Avenue
Vancouver, BC

Three pairs of artists synchronized their creativity in Between Us, A Toronto / Vancouver Exchange, to make three double-sided posters. In each instance, two artists collaboratively conceptualised and crafted one poster in a long distance dialogue. Commissioned for the project were: Luis Jacob + Paul de Guzman, Will Kwan + Kristina Lee Podesva and Fedora Romita + Sara Mameni. The exhibition had its inception at YYZ Artists’ Outlet in Toronto this past summer and moved to Western Front in Vancouver, 4 – 18 September 2008. Between Us was curated by Alissa Firth-Eagland and Johan Lundh.
At first glance the experimental creative collaborations by a sextuplet of artists were highly individualistic and played around with intricacies of some pretty complex themes: metropolitan identity, global connectivity and the art of visual conversation. On closer viewing, however, and at last glance, each of the six graphic images was much more universal, not dissimilar from a precedent set by Félix González –Torres, "Untitled" (Passport) 1991, suggesting “a world without arbitrary borders and assigned nationalities, offering dreams of unfettered space and boundless travel.” [1]
The primary component and highlight of the exhibition was definitely the trio of double-sided posters, placed Vancouver-side-up in stacks on the floor in front of a billboard façade. The posters echoed the installation of González-Torres’ piece at the “Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated)” exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, where a 4” stack of blank white paper pages was offered to gallery visitors free for the taking. There, as here, endless copies were available.
Luis Jacob (Toronto)

Within an anonymous cityscape spanning the horizon, Jacob links both ancient and futuristic time via a white tower – reminiscent of the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It looms mysteriously and in the vast, black sky above it, a cryptic sentence provokes more thought: “There is, they say, a world without persons…. / A world without persons where everything is real / And there are not persons.” The coral-coloured text seemed to (almost) emit electric glimmers of hope: a genuine yearning for an innocent, pre-human Eden. However, the stark metropolitan image animated only an evident existential desolation reminding us of the sombre consequences of sterile alienation . . . . annihilation.

1.2 SuperVernacularVancouver
Paul de Guzman (Vancouver)

By far the most eclectic and site-specific in its approach is de Guzman’s ode to the Sun Tower (1911) at Beatty and Pender Streets, one of the oldest buildings in Vancouver’s old downtown core (and in its day among the tallest in the British Empire.) Both the airbrushed question “Brunelleschi’s sunflower?” and an arrow pointing to the cupola imply that the legacy of architects is not limited to one era; instead it transmits via a continuum of iterations and century-spanning influences. In the background, the stereotypical majestic solidity of the Coast Mountains – neverminding rain clouds – were not evident: instead, something akin to what could be either a disintegrating mass or an amassing presence. Indeed a city, including its climate, geophysicality and citizens, is a living entity and ever in a state of flux.
Will Kwan (Toronto)

Kwan assembles every conceivable accoutrement of international travel in his carefully composed photographic collage: an accidental delight! The usable items and artifacts, from currency, a cell phone, passport, train / flight schedules with Toronto / Amsterdam circled, keys, USB, passport, to a sticky note reminder (meet Kristina at Planet Pizza in Ulaanbaatar, Indonesia!) - comprise seemingly innumerable yet necessary details. They are layered with a sense of excitement for a journey or relocation and connect people with co-ordinates of place. Each city for Kwan is part of his and the collective’s network – with no hierarchy of importance.

2.2 you are here between us
Kristina Lee Podesva (Vancouver)

Akin to the simplified maps of flight paths found in the back of airline magazines, Podesva graphically illustrates the connections between 258 cities, which she may have visited at least once in her lifetime. For her, each city matters. We are brought right into the middle of the circle and, metaphorically, the center of the world. We feel a unity and a sense of belonging to the Earth in this work. Taking the poster further from its premise, Podesva states that her image “represents a snapshot of a collaborative online project that maps correspondences between people and places.” To view and participate:
3.1 + 3.2 BETWEEN US
Fedora Romita (Toronto)
Sara Mameni (Vancouver)

Probably the most lyrically subjective – and minimal of all the posters – was the musical score, Between Us, and text collaboration by both Romita and Mameni.
Mameni recorded the number of times the word ‘collaboration’ was encountered since their correspondence began on the project: 3642. An astonishing number! Certainly the word looks identical in all its iterations on the poster but this isn’t really the case: each letter has a unique, precise placement. And because each word documents and encapsulates a particular moment between Mameni and Romita, within the space-time continuum, it makes this a subliminally charged work.
Equally, Romita created an enigmatic soundtrack to their experience. She used music notation as a form of written memory to compose and potentially reenact those moments. Here we see patterns of repetition too but with excitingly intricate variations, the notes all linked together by a pronounced linear horizontality. Each note can be seen as a separate graphic element, individualistic, yet is enhanced, made exponentially richer by the grand formality of the whole.
The deceptive simplicity of this poster – perhaps the truest collaboration – by Mameni and Romita was replete with clarity.
In this exhibition, each of the works with its memorable image twin has conjured a satisfying, vital dialogue between its creators, between us … and beyond.
Guggenheim Museum - Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated) Art from 1951 to the Present, 5 March - 19 May 2004.

Artist Bios

whitehot gallery images, click a thumbnail.

Amarie Bergman


Amarie Bergman formulates and makes reductive art, showing her work at non-objective art galleries located in Melbourne, Sydney and Paris. She writes occasionally for Whitehot Magazine and lives in Melbourne.



view all articles from this author