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Full text of "Remembering postmodernism : trends in recent Canadian art"

REMEMBERING 
POSTMODERNISM 



TRENDS IN RECENT CANADIAN ART 




Mark A. Cheetham with Linda Hutcheon 



REMEMBERING POSTMODERNISM 



Trends in Recent Canadian Art 



Mark A. Cheetham with Linda Hutcheon 




TORONTO OXFORD NEW YORK 

OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 

1991 



Oxford University Press, 70 Wynford Drive, Don Mills, Ontario M3C 1J9 

Toronto Oxford New York Delhi Bombay Calcutta Madras Karachi 

Petaling Jaya Singapore Hong Kong Tokyo Nairobi Dar es Salaam 

Cape Town Melbourne Auckland 

and associated companies in 
Berlin Ibadan 



Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data 

Cheetham, Mark 
Remembering postmodernism 

Includes bibliographical references and index. 
ISBN 0-19-540817-9 

1. Postmodernism - Canada. 2. Art, Canadian. 
3. Art, Modern - 20th century - Canada. 
I. Hutcheon, Linda, 1947- . II. Title. 

N6545.5.P66C48 1991 709'.71 C91-093126-7 



Cover image: Joanne Tod, Self-Portrait as Prostitute. 
Courtesy of Carman Lamanna Gallery, Toronto. 

Designed by Heather Delfmo 

Copyright Mark A. Cheetham and Linda Hutcheon 1991 

OXFORD is a trademark of Oxford University Press 

1 2 3 4 - 93 92 91 

Printed in Canada by D.W. Friesen & Sons Ltd. 



CONTENTS 



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 



PLATES 
vii 

PREFACE 
ix 

INTRODUCTION 
1 

REMEMBERING ART'S PAST 
11 

REMEMBERING THE SUBJECT 
39 

REMEMBERING SOCIETY 
73 

WORKS CITED AND CONSULTED 
1O3 

AFTERWORD 
by Linda Hutcheon 

Postmodernism's Ironic Paradoxes: Politics and Art 
1O9 

WORKS CITED 
131 

NOTES ON ARTISTS 
135 

INDEX 
143 



Dedicated to 
the memory of 

LAWRENCE ELLIOT HARVEY 



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 



This book is the result of over four years of inquiry and consultation, so 
naturally I have many people and institutions to thank for their encour- 
agement and support. Remembering Postmodernism began with my research 
for an exhibition entitled Memory Works, which was initiated as a response 
to a challenge put by two visionary people, TJ. Collins, Vice-President 
Academic and Provost of the University of Western Ontario, and Nancy 
Poole, Executive Director of the London Regional Art and Historical 
Museums, both of whom saw the need for greater interaction between the 
University and the Gallery in London, Ontario. This original encourage- 
ment has been maintained by both institutions. I wish to thank the Can- 
ada Council and the Ontario Arts Council for enabling funds and the 
Faculty of Arts at Western for granting me a Research Professorship in 
1989-90 to complete my text. Two research assistants at Western Sonia 
Halpern and Anita Utas helped with innumerable details. My thanks, 
too, to Marie Fleming, Paddy O'Brien, and especially Judith Rodger and 
Richard Teleky my editor at Oxford University Press for their enthu- 
siasm and advice at crucial junctures. 

I have learned a great deal from the artists whose works I discuss here. 
All have been generous with their time and ideas, and their collective 
excitement about this investigation of memory and the postmodern has 
often sustained me. My particular thanks go to Bruce Barber, Allyson 
Clay, and Joanne Tod. Linda Hutcheon's interest in and contribution to 
Remembering Postmodernism has been for me a tremendous source of plea- 
sure and inspiration. Her knowledge of postmodern discourses is 
unequalled and her magnanimity in sharing her insights is a model for all 
scholars and critics. My sincere hope is that she will write more frequently 
on the contemporary visual arts in Canada. 

This book is dedicated to the memory of Lawrence E. Harvey, my late 
father-in-law. In a bittersweet way, it is to his affliction with and death 
from Alzheimer's Disease that I trace my own interests in the workings of 
memory. But recollections of his keen intellect and unbounded zeal live 
on through Elizabeth D. Harvey, to whom I also dedicate this work in 
gratitude for the countless thoughts we have shared about memory. 



PHOTOGRAPH CREDITS 



1. Courtesy of Sheila Ayearst. 

2. From The University of Lethbridge Art Gallery. 

3. Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. 

4. Courtesy of Greg Ludlow. 

5. Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, photograph by A.K. Photos, Saskatoon. 

6. Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Purchase, 1975. 

7. Courtesy of Allyson Clay. 

8. Courtesy of Joanne Tod. Photo by Peter MacCallum. 

9. Courtesy of Carmen Lamanna Gallery. 

10. Courtesy of Neil Wedman. 

1 1 . Photo by Ernest Mayer, The Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

12. Photo courtesy Wyn C. Geleynse. 

13. Collection of the Artist. Courtesy of the Wynick/Tuck Gallery, Toronto, 
Ontario: Photo by Cheryl O'Brien. 

14. Courtesy of Alice Mansell. 

15. Courtesy of Angela Grauerholz. 

16. Courtesy of Sylvie Belanger. Photo by Barrie Jones. 

17. Courtesy of Vern Hume. 

18. Private Collection. Courtesy of the Wynick/Tuck Gallery, Toronto, Ontario. 
Photo by Cheryl O'Brien. 

19. Courtesy of Carmen Lamanna Gallery. Photo by Cheryl O'Brien. 

20. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. 

21. Courtesy of Jane Buyers. Photo by Tom Moore. 

22. Courtesy of William MacDonnell. 

23. Courtesy of Melvin Charney. M. Charney. 

24. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. 

25. Courtesy of Bruce Barber. 

26. Courtesy of Stan Denniston. 
27 & 28. Courtesy of Geoff Miles. 

29. Courtesy of Jane Corkin Gallery, Toronto. 

30. Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. Gift from the Peggy Lownsbrough Fund, 
1987. Used by permission of Canadian Artists' Representation Copyright 
Collective Inc. 

31. Courtesy of the Carmen Lamanna Gallery. Photo by Peter MacCallum. 



LIST OF PLATES 



1. Sheila Ayearst, Three Minutes (1988; o/c, 5' x 14'). Artist's coll'n. 

2. General Idea, The Unveiling of the Cornucopia: A Mural Fragment from the Room 
with the Unknown Function in the Villa dei Misteri of the 1984 Miss General Idea 
Pavilion (1982; painted plasterboard, plywood, five 4' x 8' panels). University of 
Lethbridge. 

3. Andy Fabo, The Craft of the Contaminated (1984; o/wood, 228.6 x 213.4 cm). 
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. 

4. Greg Ludlow, AH Conditions Are Temporary (1984; paint, pastel, wood on 
panel, 243 x 396 cm). Artist's coll'n. 

S.Joe Fafard, Vincent (1985; bronze, patina, oil; 99.7 x 68.5 x 19.2 cm). Mendel 
Art Gallery, Saskatoon. 

6. Murray Favro, Van Gogh's Room (1973-74; mixed media with projection; 2.13 
x3.65x9.14m). Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. 

7. Allyson Clay, 'Eye to Eye', from Lure (1988; o/c, 4 x 13" x 13"). Art Bank, 
Ottawa. 

8. Joanne Tod, Reds on Green (1978; acrylic/canvas, 43" x 51"). Artist's coll'n. 

9. Joanne Tod, Approximation (1988; o/c, 7' x 10'). Carmen Lamanna Gallery, 
Toronto. 

10. Neil Wedman, Death Ray (1987; pastel/paper; 18 sections; total dimensions: 
12' x 24'). Artist's coll'n. 

11. Marcel Gosselin, The Observatory (1986; mixed media sculpture, 190 x 30 x 
30 cm). Artist's coll'n. 

12. Wyn Gelynse, Fear of Memory (1990; mixed media installation). Brenda Wal- 
lace Gallery, Montreal. 

13. Janice Gurney, Screen (1986; photostats, cibachromes, plexi; 38.5" x 143"). 
Wynick Tuck Gallery, Toronto. 

14. Alice Mansell, Manoeuvre (1986; o/c; 5' x 7'). Artist's coll'n. 

15. Angela Grauerholz, Basel (1986; b/w photo, 121 x 161 cm). Art 45, Montreal. 

16. Sylvie Belanger, one element from Essai de Synthese (1990; 6 light boxes, 61 x 
20 x 165 cm each, wood, slate, video). Artist's coll'n. 

17. Vern Hume, Lamented Moments/Desired Objects (1988; video installation). Art- 
ist's coll'n. 



vn 



Plates 



18. Janice Gurney, The Damage is Done (1986; o/c, 49" x 66"). Wynick Tuck 
Gallery, Toronto. 

19. Robert Wiens, The Rip (1986; wood, glass, 75-watt lights, 1.2 x .9 x 1.8 m). 
Carmen Lamanna Gallery, Toronto. 

20. Carl Beam, The North American Iceberg (1986; acrylic, photo silkscreen, and 
pencil on plexiglass, 213.6 x 374.1 cm). National Gallery, Ottawa. 

21. Jane Buyers, Language/Possession (1987-88; mixed media: sculpture, 43.1 x 
30.5 x 20.3 cm; drawings, 25.4 x 20.3 cm). Artist's coll'n. 

22. William MacDonnell, 22 July 1968/16 Nov. 1885 (1986; lead, acrylic/canvas, 
168 x 336 x 5 cm). Artist's coll'n. 

23. Melvin Charney, LesMaisons de la me Sherbrooke (1976;16.4xl5.8xl2.0m). 
Photo: Melvin Charney. 

24. Barbara Steinman, Cenotaph (1985-86; mixed media). National Gallery, 
Ottawa. 

25. Bruce Barber, Nam II (1990, mixed media). Artist's coll'n. 

26. Stan Denniston, Reminder #20 (1979; 2 silverprints, 42.5 x 100 cm). Artist's 
coll'n. 

27. Geoff Miles, excerpt from Foreign Relations (1987; 2' x 7'). Artist's coll'n. 

28. Geoff Miles, excerpt from The Trapper's Pleasure of the Text (1985; 20" x 24"). 
Artist's coll'n. 

29. Nigel Scott, Maillot Noir et Blanc (Julie Diving} (1986). Jane Corkin Gallery, 
Toronto. 

30. Carole Conde and Karl Beveridge, No Immediate Threat (1986; one of 10 
cibachrome photographs, 50.0 x 29.5 cm each). Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. 

31. Joanne Tod, Self Portrait as Prostitute (1983; acrylic/canvas, 59" x 55"). 
Carmen Lamanna Gallery, Toronto. 



PREFACE 



Postmodernism in the Canadian visual arts is anything but monolithic, 
and I believe that it is best conceived through its dynamic attempts to 
evade traditional art-historical definition. For this reason, it is necessary to 
find a thematic focus for our understanding of the postmodern, instead of 
attempting to survey its manifestations or to claim to find its representa- 
tive incarnations. In Remembering Postmodernism, I focus on the material and 
intellectual effects of memory in our recent visual culture as a way to 
articulate the complex of phenomena that we call postmodern. A culture's 
valuation of memory is in general a strong indication of its preoccupations 
and priorities, and a writer is very much a 'recollector', an agent for the 
reassembly of both works and ideas. It seems to me that there is a remark- 
able intersection in contemporary Canadian art between various themat- 
ics of memory and what I understand to be postmodernist impulses in 
artistic production. Four years of extensive research have helped to refine 
this rubric, but I remain convinced that these two admittedly daunting 
themes memory and postmodernism in Canadian art illuminate one 
another very effectively through their mutual delimitation. My argu- 
ments do not depend on a catalogue of supposedly postmodern 
phenomena and in any case, postmodernism's signature memory itself 
undercuts any aspiration to a stable history. 

Remembering Postmodernism attempts to mimic this sort of anti- 
foundational critique both in its structure and in its selection of works and 
artists. We have in the recent past been witnessing significantly new 
artistic deployments of memory in our culture, and these innovations can 
best be described as postmodern. I am well aware that 'postmodernism' is 
an unpopular term throughout the artistic community and with many 
scholars, but the fact remains that artists, curators, and critics all use 
variants on the word. As Fokkema puts it in a recent survey of the 
phenomenon, in our culture 'postmodernism is a social fact, a fact of shared 
or partly shared knowledge' (5). In short, however we determine its 
meaning, postmodernism exists, and it warrants serious attention. Again, 
my aim is to examine its manifestations through the lens of memory in 
order to make Canadian postmodernism, in its seminal visual incarna- 
tions, more comprehensible. Three interlocking chapters, then, inter- 
weave central themes of memory and the postmodern: the relation to art's 
history, the construction of the subject, and the social uses of memory. 



IX 



Remembering Postmodernism 

The book thus has a double thematic edge, since the invocation of mem- 
ory is crucial to what we should properly call various postmodernism* 
and vice versa. These two themes are also important independently, of 
course, so when I discuss memory (particularly because it is a topic 
neglected in current discourse on the arts, despite the fact that all art, 
artists, and critics depend on it) I will sometimes do so because of its 
inherent importance in art-making. My examination of postmodernism 
in Canadian art, on the other hand, will be limited largely to the mne- 
monic dimensions of these phenomena. 

Working with two themes of this magnitude, I have had to be very 
selective in choosing which artists, works, and arguments to present. I 
take this to be a strength rather than a liability, however, since no overview 
of memory in art is really possible, and since a supposedly inclusive 
definition of postmodernism would be dysfunctional because it could not 
respond to the pace of change typical of its subject. This book does not 
attempt to present reified knowledge about either focal point, but rather 
to engage and to argue visually and verbally with the many issues that 
stem from bringing this wide range of artistic productions into new 
contexts in which they can work together in productive, if controversial, 
ways. I have chosen the artists and works with these ends in mind. 

Without claiming to present an overview or a history, then, Remember- 
ing Postmodernism does address a large number of works and questions 
germane to an understanding of postmodernism in the Canadian visual 
arts. While many of the artists I discuss are 'important' in the sense that 
they have received wide recognition, each has been included because of 
the intersection of the thematics of memory and postmodernism in his or 
her work. Of course other artists could be discussed to advantage in this 
context, and I have mentioned some of them where appropriate. For the 
sake of detailed analysis and argumentation, however, I have sacrificed the 
consolations of an overview. The result is a non-traditional combination 
of works and individuals, but one that represents the extremely various 
inflections of geography, gender, and aesthetic ideology that typify the 
arts in this country. I also attempt to question the conventional conflation 
of artists' biographies with the meanings of their works; to deny any 
necessary connection between biography and meaning, without ignoring 
either co-ordinate, is itself a characteristic of postmodernism's challenge 
to received understandings of subjectivity. Those who want to know 
more about the artists discussed here are referred to the 'Notes on Artists' 
at the end of the book. 

My three chapters address the imbrications of memory and postmo- 
dernism under the interdependent headings already suggested: 'Remem- 



Preface 

bering Art's Past', 'Remembering the Subject', and 'Remembering 
Society'. It would go against the grain of postmodern theory with its 
close connections to poststructuralism to claim originality for these 
groupings. In fact, the range of concepts that they make it possible to 
examine has, in important senses, already been written into our culture by 
the enormous number of discussions of postmodernism published in the 
past three decades. Put another way, even though this study is the first 
detailed examination of visual postmodernism in Canada, and the first to 
characterize memory as crucial to a discussion of postmodernism, it is also 
decidedly retrospective and recollective in relation to what we may now 
see as the thirty- (or so) year career of postmodernism. Again, this is an 
advantage, since although I would claim that postmodernism has 
flourished in Canada for as long as it has anywhere else, the appropriate 
time for theorizing about it, for memorializing its tendencies, is now, at 
the beginning of the 1990s (which may or may not lead us to speculate 
about the end of postmodernism). If postmodernism can be construed as 
memory work, our reflections have in many ways already been projected: 
this is perhaps the strongest rationale for the thematization of memory in 
my discussion of postmodernism. As Linda Hutcheon argues in The 
Poetics of Postmodernism, the postmodern predicament is to be complicit 
with the object of your critique. This applies equally to the artist and the 
critic, no matter how badly either one wishes to escape it, and it is my 
intention here both to re-collect, though not necessarily to affirm, what 
have become the predominant discourses of postmodernism, and to 
broach the possibility of a theoretical and practical revision of these norms 
by insisting on the largely unremarked roles of memory. 

I will now examine in more detail the large topics inscribed in the three 
headings just outlined. The many issues attendant upon postmodernism's 
relations to the art-historical past are signalled by the habitual use of 
citation, quotation, and appropriation in current art practice. More 
specifically and perhaps partly because of the notorious dissension 
entailed postmodernism's built-in retrospective construction of mod- 
ernisms against which it defines itself should be addressed in a Canadian 
context, which I hope to put into another frame but not somehow to 
justify through brief comparisons with international manifestations of 
postmodernism. These are the reference points of the first chapter, 
'Remembering Art's Past'. Co-ordinates of this sort can be manipulated 
both specifically and generally, and I will move in both directions. In 
another attempt to undercut the conventional belief within art history 
that a survey of an artist's career gives an accurate history of his or her 
achievement, however, I will usually analyse individual works as a way of 



XI 



Remembering Postmodernism 

understanding postmodernism more generally. My claim is that neither 
analytic procedure is neutral: what I hope to glean from my thematic focus 
and intensive reading is a new range of understandings of the mnemonic 
and the postmodern. In a very localized way and with these same ends in 
mind, I will also develop within this chapter three sub-themes: citation's 
workings in abstract art (where 'representation' can become crucially 
important), the gender implications of art-historical remembering, and 
in part to avoid the often ponderous seriousness of discussions of 
postmodernism the ludic, playful dimension of such references. On the 
level of general import, then, Chapter I queries current art's relation to 
and construal of history, a relation effected through memory. 

In Chapter II, 'Remembering the Subject', I investigate the often self- 
conscious manipulation and construction of personal memories that go 
into a project of defining an elusive yet active 'subject' in works of art. 
These processes are inconceivable outside the axes of remembering and 
forgetting. By focusing on the mnemonic/artistic building of the 'subject', 
as opposed to what we would perhaps more naturally refer to as the 'self, I 
enter again into current debates, in this case about the status of subject- 
hood and the possibility and desirability of positing a stable point from 
which artistic creativity emanates. My large claim is that visual that is to 
say (predominantly) non-verbal memory, as it is deployed specifically in 
contemporary art, adds greatly to our understanding of the fabrication of 
the subject, an area of concern that I attempt to wrest from its traditional 
control by philosophy and psychology. On a more immediate plane, this 
chapter will extend the theme of the frequent playfulness as well as the 
important gender implications of the memory-postmodern intersection. 

My final chapter depends on and interacts with my reflections on 
postmodern Canadian art's memories of the art-historical past and the 
subject, and is closely related to Linda Hutcheon's 'Afterword'. In 
'Remembering Society', I examine works that assert the social and fre- 
quently political potentials of postmodern uses of memory. The ludic 
tends to drop away in this context (though not completely), while the 
issues of gender take on an even greater weight. Our construction, recol- 
lection, and crucially amnesia of history through the use of historical 
images provides a potent vehicle for critique. And to suggest that there is 
an 'our', a collective or even an individual agent for this critique, we must 
depend to some extent on memory's creation of a subject or agent, how- 
ever provisional. It is proper that this topic should be the last in this three- 
chapter sequence since, in arguing implicitly that critique should be what 
art provides, these artists and works point to the future. In the most 
specific as well as the most sweeping terms, they demonstrate that this 



Preface 

future like the past can be projected only through memory, and that 
memory and its work are never neutral. 

Linda Hutcheon's 'Afterword', a map of the complex territory of Cana- 
dian postmodernism drawn by the country's pre-eminent theorist on this 
topic, points in a corresponding direction. In 'Postmodernism's Ironic 
Paradoxes: Politics and Art', she not only draws us into these regions with 
consummate skill but also argues vigorously and persuasively for a politi- 
cized understanding of postmodernist theory and practice. Hutcheon's 
view in this essay is broader than that of the first three chapters and 
situates my specific discussions within the ongoing debates about post- 
modernism in Canada and internationally. 

