Imagine capitalism stripped of its secrecy. Imagine capitalism as a series of unfiltered, visual representations that illustrate contexts often shielded from the public. Blackwood Gallery offers such a presentation in its newest exhibition, I stood before the source. After its opening on October 19, I stood before the source has swept across UTM, extending to the e|gallery and the Bernie Miller Lightbox. The exhibition incorporates pieces from 16 different artists, each working towards a visual representation of economy and capitalist culture.
Christine Shaw, the director of Blackwood Gallery, and Greig de Peuter, an associate professor at Wilfred Laurier University, collaborated under the name Letters and Handshakes to produce this collection. Shaw and Peuter worked with local and international artists to create a codependent selection of art. The pieces in this collection communicate with each other, as one provides meaning and context to another. The various prints, sculptures, videos, and photographs involved in this exhibition function almost as a discourse, as they portray capitalism through many different perspectives. These pieces prompt us to consider the hidden, yet prevalent, aspects of our economy that often go unrecognized, such as factory labour and unethical trading.
“We didn’t want to make an exhibition that was only about statistics and information, which is more common for an exhibition about the economy,” Shaw explains. “We wanted to produce a combination of aesthetic, sensory, physical, and emotional experiences for this display.”
The floor and walls of Blackwood contain a rich diversity of artistic mediums, each appealing to a different experience. Abbas Akhavan’s “Trope” is a life-sized, bandaged rhinoceros head that sits on the floor of the gallery. This sculpture depicts the state of the rhinoceros once poachers have removed its horn. Akhavan’s piece represents both the destructive and reparative qualities of humans—while humans have brutally removed the horn to sell in the ivory trade, they have also dressed the wound with the intention of healing and easing the rhinoceros’ pain.
On the opposite wall hangs Jeremy Hutchison’s “Fabrications”. Hutchison’s display contains a collection of different pieces that explore the history of Palestine, particularly areas of colonization and labour. “Fabrications” includes five pairs of distorted jeans, five photographs, and a video clip. During the production of this collection, Hutchison collaborated with Al-Aqqad & Partner Fashions, a denim manufacturing company in Nablus. Hutchison worked closely with the employees of this factory, who manufactured a series of distorted jeans that symbolize the cyclical, laborious task of working in a Palestinian factory. These jeans, five of which are on display at Blackwood, connect where the ankle holes should be, creating a single loop. The video depicts the employees of Al-Aqqad & Partner Fashions producing these jeans.
“When we encountered Jeremy Hutchison’s work, it immediately spoke to us,” Shaw notes. “‘Fabrications’ is so extensive in terms of how it speaks about manufacturing, production, resources, and nation states. It’s so complicated. Hutchison’s piece alone could function in its own exhibition.”
Like Akhavan and Hutchison, each artist creates a commentary on the global economic state. As the artists are both local and international, they provide a worldly perspective on the prominent issue of capitalism.
Alison Cooley, the curatorial assistant at Blackwood Gallery, comments on the effect of I stood before the source: “One of the brilliant things about this exhibition is that different people with different experiences with capitalism and labour will latch on to different art. That’s the hope of the exhibition—that everybody will be drawn to different pieces in a unique way. There’s something for everybody to connect to in this exhibition.”
I stood before the source is on display at Blackwood Gallery, UTM’s e|gallery, and the Bernie Miller Lightbox until December 3.