Signs of life in the north kick off AGA fall season

The Art Gallery of Alberta’s fall season kicks off today with a neat idea: a combined show from artists in three circumpolar countries: Canada, Denmark and Iceland.

The artists are Kevin Schmidt ( Canada ); Jacob Dahl Jürgensen and Simon Dybbroe Møller ( Denmark ); and Ragnar Kjartansson ( Iceland ). The exhibition, curated by  AGA Deputy Director  and Chief Curator Catherine Crowston, brings together the traditions of landscape representation with performance and sculpture.

“UP NORTH presents us with new ways of understanding the idea of landscape, not merely as an image that is constructed by artists, but as an active site of artistic invention,” said Crowston.

“Based in Vancouver , Kevin Schmidt uses the vast, empty landscape of Canada ’s north to examine ideas of adventure, expedition and exploration. For A Sign in the Northwest Passage (pictured) , Schmidt hand-routered an excerpt from the Book of Revelations into a large cedar sign which he installed in the ice of the Northwest Passage upon flotation devices. An apocalyptic warning to all passersby the sign was left to float in the arctic waters.

“This summer Schmidt returned to the north in an attempt to recover the sign and created new content for the work which will be shown for the first time in this exhibition. Wild Signals, an additional work by Schmidt, is situated in the seemingly untouched northern landscape, this time with a performance of light, sound and dry ice. Mirroring the colourful display of the Aurora Borealis, Wild Signals is a performance in which the northern landscape is the only audience.

“Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s work The End is a folk-country music video with the artist and a collaborator performing in the snowy Rocky Mountains . Created during an artist’s residency at The Banff Centre, The End evokes nostalgia for the wild, romantic landscapes depicted in 19th century art. Using the landscape as his stage, Kjartansson questions the references and myths that frame popular ideas of the North.

“In Flotsam and Jetsam, Danish artists Jacob Dahl Jürgensen and Simon Dybbroe Møller construct makeshift musical instruments from debris washed ashore on a deserted island. They utilize these instruments in a musical performance that is played back in the gallery space, with the instruments also present as sculptures.”

Kevin Schmidt will give a Special Artist Lecture at the AGA on Nov. 26 regarding his travels to the Arctic both to install and attempt to recover the work A Sign in the Northwest Passage .