Many aspects of this book consciously engage with and attempt to 
counter received opinion, the 'party line' on individual art objects and 
their creators, on postmodernism, and on memory. Two choices have 
made this interaction possible and, I believe, desirable. First, the recollec- 
tive and thematic nature of Remembering Postmodernism provides an oppor- 
tunity to work as postmodern memory itself works, selectively and with 
what might be called theoretical purpose. This is very different from the 
well-worn notion of the 'benefit of hindsight', which relies on the 
assumption that there are stable historical objects to be seen and 
archaeologically displayed. This book argues that recollection is always 
re-creation based paradoxically on hopes for the future rather than on 
any reified past. Second, as academics, Linda Hutcheon and I are, as she 
puts it, 'ex-centrics' with relation to the art world. We are marginal to its 
centres. Hutcheon has also claimed, however, that 'thanks to the ex- 
centric, both postmodern theory and art have managed to break down the 
barrier between academic discourse and contemporary art (which is often 
marginalized, not to say ignored, in the academy)' (Poetics, 71). In keeping 
with this spirit, Remembering Postmodernism does not seek to pronounce 
upon but rather to keep open issues like the modern-postmodern relation, 
the role memory has in forging the subject, and the social and political 
effects of work based in memory. 



xin 



INTRODUCTION 



'To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it 
'the way it really was' . . . . It means to seize hold of a memory 

as it flashes up at a moment of danger.' 
Walter Benjamin, 'Theses on the Philosophy of History', VI, 255 

'We are confined to ways of describing whatever is described. 
Our universe . . . consists of these ways rather than of 

a world or of worlds.' 
Nelson Goodman, Ways of Worldmaking, 2-3 



Artists are the mnemonists of culture. Their work is memory work, both 
personal and social, both intellectual and material. I want to introduce the 
complexity of this thematics of memory and the ways in which I will 
discuss it in the chapters that follow with two arresting images, the 
Toronto painter Sheila Ayearst's Three Minutes (1988; Plate 1) and The 
Unveiling of the Cornucopia: A Mural Fragment from the Room with the 
Unknown Function in the Villa dei Misteri of the 1984 Miss General Idea Pavilion 
by General Idea (1982; Plate 2). 

The left side of Ayearst's diptych reproduces in painstaking detail, and 
with close attention to seventeenth-century techniques of glazing, 
Rembrandt's fragmentary Anatomy Lesson of Dr Joan Deijman of 1656, now 
in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Appended and yet opposed to this 
visual, art-historical recollection are two memorial texts, one inside the 
other. The larger, apparently machine-produced text records with the 




00 
t-T 00 



"! 



Introduction 

technical, scientific precision of medical terminology the results of an 
autopsy. Embedded in a cup -like form within this account is a smaller, 
much more personal and emotional homage to the death of a brain: The 
brain did not die at once. It took those three minutes' an account that, as 
we will see, is not Ayearst's, but from which she derives her title. Both 
texts float on an indistinct surface that is visually reminiscent of the 
texture of brain tissue. 

Even this initial description of Three Minutes reveals the complex layer- 
ing of Ayearst's memory work. She has recalled an image from art's 
history that graphically displays the scientific dismemberment of a 
cadaver as well as textual references to two other deaths. The brain the 
seat of memory, as we commonly think is pictured in all three instances, 
^et Ayearst's vision demands that we reconsider this habitual 'mentalist' 
understanding of memory's location, and indeed our resulting relations 
with the human beings who are defined by it. Her version of Rembrandt's 
painting is not as exact as it might appear: she has accentuated the exposed 
and excavated body cavity of the dead man, making this space as impor- 
tant both optically and thematically as the brain displayed by the surgeon. 
She remembers both body and brain those elements that the Cartesian 
science evoked by Rembrandt literally takes apart and considers the two 
somatically equal in their ability to remember, to record traces. On the 
right side of her work, one putatively objective medical appropriation of 
the brain and its memory similarily vies with the other text, a text that is 
also written by a doctor of our time and yet is contained in the 'same' skull 
cap held by the assistant in 'Rembrandt's' image. Crucially, this small text 
is inscribed in the body of the larger text. Ayearst's mnemonic devices thus 
tie the two sides of her piece together; visually, textually, and metaphori- 
cally, they tether the seventeenth century's science to that performed in 
the present while simultaneously offering subversive alternatives to both 
practices. 

The rich intricacies of Ayearst's commentaries on memory, the brain, 
and science are made possible by memory, but not simply her memory. 
She relies on Rembrandt's more traditional reflection on Mantegna's Dead 
Christ (c. 1480), for example, and of the anatomy lessons he witnessed as 
well as the doctors' recollections she quotes and she also depends on her 
viewer's memories, which might extend from recognitions of art-historical 
allusions to reminiscences of personal experiences of death to the nature of 
medical experimentation and documentation in our society. What Ayearst 
initiates but cannot and does not wish to control strictly with her 
evocative image and texts is thus neither simply personal nor completely 
historical. Her work suggests the overlapping, mutually defining rela- 



Remembering Postmodernism 

tionship between our everyday notion of memory as individual and 
history as somehow collective and objective, History with a capital H. In 
redefining memory and history in terms of one another, she makes mate- 
rial what Wittgenstein has called a 'memory-reaction' (343), and this 
reaction or set of reactions animates both her recollections and those of 
her viewers in the present. 

With The Unveiling of the Cornucopia, the artists of General Idea invite 
'the public to participate in the archaeology of memory' (40). ' We see an 
ersatz ancient mural complete with all the proper art-historical and 
archaeological signs of its antiquity: faded colour, often imprecise details, 
visible traces of damage, and, above all, fragmentation. The central scene, 
however, is sufficiently intact to arouse our curiosity and to encourage 
attempts at reconstruction. Three anthropomorphic poodles seem to be 
performing some sort of mystery rite around a form that the title suggests 
is a cornucopia. The subtitle of this work alerts us to the artists' art- 
historical allusion to the famous Dionysiac mystery cult imaged on the 
walls of the Villa of Mysteries at Pompeii c. 50 BC. But this quotation 
like Ayearst's is only the beginning of a mnemonic reconstitution of 
meaning. In a catalogue text entitled Cornucopia accompanying their 1984 
retrospective (itself a 'retrospective' event that was projected in much of 
their earlier work) the artists of General Idea illuminate a project that 
uncovers the role of memory in their art and in postmodernism generally, 
a project that begins (not ends, as in much current art-historical identifica- 
tion or appropriation) with our recognition of their allusion: 

The amorphous world of meanings and functions has traditionally been 
articulated through the architectural act of construction. But the three . 
artists of General Idea have re-introduced destruction into the architec- 
tural process. In their long-term project, the 1984 Miss General Idea 
Pavilion, ruins are created as quickly as rooms are built. Accumulated 
layers of function and meaning slip in and out of focus, creating a shifting 
constellation of images which is the Pavilion itself. (67) 

Traditional archaeology is based on the assumption that a stable past, a 
History, can be recovered, but General Idea mocks this possibility and the 
desire behind it by literalizing the 'shifting' nature of meaning. What The 
Unveiling of the Cornucopia uncovers is General Idea's self-created and well- 
marketed past, a past that here passes for antiquity by deploying culturally 
specific signs of history: fragmentation and damage. All the elements in 
this large mural were indeed pre-constructed precisely to allow for their 
partial destruction, their cultural weathering, which in turn permits them 
to signify pastness in an art-historical framework even though they are not 







.1 



8 41 



Remembering Postmodernism 

literally old. We see General Idea's signature poodles, their famous zig- 
gurat forms, the cocktail glass spilling its cultural meanings to the left of 
the central poodle, and of course the cornucopia itself, which never 
reveals more than the perpetually plentiful process of construction/ 
destruction through which memory creates meaning. This image plays in 
a very telling way with its supposed antecedent at Pompeii: are we not 
encouraged by the transformation of the Roman wall painting's suppos- 
edly Dionysian women into poodles to question the self-serious assigning 
of meaning that typifies art history's own appropriation of this and all 
other 'past' images? The ludic frequently proclaims memory's work, as 
we will see throughout this book. 

I suggested at the outset that Three Minutes and The Unveiling of the 
Cornucopia introduce the central dimensions of memory that I will explore 
and through which I will elaborate a theory of postmodernism in recent 
Canadian art. With the above descriptions in mind, let me specify this 
promise. Both works quote from the history of Western art, and this sort 
of citation is widely held to typify postmodernist practice. Against the 
now-fashionable lament best articulated by Fredric Jameson that this 
purportedly fast and loose play with art's history is nothing more than an 
empty pastiche, symptomatic of a contemporary loss of historical aware- 
ness, however, I want to argue that, in many more instances than those in 
which Jameson and followers like Terry Eagleton can justify their claims 
(and both authors can be criticized for the abstractness of their arguments, 
for their unwillingness to offer examples), art-historical recollections are 
in fact integral to a new concern for the status of history and the past in art. 
In 'Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism' (1984) an 
article that has rightly become a touchstone in discussions of 
postmodernism Jameson bemoans what he sees as postmodernism's 
'weakening of historicity, both in our relationship to public History and 
in the new forms of our private temporality' (58). This loss of the public 
and personal past, he claims, restricts an individual's 'capacity actively to 
extend its pro-tensions and re-tensions across the temporal manifold' 
(71) in other words, his or her ability to understand the past and to act in 
a future extending from it. Jameson's ultimate regret, then, is for what he 
sees as a loss of social and political efficacy based on a loss of history. 'It is 
unsurprising', he has written more recently, in a tone that many critics of 
the postmodern have adopted without any attention to its local applica- 
bility, ' . . . that most of the postmodernisms will betray the extinction of 
even the protopolitical in their agreeable ironies and their aesthetic cyni- 
cisms, their forced accommodation to the system' ('Postmodernism and 
Utopia', 13). 






Introduction 

Jameson deploys his arguments about the loss of history in exactly the 
three areas in which I focalize memory: art's past (his claims about pas- 
tiche), the recollective construction of the subject (which for Jameson has 
lost its sense of past or future time), and social and political recall (where 
Jameson sees only a cynical quietism). My counter-claim is that postmo- 
dern memory as exemplified by Ayearst, General Idea, and the other 
artists and pieces in this book can effectively call into question the exist- 
ence of the 'Real History' ('Cultural Logic', 68) on which all of Jameson's 
arguments covertly depend and for which he is nostalgic in spite of 
himself. Memory, with its evanescent yet specific inflections of meaning, 
is history in a postmodern culture. As we have seen, in these examples it is 
not possible to envision a Rembrandt painting, seventeenth-century 
medical practices, or Roman mystery cults except through the mediating 
lens of memory. This is not to suggest that the past doesn't exist, but 
rather to specify the mode of its existence, the nature of its 'reality'. Since by 
definition 'no statement about the past can be confirmed by examining 
the supposed facts' (Lowenthal, 187), history cannot exist apart from its 
viewers and their specific and ever-changing perspectives. The radical 
implication is that 'nothing is natural about our memories, that the past . . . 
is an artifice' (Terdiman, 19) erected and mediated by the interests of the 
present. If we are tempted to defend Jameson by claiming a physical work 
of art its status as physical object as an irrefragable piece of history, an 
archaeological reminder, we need only think of how The Unveiling of the 
Cornucopia or Three Minutes augments the possible meanings of its art- 
historical referents, how each work changes the nature of its antecedent. 
Art-historical citation, then, can move beyond the superficial pastiche 
described by Jameson to a profound, though sometimes simultaneously 
playful, engagement with the notions of pastness and history in general. 
Memory works', it is effective, not cynical. 

Three Minutes in particular counters Jameson's notion that 'private tem- 
porality', in the sense of personal history or the definition through time of 
what we call a subject or person, is lost in recent art. What we often see is 
just the opposite, an extension of this sense of history sometimes (as in 
this instance) through a recollection of art, but also in other memories of 
past events into the realm of the subject. Ayearst has brought 
seventeenth-century experimental science (in what could be argued to be 
its masculinist invasiveness) into a contemporary perspective precisely by 
linking Rembrandt's image with recent medical texts. We are thus asked to 
contemplate how the subject is construed today, and specifically how 
memory, mental and/or corporeal, is part of the definition of subjecthood. 
This latter consideration is at once personal and social, since Three Minutes 



Remembering Postmodernism 

argues for a more inclusive and compassionate construction of the subject 
than that imaged by Ayearst's Rembrandt. And if we construe the political 
very inclusively as that realm of (unequal) power relations among mem- 
bers of society, then Ayearst's memories, in collaboration with those of 
her viewers, also act politically. Art-historical citation, for example as I 
will argue throughout this book is never gender-neutral. It is important 
politically that Ayearst, a woman, cites a male artist's privileged exposure 
of the seat of identity in memory and his mirroring of the intrusions of 
science. Ayearst stands back from this invasion precisely by quoting it, and 
she is thus able to insinuate an implicit critique of these cerebral and 
arguably masculinist practices by embodying the more compassionate 
small text about the brain's death. Her political move does not allow our 
memories to die. She accomplishes this not insignificant critique through 
painting itself a masculine tradition and by remembering in painting a 
male artist's and male physicians' work. But is this accomplishment in fact 
Jameson's 'forced accommodation to the system', or is it (as I would argue 
in concert with Linda Hutcheon in her 'Afterword'), an inevitable partici- 
pation in that which one wants to criticize, the 'complicity' of postmo- 
dern critique? As Hutcheon shows, 'you cannot step outside that which 
you contest' (Poetics, 223). But if one cannot find static points of 'real' 
history against which to measure the present, it does not follow that 
critique becomes impossible or cynical, as Jameson claims. On the con- 
trary, and as this discussion of postmodern recollection will show, it is his 
accusation that postmodernism is mere pastiche that is the easy and 
cynical criticism of surface appearances. 

Before turning to other works to investigate further memory's crucial 
workings, I want to discuss briefly memory's essential correlate 
forgetting as it pertains to postmodern practice in the visual arts. A fuller 
consideration of Ayearst's works is a fitting vehicle for this discussion, 
since as I have argued with reference to Three Minutes, her mnemic practice 
precisely counters the notion of nostalgia for a real, authoritative history 
by engaging with the kinetics of remembering and forgetting. 

For over a decade, Ayearst's paintings have been informed by an art- 
historical referencing or memory that goes far beyond pastiche. Her 
inspirations range from European 'masters' (three figures from Piero della 
Francesca's Flagellation of Christ [c. 1450] in Sensible Passage, 1983; the 
background landscape from Giorgione's Tempest in Approaching Giorgione, 
1983) to Canadian favourites, like Ozias LeDuc's Fin dejour in her own 
1987 painting of the same name. None of her quotations are straight, 
however: as we see in Three Minutes, the critique she always offers relies on 
recontextualization on remembering, and equally on forgetting, on 



Introduction 

editing out crucial details. Her Living On the Edge (1986), for example, sets 
up a gender issue that we could refer to as the status of 'women's work'. 
On one side, she has painstakingly reproduced an image by the French 
eighteenth-century painter Fragonard of the famous falls at Tivoli, out- 
side Rome. The date of the Fragonard is about 1760, and his emphasis on 
the women's happiness is a paradigm of the hegemonic cheerfulness of 
eighteenth-century view-painting in Italy. To this memory of the tradi- 
tion, however, Ayearst has opposed a scene of contemporary 'leisure', or 
more precisely, male leisure, a scene that has been captured in memory by 
a photograph. The eighteenth-century has been 'forgotten'. Instead, the 
woman who looks towards us is quite clearly 'on the edge' psychologi- 
cally, as opposed to the staffage figures in Fragonard's work, who seem to 
enjoy their vertiginous perch above the falls. Unlike these figures, the 
woman gazing out at us is highly personalized. In conversation, Ayearst 
has said that the woman is experiencing 'threat in suburbia', and I would 
speculate that her implied memory of the scene we see behind her is more 
corporeal than any notion of citation could ever capture. 

The theme of threat or danger existing in our everyday lives appears 
again in a more recent work, There is No Safety (1989). This triptych of 
large photographs reports visually, and with a running text taken from a 
newspaper account, on a murder in an Oakville, Ontario, parking lot. In 
front of the central image of the site sits a version of Goya's Colossus, which 
Ayearst has painted over the photograph. This monster of Goya's imagi- 
nation startles us with its anachronism and its fine-art look. But Ayearst's 
work suggests that this image of horror is neither extreme nor out of place 
today. What is perhaps even more distressing, Goya's image is itself remi- 
niscent of the nineteenth-century notion of the pleasure of the sublime, 
which arises in the simultaneous experience of fear and one's safety from 
the danger perceived. The seemingly neutral reportage that Ayearst 
offers text and photos is itself voyeuristic in this way: we want the 
tragic events repeated for us mnemonically. This is the sublime enjoyment 
that Ayearst's allusions expose. 

Just as one can claim that the production and reception of art are 
inconceivable without remembering, so too all art is a function of forget- 
ting, of selection. The artist's creative decisions conscious and unwitting 
alike and the viewer's fabrication of meanings for the resulting work 
cannot obtain without this process of inclusion and exclusion. This may 
seem obvious enough, but when aesthetic memory is combined with a 
notion of 'real history' as in Jameson, art's inevitable and functional 
amnesia becomes problematic in the face of the desire and claim to know 
'what really happened'. Western receivers of art, 'the privileged classes of 



Remembering Postmodernism 

First World society,' he holds, 'run the risk of forgetting their memory' 
because of the commodification system of 'full postmodernist late capital- 
ism with its perpetual present and its multiple historical amnesias' ('Post- 
modernism and Utopia', 14, 24). This view assumes that there was a 
period and a practice without multiple amnesias, a time when history was 
seen purely (the early twentieth-century avant-garde is Jameson's usual 
favourite for this honour). Looking at the mnemonics of recent art, how- 
ever, suggests that such a time and place did not and could not exist. 
History as a communally shared past cannot exist without memory, and 
memory cannot function without the selectivity allowed by forgetting. 
The issue is not whether or not aspects of the past are remembered or 
forgotten, but rather which aspects are retained or erased, by whom, and 
for what ends. It is in these questions that we engage with the politics of 
memory and of postmodernism. 



NOTES 

'This passage refers to another work Toronto's Fault but can apply equally to 
the Unveiling. 



10 



I. REMEMBERING ART'S PAST 



'[One] learns the concept of the past by remembering.' 
Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 231 

'One of the schools of Tlon . . . reasons that the present is 

indefinite, that the future has no reality other than as a present hope, 

that the past has no reality other than as a present memory.' 

Jorge Luis Borges, 'Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius', 1O 



Sheila Ayearst and General Idea announced both this book as a whole and 
this first chapter's concern with the specifics of art-historical referencing. 
In turning now to discussions of work by Allyson Clay, Chris Cran, 
Andy Fabo, Joe Fafard, Murray Favro, Greg Ludlow, Joanne Tod, and 
Claude Tousignant, I will examine in greater detail the intricacies of what I 
see as quintessentially postmodern memories of art's past. Contemporary 
art can and does cite its aesthetic forbears in a dizzying variety of ways and 
for any number of reasons, as we have already seen. To point to just two 
well-known examples from American and European art, this practice can 
take the form of Sheri Levine's photographic duplications (but can mem- 
ory ever strictly duplicate?) of seminal usually modernist work, or, in 
a quite different vein, Anselm Kiefer's reflections on his German heritage. 
In recent Canadian practice, a partial list of works thematizing citation 
would include Robert Adrian's installation Great Moments in Modem Art II 



11 



Remembering Postmodernism 

(Joseph Beuys Crashes in Russia, 1943) (1984), which imagines Beuys's crash 
as the beginning of the influential German artist's quest for spiritual 
redemption through art; David Bierk's less optimistic painting called Save 
the Planet/Autumn Sunset to Keith and Caravaggio (1989), where a detail 
showing grief and lament from Caravaggio's Death of the Virgin is set 
against a lurid, ominous Baroque landscape; Sorel Cohen's inscription of 
David's Madame Recamier in Re-reading two Empires (1989) or Gail Geltner's 
use of Ingres in Closed System. Perhaps the most controversial work of this 
sort is Attila Richard Lukacs's Junge Spartaner Fordern Knaben zum Kampf 
Heraus (1988), with its borrowings from Degas and Caravaggio. Memori- 
als to past art are also used for varieties of contemporary commentary in 
pieces as otherwise different as Carol Wamio's abstract, bifurcated recol- 
lection of landscape imagery entitled The Sight (Site) of a Memory Trace 
(1985); Robin Pek's re-makes of Donald Judd sculptures; David Thomas's 
performance entitled Lecture to an Academy (1985), which is reminiscent of 
eighteenth-century views of academic study, like those of Zoffany; both 
Jeff Wall's and Ian Wallace's frequent formal and social allusions to the 
European avant-garde, and Michael Snow's photographic series Plus Tard 
(1977), in which the reputation and continuing presence in cultural mem- 
ory of the Group of Seven is examined. Many of these works Wall's 
cibachrome print The Storyteller (1986), for example, in which the 
marginalization of native culture is addressed use allusion for laudably 
serious ends that go well beyond the boundaries of any art discourse. An 
earlier but relevant example (given the controversy over the chronological 
beginnings of postmodernism) is the late Jack Chambers's homage to 
seventeenth-century Spanish realism in Madrid Window No. 2 (1968-9), in 
which a still-life by Francisco de Zurbaran is fused mnemonically with an 
image of Chambers's wife and child. Other contemporary artists are more 
playful in their engagement with what nonetheless remain important 
social issues. Snow's blurred images of icons by the Group of Seven 
suggest that present viewers are indeed too late to appreciate fully the 
power these landscapes had in early twentieth-century English Canada, 
and that it is past time for us to look beyond this sort of work. Yet Snow 
shows that we do recall and that our memories change in light of present 
concerns. A greater ludic extreme is achieved by General Idea in their 
installation Snow Bird: A Public Sculpture For the 1984 Miss General Idea 
Pavilion, executed in 1985. Not only is history revised (this work wasn't 
part of the 1984 exhibit), but the birds made from Javex bottles and 
hung in a stairwell mock several staples of Canadian culture: Michael 
Snow's famous Canada geese in the Toronto Eaton Centre, Anne Mur- 
ray's song of the same title, and the Canadian Air Force's acrobatic team. 



12 



Remembering Art's Past 

Another refreshingly playful locus for a certain sort of memory of art 
history is Joyce Wieland's combination of a Painters Eleven abstract style 
with undercutting erotic iconography in early works like Redgasm (1960) 
and Notice Board (1961). Art-historical citation is not new in Canada, then, 
but it is becoming more pointed and self-conscious. 

These few examples indicate the range of implication open to art- 
historical referencing. Without claiming to do justice to the nuances of 
memory involved in this typically postmodern enterprise, I want to 
emphasize here only two general modes of art-historical recollection. In 
Three Minutes and The Unveiling of the Cornucopia, reference is made to art 
quite removed temporally from today's artist. This is also true of Fabo's 
The Craft of the Contaminated (1984, Plate 3), and I have suggested that 
many aspects of postmodernism's characteristic reconstruction of the past 
through memory can be illuminated by this first sort of citation, with its 
relatively long memory. As many commentators have observed, however, 
the 'modernism' in the term postmodernism ties our understanding of the 
latter notion to a more recent past and to working (not to say final) 
definitions of modernisms, and this is the second mode I will consider. 
Both are highly controversial. 

Fabo's Craft of the Contaminated reminds us with its forms, and with its 
recollective rhyming of 'craft' and 'raft' in the title, of one of the renowned 
'masterworks' (I use the term advisedly) of Romanticism, Gericault's 
1819 Raft of the Medusa. What is the status of this European cultural 
heritage, however, when Fabo has parodically substituted stereotypically 
Canadian icons like our flag for Gericault's highly specific indictment of 
the ethics and politics of a Royalist sea captain abandoning would-be 
French settlers off the coast of Africa in the early nineteenth century? In 
what senses is Gericault (and the inheritance he stands for) a 'master' for 
Fabo, or Canada, or the viewer? One way to respond would be to side 
with those who see postmodernist memory as pastiche, to claim that there 
is some 'real history' represented by and in the Gericault, and thus that 
Fabo is simply toying with forms and ideas, borrowing what he likes. But 
such an answer would, I believe, wilfully disregard the particulars of 
Fabo's quotation and the cogency of his memory's work as it constructs 
what he calls 'cultural collisions'. 1 

Fabo's craft is indeed that of an epigone in that current technology 
allows him access to so many images from art's past, but this does not 
mean that his choices are random and therefore empty, as theorists of an 
ahistorical postmodernism so often assert. His craft as opposed to aca- 
demic high art is certainly not pure. It is 'contaminated' by knowledge, 
by memories of what has happened in art and society since 1819. Thus in 



13 




3 Andy Fabo, 
The Craft of the Contaminated (1984) 



Remembering Art's Past 

doubling 2 the title Fabo symbolically pollutes the painting by adding a 
'c' to the 'raft' and the look of Gericault's painting, he comments both 
on the cultural strife of contemporary Canada and more generally on the 
use of the past in the present through art. It is clear that the images he 
deploys cannot be personal memories alone. The Canadian flag, the 
teepee, the Lawren Harris-like island landscape on the TV, all are hack- 
neyed formulas for national identity already provided for us. As Fabo has 
written, 'Whatever is truly local in particular works of art today is usually 
invisible or, at best, "barely discernible. Anything that can be easily seen 
and named is actually a cliche, one of a proliferating number of blunt sign- 
posts that have long since left local culture to join the global' (71). Is it 
possible, Fabo seems to ask both in the painting and in this article, to 
return to and capture an originary, solid 'Canadianness' amidst the prolif- 
eration of already-determined meanings? One comparison in the painting 
would suggest not. On the raft is a teepee itself an image of native 
Canadian culture as mediated by Europe in the latter's constant self- 
presentation as authoritative and authentic and on this 'canvas' is the 
representation of a prehistoric-looking bison. As in The Unveiling of the 
Cornucopia, we are given the look of the past. This 'primitive' representa- 
tion is contrasted in The Craft of the Contaminated with the Group of Seven 
landscape presented through contemporary technology on the TV screen. 
Yet neither image nor mode of presentation past or future in terms of 
technology and in terms of the theme of hoped-for rescue made clear by 
the grey figure waving the flag at the screen seems able to save those on 
the raft. 

Fabo laments this impasse in terms that can be understood as a richly 
metaphorical evocation of his own painting: 

We're all awash in a sea of information clinging desperately to our small 
craft. . . . We are all carriers and the waves incessantly pound against our 
raft. We have built a small shelter, it's true, a lean-to made of timber and 
canvas, and we take turns warming by the fire, but by and large we're 
exposed to the elements most of the time. Someone, just now, shimmies up 
the mast and waves an ignited flag pantomiming the sighting of land. (73) 

Fabo's memory of Gericault's image of despair and his overlaying of 
Canadian cultural cliches leaves us with a picture of the postmodern 
world as a place of endlessly circulating signs and simulations reminiscent 
of Baudrillard's thinking. The fit between this new and contaminated 
craft in the sense both of raft and of cultural production and The Raft of 
the Medusa is precise. Where Gericault shows us the excruciating moment 
in which a potential rescue ship is seen by (but does not yet see) the 



Remembering Postmodernism 

castaways, Fabo too signals the futility of flag-waving, since the sighting 
of land anything 'solid' in the maelstrom of signs is only mimed. It 
can't be 'real', because the image is simulated. 

I would like to suggest, however, that Fabo's localized citational 
gestures despite their inescapable dependence on already-circulated 
signs are not inevitably futile. His habitual mixture of personal and 
art-historical memories in a canvas like Medicine Man Memory (1986), 
with its invocations of Emily Carr's fecund landscapes overlaid with 
Haida and Kwakiutl artefacts, suggests that hope for change underlies 
and motivates Fabo's reflections. This future orientation for the past can 
arise unexpectedly. Looked back on from 1990, for example, The Craft of 
the Contaminated changes in our memory. Even if we don't know about 
Fabo's activism (discussed in Hutcheon's essay), the notion of 'contami- 
nation' in this painting is now linked to the AIDS crisis. Where an art- 
historical allusion 'originally' bespoke the (merely) semiotic 
infectiousness of European high culture, the presentness of issues sur- 
rounding AIDS will, I think, literally change the picture for most view- 
ers. We will likewise re-read Fabo's description of those on the raft as 
'carriers'. The references to contamination no longer suggest only the 
problems of art-making and the making of one's personal and national 
identities through art. Over these meanings now memories, perhaps, 
just as the Gericault is a memory is laid a more pressing threat of 
contamination. Society's constant recourse to this pejorative description 
of the disease is itself of course a politically reactionary reminder of 
earlier 'plagues', and AIDS is taken by many merely as a sign of late 
twentieth-century culture's well-deserved apocalypse. But the disease is 
obviously much more personal and tragic in its effects that any of the 
images in The Craft of the Contaminated could be when construed in 
Baudrillard's aestheticized terms. Memories of intervening events have 
transformed Fabo's citation of art's past into a social commentary that 
goes beyond the semiotic. To suggest as one critic of Fabo's work 
has 3 that postmodernism is a monolithic entity that has concluded 
'that the body has disappeared' is to disregard the complexities of the 
phenomenon's mnemic possibilities in favour of an easy dismissal. 

London artist Greg Ludlow's All Conditions Are Temporary (1984; Plate 
4) thematizes memory's dynamism, its function as the constructor and 
reconstructor of those ways of thinking we call the past and history. As in 
all the works we have considered so far, allusions to the history of art are 
visible. The entire piece is something of a homage to Russian Construc- 
tivism in its manipulation of forms that are at once iconic and non- 
objective, like the 'x', the circle, and the triangle. Much more covert is 




00 



II 

I 



a 



Remembering Postmodernism 

Ludlow's allusion to the anthropomorphized, proto-Cubist angles of 
Picasso's Demoiselles d' Avignon (1907) in the flesh-and-blood coloured 
vertical panel at the extreme right. Such a seemingly wilful combination 
of historical references again invites the label 'pastiche'. Though with a less 
socially-minded impact than Fabo's Craft, All Conditions Are Temporary 
also avoids the charge of being ahistorical by illuminating how memory 
(the artist's and the viewer's) makes and re-makes its own past by con- 
stantly re-evaluating the status of what we deem to be historical. 

We can discern this movement from potential pastiche to meta- 
historical reflection in Ludlow's own description of his artistic practice: 

The masterpieces of art have been handed to me as equal objects, either 
through reproductions found in books or magazines, or as slides projected 
on a screen. It follows that I have an attitude that is somewhat suspicious 
of art history's demonstration of the 'masterpiece'. Much of my work is 
physically unstable or lacks a fixed presentation. This strategy anticipates 
and confounds any attempt to apply once and for all time a particular 
meaning to an individual painting, (no pagination) 

He begins by claiming that all past work is presented as equivalent 
despite the hierarchies of art history, but he reasons and paints his way out 
of this rather easy pluralist position by asserting the flux of that assign- 
ment of meaning by which art history itself is created. All Conditions Are 
Temporary enacts memory's work on the (supposed) verities of Construc- 
tivism and Cubism. The title doubled in the kinetics of the work 
announces the mutability of past, present, and future. The 'conditions', 
both aesthetic and social, of Cubism and Constructivism were and are 
indeed temporary when recalled by a painterly present that is itself the 
locus of change. And if conditions were and are temporary, they will 
remain so in the future. Like so many artists before him, Ludlow here 
recalls both earlier art and previous aspects of his own art. What distin- 
guishes his memory as postmodern, however, is his lack of nostalgia for 
anything constant, whether Picasso's yearning for the power of 'primi- 
tive' expression in the Demoiselles or the Constructivists' vision of a Uto- 
pian state realized through abstract art. All Conditions is a machine for the 
perpetual renewal of art: the 'off balance' stick pivoting just to the right of 
centre seems to apply a fresh swatch of pigment to the triangle, the 
supposedly (but no longer) immutable Platonic solid that commands this 
work. In this action and in the consciously unstable and unfinished look 
of the entire painting we see the constantly renewed projection of memory 
as it creates new histories. 

The viewer's share in this mnemonic reconstruction through art is 



Remembering Art's Past 

crucial, as we have seen. Because of intervening events, we always in one 
sense know more about the past than was known when that past was its 
own present. Without such subsequent events to elicit recall, that past will 
be forgotten. In this way, then, re-viewing is the norm and it creates 
pastness and history Ayearst's Rembrandt today, Fabo's Gericault today. 
But questions remain. What is the import of what Michel Foucault called 
the 'author-function' ('Author', 107-8), the sense that a unitary 
designation 'Picasso', for example can be remembered by a unitary 
subject called 'Ludlow', if someone looking at a work sees an art- 
historical (or indeed any other) allusion not initially seen by the artist in 
question? To make this point about memory concrete, we might ask how 
we evaluate the coincidence of the prominent sticks leaning against All 
Conditions Are Temporary, which suggest its mutability, with similar forms 
in a Jasper Johns work from 1982 called In the Studio? Ludlow knows and is 
influenced by Johns's art indeed, his most recent work returns to one of 
Johns's favourite mediums, encaustic, and again thematizes the penti- 
menti of memory very physically, since we can see the changes (the 
creative past) embedded in the wax but (he claims) not by this specific 
piece. Yet they are closely related in the memory of a viewer who knows 
both. Questions of intention, influence, authority, and originality might 
arise in this common situation. Without discounting these possibilities, 
however, what I wish to emphasize is that viewers' as well as artists' 
memories change works of art by defining and redefining their modes of 
pastness. For the postmodern mnemonist, there is no real history to 
retrieve and the present therefore cannot be a pastiche of the past. Yet as 
the reflections on historical citation we have been discussing so clearly 
show, neither is the present simply the site of an empty manipulation of 
simulations. Even in the restricted arena of art-historical citation, memory 
is replete, and it works historically, personally, and politically. 

In recalling Picasso and Constructivism, Ludlow's All Conditions does 
not simply reinterpret individual artists and movements that have become 
the historical currency of art history: most importantly, in the context of 
this chapter, it also memorializes that ever-problematic period distinc- 
tion, modernism, and it does so in what has become the form para- 
digmatic of modernism, abstract painting. To anchor my contentions 
about artistic memory's recollection of modernism, I want to consider in 
some detail examples of the modern-postmodern relation in Canadian 
painting, specifically in the crucial relationship with Mondrian's art 
which I take to be representative of a primary strain of modernism 
found in the work of both Claude Tousignant and Guido Molinari. 

Tousignant's masterly Hommage a Van Gogh (1956) might seem out of 



19 



Remembering Postmodernism 

place in a study devoted to postmodernism, and I should emphasize that I 
of course do not see the painting as postmodern; nor am I claiming that it 
stands in for all of Tousignant's illustrious career. On the contrary, it 
encapsulates in its own homage a particularly future-oriented form of 
memory directed towards keeping certain ideas and ideals alive to van 
Gogh many facets of what has become, at least for postmodernist mem- 
ory, late modernist abstract painting's characteristic insistence on 
purity of means and of metaphysical ends. As the current work of 
Tousignant and Molinari (among others) demonstrates, this strain of 
modernist abstract painting continues to be viable critically. Yet despite 
the great variety of modernisms (and postmodernisms) that we can 
perceive a number multiplied even more by the often-useful distinction 
made by Peter Burger (1984) between the historical avant-garde and 
modernism a great deal of postmodern practice reacts against this 
modernism-as-purity model. Against the grain, then, I am contending 
that there was (and continues to be) modernism in Canada, and that 
Tbusignant's and Molinari's abstract paintings are among its most power- 
ful instances. The Toronto curator Philip Monk claimed in a 1983 article 
that 'Canadian art . . . [has] passed from pre-modernism to so-called 
post-modernism without a history of modernism' (Struggles, 93). If he 
means to emphasize the lack of a written history to constitute the objects 
of this past, I would agree, but if we interpret him to mean that Canadian 
art lacks identifiable modernisms, then I would suggest that his view is 
unsupportable when we look at postmodernism's memories. My empha- 
sis on the modern/postmodern relation, then, should be read as historical 
rather than as a reduction of the complexity we all know obtained in the 
modernist period. 

Tousignant's Hommage is as much a memory work as any other piece in 
this book, but the nature of its memory contrasts strongly with what I see 
as postmodern practice. Clearly Tousignant remembers van Gogh's sig- 
nature use of chrome yellow; aside from this reminder, however, his work 
doesn't at all resemble van Gogh's paintings. But a homage is by definition 
executed with the benefit of hindsight in this case, with the knowledge 
of van Gogh's legacy for later modernist art. Speaking of his early abstract 
painting in general, Tousignant wrote: 'what I want to do is to purify 
abstract painting, to make it even more abstract . . . [until] only painting 
remains, emptied of everything alien to it, to the point where it is sensa- 
tion alone, where it is understandable to all' (in Burnett and Schiff, 67-8). 
His Hommage a Van Gogh purifies early modern painting of figuration, 
leaving only the finely registered abstract sensation of 'yellowness' as the 
essence of van Gogh's work. His use of that notoriously difficult colour is 



20 



Remembering Art's Past 

itself a homage to what are conceived as purely painterly problems. Van 
Gogh is thus recollected by Tousignant very much through the purifying 
filters of specific species of intervening abstract painting and art theory. 
This is not the 'historical' van Gogh who stubbornly resisted abstraction 
when it was taught by his idol, Gauguin. 4 What Tousignant shows us is 
another Vincent (perhaps equally historical, though in a register that has 
been projected back into time), one who is a father-figure in the Green- 
bergian theory that painting should be about itself, about self-critique, 
flatness, and colour. 

Tousignant's Hommage presents us with a rigorously teleological sort of 
history, one that views abstraction as the inheritor and saviour of late 
nineteenth-century avant-grade experimentation. To purify van Gogh, 
Tousignant looks back not only through Greenberg's theories the affin- 
ity is marked by Tbusignant's attempt to banish from painting 'everything 
alien to it' but also through the abstract modernism of the early twenti- 
eth century that is best exemplified by Mondrian. We are reminded of 
Tousignant's double heritage by his Utopian desire to make abstract art 
'understandable to all', a desire that closely mirrors Mondrian's Utopian 
social aims for painting, and that thus takes us well beyond the 'formalist' 
purity that Greenberg is usually seen to call for. 5 For Mondrian, all art of 
the past was eclipsed by (his) abstract painting, and abstraction far from 
being a mere manipulation of purified forms, colours, and relations was 
itself a perfected instrument for the foundation of a new 'equilibrated' 
society that would embody Neoplasticism's purity. Mondrian's rhetoric 
of purity always sought to take art beyond its (by definition impure) 
materiality, to be totally comprehensible and to become one with society, 
as I will argue in greater detail near the end of this chapter. To be a vehicle 
for this extra-artistic perfection, art for Mondrian had to embody 
essences that were timeless and thus by definition true. But given his 
Platonic and Hegelian metaphysics, art as material was for him inherently 
mutable in Donald Kuspit's (1981) felicitous phrase, modern art had an 
'unhappy conscience' and thus could be only a stepping stone to the 
purity he sought. Paradoxically, then, art for Mondrian aspired to the 
condition of non-art, to an immutable and atemporal goal at the end of its 
historical evolution. 6 What implications does this reminder have for 
Tousignant's homage to van Gogh? In a 1971 article, Tousignant asserted 
that Mondrian was the chief inspiration for his project of purifying art 
('Quelques precisions', 81-4). Tousignant seeks to memorialize van Gogh 
timelessly in a pure, abstract commentary that will be understandable to 
all, not only now, but in the future. Molinari's relation to Mondrian is 
analogous; a consideration of his theoretical position vis-a-vis modern- 



21 



Remembering Postmodernism 

ism will again establish differences between modern and postmodern 
memory. 

Molinari has tellingly characterized himself as 'a man for whom the 
absolute [is] to be authentic'. 7 Authenticity in art is for Molinari a quintes- 
sentially modernist idea inextricably linked with notions of 'purity' and 
'autonomy' as proclaimed by European abstractionists in the early twenti- 
eth century. He has been consistently and remarkably engaged with the 
progenitors of abstract painting, coming to Mondrian's paintings and 
theoretical statements as early as 1951 through an article by James Sweeny 
in Art News* and his interest was consolidated when he saw Mondrian's 
work in New York in January 1955. Even before these direct contacts, 
though, Molinari had been steeped in the aesthetics of Les Plasticiens, a 
group whose members, according to their leader, artist-critic Rodolphe 
de Repentigny Qauran), drew explicitly on Mondrian in articulating their 
own goal of 'majestic purity and rigor' (Fenton and Wilkin, 75). The 
seminal Art Abstrait exhibition at the Montreal Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 
1959 in which Molinari participated, and which he later saw as a turn- 
ing point in his structural exploration of colour (Theberge, 54) was 
dedicated both to the new Plasticiens and to Malevich, Teuber-Arp, Mon- 
drian, and Van Doesburg (Theberge, 26). Molinari has himself character- 
ized Mondrian's evolution of a new dynamic space as 'la grande 
revelation de ma vie' (Burnett, 9) and has self-consciously attempted to 
perfect his mentor's aesthetic discoveries; in fact, his fascination has 
extended to the acquisition of Mondrian's manuscript for the essay 
'Purely Abstract Art' (1926). 9 Though Molinari gleaned his knowledge of 
Mondrian from many sources, this particular essay provides an effective 
entrance to the notions of purity and autonomy so fundamental to the 
authenticity offered by Mondrian. 

'Purely Abstract Art' is a succinct statement of the key beliefs and terms 
that informed Mondrian's writings from early theoretical documents like 
'The New Plastic in Painting' published in De Stijl in 1917 through his 
New York texts like 'Pure Plastic Art' (1942), which first caught 
Molinari's attention. The title itself emphasizes the notion of purity, 
which was at once the goal and the method of Mondrian's art. References 
to nature in art, he said, could and must be 'purified' so that beauty could 
return to its origin in 'pure intuition' (Mondrian, 199). Taking as exem- 
plary his own signature orthogonals, with their perfect compositional and 
metaphysical 'equilibrium', their purity of 'relations', we may interpret this 
to imply not merely a rejection of naturalism but the more radical conten- 
tion that art's beauty had perforce to be autonomous, a 'purely abstract beauty' 
(Mondrian, 199). Molinari follows this line of thinking closely, not as an 



22 



Remembering Art's Past 

epigone (though he has been accused of this 10 ), but as the heir that the 
master's own evolutionary and teleological historicism seemed to require. 
For Mondrian, abstraction was the mode appropriate to the 'modern 
mentality'. It is consistent, then, to see Molinari's extension of his ideas as 
not only suitable but (as they would both claim, in somewhat authoritar- 
ian terms) necessary to modernist art. 

In 1961, Molinari asserted that plasticism in Mondrian's sense was the 
only direction that offered 'des possibilites devolution a la peinture du 
XXe siecle' (Ecrits, 38). In this essay he willingly adopts Mondrian's evolu- 
tionary scheme of artistic progress and enthusiastically situates himself in 
its ongoing history. 'Abstract painting is still in a preliminary phase,' he 
wrote in 1966; 'contemporary art can only look forward to the elabora- 
tion of increasingly abstract painting.' 11 True to Mondrian and to his own 
definition of authenticity, then, Molinari set out to realize the early 
twentieth-century dream of an art that functioned as a self-sufficient 
'language'. His highly articulate critique of Mondrian should thus be read 
as a shared enterprise of aesthetic purification rather than as a radical 
departure. 

To take abstract painting into the future, Molinari set himself the task of 
eliminating 'the conflict between object and space, as well as the expres- 
sionistic interplay of various proportions' (Ecrits, 42), elements that were 
residual in Mondrian's work, just as aspects of nature were for the early 
pioneers of abstraction. Even when Molinari refers to 'what remained to 
be destroyed in painting after Mondrian' (Ecrits, 44), however, and pro- 
ceeds to develop his own plastic language based on colour relations, his 
relation to his own adopted heritage is anything but negative. On the 
contrary, he is simply more able because of his memory of Mondrian's 
example to realize completely his forebear's annihilation of cubist space 
and to erase any remaining traces of anthropomorphism in the name of 
art's autonomy. 

By inscribing themselves in the tradition of the early abstractionists 
by honing art into a universal language whose purity guarantees universal 
communicability Molinari and Tousignant also take on their Utopian 
quest. This may not be conscious: Molinari, for example, has explicitly 
rejected 'Utopian systems . . . evolved to define "objectively" the emo- 
tional impacts of a certain colour' (Ecrits, 89). In statements like this, 
however, the word 'utopian' is being used in its rhetorical rather than its 
political sense, as a means of discrediting claims by Kandinsky and others 
that certain colours evoke specific responses in all cases. What is 'remem- 
bered' by Molinari and Tousignant in their articulation of an authoritative 
modernism is a largely formal purity of means, with or without any 



23 



Remembering Postmodernism 

reference to a potential communication. What is unspoken, 'forgotten', 
from the early modern context, is the extent to which this formalism was 
instrumental in, and subordinate to, the realization of a social Utopia 
through art. 

But this is a paradoxical if typically modernist in the way that Mon- 
drian is modernist resolution, since Tousignant's basis for universal 
comprehensibility is radically historicized, while his goal seems to be an 
ahistorical immutability projected into the future. How could the elegant 
simplicity of his homage be understood universally when its co-ordinates 
are so historically determined? In this contrast we can see one significant 
difference between a modernist and a postmodernist use of memory in 
referring to art's past. Tousignant uses the main trajectory of twentieth- 
century abstraction as a way to fix van Gogh's achievement; in the other 
memory works we have looked at, art-historical allusions are recalled in 
an impure, 'contaminated', and self-consciously historical way in order to 
keep the ongoing redefinition of the past open to future memories. This 
contrast can be seen again in a comparison of two other homages to van 
Gogh, Joe Fafard's bronze bust Vincent (1985; Plate 5) and Murray Favro's 
installation entitled Van Gogh's Room (1973-4; Plate 6). 

To prepare the way for this contrast between modern and postmodern 
memory which I believe speaks directly about much current art's rela- 
tion to its own past it is appropriate to consider first the nature of 
modernist memory in more detail. Two caveats need to be recorded. I am 
not claiming to describe all modernism; in fact, I will argue that this 
totalizing impulse is specifically modern in inspiration, and that it is a 
characteristic often rejected by postmodernist practices. Second, as 
Tousignant makes clear, modernist memories may be Canadian, but they 
are not usually focused on Canadian art. 12 

It is not unusual to read about modernism's 'absence of memory', its 
amnesia within a putatively pure self-presence (Deitcher, 17). But this 
view subscribes too readily to the desire of artists like Mondrian (to stay 
with this example) to reject completely their aesthetic pre-history, to 
begin anew and create a supposedly perfect art as a model for a perfect 
society. But as Deitcher himself points out, 'the relationship between art, 
memory, and history was not irrelevant to a much earlier discourse on 
modernism' (15): that of Baudelaire. In fact, as Michael Fried has persua- 
sively argued in relation to Baudelaire and Manet, Western painting since 
the Renaissance at least 'is nothing more nor less than the latest term in a 
chain of memories of works of art that for all practical purposes must be 
thought of as endlessly regressive' ('Painting Memories', 518). In a way, 
then, it is remarkable that contemporary practices of 'appropriation' 



24 







SJoeFafard, 
Vincent (1985) 



Remembering Postmodernism 

should garner so much commentary, given that this sort of borrowing and 
competition has been prevalent throughout Western art history for several 
hundred years. What is interesting is that the mode (not the activity) of 
remembering changes in much modernist art of the early twentieth 
century particularly in abstract painting and that it changes again 
nearer our own time. 

Whereas Fried claims that art-historical referencing in the Western tradi- 
tion was 'endlessly regressive' in the sense that it led back 'to no ultimate or 
primal source or prototype' ('Painting Memories', 518), I want to suggest 
that somewhat later modernist practice expressly sought to end this infinite 
regress both by looking for the essence of painting and by transcending all 
art by founding a perfect, static state that no longer required aesthetic 
amelioration. We have seen both moves with Mondrian and with Tousig- 
nant and Molinari. It is not that they forget the past quite the opposite in a 
homage but that their memories seek to establish an absolute and univer- 
sal condition that is so totally transparent as no longer to need memories of 
difference and change. Because of its temporal projection, their memory is 
best described as memory of the future. But again, questions intervene. 
Tbusignant's memory of van Gogh is potent, but must we all remember van 
Gogh as yellow and flat? Is this not a particular historical memory that is 
striving against the odds to escape history? 

Memories of art's past, then, are crucial to both modernism and 
postmodernism and for this reason alone I mistrust the numerous proc- 
lamations of a 'break' between these mnemonically created and thus ever- 
shifting entities. Depending on the selections and points of comparisons 
made, however, postmodernist memory can look very different from its 
modernist relatives. This is certainly true if we compare the recollections 
of van Gogh by Tousignant, Fafard, and Favro. Like Hommage a Van Gogh, 
Fafard's 1985 Vincent is a portrait of the past master consciously produced 
as a memorial. 'I'm not trying to place myself in this or that tradition 
when I do a portrait of van Gogh,' Fafard reports. 'I see myself rather as 
paying a kind of homage to this particular guy, who was the originator of 
this marvellous work' (Teitelbaum and White, 53). Fafard emphasizes his 
personal response to an individual, and he responds in his specialty, sculp- 
ture, rather than in van Gogh's, in order to hypothesize 'what van Gogh 
would have done had he become a sculptor' (37). Fafard's homage parti- 
cularizes van Gogh where Tousignant's universalizes him. Like almost all 
of Fafard's portraits of famous artists done since the early 1980s (the 
exception being Gauguin from 1986), the subject is treated reverentially in 
that the techniques of which the artist portrayed was the 'originator' are 
imitated. We see van Gogh's vigorous handling of pigment on Fafard's 



26 



Remembering Art's Past 

bronze surface. Most importantly in comparison with Tousignant's van 
Gogh, Vincent is about as physically flat as a portrait sculpture can be, flat 
in a way that suggests impasto relief and which from the proper angle 
creates an illusion of depth, as do van Gogh's own portraits and land- 
scapes, which are nonetheless not absolutely flat. 

Tousignant's memory of van Gogh has the admirable seriousness of a 
metaphysical proposition; Fafard's recollection like most of his work 
has the amiable good humour of a strictly individual compassion for an 
artist whose life was too tragic to allow for ludic interventions. The 
medium and the planarity work together to achieve this sensitive light- 
ness of effect. Fafard puns with the notions of surface and depth by 
literalizing them, just as (in the example Teitelbaum emphasizes in this 
regard) he puns with Clement Greenberg's call for flatness in painting by 
making a flat and thus if one remembers it side-on, decidedly narrow- 
sculpture bust of that critic called My Art Critic (1980). Fafard's techniques 
and familiar, indeed overtly 'appropriative', titles (My Art Critic, My Picasso, 
Clem, Dear Vincent) do not claim universal meaning. They revel in the 
idiosyncrasies of personal, local recollection. An analogously ludic appro- 
priation of a modern master(piece) is Calgary painter Chris Cran's Self- 
Portrait as Max Beckmann (1986), in which he substitutes his own face for 
that of Beckmann and thus effectively denies the autonomy and sense of 
self-possession asserted so strongly by Beckmann. 

Murray Favro's installation Van Gogh's Room (Plate 6) makes this play 
with a past artist and image even more palpable by allowing himself and 
then the viewer actually to enter the space of one of van Gogh's paintings, 
Van Gogh's Bedroom (1888, Amsterdam). Favro reports that this painting is 
one of his favourites because of its unusual space. His homage takes the 
form of a life-size reconstruction of this very personal space van Gogh's 
bedroom in his beloved yellow house at Aries, the centre of his fantasy for 
an artists' colony. But where van Gogh was held by his medium to only 
one, flat view of this room, Favro's three-dimensional recollection allows 
us, in his words, 'to be able to view van Gogh's painting from other 
vantage points' (Fleming, 76). Favro employed his now-famous projec- 
tion technique to accomplish this transformation. Onto a mock-up of the 
room that coincides in its irregularities with the space depicted in van 
Gogh's painting, he projects light through a slide of Van Gogh's Bedroom. 
This projection does of course make the painting present to our memo- 
ries, even though it is not a painting that we see, or even a slide of a 
painting. More important than this literal enlightenment are the meta- 
phorical ways in which, as Favro claims, 'projection is analogous to the 
way we project meaning onto objects' (76). What I wish to propose is that 



27 




6 Murray Favro, 
Van Gogh's Room (1973-74) 



Remembering Art's Past 

Favro's practice of 'projection' ingeniously captures the way a postmodern 
memory works to construct meaning. 

As Marie Fleming suggests in her 1983 catalogue on Favro's work, 
there is no way in which this projection provides us with an original or 
essential van Gogh or van Gogh painting (74). The artifice of the installa- 
tion is made manifest: it is another mnemonic machine for creating art and 
meaning through art. As viewers, we are aware of the constructed nature of 
the work immediately. We can walk into it, we can see the projector at 
work, and, most significantly, we can physically duplicate the forgetting 
crucial to any art-making simply by walking in front of the projected 
image and thereby cutting off part of the work. Memory projects in 
analogous ways when it recalls its art-historical past. An 'object', say Van 
Gogh's Bedroom, is re-collected, brought into the present, because of what- 
ever current contextual circumstances have spurred the reminiscence. As 
with Favro's homage, though, there is no original to collect, only mne- 
monic traces to retrace. Parts are necessarily emphasized and forgotten in 
each redeployment. Three other similarities should be emphasized, each 
of which tells us something about memory's construction of the past. 
First, it is not just the artist's memory that works here; s/he is not autono- 
mous, because different viewers will move differently in and around 
Favro's room, projecting different meanings. This sense of movement 
underlines my second point: projection is not only a matter of sight. In 
spite of the importance of light, corporeal memories are also registered as 
we interject ourselves into the work. Finally, as the materiality of Favro's 
installation witnesses when the projection is turned off, neither the artist 
nor the viewer is free to project just any memory. Specific objects are there 
to receive meaning (though not just one meaning, nor meanings that will 
never be superseded) and these meanings, though both personal and 
various, are by no means strictly the property of any single artist or 
viewer, both of whom necessarily work with and within socially and 
institutionally validated codes. We must be aware of the sense in which 
van Gogh projects us, even though the manner of this prophetic determi- 
nation will vary with our own memories. When a postmodern art like 
Favro's looks back to its own traditions, all conditions are indeed tempo- 
rary, but not arbitrary. 

The works by Allyson Clay and Joanne Tod included in this chapter 
embody yet other sorts of memories of art's past, memories that (like 
Ayearst's alone in the works discussed so far) are strongly inflected by the 
difference in gender of the female artist in the present and the male 
antecedents she cites. Unusual as well are their allusions not to specific 
works but to the conventions of an entire modernist tradition, abstract 



29 



Remembering Postmodernism 

painting. Both feel keenly the weight of inheritance. Exemplifying the 
possibilities of the complicity/critique predicament, however, Clay and 
Tod re-evaluate painting as a genre by remembering differently its unsa- 
voury gender assumptions and exclusions. As painting addressing paint- 
ing from women's perspectives, their postmodern work is especially close 
to modernist paradigms, which have (rightly or wrongly) largely been 
codified in this medium. I have therefore consciously emphasized paint- 
ing in this chapter not only to counter the (much exaggerated) assertions 
of its demise, but also to show that recent critiques of modernism very 
often take place within painting's own frame of reference. 

Allyson Clay's Lure (1988; Plate 7) was originally installed with the 
four small abstract paintings facing a complementary set of four texts 
across a space. Because we have illustrated only a detail of this work, only 
(portions of) Clay's texts can be cited, making their relationship to the 
corresponding paintings at once more enigmatic (it is difficult to 'read' 
both at once) and more flexible (since the positioning of the viewer with 
respect to the abstract paintings is less determined, allowing him or her to 
read image and text in any number of combinations). Each text describes, 
in apparently neutral language, how to construct the abstract across from 
it. The texts thus memorialize this recipe, just as the paintings are material 
reminders of the texts' instructions. Neither is primary. Embedded in each 
text not unlike the inscribed memory of the brain's death on the right 
side of Three Minutes is a countertext, a passage sometimes set off typo- 
graphically, as in the fourth image/text pair (called 'Eye to Eye'), and 
which in all cases contrasts in its emotional intensity with the seemingly 
cool and straightforward preparation of the abstract image. One painting 
places the form of a cross against a white ground. In the related text, Clay 
interweaves a horrifying story about the martyrdom by fire of St Cecilia, a 
story that in our memories and hers inevitably transforms the 
'abstract' cross into a religious symbol. Clay's own recall further exempli- 
fies and enriches this mnemonic reconstitution. The cross itself is reminis- 
cent of her own earlier and more overtly emotional abstract paintings like 
Constellation of the Great Owl and Cross by the Sea of 1985. Even more 
importantly, the martyrdom is recalled in terms of the similarly cruel 
immolation of British soldiers in a colosseum in Northern Ireland, an 
event that occurred and lodged itself in Clay's memory not long 
before she began Lure. 13 History, both religious and political, is made to 
intervene in the supposedly 'pure', self-contained (and self-satisfied?) gen- 
eration of abstract art. 

Clay seems at once to be seduced ('lured') by the aura of abstraction and 
to feel a need to disrupt its normalities, to 'have an argument' with this 



30 




00 

oc 



if I 
c 








w 



Remembering Postmodernism 

tradition, as she puts it. More specifically, she writes, 'it is necessary to 
reveal some of [the] implicit historical hierarchy in order to be able to 
claim painting as a viable territory for an alternative set of values which 
are not primarily defined within patriarchy' (Lure). She discloses the 
specifically gendered hierarchies of abstract painting most forcefully in 
'Eye to Eye', the final image/text coupling, where the formula for creating 
the abstract image is flanked by two radically different texts. On the right, 
Clay inscribes her memory of a line from a contemporary painting 
manual 'I read that art inspired him to prove he was in charge even if it 
required occasional mutilation and penetration of the surface with gentle 
strokes' a passage that graphically if unself-consciously demonstrates 
painting's violently invasive, gendered dominance over a passive 
medium. On the left, by contrast, Clay inscribes a gently erotic evocation 
of what seems more like a relation between two people than between 
artist and canvas: 'I touch your mouth / face to face / breath to mind / wet 
to wet myth of her always / yes / look not at but into me / eye to.' 

Clay's strategy is to interject different voices into what she sees as the 
patriarchal tradition of abstract painting and thus to make it possible for 
women to work in this area in good faith. I have suggested that Clay's 
memory in Lure is of the masculinist conventions of abstraction, not of 
specific artists or works. To understand more completely her implicit asser- 
tion that this tradition is masculinist, we can turn again to Mondrian, first 
because his Utopian expectations for abstraction's ability to effect social 
reforms make him one of this genre's 'fathers', and second because Clay feels 
herself part of this heritage through the mediation of artists like Ian Wallace, 
whose early abstract work paid homage to Mondrian. Inheritance as we 
will see in this further recollection of Mondrian's art theory is a primary 
issue when we consider Clay's relation to modernism. 

Mondrian dedicated his essay 'Neo-Plasticism: the General Principle of 
Plastic Equivalence' to 'the men of the future'. Of course this projection of 
his work into the future was part of his revisionary zeal, and we might 
thus not take the dedication to 'men' as exclusionary of women. Looking 
more closely at his theories, however, we see that Mondrian did indeed 
wish to confine his inheritors to men, that women were part of the 
impurity he saw all around him and wanted to purge. My claim is that the 
discourse of purity that he (and others like Malevich, Robert Delaunay, 
Kupka, and Kandinsky) established for abstract painting very much 
excluded (and still excludes) non-masculinist practice from this field. 

As we have seen, Mondrian's thinking about and production of art are 
founded on a dialectics of purification. The most excluded principle, and 
individual, of all within his system is the female. He theorized about the 



32 



Remembering Art's Past 

inferiority of the feminine in some of his earliest writings and devoted the 
lengthy concluding sections of his first major statement of the axioms of 
Neoplasticism, 'The New Plastic in Painting' (1917), to a detailed defence 
of what he considered the intrinsic 'maleness' of abstract art. He seems 
obsessed with the relation between male and female even earlier in the 
aphoristic comments of the 1912-14 Sketchbooks, notes that constitute the 
seeds of his later art theory. 'Woman is against art, against abstraction . . . 
in her innermost being,' he announces (Joosten and Welsh, 19). Try as she 
might, a woman is 'never completely an artist' (34) because her defining 
feminine principle, Mondrian holds, is passive, form-receiving 'matter' or 
material, whereas the male is imbued with 'force' that shapes this material 
according to higher principles (24). In 'The New Plastic in Painting', 
Mondrian reveals his authority for these lamentably conventional views. 14 
'Ancient wisdom', he tells us, 'identified the physical, the natural, with the 
female, and the spiritual with the male element' (Mondrian, 56, n. 'g'; 57, 
n. T). As Mondrian also makes clear, the female is to be seen as individual 
and the male as universal. These views are, of course, Greek, specifically 
Aristotelian and Platonic, 15 and in Mondrian's case they were very likely 
transmitted by Theosophy. 16 But Mondrian is not content merely to 
follow this tradition: he dedicates himself to it with an energy sufficient to 
generate the novel claim that woman also embodies 'tradition', both in its 
general cultural sense and in the visual arts specifically (57, n. T). Thus the 
feminine principle which he sometimes distinguishes from the biologi- 
cally female by claiming that women and men have both female and male 
principles in their makeup, but which at other junctures he conflates with 
the simply mundane woman works for Mondrian as the initially nega- 
tive pole within an unbalanced economy searching for equilibrium. 

The feminine is the outer that opposes the male's inner values, Mond- 
rian holds; it is material where the male is spiritual; plastically, it is hori- 
zontal (like the earth) where the male is vertical (aspiring to the Divine). 
These metaphysical speculations quite literally established the opposi- 
tions and purifications so common in Mondrian's signature neoplastic 
compositions, with their rigorous orthogonal intersections. With a quin- 
tessentially Hegelian flare, Mondrian argues that this 'negative' opposi- 
tion provided by the female is actually the positive precept in the dialectic 
of spirit's evolution, since it stimulates the male to transcend the material 
altogether: 

In our time, oppression by the female, a legacy of the old mentality, still 
weighs so heavily on life and on art that there is little room for male- 
female equilibrium. As tradition, the female element clings to the old art 



33 



Remembering Postmodernism 

and opposes anything new precisely because each new art expression 
moves further away from the natural appearance of things. Consistently 
viewed, the female element is hostile to all art on the one hand, while on 
the other it not only realizes the art-idea but reaches toward art (for 
outwardness reaches toward inwardness). It is precisely the female ele- 
ment, therefore, that constructs art, and precisely its influence that creates 
abstract art, for it most purely brings the male to expression. (68-9, n. T) 

Eve is necessary to Adam, as Mondrian the Calvinist notes in this 
context, lending Biblical authority to his views, and like Adam, Mondrian 
is genuinely nostalgic for what he envisages as the equilibrium of pre- 
lapsarian unity. Someone of a Neoplatonic or a Jungian persuasion might 
condone what Mondrian sees as this acknowledgement of his own femi- 
nine side. But with his essentialist nostalgia comes the indelicate, exclu- 
sionary mechanism of purity, a mechanism that is decidedly patriarchal in 
its subjugation or appropriation of the feminine in the name of equilib- 
rium and reason. 17 Mondrian's method is ruthless: 'we must reject nothing 
of the past but must purify everything' (363). His prime target, of course, 
is the material, individual,^/ewd/e principle for which he harbours venom- 
ous scorn: 'the feminine and material rule life and society and shackle 
spiritual expression as a function of the masculine. A Futurist manifesto 
proclaiming hatred of woman (the feminine) is entirely justified' (137). 

With Lure and with parts of her more recent work 'Paintings with 
Voices' of 1989 Clay seeks to 'contaminate' the vision of a pure, mascu- 
line art. Her individual, historical, and even erotic memories intervene 
and offer abstract painting as a field of possibility to a wider constituency 
than Mondrian's men of the future. Toronto painter Joanne Tod accom- 
plishes an analogous feat with Reds on Green (1978; Plate 8), though 
humour is her way into the issues surrounding the possibilities of paint- 
ing, and her target, in this instance, is the more recent hegemonic inherit- 
ance of abstract painting. 

Given only Tod's title for this work 'Reds on Green' we might 
expect a colour field painting emphasizing the 'pure' concerns of the 
medium. Paradoxically, just looking at Tousignant's Hommage a Van Gogh, 
we might expect it to carry a title like 'Yellow on "fellow'. The humour in 
Tod's piece depends upon just this anticipation, an anticipation that in 
turn relies on a shared memory of the widespread expectation in the 
Toronto art world of the early 1970s that abstract painting of a certain sort 
defined painting. Tod thwarts and mocks this supposition as she recalls 
with this work her own education at the Ontario College of Art. Reds on 
Green is radically figurative it illustrates a fictive meeting between Chi- 
nese communists ('reds') that takes place against a green backdrop. The 



34 










8 Joanne Tod, 
Reds on Green (1978) 






Remembering Postmodernism 

playfulness of this piece is enhanced by its parodic attention to all the then 
'correct' elements of painting: the 'reds' are carefully set against the hard 
edges of the green field in the upper part of the painting (so much so, in 
fact, that their heads are squared off to fit the design). Even the seamless 
frame is (from the vantage point of 1990) a relic of late modernist preci- 
sion, modelled as it is on the 'high tech' frames Tod saw when she worked 
at the David Mirvish Gallery in the 1970s, a gallery that represented the 
tradition of mid-twentieth-century American abstraction. But unlike 
Tbusignant's Hommage a Van Gogh, which (with other works from this 
period) pioneered many of the techniques and goals of field painting, 
Tod's work is anything but a homage. She pays her respects to what she 
saw then as a formalist enterprise, but the fictitiousness and figuration of 
the (mock) history painting that she created demonstrate her freedom 
with and from her immediate past, her inheritance. Tod's memorialization 
of this tradition is thus only an effect of her critique of painting's then very 
confined possibilities. Her tone here is certainly playful, but as in Clay's 
Lure, we receive a serious message about painting's potential for new 
relationships with its own history. Memory does much of the work in 
effecting these new possibilities and also in configuring the subject as 
both artist and viewer, a pressing concern in much of Tod's work. In 
moving now into the second part of Remembering Postmodernism, I want to 
emphasize the continuity between the concerns for the past and for the 
subject by focusing first on another work by Joanne Tod. 



NOTES 

'Conversation with Fabo, 30 October 1986. 

2 On doubling, allegory, and postmodernism, see Owens (1980). 

3 Dot Tuer, 'The Embattled Body: Aids and the Current Crisis of Representation', 
Canadian Art Summer 1989: 23-4. 

4 On the stormy relations between van Gogh and Gauguin over the new practice 
of abstract painting, see Cheetham, 'Mystical Memories'. 

5 This is not the place to go into the often-reduced subtleties of Greenberg's ideas. 
To my mind, the best discussions of these influential ideas are to be found in 
Clark (1982) and Fried (1982). 



36 



Remembering Art's Past 



6 For a detailed account of this rhetoric of purity and the advent of abstract 
painting in Europe, see Cheetham, The Rhetoric of Purity. 

7 From an unpublished manuscript entitled 'Projet but absolut' (October 1952), 
cited in Pierre Theberge, Guido Molinari, 1. 

8 See Robert P. Welsh, 'Mondrian and the Science of Colour and Line', RACAR, 

V, 1 (1978), 5. 

9 See Harry Holtzman and Martin S. James, eds and trans., The New Art The 
New Life: The Collected Writings of Piet Mondrian (Boston: G.K. Hall and Co., 
1986), 198, n.3. 

10 See for example F. Gagnon, 'Mimetisme en peinture contemporaine au Que- 
bec', Conferences}. A. de Seve, 11-12 (Montreal: Universite de Montreal, 1971), 
39-60. 

"Molinari, 'Statement', Canadian Art 23 (January 1966), 64. 

12 An interesting exception might be Fabo's citation of Harris, who is arguably a 
Canadian modernist. 

13 I have this information from a conversation with the artist on 4 May 1988. 

14 Mondrian could have found these and related denigrations of the feminine in 
innumerable sources in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. See, for 
example, Bram Dijkstra's discussions in Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Female Evil 
in Fin-de-Siecle Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986). What I find 
most interesting, however, is his use of Plato as his source. 

15 Plato equates matter and the feminine in the Symposium (190 b) and Menexenus 
(238 a). 

16 For a general discussion of Mondrian and Theosophy, see Welsh, 'Mondrian 
and Theosophy'. Welsh does not discuss Mondrian's exclusion of the feminine. 

17 Londa Schiebinger presents what I see as an analogous explanation for the 
historical personification of Science as female. 'Scientia', she argues, 'is feminine in 
early modern culture . . . because the scientists the framers of the scheme are 
male: the feminine scientia plays opposite the male scientist' ('Feminine Icons: The 
Face of Early Modern Science', Critical Inquiry 14 [Summer 1988]: 675). 



37 



II. REMEMBERING THE SUBJECT 






'Memory is what leads us on to the objects of our desire.' 
Plato, Philebus, 35d 



'Memory ... is not a psychical property among others; it is the 
very essence of the psyche: resistance, and precisely, thereby, 

an opening to the eff raction of the trace/ 

Jacques Derrida, 'Freud and the Scene of Writing', 

Writing and Difference, 2O1 



Joanne Tod's Approximation (1988; Plate 9) is a pivotal work in this book, 
just as this second chapter is the fulcrum for the reflections on memory 
that precede and follow it. Approximation is the most recent of the three Tod 
images included here (Reds on Green is from 1978; The Damage is Done, 
which, as we shall see in Chapter III, is only partly "IbdY, carries the date 
1986). By considering it in the structural middle of this text instead of last, 
where it would come chronologically (that is, according to traditional art- 
historical schemes of artistic development), I hope to emphasize once 
more not only the thematic nature of these reflections on postmodernism 
and memory in general, but also the ability that spatial memories have to 
disrupt the normally linear mnemonics of time. Analogously, it could be 
argued that the focus of this chapter, the mnemic construction of the 
'subject', s/he who creates and receives an image, should have been exam- 
ined before we looked at what can be construed as one of the subject's 



39 




9 Joanne Tod, 
Approximation (1988) 



Remembering The Subject 

products, the remembrance of art's past (Chapter I). But this would be to 
adopt a teleology that runs against the grain of both memory's and 
postmodernism's characteristically disruptive work. My claim is that the 
construction of the subject through memory is pivotal but not therefore 
primary or originary in relation both to the quotation of art's history 
that we have considered and to the social and political implications of 
memory, to which I will turn in Chapter III. 

It is fashionable these days, in the wake of recent poststructuralist and 
psychoanalytic thinking, to speak of a 'de-centred' subject instead of the 
(supposedly) stable and masterful T of the humanist past. As Donald 
Preziosi has recently argued: 

The discipline [of art history] is grounded in a deep concern for juridico- 
legal rectification of what is proper(ty) to an artist and thereby involved 
with the solidity of the bases for the circulation of artistic commodities 
within a gallery-museum-marketplace system. [This concern] works 
toward the legitimization and naturalization of an idealist, integral, 
authorial Selfhood without which the entire disciplinary and commodity 
system could not function (33). 

There is no question of returning nostalgically to an unexamined, ideal- 
ized sense of the subject as transparent to itself (how can we ignore Freud's 
invention of the unconscious?) and in control of its own destiny (how can 
we forget the Marxian emphasis on class domination?). Rather, what a 
concentration on modes of artistic memory as builder and re-builder of 
the subject emphasizes is the ever-dynamic process of subject definition. 
This subject to cite the title of an important recent exhibition that tren- 
chantly investigated this process of subject construction from an interna- 
tional perspective through works by Raymonde April, Sonia Boyce, 
Klaus vomBruch, Miriam Cahn, Francesco Clemente, Antony Gormley, 
Astrid Klein, Avis Newman, and Jana Sterbek is in one sense an 'impos- 
sible self (Ferguson and Nairne), since it can never be whole. On the 
other hand, the seemingly constant attempts by artists and viewers to fix 
provisionally a point of meaning suggests that there can, even must, be 
postmodern subjects, and, crucially, that these subjects can have effects. 

Thinking back to the topic of Chapter I, memories of art's history, I 
would argue that the postmodern concern for the subject is part of an 
obsession with the past as it inflects both the present and future. This new 
historicist self-consciousness contrasts with central aspects of modern- 
ism, instanced here by Mondrian's transcendental aspirations. Should we 
ever doubt the sharpness (not to suggest simplicity) of this contrast 
between modern and postmodern memories, we need only recall that 



41 



Remembering Postmodernism 

Mondrian's abrogation of the past was subtle in comparison with that 
sought by two other exemplary modernists, the Futurist FT. Marinetti 
and the American abstractionist Barnett Newman. Speaking about the 
new artist's proper relation to museums, Marinetti wrote in Le Figaro 
(Paris) in February 1909: 'To admire an old picture is to pour our senti- 
ment into a funeral urn instead of hurling it forth in violent gushes of 
action and productiveness. Will you thus consume your best strength in 
this useless admiration of the past . . .?' (Chipp, 287). Newman states 
explicitly that the desire to paint without the past is a desire to avoid 
memory. In 'creating images whose reality is self-evident,' he wrote in a 
1948 article, 'we are freeing ourselves from the impediments of memory, 
association, nostalgia, legend, myth . . . that have been the devices of 
Western European painting' (Chipp, 553). Postmodernism in the visual 
arts, on the other hand, is to a large extent defined by a fixation on the past, 
a 'past' that is frequently demarcated through the assertion of memory 
with its concomitant sense of subjecthood defined and redefined by the 
particularities of context. 

Tod's Approximation is a difficult work to read. Its luscious surface 
describes five identifiable forms, each a partial human face, but we are 
not looking at portraits of the conventional kind. The four large male 
visages turn out to be 'Toby mugs' or 'jugs', drinking tankards made of 
pottery that open up the skull in a way that seems quite humorous in 
comparison with the violations thematized in Ayearst's Three Minutes 
(Plate 1). The smaller, female image near the centre of the canvas is a 
reproduction of a photograph of the artist Mary Kelly. Why does Tod 
use images that are themselves already 'taken' perhaps even 'effracted', 
burgled, as Derrida suggests in the epigraph above? And why would she 
arrange these traces in such an optically strenuous way, with most of the 
faces arranged sideways? What Tod effects here is a distancing from any 
sense of originality or essential model, a sidelong glance at what she 
calls 'peripheral emotional states' (1989) whose materialization helps 
her to define her own evanescent subjecthood and the nature of the 
subject who creates art. For those familiar with earlier paintings like Self 
Portrait (1982), Identification/Defacement (1983), Self-Portrait as Prostitute 
(1983), My Father, Bob and I (1983), and Magic at Sao Paolo (1985), Approxi- 
mation can be seen as a recent example of Tod's longstanding fascination 
with the nature of her own selfhood, one she habitually explores 
through conscious manipulations of memory that create 'impossible' yet 
revealing situations. ' 

It is worth recalling that we never see our own faces certainly one of 
the most potent signs of who we are as subjects except as they are 



42 



Remembering The Subject 

reflected optically by a polished surface or a reproductive means like a 
photograph or painting, or as they are metaphorically reflected in the 
reactions other people have to us. Thus even though the faces in Approxi- 
mation are not of course reflections of Tod's features, it should not seem 
unusual to consider them 'hers' while she manipulates them in a project of 
self-understanding. The narrative Tod constructs for this painting is one 
of self-identity reconstrued through memory. According to Tod, the Toby 
jugs are personal artefacts from her grandmother's home in Glasgow, and 
even to viewers not party to Tod's own interpretation of this painting, 
they will still be reminders of the British Isles. What Tod recently discov- 
ered through a series of family members' reminiscences, however, was 
that her grandmother wasn't Scottish, even though she lived in Scotland, 
spoke with a Scots accent, and acquired such typical artefacts; she was 
also, and somehow more fundamentally, Lithuanian, an emigrant. This 
sense of national subjecthood changed the way Tod understands her own 
identity. The mugs, therefore, image the way in which memory's archaeo- 
logical activity finding relics from one's genetically determining past 
shifts radically as new information is presented. What we construe as 
history is again inflected by memory. Just as The Unveiling of the Cornucopia 
illustrates the fallacy of art history's assignment of fixed iconographical 
meaning to the supposed mystery cult at Pompeii, Tod's recollection of 
the mugs now shows how false her previous identification with an 
assumed Scottish inheritance was. 

Her search for her own identity through family history is complicated 
further by the inclusion here of the Kelly image. The two are not related in 
blood, yet Tod reports that when she got to know this other woman, 
Kelly reminded her of her own mother. Kelly becomes an artistic mother, 
an adopted female progenitor who helps to construct Tod's sense of 
professional subjecthood. At the same time, there is a link through Kelly 
to an inheritance over which Tod has no control, her identification with 
her Lithuanian/Scottish grandmother. Kelly's accent sounds British to 
Tod, yet she is American by birth. The Kelly 'photograph' is thus fitted 
into an already complex family lineage. Tod approximates Kelly's relation- 
ship by inserting her image into the awkward space left after she had 
painted the mugs. The fit even after Tod's photo of Kelly has been 
anamorphically reconstituted in paint isn't at all exact: on the right edge 
of the canvas we see a gap. As viewers, we tend to try to 'right' Tod's 
painting, to turn it so that the four faces are right side up. But Tod thwarts 
this regularization this domestication of the subject with the Kelly 
image, which can only seem right if the painting stands vertically. There is 
no stable 'fit', then, no final stasis. What we see is indeed an 



43 



Remembering Postmodernism 

approximation of Kelly, of Tod and her family, and of the mnemonics of 
subjecthood. 

The manipulations of form in Approximation are anything but formal, 
yet Tod does try to make her elements 'fit' in ways we have seen in Reds on 
Green. In a sense, the 1988 painting recalls the Tod of a decade earlier as 
well as the one of the early 1980s, the Tod who was trying to locate herself 
in the (largely non-figurative) conventions in which she had been 
schooled. By disrupting paradigms of vision and conceptualization, both 
Approximation and Reds on Green playfully but pointedly blur the perfect 
edges (whether painterly or psychological) desired by others. 

Another of these interruptions in the 'normal' understanding and prac- 
tice of painting is Tod's self-conscious problematization of what she views 
as another masculinist inheritance in painting, the emphasis on three- 
dimensionality. Approximation is decidedly matrilineal in its 
recollections the grandmother's mugs, Kelly as mother not least in the 
sense that it plays with the sculptural forms of the mugs (while luring our 
attention to them by making their surfaces so beautiful; in other words, as 
in Reds on Green and Lure, by alerting us to putatively masculinist practices 
in order to question them) by denying us as viewers any comfortable 
vantage from which to see them. Three-dimensionality in painting dem- 
onstrates its conventional authority through our desire to see the mugs 
'right side up', to have a secure 'perspective', but Tod denies this pleasure 
and thereby emphasizes the particularity of viewpoint, the off-centre 
glance. The image that is presented 'correctly' when the painting is verti- 
cal is also mediated by that paradigmatic vehicle of the unique viewpoint, 
anamorphic projection, which can in theory be normalized from only one 
place. But as with the mugs, any comfortable perception of the sculptural 
tactility of the Kelly image any correct point of view, in either the 
geometrical or the psychological sense is denied. The usual pairing of 
anamorphism with 'distortion' assumes the security of a proper angle of 
reception in comparison with which all others are inferior, but Tod in 
effect overturns this convention and thus any notion that the Kelly image 
is either right or wrong. What she thereby projects both materially and 
metaphorically in this challenging work is the impossibility of having just 
one stable, guaranteed sense of oneself, of anyone else as subject, of the 
artist as a uniquely privileged disseminator of meaning, or finally of 
the viewer as a changeless point of interpretation. 

Both Tod's reference to Kelly and the technique through which she 
envisions her are themselves art-historical memories. Both parts of this 
citation also take us to a crucial reference point in recent theorizing about 
the construction of the notion of a subject, the psychoanalytic theories of 



44 



Remembering The Subject 

Jacques Lacan. Not only is Kelly herself interested in his work (Pollock, 
162) but, more importantly in this context, Lacan makes the anamorphic 
image of a skull in Holbein's famous The Ambassadors (1533) central to his 
discussion of what he calls the 'gaze'. This thematic is abundantly present 
in Tod's image, where the truncated faces in the upper left and lower 
right as well as that of Kelly look pointedly across and out of the 
image frame. For Lacan, Holbein's Renaissance ambassadors are masters 
of their world, yet across this portrait of them and their knowledge is 
projected something alien and at first indecipherable, a shadow or 'sco- 
toma', a cut in the usually homogeneous field of visuality (Lacan, 85-90). 
Seen from just one point in this visual field, however, this interjected, 
perplexing anamorphism clearly presents itself as a human skull, a 
reminder of death and therefore of the ultimate uncontrollability of 
human affairs. This skull or any such interjection, like the Kelly image in 
Tbd's 'portrait' is an instance of the gaze, that already established and 
active set of perceptual co-ordinates into which any (supposedly individ- 
ual) subject necessarily places himself or herself in the very act of repre- 
sentation (the artist) or beholding (the viewer). Any artist or any subject of 
a portrait is thus already seen by the gaze. As Norman Bryson has it, 
'between retina and world is inserted a screen of signs, a screen consisting 
of all the multiple discourses on vision built into the social arena' (92). As 
he goes on to suggest, this screen 'mortifies sight' (92), since any individu- 
al's vision is always already anticipated and outlived by the gaze. Tod's 
memory of Kelly in anamorphic form ties Approximation to this further 
and impersonal constitution of the subject by the gaze, but at the same 
time the painter's role as an individual subject is not erased because Tod as 
subject also allows this Lacanian memory to obtain in and through her 
picture. The same delicate economy of subjecthood can be seen in Neil 
Wedman's startling Death Ray (1987; Plate 10). 

Wedman's immense and complex drawing articulates in compelling 
and disturbing ways many aspects of the gaze. Across the image from left 
to right travels what he describes as a 'shaft of caustic white light' (1987) 
whose effect is at once somewhat distantly allegorical and violently real. 
This 'death ray' has its source outside the image, somewhere above the 
sculpture of Adam (allegorized as Doubt). It then passes over Eve (who 
represents Certainty as she points to the truth of the written word) and 
intensifies as it immolates what Wedman deems its 'victim'. Hovering 
menacingly above this sacrificed body is a Death Angel or 'Death Dou- 
ble', who is the receiver of the victim's spirit. To the left and right of the 
execution performed by the death ray we see associated tableaux: on the 
left, an allegorical figure of Madness unveiled, and on the right, two 



45 




^ -s 
z 

2Q 



Remembering The Subject 

similarly exposed figures of Crime. Witnessing the entire sacrificial rite is 
an extensive group of virtues, each of whom with the notable exception 
of Hope at the extreme left, who leaves the scene seems to be approach- 
ing the gruesome drama. To the right of Hope, according to Wedman, 
'Justice staggers at the base of the stairs next to a hooded, self-protective 
Temperance, while a knife wielding Charity is restrained by Prudence, 
followed by Fortitude. Finally there is the double image of Faith, a singu- 
lar piety divided into two conveyances.' At the bottom of the image is 
arrayed an eerie collection of quasi-scientific instruments and machines, 
more witnesses (vanitas symbols) to the inevitable passage of life into 
death. All these elements are contained somewhat uncomfortably in a 
memorial space reminiscent of a Christian church. Our gaze into this 
drama its unveiling is allowed by the furled curtain at the left. 

What we see once this veil has been parted is a singularly rich interpre- 
tation of the power of the gaze, the power of vision to create, certainly, but 
also to destroy (the victim on the altar), to turn people to stone (Wedman's 
reflection on the Medusa theme), to compel our attention and also to repel 
us morally. What Wedman terms 'Death Ray Consciousness', a concomi- 
tant of the long-standing fascination with the 'Evil Eye', is a mixture of 
'dread and desire'. He is concerned with this reciprocal power of vision as 
explained by the philosopher Boethius (480-524 A.D.), who wrote that 
'sight is common to all mortals, but whether it results from images 
coming to the eye or from rays sent out to the object of sight is doubtful' 
(1987). The gaze, then and here we can also return to the Lacanian 
context 2 is a bi-directional projection: it can emanate from an artist or 
viewer, but it is also independent. For Lacan especially, as we saw with the 
skull in the Holbein example, this uncontrolled gaze at us is deathly; it 
obliterates the unified subject. Wedman's image of the death ray illustrates 
this deadly power. The subject is projected by the gaze; the gaze can in 
turn be projected by the subject. What we can take from this work is his 
profound reflection on the creation of this volatile subject whether artist 
or viewer through the collusion with the gaze, a collusion acted out in 
Death Ray by the witnesses and enacted by Wedman and his audience in 
viewing this spectacle of horror. 

Wedman's memories are art historical and occult. His vision and tech- 
nique are today anachronistic: he recalls systems of allegory, a papal tomb 
for the victim's pedestal, and, in the face of the figure of Crime, Hogarth's 
depiction of Tom Nero in The Four Stages of Cruelty. His technique 
graphite and linseed oil applied on primed, stretched linen itself gives a 
sense of pastness to his images and is consciously disruptive of any clean 
distinction between drawing and painting. Wedman's melding of his 



47 



Remembering Postmodernism 

sources and inspirations is also not seamless. As we come close to his huge 
drawing, the 4-foot-square sheets of paper devolve into individual sec- 
tions reminiscent of Wedman's copious studies, drawings that are, as John 
Bentley Mays has astutely pointed out in a review of Death Ray, 'a field for 
working out and trying artistic ideas'. 3 In this way these units and the 
work as a whole resemble an archaeological reconstitution reminiscent 
in the context of this book of General Idea's Unveiling of the Cornucopia. 
All these memories function, in his words, as 'social allegory and as social 
self-admonishment for the insoluble predicament'. I want to suggest that 
this 'predicament' is both that of the gaze its power over us and its 
attendant destructiveness and that of postmodernism's complicit cri- 
tique, the impossibility of disengaging 'objectively' from the objects 
under scrutiny. Wedman uses anachronism without any touch of nostal- 
gia; he doesn't return us to a mystery cult but rather mirrors it for us in 
order to force a moral confrontation, to make us define our subjecthood in 
light of the annihilations of the gaze. Just as Perseus employed his mirror- 
like shield to slay the Medusa, whose countenance and Evil Eye could kill 
when looked upon directly, Wedman partially deflects the murderous 
potential of the gaze by reflecting on it historically in Death Ray. We are 
compelled to look at this scene and to recognize our self-definition and 
complicity in the act of looking. 

Like so much reflection on the past, Death Ray is finally oriented 
towards the understanding of the artist and observer as subject in the 
future. If we focus for a moment on Wedman's Angel of Death, we notice 
that he has the highest and most inclusive vantage point of the figures 
within Death Ray. He surveys the enclosed space and its inhabitants at 
what seems the very moment of death, the moment when the victim is 
only partially (though decisively) vaporized by the Death Ray. It is an 
instant of moral judgement, as the relief just below and to the left of the 
angel showing Adam and Eve expelled from the garden would suggest. 
Describing Paul Klee's painting Angelus Novus, Walter Benjamin captures 
the apocalyptic nature of the Death Angel and his relation to the past in a 
manner that powerfully evokes Wedman's work: 

[Klee's image] shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away 
from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his 
mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of 
history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of 
events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon 
wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, 
awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is 
blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence 



48 



Remembering The Subject 

that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels 
him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris 
before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress. (257-8) 

Benjamin's storm could also be likened to the gaze, which travels 
through history, as Wedman shows us. In effect, the angel in Death Ray 
mirrors the gaze just as Perseus mirrored Medusa's countenance while 
keeping his back to her. As Benjamin suggests, this is how subjects must 
'face' their future, propelled by the debris of history and memory, partly 
subject to the gaze they cannot always see but also using its power. 

Wedman's exhibition and drawing called Margery (1990) 4 continue to 
explore the intersection of the gaze, moral responsibility, and the evanes- 
cent nature of the subject. Margery enigmatically and compellingly pic- 
tures a woman confined in a desk-like box with only her arms and head 
free. On both her left and right sit three men, each of whom directs his 
gaze at the woman named Margery. The entire group forms a semi-circle 
with joined hands. In conversation Wedman has said that Margery was a 
noted medium who is here shown conducting a seance in an attempt to 
prove the possibility of the spirit world by escaping from a very confining 
contraption designed by none other than Houdini, who strenuously 
fought against the idea of spiritual transport. Margery herself is three 
times trapped by the gaze: she is physically confined by the overpowering 
conventions of scientific proof that occasioned this experiment, she is 
trapped by the individual stares of the six men attending this seance, and 
she is projected (and subjected) by the gaze of artist and viewer alike. Her 
subjecthood, then, is defined by the co-ordinates of the gaze, co-ordinates 
that Wedman presents not without self-conscious complicity to our 
judgement. 

Marcel Gosselin's whimsical sculptural obelisk entitled The Observatory 
(1986; Plate 11) might at first seem very removed from the concerns of 
Death Ray. Yet what Gosselin constructs is a lighter but no less significant 
rumination on the gaze. The Observatory is very literally a memory 
machine. Since this sculpture is designed to capture the chance appearance 
of a fleck of dust as it crosses a ray of light, its aleatory operations are 
likened by Gosselin to the workings of our memories as we construct our 
own identities by catching, and reflecting upon, certain fragments of 
existence. The principle of the memory chamber is illustrated in Gosse- 
lin's working diagrams for this sculpture, where we see a shaft of light 
entering from the slit in the top of the sculpture. A viewer's gaze is directed 
across this beam by the placement of the T-shaped opening in the side of 
the piece. It is important to know that The Observatory was but one of a 



49 





11 Marcel Gosselin, 
The Observatory (1986) 



Remembering The Subject 

large number of sculptures collected together by Gosselin into what could 
best be described as a dramatic vision of memory's role in the making and 
perceiving of art, his Delta exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 1986. 
As one of these diagrams shows, these sculptures formed part of an 
elaborate fictive world created by 'the man in white' and seen by a 'Visi- 
tor'. Both men's responses to the sculptures are remembered by Gosselin in 
two poetically evocative texts each presented by the author in French 
and English versions one by the Visitor, the other by the man in white, 
who made the sculptures, at least in the material sense. 

The man in white's recollection of The Observatory reads as follows: 

One day, right before my eyes, in a space closed and dark, a space where I 
hid, I saw a floating shape. Infinitely small and brilliant, it spun and 
flipped around in the air when I blew on it. I could see nothing but this 
anonymous shape and the pin hole from which came the light that 
illuminated it, each a star in the depths of my dark space. But this was not, 
like a star, a perfect dot. It was rather like a bright scratch on black paper. 
Dishevelled by its voyages through the wind's folly, it looked like a ruffled 
thread-end discarded because it refused to pass through the eye of a 
needle. 

Within my enclosure, seated before this floating point, my thoughts 
expanded. The ray by itself was invisible, as was the speck of dust. 
Together they were fulfilled, depending one on the other and I on both of 
them. We were three: an eye on the dust in a ray of light an audience 
watching a showman in a spotlight. 

I built a stage for it. A stopover where unknown particles, followers of 
fate, will find a moment of glory, perhaps. 

If only an eye would see. (Delta, 51) 

The Observatory celebrates the positive, enabling work of the gaze: it is a 
'life ray' in this account. But like Wedman, Gosselin also emphasizes how 
the ray constructs its observers' subjecthood, how our chance encounters 
with its activities are constitutive of our own memories. More than Wed- 
man, Gosselin underlines the spatial particularity of memory, how one's 
body must adopt the right attitude in order to see into the observatory. As 
he reports with respect to more recent work, his 'alloying' of materials and 
circumstances helps him to 'contemplate the flow of things from past to 
present', their passage through his own artistic agency ('Statement'). 

Gosselin's Fragments exhibition at Mercer Union in Toronto in the fall of 
1989 exemplifies this tendency in his work. The artist coUected and 
presented an idiosyncratic archive composed of his written thoughts 
(which again accompany the objects, as in Delta) and artefacts found and 
recomposed in his immediate environment. His objects and ideas are at 



51 



Remembering Postmodernism 

once intimate and strange. In the catalogue he writes: 'These pages are 
fragments of my thoughts alloyed with a world I know little about, even 
though we have been collaborators for as long as I can remember. I 
contemplate our assemblages and sometimes, when the winds are right, 
they reveal to me a bit of their mystery.' 5 We may extrapolate from this to 
suggest that memory itself is the observatory, the trap for the particles or 
fragments of experience out of which we build a past and a future. 
Memory, Gosselin believes, is all you have, and The Observatory, like its 
cohorts in Delta and Fragments, seeks to forestall forgetfulness. 

Gosselin's recollection of fragments in an ongoing project of explora- 
tion and subjective definition is anything but an isolated phenomenon in 
postmodern art. It is symptomatic, though inflected with an unusually 
sanguine and almost shamanistic belief in art's therapeutic possibilities. 
Analogous in many ways is Le Musee des Traces (1989) by Montreal artist 
Irene F. Whittome, in which a range of personally significant objects is 
collected and displayed photographically (mostly) in a museum-like space 
that recalls the eighteenth-century Cabinet de Curiosites 6 but that also 
remains open to change through visitors' eyes. More psychological and 
disturbing is the installation Fear of Memory (1990; Plate 12) by the Lon- 
don, Ontario, photographer and filmmaker Wyn Geleynse. 

Fear of Memory is a complex installation comprised of thirteen modified 
'Showbeam' toy projectors mounted on stands and projecting their single 
images onto page-like sheets of glass. Because of the lightness of the 
apparatus, the projected images move slightly, and their tentativeness is 
further heightened by the fact that Geleynse has ground the glass where 
the images appear, giving each picture a soft, blurred quality. Each frag- 
mentary picture is quite banal in itself: we see a hand reading Braille, 
another holding a knife, another caressing a photograph. Entering the 
semi-circular space defined by these projections, however, the viewer 
finds that the fragments trigger memories and associations that at least 
temporarily coalesce into narratives. What Geleynse identifies as two 
types of memory work together here. We freely choose to look at his 
work, to remember, but recollections also arise unbidden. Here lies the 
fear of memory, the inability to forget and the impossibility of controlling 
exactly what will be recalled. 

Geleynse focuses his viewers on the exchange value of images and 
disputes any intimation of an integral meaning. Just as when any of us 
shows a picture of a loved one, for example, to someone else, Fear of 
Memory constructs a social situation in which both artist's and viewer's 
sense of their own subjecthood is constantly redefined mnemonically by 
the activity of framing the fragment, by what is edited out (and by whom) 



52 




12 Wyn Geleynse, 
Fear of Memory (1990; installation view) 



Remembering Postmodernism 

as much as by what is literally visible. In exploring the exchange system of 
memory, Geleynse simultaneously questions the often troubling psychol- 
ogy of remembering, its characteristic projection and editing. 

He has been working in this realm throughout the 1980s. In Portrait of 
My Father (1982), for example, he examines his relationship with his then 
aging father through a comparison of images, the fragile older man and 
the strong young son who takes his place in the piece, both filmically and 
figuratively. We see a large still photo of Geleynse holding a smaller 
'photo' onto which is projected a film-loop image of his father sitting in a 
chair. For whose understanding, whose memory, does the son present the 
father? It is the younger Geleynse who exposes himself psychologically 
by materializing his memories. The same is true in Remembering (1984), 
where a film loop showing a crucial site recalled from Geleynse's 
childhood a small bridge in Rotterdam seems tentative and uncircum- 
stantial compared with the nostalgia it evokes in the artist, a nostalgia 
reinforced by the work's installation on a ledge, the sort of place one 
would place important photos in one's home. Again, he reveals and 
defines his own subjecthood through such recollections. That these frag- 
ments are not in themselves changeless relics from the past, not as Roland 
Barthes romantically construes them simply 'emanation[s] of the 
referent' determined by light (Camera, 80), is argued in another memory 
piece, a reflection on Geleynse's mother called We Never Knew Her Past, 
Than Through Her Photos (1984). Looking into one of a row of five old 
Brownie Hawkeye cameras, we see an image of Geleynse's mother that he 
could not have experienced except through the purposeful recollection of 
a photo, since he wasn't born at the time they were taken; as Barthes 
suggests in writing about a similar experience, 'no anamnesis could ever 
make me glimpse this time' (Camera, 65). Yet Geleynse suggests here that 
memory in fact does construct reality for us (as he has done with his own 
mother's past), that it is all we have and no less real for its mediated quality, 
perhaps especially with respect to a time out of which we are necessarily 
edited yet into which we necessarily project, a time that is our inheritance. 
As in Portrait of My Father, the 'real' photographic process is reversed. The 
son tries to understand himself by re-taking photos that were not about 
him, by refraining and reanimating them. Again, the revelation here is of 
the artist: these are self portraits, as is Fear of Memory in many ways, and 
what Geleynse constantly confronts is both the quirky psychology and 
ethics of memory and its representation. 

Critics of note both in Canada and abroad have identified a fascination 
with technology and media as typical of recent Canadian art. Bruce 
Ferguson (in the catalogue On Track: An Exhibition of Art in Technology that 



54 



Remembering The Subject 

was part of the Olympic Arts Festival held in Calgary in 1988) cites 
technology as a 'predominant value' (3) and goes on to discuss the work of 
two artists included in this book, Geleynse and Barbara Steinman. The 
Cologne art critic Noemi Smolik claims in a review of Canadian art at the 

1986 Cologne International Art Market that an 'intense preoccupation 
with mass communications methods' is one of three features that distin- 
guish contemporary Canadian art (the other two are the predominance of 
women artists and themes and the continuing importance of landscape 
imagery [93]). These observations can readily be attested in a general 
sense, and even if we narrow down the concerns for technology and mass 
communications to those mnemic elements directed towards an investi- 
gation of the nature of the subject, important examples come to mind. We 
have already seen Geleynse's concern for the technologies of image pro- 
duction as well as Murray Favro's seminal Van Gogh's Room, a work that 
Geleynse acknowledges as a major influence. In video, Tom Sherman's 

1987 Exclusive Memory establishes what Peggy Gale has aptly called 'a 
veritable ethics of memory' (24). In this 182-minute tape, we see Sherman 
discoursing on a variety of themes. He seems to be addressing the viewer, 
but the narrative reveals that he directs his speech to a 'robot', an unseen 
(video) machine without memory (which is nonetheless able to record) 
that he is trying to teach. Are we as viewers also posited as forgetful 
machines who must have our memories our sense of ourselves as exist- 
ing over time constantly restored? Looking back to Canadian art of the 
1970s, we can see that memory and technologies (though not always the 
most advanced) were brought together to define the subject in Jack 
Chambers's ground-breaking film The Hart of London (1968-70) in 
which he attempts to exorcise his feelings for London, Ontario and in 
Ian Carr-Harris's Nancy Higginson, 1949- (1972), to cite only two promi- 
nent cases. Carr-Harris 'defines' this woman through a primitive mem- 
ory system, the card catalogue, a textual archive in which the photo of 
Higginson seems out of place, dominated as it (and so much of our lives) is 
by language. Of course this emphasis on the nature of subjecthood is not 
uniquely Canadian think of American Cindy Sherman's posed 'self 
portraits, which investigate conventionalized possibilities of the feminine, 
or French photographer Christian Boltanski's various 'monuments', 
which collect photos and other memorabilia into powerfully evocative 
interrogations of the status of the past but because of its prevalence here 
and the penchant of technologies and media to control memory and the 
subjects they address/define, it should not be surprising that so many 
memory works have this focal point. 

One of the most overt memory works recently produced in Canada 



55 



Remembering Postmodernism 

also engages with the construction of the subject: Janice Gurney's Screen 
(1986; Plate 13). Out from the middle of its three panels a young woman 
holding an infant stares imploringly. She is framed on the left and right by 
two out-of-focus images across which a text, from a poem by Marguerite 
Duras called 'The Lover', runs in red letters. This text itself frames memo- 
ries, but they are difficult to decipher, since if we read the words on the left 
panel, for example, the text remains fragmentary: 

At the time she'd 
thirty-eight. And the 
ten. And now, when 
she's sixteen. 

We realize even in reading this way that time has elapsed, that we are in the 
presence of someone's recollection. But in order for this text to read more 
'normally', we must join it to the lines on the right: 

At that time she'd / time she'd just turned 
thirty-eight. And the / And the child was 
ten. And now, when / now, when she remembers 
she's sixteen. / she's sixteen. 

Without Gurney's fragmentation, this recollection would read: 

At that time she'd just turned 
thirty-eight. And the child was 
ten. And now, when she remembers 
she's sixteen. 

The ambiguity of this narration, however, is not at all decreased by such 
manipulations. It is very difficult to say who is speaking, whose memory 
this is, especially when we add to the text the important fact that we must 
read it literally over the bodies of the two figures in the central panel, thus 
somehow applying the text to one or both of them. We could understand 
the memory to belong to the woman holding the baby as she looks back at 
herself at age thirty-eight, her child now ten. But if we define these two 
people this way, the numbers don't add up: if the child is ten and the 
woman thirty-eight, the woman bore her baby at age twenty-eight, not 
'sixteen', as the next line seems to suggest. Perhaps the 'she's sixteen' refers 
not to the older woman but to the child at another age. But we don't and 
can't know. In fact, we don't even know the gender of the child. 

Screen projects both the power and the instability of memory. It is only 
through recollection that we can have a self either past or present, yet this 
self is anything but unitary, as the construction of this work makes clear. 



56 



Remembering Postmodernism 

Gurney presents the selves of the text at various ages, and she shows us 
two people. These figures, however, are not necessarily the subjects of the 
text, since they are reproductions of a still from Erich von Stroheim's film 
Foolish Wives. The filmic, kinetic quality of Screen is doubled by the title (as 
in movie screen) and by its physical separation into 'frames', as well as by 
this historical allusion. And there are many doublings of material. The 
film clip is reproduced as a photostat, for example, and the border at the 
bottom (where we might expect to find a text) is a photographic reproduc- 
tion of canvas, the painter's traditional support. Finally, Gurney 's pur- 
poseful layering of materials with plexiglass on top causes us to see 
reflections of ourselves and our immediate context. Viewers' memories 
('reflections') are thus caught in the screen too. Very likely, if we are at all 
influenced by Gurney 's text, we will project what Freud calls 'screen 
memories', a significant type of 'recollection . . . whose value lies in the 
fact that it represents in the memory impressions and thoughts of a later 
date' that are nonetheless attributed to childhood (Freud, 'Screen Memo- 
ries', 123). As Freud sees it, these memories are not actually of childhood 
experiences, but the rememberer thinks they are. The notion of screen 
memory thus underlines the importance of childhood as a mnemic locale 
(since we typically feel that these supposedly early memories are funda- 
mental, as I have already suggested with respect to Geleynse's Remember- 
ing) and also the fact that memory can happen only in a subject's present. 
In Gurney 's text, a woman recalls when 'she's sixteen': but who was 
sixteen? To whom do these childhood memories belong? The woman in 
the film clip looks sixteen, but if this subject, this 'she', is now the focus, 
Screen actually generates more gaps that it fills. The enigmatic yet essential 
processes of forming a subject are thematized throughout Gurney 's work, 
as we will see further in Chapter III. 

With Freud now figuring in our discussion of this work, it is appropri- 
ate to return to memory's essential double, forgetting, and to one of its 
chief mechanisms in Freudian psychoanalysis, repression. I want to dis- 
cuss this notion in the context of a Freudian idea that seems highly 
applicable to Screen's exploration of subjecthood and to the concern for 
related issues in Alice Mansell's Manoeuvre (1986; Plate 14) and in Basel 
(1986; Plate 15) by Angela Grauerholz: the unheimliche, the 'uncanny'. 
Freud's 1919 essay on the phenomenon of the uncanny turns on the 
proposition that these strange and frightening experiences result from 
confrontations not with the unfamiliar as common sense might 
suggest but with the return of explicitly familiar 'childhood' experi- 
ences that have been repressed. The uncanny, he argues, is 'nothing new or 
alien, but something which is familiar and old-established in the mind and 



58 




I II 




14 Alice Mansell, 
Manoeuvre (1986) 



Remembering Postmodernism 

which has become alienated from it only through the process of repres- 
sion' ('Uncanny', 363-4). I want to suggest that the uncanny is thus 
closely related to screen memories, since both deal with memories attrib- 
uted to childhood that interject themselves at a later time. One source of 
the uncanny for Freud was the experience of what he called the double, 
and as we have seen, doubling is screened on many planes by Gurney. 
Citing Otto Rank's 1914 study of the double, Freud claims that the 
following experiences can occasion the uncanny: 'the connections which 
the "double" has with reflections in mirrors, with shadows, with guardian 
spirits, with the belief in the soul and with the fear of death' ('Uncanny', 
356). Just as repression a species of forgetting defends the psyche in 
Freud's thinking, so too he sees the phenomenon of doubling as protec- 
tive of the formation of the subject. Doubling, he claims in a rather 
obscure passage, is 'an urge towards defence which has caused the ego to 
project . . . material outward as something foreign to itself (358)., Here 
we have the pattern of the screen memory, the projection of a later experi- 
ence onto childhood. The result, as we see in Screen, is an uncanny dou- 
bling, a doubling ultimately of different yet continuous subjects over time 
('she' was thirty-eight and sixteen) that is signalled in this work by the 
repetition of words as we read from left to right across the woman and 
child. Freud's repressed content does indeed return through memory, but 
it is never finally resolved in Gurney's typically postmodern exploration 
of the multivalent subject(s) in Screen. 

Alice Mansell's Manoeuvre plays with notions of doubling and the 
defamiliarization of the commonplace in ways that can also be described 
as uncanny. The familiarity of each element in this work is crucial to 
Mansell's exploration of her own sense of subjecthood and place, her own 
inheritance. The prairie landscape with its part natural, part cultural earth 
mound, the horse, the fence, the naked male torso as a classical image of 
aesthetic beauty, the pond, the candles individually, none of these mem- 
ories is odd or troubling. Yet their combination and repetition has an 
unsettling effect. It appears that the man is trying to lead the horse into the 
circle of fire that the candles form, and that the horse resists. In addition, 
the horse and man seem somehow generic, especially when we look to 
their doubled reflections in the foreground, which are indistinct and 
decapitated. Two other types of doubling illuminate what thus turns out 
to be the allegory itself a form of repetition that Mansell paints. Her 
very personal reflections on her western background are combined with a 
conscious allusion to Jacques Louis David's Oath oftheHoratii (1784), since 
she has used (and partially diffused by reversing the image and easing its 
corporeal tension) his dramatic and distinctly masculine image of oath- 



60 



Remembering The Subject 

taking to visualize the man leading the horse. In David's famous canvas, 
the three Horatii brothers raise their arms and bring their weapons 
together in a focused and charged moment of mental and physical resolve, 
while the members of the contrasting group of women to their extreme 
right sink physically into grief. Mansell's male figure is a much-altered 
reflection of and on David's image of bellicose comradery. He tries but 
seems unable to lead the horse, somewhat like the charioteer (Reason) in 
Plato's Phaedms, who has difficulty controlling his horses (Passion). Just as 
the pond in this image partially reflects yet alters and suggests further 
ambiguities about its 'originals', Mansell's reference to David is not a 
reverential memorial. Her citational doubling screens questions about the 
nature of feminine subjects in general as they are constructed by and 
related to art's own past over images of individual subjectivity. 

The title is itself a bilingual pun that directs us to the imperatives of 
man's work (oeuvre) in art. We can also hear a reference to painting and its 
purportedly masculinist traditions in the layering of implication sug- 
gested by the cross-lingual homonymity of 'mam', French for 'hand', and 
'oeuvre': the hand's work, painting. The uncanniness pictured by this work 
offers resistance to what Mansell envisions as the masculinist control of 
painting. She effectively refuses the conventions of traditional painting in 
order to explore her own subjecthood and to speculate on the nature of 
femininity in art practice. 

Montreal artist Angela Grauerholz's photograph Basel (Plate 15) 
presents another instance of the uncanny, of familiar sights like a back 
street and rushing water combined to form an improbable image with the 
potential to unsettle us. This odd event is captured in such an unobtrusive 
and calm way as to seem almost whimsical. How can so much water be in 
what seems like the wrong place, and in Switzerland? What is potentially 
frightening is not the water itself but the ability of the camera to make it 
look so beautiful, to normalize it. And who is the subject or viewer behind 
the lens, who is the normalizer? Basel captures two elusive qualities of 
memory that precipitate such questions, its 'aura', and its 'atmosphere' 
(Casey, 76-8), and both of these aspects work against the still common 
opinion that a photograph is simply a reminder of a circumscribed, past 
event. 

When we remember, our recollection is not encased in an impermeable, 
clean-edged frame. As I suggested with respect to Wyn Geleynse's instal- 
lations, it runs out into other memories and imaginings: the aura, accor- 
ding to Casey's insightful phenomenological account, is that which a 
memory dissolves into (77), what we might call its ambient context. The 
qualities of an aura will thus depend entirely on each instance of recall and 



61 




15 Angela Grauerholz, 
Basel (1986) 



Remembering The Subject 

upon each rememberer. In Basel, the enigmatic image diffuses into circum- 
stances that could explain the image and that inevitably go beyond its 
material edges. We want to know who took the picture and why, in order 
to fix its meaning. The uncanniness of this photograph provides this 
quality of aura, but it denies us an association, a source for the image. We 
are thrown back to what the photograph presents visually, the 'atmo- 
sphere . . . experienced as pervading the presentation itself (Casey, 78). 
How can we define this atmosphere? The softness of the forms resulting 
from Grauerholz's long exposure time seems at first to work against what 
we realize is a turbulent rush of water. But what the passing water and 
exposure have in common is duration, existence over time, and duration at 
least partially infuses the image. Grauerholz has managed the improbable 
(uncanny) feat of showing time in space, and I would like to suggest that 
this presentation of the seemingly unpresentable through a memory 
image is a contemporary replication of what is at best a distant recollection 
for some artists today, the category of the sublime. 

Basel's mnemonic atmosphere which is to say, the mode of its presen- 
tation, its ability to present that which seems unpresentable, not the object 
or event shown is sublime. In a sense this picture recalls the historical 
sublime by combining potential danger with aesthetic control, but we do 
not see the typical objects of the sublime as found in eighteenth- and 
nineteenth-century paintings, like mountains, storms, or the sea in its 
vastness. To use Peter de Bella's distinction, Grauerholz's is not so much a 
discourse on the sublime its historical manifestations as a discourse of 
the sublime, 'which produces, from within itself, what is habitually 
termed the category of the sublime and in doing so ... becomes a self- 
transforming discourse' (12). But what is the status today of a category 
that so completely defines itself by mastery, the sublime's (and art's) 
mastery of the inexplicable and unrepresentable? Even though Basel gen- 
erates references to the sublime in its play with time, its sublime atmo- 
sphere is decidedly postmodern, which may well imply as Chantal 
Pontbriand has hinted (16) that it is an anti-sublime. Jean-Francois 
Lyotard's pronouncement on the recent rekindling of interest in the sub- 
lime applies well to Basel. 'The postmodern', he writes, 'would be that 
which . . . searches for new presentations, not in order to enjoy them but 
in order to impart a stronger sense of the unpresentable' (81). Similarly, the 
postmodern subject(s) implied but not defined in this photograph find 
evanescent subjecthood in the constantly renewed processes of memory 
work. 

Other photographs by Grauerholz memorialize while questioning the 
sublime and, by implication, a contemporary photographer's relation to 



63 



Remembering Postmodernism 

this painterly and literary tradition. In 1987, two black and white images 
referred to icons of the sublime: Mountain to one of its prime exemplars in 
nature, and Landscape with its Vanitas tree stump to the inevitable pas- 
sage of time and regenerative power of nature so often thematized in 
Dutch seventeenth-century landscapes. Grauerholz reaches again for the 
generic with Clouds (1988), a sepia photograph taken into the light in 
which the vastness and incomprehensibility of the sky is dramatized. 7 
Memories of the sublime are so common a site for the redefinition of the 
contemporary artist-as-subject that they are, I believe, becoming a genre. 
Paterson Ewen's powerful 'phenomenascapes' recall Turner; Wanda 
Koop's vast images from the mid-1980s like Airplane (1983) present 
very personal feelings and recollections on an overpowering scale, and 
Jocelyn Gasse's sculpture entitled Composition No. 104 (1986) presents 
mysterious ascending volumes reminiscent of another of the historical 
sublime's central motifs, the waterfall. 8 

The two remaining works to be examined in this chapter explore the 
interrelationships among memory, time, space, and the subject's identity 
through the technologies made available in large installations. Memory, 
by definition, involves time, and the interconnections between these two 
categories with regard to their spatialization are revealed tellingly by 
Sylvie Belanger's Essai de Synthese (1990; Plate 16). As her title suggests, 
Belanger's work is highly textual, not just in the sense that, like so many 
of the works here, it displays the written word, but in the broader sense 
that whatever 'reality' we can know can only be known in a mediated 
way in this context, through memory. The dark green space we enter in 
this work (the first time Belanger has essayed the use of colour on this 
scale) is a technologically filtered and orchestrated reflection of a sacred 
space. The green recalls Belanger's discovery of painted columns Jn a 
Dutch church and the windows remind us of gothic interiors. Architec- 
tural details thus bespeak the past, but it is a past screened by the artist's 
memory, since Dutch church interiors are not all green and gothic win- 
dows don't have this exact appearance or scale. Yet again, we have entered 
a memory space where the past is brought forward. 

The six windows frame light boxes whose transparencies are like 
stained glass. What we see, however, are split images double 
memories of cities, a view on top and a plan below. We could never have 
these views out the windows; the information is beamed in. Each window 
places the viewer corporeally 'you are here' with a legend tying plan to 
view. 'Vet each window is different. To compound the malleability of 
memory that is presented, none of the images of cities we see is 'real': each 
has been taken from a historical document and regenerated by a computer. 



64 




16SylvieBelanger, 
one element from Essai de Synthese (1990) 



Remembering Postmodernism 

We do not know where we are at all, and Belanger's work suggests that 
maps' legends are never as useful as they claim to be. We do know that we 
are located spatially as well as temporally, though, since the letters she uses 
to link the upper and lower images in each window together spell 
S.P.A.C.E. The duration necessary to perceive this text, however, 
reinscribes the importance of time in memory. What Belanger describes as 
the 'collapse of traditional temporal structures of past, present, and future' 
(1988) is also experienced as we look at the video screen that stares 
unexpectedly since we have just oriented ourselves to the 'Medieval' 
light coming in through the windows up at us from the floor. It is 
located in a mandala engraved on slate and as such recollects the labyrinth 
at Chartres cathedral, the most famous instance of Gothic. Such laby- 
rinths frequently held at their centres some identification of the cathedral's 
author (s), but this information is missing at Chartres (what was likely a 
bronze plaque is gone). What the Essai substitutes for this identification is 
a short video loop. Modern technology recalls but decentres any stable 
authorship, subjecthood, and authority. 

The loop again emphasizes temporality. If we think of it as a single eye, 
the image is at first unfocused. Fragments seem to fly towards the six 
apertures, suggesting a competition between sources of light and infor- 
mation. But as the video's light intensifies, a textual image (the past itself?) 
begins to gel, just as the spatial subject is localized and then moves on. 
Eventually we are able to read the following words by French thinker Paul 
Virilio as they scroll by: 

We've passed from 

the extended time of 

centuries and from 

the chronology of 

history to a time 

that will continue 

to grow ever more 

intensive: we live 

in a world of 

intensely tiny units 

of time. The real world 

and our image of the 

world no longer 

coincide. 

This text then moves off into deep space in a block (playfully) reminiscent 
of the famous prologues to the Star Wars movies. 



66 



Remembering The Subject 

Technology seems to tell us that time is changing, that we can no longer 
be assured of its continuity in spite of the growing intensity of the tempo- 
ral in our lives. The 'intensely tiny units' are focused in and by each 
viewer/rememberer. This is an existential time, not the blithely purposive 
teleological time of 'real' history. We must and do place ourselves in time, 
but not securely. The Essai in concert with Belanger's previous work, 
like the installation Triptych (1988), and with General Idea's Unveiling 
(Plate 2) challenges the verities of archaeological or art-historical 'dig- 
ging' by reconfiguring technologically the cities we see through the win- 
dows. The past is here, just as it is in the gothic forms that surround us, but 
it is a projected past, a past that constantly reforms and is in turn 
reformed by its subjects. 

Vern Hume's Lamented Moments/Desired Objects (1988; Plate 17) presents 
us with a space very different from that of the Essai: a domestic space, a 
living room in which we are encouraged to reflect on childhood experi- 
ences and the modes of their conveyance from the past into the present. A 
comfortable chair invites us to watch the video in which Hume inge- 
niously constructs a sense of self though not necessarily an 
autobiography from fragments of home movies of his own childhood, 
pieces that are crucially reinforced and questioned by the other elements in 
his installation. He is fascinated by how we as subjects are 'fixed' by these 
images and the sounds and narration that accompany them, and by how 
these definitions are simultaneously unrepresentative of our sense of 
self how, for example, the home movies show people 'perpetually on 
holiday'. 9 The reification characteristic even of these moving images is 
duplicated by the more literally 'fixed' pictures (stills) that hang as remind- 
ers around the living room. The text provided by Hume is another point 
of reference, another memory frame, as is the child's wading pool with its 
attendant projected texts, taken from the video's narration. Unlike the 
uncanny images we have just considered, Lamented Moments/Desired Objects 
is decidedly homelike, purposefully familiar. We are in a sense put inside a 
life, inside a network of memory with its rich, mnemonic intricacy. We 
can see these memories, hear them, and feel their textures. Hume allows us 
to understand memory's work phenomenologically, to appreciate the 
multifarious ways in which l we are what we remember ourselves to be' (Casey, 
290). 

The range of technologies operating in this piece mimics the variety of 
mnemonic sources with which we work to inscribe and reinscribe our 
sense of self. The visual is of course crucial, and in what we might call the 
prologue to the video, a short sequence that runs before the title appears, 
Hume's narrator describes a visual scene that is 'fixed', which 'never 



67 




17 VernHume, 
Lamented Moments/Desired Objects (1988; installation view) 



Remembering The Subject 

changes'. It is a specular, mnemonic anchor somewhere in the past. His 
'archival' family movies provide the initial triggers for these recollections, 
but the return is never simply to a past that is distinct from the present. 
Hume intermixes old footage from his family with newly-shot images of 
these memories, thus literalizing and envisioning the process of overlay 
the constant revision of memories as they are replayed that typifies 
recall. The narrator remarks on the peculiarity of 'glances back with 
foreknowledge', of 'a conscious gaze directed back', or in a phrase that 
captures the paradoxical temporal orientation of memory of being 
'future voyeurs in their own past'. Whose gaze is this? Sometimes it can be 
identified as 'myself returning my own gaze', a match between the 
younger and older Hume, perhaps. But more often there are gaps, strange 
inconsistencies that make the remembering of a subject elusive, if none- 
theless necessary. 

This elusiveness is most noticeable in the non-visual memories so 
brilliantly captured in this work. The soundtrack is replete with aural 
recollections footsteps on gravel, for instance that betoken with their 
cadence and purposefulness the presence of a person. Recalling a fleeting 
experience of walking onto grass in bare feet, the narrator reports that 
'cool feet sent shivers up my spine. There are no shots of this.' Visual cues, 
technological supports, are not directly responsible for this type of body 
memory. Nor is the visual central to what we might call textual, narrated 
memories, the ones that Hume shows to be the most disembodied, the 
most foreign, even though we are told that the past they describe is 'ours'. 
Just after the first fleeting image of the wedding appears on the screen (an 
image that is fixed for us in the stills on the wall), the speaker gently 
intones: 'Events forgotten, now images, saved. Evidence of the real past, 
now a fiction narrated as disconnected stories from another's life.' These 
are the memories in which others tell us how we were, tell for us. They are 
communal screen memories in the Freudian sense, since other adults have 
them^br us, in our childhood. 'I participate in this scene,' the narrator 
muses, 'but I have no real memory of it.' 

What, then, constitutes a 'real' memory and a 'real' past? The evidence 
of photography moving or still has to be reckoned with, but it isn't 
infallible. Lamented Moments/Desired Objects underlines with the slippages 
between the different modes of recall the undecidability characteristic of 
memory. The voice we hear doesn't always describe the scenes we watch. 
At one point right after we hear about the shivers caused by the cool 
grass the image breaks down completely for a few seconds, ^et Hume's 
title helps us to negotiate the enigmas of memory that he enacts. The 
fragmentary nature of all aspects of the installation suggests that 



69 



Remembering Postmodernism 

'moments' of what memory makes past are all we have. Because of this 
manifest incompleteness, we are frequently nostalgic for the sense of a 
whole past (and therefore present) that seems to be promised by the 
missing information held, we hope, in the interstices between recollec- 
tions. As Plato claims in the first epigraph to this chapter, desire leads us 
back, desire for history, for continuity, for a stable subjecthood. But what 
we have a postmodern artist might respond is the process of memory; 
images are 'fixed', but only to be revised constantly. 

Hume's project at first seems to be one of self- absorption, but his 
scrupulous avoidance of autobiography even while he uses material 
from his own memories and those recorded by his family alerts us to a 
more extensive purpose. Each viewer is (supposed to be) inspired by what 
amounts to a focused recollection of subject-construction through mem- 
ory to replay his or her own past. As Lamented Moments/Desired Objects 
illustrates, this past cannot be merely individual; memories are not in any 
simple sense 'ours'. And this collective quality is, for Hume, the key to a 
sense of subjecthood on a more regional scale. Writing about the cultural 
marginalization of western Canada, he argues that 'there has been no 
collective memory to keep alive the knowledge and experience [that 
connect] the present to the past. A fracture, a loss of memory and history, 
has occurred' (6). His remedy for this amnesia is not to propose total recall 
through rnnemic introspection. Forgetting is a crucial part of what we 
remember. What he seeks instead and I think this work represents the 
beginning of an answer is the ability to place 'identity', to find and recast 
the continuity among the memories. 'To exist and continue, a community 
must be able to recognize itself, thus constructing its identity rather than 
accepting the identity imposed from outside' (6). As an exploration of the 
personal dimensions of this recognition, Lamented Moments/Desired Objects 
is a step towards a more sweeping projection of communal recollection 
and action. 

If memory and its correlatives, forgetting and repression, can be under- 
stood as processes and even as locales through and in which the nature of 
the subject is continually forged in the contemporary Canadian art we 
have been considering, then we need to ask in what ways this subjecthood 
should be called postmodern. Clearly, earlier artists and discourses about 
art have challenged the humanist notion of a unified and self-transparent 
subject as the source of creativity. The aleatory experiments of Hans Arp 
within the Dada context would be one example. But not until much more 
recently has there been such a sustained scepticism, both within and 
without strictly artistic contexts, about the subject-as-artist. Michel 



70 



Remembering The Subject 

Foucault has been responsible for much of this de-centring. The challenge 
he outlined in The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969) remains with us: 

instead of referring back to the synthesis or the unifying function of a 
subject, the various enunciative modalities manifest his dispersion. To the 
various statuses, the various sites, the various positions that he can occupy 
or be given when making a discourse. To the discontinuity of the planes 
from which he speaks. And if these planes are linked by a system of 
relations, this system is not established by the synthetic activity of a 
consciousness identical with itself, dumb and anterior to all speech, but by 
the specificity of a discursive practice. . . . it must now be recognized that 
it is neither by recourse to a transcendental subject nor by recourse to a 
psychological subjectivity that the regulation of [the subject's] enuncia- 
tions should be defined. (54-5) 

The memory works with which we have been engaged with what I 
hope is an appropriate specificity do indeed question the subject in just 
these ways; they are parallel enactments (not effects) of what Foucault has 
himself practised in his studies of Western subjecthood. What we witness 
in these works, however, is not only the decomposition of the conven- 
tional subject but also its reconstitution as a (temporary) locus of mean- 
ing, creative inspiration, and action. I have suggested that there is in the 
postmodern works we are examining very little nostalgia for past conven- 
tions, but equally, that there are successful attempts to remember a new 
sort of subject, not one that sees himself or herself as transcendent, 
perdurable, or particularly powerful, but one who nonetheless tries to 
enact critique through art. There is a danger in postmodern and poststruc- 
tural thinking of producing what Paul Smith construes as a 'purely theoreti- 
cal "subject", removed from the political and ethical realities' of what he 
aptly calls 'agency' (xxix). 'Vet there is also a growing awareness that a 
provisional agent is necessary if any critique of society is to be effectual. 
Feminist analyses of culture and identity have been at the forefront of this 
change. As Hutcheon puts it, 'feminist theory and art ... know they 
must first inscribe female subjectivity before they can contest it' (226). In 
the final chapter, I want to test my allegation that this positing of social 
and political agency through what has, with respect to Foucault's work, 
been called 'counter-memory' is a major facet of postmodern practice in 
the Canadian visual arts. 



71 



Remembering Postmodernism 

NOTES 

'On the representation of self in Tod's earlier work, see Karen Bernard, 'Ironing 
Out the Differences: Female Iconography in the Paintings of Joanne Tod', in 
Linda Hutcheon, ed., Essays in Canadian Irony 2 (March 1989), 1-9, and Bruce 
Grenville, The Allegorical Impulse in Recent Canadian Painting (Kingston: Agnes 
Etherington Art Centre, 1985), 30. 

2 Lacan briefly discusses the phenomenon of the evil eye. See The Four Fundamen- 
tal Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, 115. 

3 'Bold Reminders of the Painter's Power', Globe and Mail, 30 Jan. 1990: A13. 

4 Diane Farris Gallery, Vancouver, 24 March-11 April 1990. 

^Fragments (Toronto: Mercer Union, 1989), n.p. 

6 As Peggy Gale has noted in 'At the Silent Centre', Canadian Art Fall 1989: 92. 

7 On this image, see Chantal Pontbriand, 'A Canadian Portfolio: Tunnel of Light', 
Canadian Art, Winter 1988: 66-9. 

8 On Gasse, see Cyril Reade, 'Restructuring Landscape', C 22, June 1989: 63. 
Quotations are from the narration to Lamented Moments/Desired Objects. 



72 



III. REMEMBERING SOCIETY 



'Any philosopher who deploys the concept of an image in his account 

of memory is bound to try to explain how we can tell (if we can) that an 

image we have now is related to the past. . . . How do we know that 

an image does not relate to the future, rather than the past?' 

Mary Warnock, Memory, 1 6 



'Memory . . . does not resuscitate a past which had been present; 

it engages the future.' 
Jacques Derrida, Memo/res for Paul de Man, 5O 



The final works to be considered here are immersed in memories that will 
be familiar from our discussions in the first two chapters recollections of 
art's history and of the subject but each moves in its own way towards 
an explicitly social and frequently more specifically political context for 
that which it images. My claim is that these commitments help us to see 
the profound future orientation of postmodern memory, its desire to 
intervene constructively to effect social and political change. Mary 
Warnock argues that any such expectations are more the province of 
imagination than of memory (16), and of course memory and the imagi- 
nation are especially closely linked when we speak of artistic productions. 
The paradoxes of temporality notwithstanding, however, the works in 
this chapter demonstrate that the future is frequently and effectively pro- 
jected in mnemic terms. If we are to evaluate postmodern artistic practice 



73 




18 Janice Gurney, 
The Damage is Done (1986) 



Remembering Society 

in this country, we must take into account its positive (not to say neo- 
conservatively 'affirmative') self-image. 

Janice Gurney's The Damage is Done (1986; Plate 18) provides an excel- 
lent example through which to consider the mutual infiltration of art- 
historical recall, the construction of a subject as source for a work, and the 
social and political ramifications of these memories. This complex 
painting or should we call it an assemblage? has lost none of its ability 
to shock its viewers into reflections on the notion of artistic ownership (by 
the artist and commercially), of a work's 'integrity', and of claims to 
originality in light of which the term 'appropriation' can assume damning 
connotations. These and related issues are as topical in 1990 as they were in 
1986, despite Gurney's attempts (with this and many other works in 
which she employs another artist's image as a 'support', like Portrait of Me 
as My Grandmother's Faults (1982), using an Andy Patton canvas, or WOi 
Details from 'Genre' (1988), which works on a painting by Will Gorlitz 
called 'Genre') to have us re-examine the premises according to which we 
might feel distress at her actions. Her art-historical reflection is literalized 
by the underlying layer of this work, which is (or should we say 'was'?) a 
painting by Joanne Tod called The Upper Room. Gurney asked Tod for a 
support of the right size, without specifying what might be on it, and then 
proceeded to enact on this surface what memory itself always effects 
(though usually less materially): change. We should remember that Tod's 
image itself cites a once-potent moment of art's history and radically re- 
contextualizes it, since she has reproduced the famous Saltzman image of 
Christ in the background of her boardroom scene. Although Gurney and 
Tod are friends and Tod was consulted initially, The Damage is Done is no 
more a collaborative work than was Tod's 'original'. On top of what is 
already a double art-historical appropriation, Gurney has attached three 
panels. Those on the left and right are 'actual' nineteenth-century land- 
scapes that she found and bought in a Vancouver antique store. The centre 
panel was executed by Gurney and frames the not unambiguous title: 
'The Damage is Done'. 

Gurney's physical layering reminds us of the veils we look through 
and that look back in Screen, even though she understands these two 
pieces to represent somewhat different paths in her career, the physical and 
potentially political with The Damage is Done, and the photographic with 
Screen, which focuses more on the nature of the subject. Yet both works 
investigate the status of originality, the putative uniqueness of artistic 
images the von Stroheim clip and the Tod painting and the sense in 
which an artist is an origin for a work. Memory is in both cases the rubric 
for this research. Just as it appears that there is no essential, original subject 



75 



Remembering Postmodernism 

in Screen, so too The Damage is Done makes it impossible for us to find 
either an essential 'work within its layers or an essential artist. Each poten- 
tial source is doubled and re-doubled: there are at least four 'signature' 
works of art here. If we work back spatially, we have the anonymous 
landscapes (which because of their damaged state appear without signa- 
tures but which have been valued as art in the antique shop, by the person 
who sold them, the person who painted them, and by Gurney herself), the 
Tod painting, the Saltzman Christ, and the anonymous portrait to the 
right, which is Tod's but not Tod's. Then there is the conglomerate called 
The Damage is Done, which significantly Gurney doesn't sign. This spa- 
tial, temporal, and ultimately philosophical regress could be continued, 
since the nineteenth-century landscapes are very much in the style of 
earlier British and European views, which themselves of course are 
indebted to seventeenth-century Dutch models in particular. 

Though I want to argue that damage is done mostly to the privileging 
notions of originality and intentionality, Gurney 's wilful use of Tod's 
canvas and the landscapes demands that we read the title again. Tod's 
work is quite graphically defaced especially when we look at its right- 
hand side, where the man's head is blocked by the landscape panel. Physi- 
cal damage is done as the three panels are attached, and most importantly 
to most viewers, the 'integrity' of the underlying work is impinged upon. 
The latter issue, with all its emotional and legal overtones, has been 
discussed by Lawrence Alexander in an article tellingly entitled 'Moral 
Rights and the Visual Artist'. Alexander examines, in light of several 
contemporary examples, the pending legislation designed to protect art- 
ists and their work. 'With a painting, sculpture, or engraving,' he writes, 
'integrity is treated as the integrity of the work itself; any modification of 
such a work violates the right of integrity' (16). Alexander condones this 
definition, and there is little doubt that many apparent defamations of 
works would be subject to redress under these terms. Since Alexander's 
article reproduces The Damage is Done prominently at its outset, we seem 
to be asked to consider this 'case'. But curiously, the author doesn't 
mention the work at all, perhaps because it would prove too difficult a test 
for his would-be law of integrity. 

Alexander claims that 'in most cases, it is impossible to separate the 
personality of the creator from the object she has created, so [defamations 
of various sorts] . . . constitute a direct and personal assault on the integ- 
rity and reputation of the individual involved' (14). This statement has the 
'correct' political ring, but it assumes much of what The Damage is Done 
contests with its overlapping memories. Who is 'the individual involved' 
when we reflect on the unstable postmodern subject? What is 'the object? 



76 



Remembering Society 

These are not the merely 'theoretical' quibbles that Paul Smith warns 
against, since if Alexander's law were enacted, Gurney would be guilty of 
violating integrity though it becomes quite impossible to say whose, 
since we would then become trapped in the infinite regress of originality 
relayed above. In these complexities, we can perceive the social and politi- 
cal implications of The Damage is Done. 

'Damage', as Gurney here presents it, is not entirely negative nor 
avoidable. As a re-using, a recontextualizing, her version of damage is 
nothing other than the process of memory itself, a process without 
which art cannot exist. Works 'damaged' in this way maintain their 
sentimental and economic value, as the scarred yet preserved landscapes 
suggest, and as we saw with The Unveiling of the Cornucopia (Plate 2). And 
The Damage is Done dramatizes the productive potential of such reconsti- 
tutions of images. By partially concealing the boardroom scene with 
scarred landscapes, Gurney takes our memories in another direction, 
towards environmental concerns (also an issue for Tod). The self- 
satisfied men in the picture seem to have made a decision, one that is 
sanctioned not only by a predecessor or colleague whose image hangs 
behind them but also by Christ, through the inclusion of his image. 
Could this decision in some way impinge upon the sort of pastoral 
scenes of nature to which damage has already been done? The Damage 
is Done' is a clear and by implication irrevocable statement about the 
past. By memorializing and destabilizing the past's referents, however, 
Gurney is able to speak to our collective futures. 

Robert Wiens's 1986 work The Rip (Plate 19) again makes present this 
extrapolation of personal memories into social and political statements 
directed towards future change. On a low, grey table, we see a methodi- 
cally produced miniature movie theatre. It is constructed like a movie set, 
and in this quite material sense The Rip is a creative recollection of Wiens's 
own experience in building full-scale sets from 1981 to 1985. This is the 
work's most recent temporal and experiential frame. Yet we can see by 
approaching the open end of the piece that it has an inside, too, an interior 
that holds more memories for Wiens and that also invites the viewer's 
individual reflections. Looking down what we might aptly call the 'nave' 
of Wiens's theatre, we see an illuminated but blank screen. There are no 
seats to obstruct our view and no images appear, but the space is far from 
empty, since for the artist this enclosure is redolent of childhood trips to 
the Vogue Theatre in Leamington, Ontario. 

All of these quite personal and immediate memories are supplemented, 
overlapped, and indeed framed by Wiens's recollections of a movie theatre 
in Whitehorse, experiences that are distilled in the text that accompanies 



77 




& 



Remembering Society 

The Rip and gives it its title. On a nearby panel, he inscribes the following 
text: 

The rip was small when it first 
appeared. It began when an Indian 
poked a knife through the screen. 
Later a bottle was thrown through it. 
The rip continued to grow. Eventually 
it became impossible to ignore. 

This story belongs in a sense to Wiens, but the recollection he narrates 
here is more communal an 'exchange' (recalling Geleynse's Fear of Mem- 
ory) more like a piece of local lore than either of his other contexts for 
this work, his job building movie sets and his childhood excursions to the 
movies. This text moves us from an interior world of private memories to 
the social context. Apparently, the initial ripping of the Whitehorse screen 
was a response to a 'cowboys and Indians' movie starring Anthony Quinn 
as the leading Indian in a situation where the Indians 'won'. The knife 
wound was a gesture of anger and frustration at the stereotyped represen- 
tation of Indians and the appropriation by Hollywood and Quinn himself 
of natives' right to represent and act for themselves. The rip and ensuing 
damage to the screen, then, were compensatory political gestures. Read 
this way, the following line in Wiens's text takes on metaphorical signifi- 
cance. 'The rip [that] continued to grow [and] . . . became impossible to 
ignore' was, of course, literally in the viewers' field of vision, but it was 
also a social rift, an irreparable and continuing schism between cultures 
and peoples in Canada's north. 

Both before and since The Rip, Wiens has combined these memories not 
so much to heal or repair a social problem as to make it present, to keep the 
memories and their implications alive. In Before the Rising Spectre (1984), 
for example, he brought alive the need for social involvement in issues of 
nuclear disarmament by combining banner-like photos of demonstra- 
tions (reminiscent of the activism of the 1960s) with an immense ear and 
eye, admonitions to listen, watch, and act. More recently, in Bush TV. 
(1989), he engaged with the politics of logging in northern Ontario, 
which if allowed in the particular area on which he focuses photographi- 
cally, would have a detrimental environmental and social impact. In these 
works as in The Rip, Wiens includes himself and each viewer in the social 
problems he visualizes; here he projects the issue of the rift between native 
and other Canadians into the future, but not by having us simply see the 
rip his text describes or by reproducing a still from the Quinn movie. 
Because the screen we see is blank, the viewer can project individual 



79 




oc 



11 

r3 <x> 

u s 



Remembering Society 

memories. But these memories are in a sense also already projected, 
screened by the light that beams back at us from inside The Rip and framed 
both by the boundaries of Wiens's theatre and by the text. Our memories 
are not determined, but they are directed by the co-ordinates Wiens 
establishes. In these ways, the complex imbrication of memories screened 
in this image is typical of a postmodern construction of the past that we 
have seen at work in Gurney's Screen especially. Wiens's work also 
addresses the mnemonic forging of a subject in its interactive combination 
of childhood and adult memories, and, again like Gurney's, his written 
narrative reads the viewer in the sense that it at least partially guides our 
response to the work. More like The Damage is Done, however, The Rip 
moves us to consider present and impending social and political condi- 
tions in light of a projected past whose 'projector' or agent we can only 
provisionally identify. 

Wiens isn't alone in his concern with the plight of native Canadians in 
our culture: Two native artists in particular Carl Beam and Ed Poitras, 
who is Metis use memories of their own people's experience to rewrite 
history in a way that might change the future. Beam's The North American 
Iceberg (1986; Plate 20) is a pentimento-like collage displaying the 'tip' of 
many layers of native history, a forgotten (by white culture) narrative that 
he physically recollects and into which he inserts his self-portrait. In a 
1989 exhibit entitled 'Indian Territory' at the Power Plant in Toronto, 
Poitras presented a variety of memory works that manifested the clash of 
European and native cultures. In Erase, for example, a text outlining the 
evocative shape of a buffalo surrounds an old photo of a prairie home. The 
words describe the American General Sherman's plan to decimate the 
buffalo stocks in order to cripple the native population. Analogously 
postmodern archaeologies are constructed by the Toronto collective 
Fastwiirms. In Father Brebeufs Fugue State (1983), for instance an elabo- 
rate conglomeration of supposedly old relics from Brebeufs seventeenth- 
century mission to the Indians and recent artefacts they reflect on the 
official version of Canada's colonial history. 

The frequency with which we witness a melding of mnemonic fabrica- 
tions of the social, the subject, and art's history in recent Canadian art 
should be clear by this point, not least because this book itself sets up 
terms and viewpoints for recollecting the themes and works that it dis- 
cusses. Important pieces that explicitly recall architectural history Jane 
Buyers's installation of sculpture and drawings entitled Language/Possession 
(1987-88; Plate 21), and William MacDonnell's painting 22 July 1968/16 
Nov. 1885 (1986; Plate 22), Melvin Charney's Les Maisons de la rue 
Sherbrooke for the Corridart exhibitions during the 1976 Montreal Olym- 



81 




21 Jane Buyers, 
Language/Possession (1987-88) 



Remembering Society 

pics (Plate 23), and Krzysztof Wodiczko's projection on the London, 
Ontario, County Courthouse (1983) also move beyond this act of cita- 
tion to make their own political statements. 

Language/Possession is reminiscent of two works from Chapter I. Like 
Favro's Van Gogh's Room, this piece sculpturally translates a painted image, 
this time the hill town at the left in the Italian painter Simone Martini's 
fresco Guidoriccio da Fogliano (1328) in the Palazzo Publico, Siena. 1 Behind 
this central sculptural reminder Buyers has placed a text (slightly altered in 
her memory) from French thinker Roland Barthes's A Lover's Discourse: 
Fragments: 

Language reveals the equivalence of love and war: in both cases it is a 
matter of capturing, conquering, possessing. (188) 

In its thematization of the war-like struggle of love, this text when 
placed, as it is, in the context of art-making is reminiscent of the right- 
hand, vertical passage in Clay's 'Eye to Eye', the text that emphasizes how 
the artist must control his or her medium. Like Clay's, Buyers's memory 
works through art-historical and textual citation to make a social com- 
ment on the subjugated position of women. Buyers's assertions, however, 
are more overt. The two drawings that are part of Language/Possession are 
themselves reflections, works 'after' Martini and Barthes, and indeed also 
chronologically later than the sculpture that centres the piece. This exam- 
ple of Barthes's musing on love is taken from a context in which he 
expressly ponders the way the past inscribes itself in contemporary love 
language: 'Each time a subject "falls" in love, he revises a fragment of the 
archaic time when men were supposed to carry off women' (188). By 
placing Barthes and Martini together a thinker from Buyers's present 
and an early Renaissance painter Language/Possession conflates time in 
order to make a point about abduction, of art and of women. On one of 
the accompanying drawings, Buyers makes her own thinking about this 
use of sources and manipulation very clear: can 'Martini illustrate the 
ideas of a modern French philosopher . . . [and] say something about the 
position of woman?' she asks. We may answer 'yes' in light of the ways 
individual and art-historical memories project into the present and are 
themselves recalled in terms of contemporary concerns. 

Language/Possession does away with the linear time and the evolutionary 
obsessions typical of much art history and relies instead on memory's 
more synchronic and creative work. But this does not mean that Buyers 
has 'used' Martini irresponsibly, or even that she has taken his work out of 
context. The Guidoriccio is a very public memorial to the general who 



83 



Remembering Postmodernism 

lends his name to the fresco, the political leader who 'liberated' the town 
that Buyers has reproduced sculpturally. But this liberation was of course 
a matter of conquering and possessing. Barthes sees the lover as a military 
man whose 'discourse stifles the other, who finds no place for his own 
language beneath this massive utterance' (Discourse, 165). In combining 
these views, Buyers seeks to give a voice back to the dispossessed. Her 
fortified hill town is no longer Martini's, nor can it be totally ruled by 
Barthes's text. It is both too small and too solid for either of these mascu- 
line voices to enter; in her words, as architecture, it is a mnemonic 'con- 
tainer for visual and emotional experience'. 2 By shifting the syntax of art's 
language from painting and text to sculpture and architecture, Buyers at 
once acknowledges and resists the 'equivalence' of love and war. Language/ 
Possession may be playful in its manipulation of scale and its light-hearted 
colouring of the town, but its implications work in the arena of gender 
politics. In Buyers's hands, scale domesticates, feminizes, and ultimately 
mocks the masculinist sense of heroic conquest in both love and war. Her 
exploration of women's place in our culture focused on architecture, scale, 
and memory before Language/Possession especially in the 1983 exhibit 
called 'Mixing Memory and Desire' held at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, 
where The Life of the Mind (one of six miniature rooms within the installa- 
tion) presented memory as a bookcase divided into categories tailored to 
what Frances Yates calls 'the art of memory' and since, in her explora- 
tion of 'women's work' in 'Industry and Idleness', an exhibit at the Garnet 
Press Gallery in Toronto in 1988. 

William MacDonnell's 22 July 1968 1 16 Nov. 1885 (Plate 22) is a com- 
plex web of historical, art-historical, and personal memories conveyed 
once more through images of architecture. The weight of history is seen in 
both of this painting's two parts. On the left, a double image of St 
Boniface church in Winnipeg alludes to two important dates, the first, 
when the church's interior was burned out, and 16 Nov. 1885, when Louis 
Riel was hanged for treason (in Regina). On the right is an abstracted and 
highly conceptual 'portrait' of Riel himself made from the outlines of 
three tables. The two panels contrast sharply in their use of imagery, yet 
they are linked by references to Riel the noose in the bottom left corner 
of the left panel and the inscription 'Louis, Louis' on the right section. 
And quite personal recollections of MacDonnell's own interests suffuse 
the entire painting, since he has represented other famous church facades 
(St Mark's in Venice and Sta Maria Novella in Florence), as well as geome- 
trically displayed chairs, in earlier work. What this painting performs is a 
mnemonic alchemy with history, melting it down, as it were (like the lead 
he uses on the canvas and like the mysterious black mound of matter in 



84 




00 



C > 
O oo 

Q ^ 



ll 

2r 

(N JS 



Remembering Postmodernism 

front of the blazing church), in order to redeploy it in the present. History 
and memory are shown to be different yet interdependent. History is the 
official story, the collective account, but it is made up of individual 
memories coming from the subject's side of events. MacDonnell has us 
recall that there are many St Bonifaces and many Riels. 

If we read this bipartite image and its laconic title from left to right, it is 
clear that we are remembering Kiel (the date of his execution in the title 
and his portrait) through another, much more recent, event in the culture of 
western Canada, the fire in the cathedral. This filter effect is typical of 
MacDonnelTs approach. Time elapses in the left panel, since we see the 
fire and its result, the still-glowing shell that is all that remained of St 
Boniface. But the ruin is powerful as a cultural memory, even though its 
past was 'updated' by the rebuilt, thoroughly modern interior constructed 
after the conflagration. In MacDonnell's painting as in the other post- 
modern memory works discussed here we can view the past only 
through the present, yet we do not therefore form a pastiche of this past 
capriciously. The shell remains. In the same way, MacDonnell pictures 
Riel partially through the formal and conceptual operations familiar to 
him from his teaching at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. But 
his memories of these procedures again constitute only a rubric for what is 
in sum a postmodern history painting a commemoration constructed 
from the particularities of memory, a work that will not let us forget a 
political leader from our national past. 

One of the most instructive and powerful memory works in recent 
Canadian art was Montreal architect and artist Melvin Charney's project 
Les Maisons de la rue Sherbrooke (1976; Plate 23). The 'Corridart' exhibition, 
of which this full-scale reconstruction of an historic house was a part, was 
designed to complement the festivities of the 1976 Olympics, but four days 
prior to the opening of the games, officials cancelled the entire exhibit and 
demolished its sixteen projects along the five-mile route. The entire exhibi- 
tion, Charney said, was 'a mimetic of human memory' (McConathy, 38), a 
repetition of the city's own development; or, as Diana Nemiroff put in it her 
1986 essay on Charney for the XLII Biennale Di Venezia catalogue, it was 'a 
recuperation of forgotten strata of references' (12). 

Les Maisons itself was a facade duplicating the front of a nineteenth- 
century greystone house on the opposite corner (same side) of Sherbrooke 
and Saint-Urbain. Its movie-set-like construction worked as a screen for 
recollections of what the city used to be like along one of its main 
corridors before empty lots (in one of which Charney built his structure) 
were cleared for civic 'development'. The mirror effect created by Les 
Maisons only reinforced the absence of a permanent house, of historical 



86 




23 Melvin Charney, 
Les Maisons de la rue Sherbrooke (1976) 



Remembering Postmodernism 

continuity, where Charney built, and the lack of enlightened city plan- 
ning. By duplicating what had been an integral part of the streetscape in 
the all too fragile 'medium' of scaffolding and plywood, Charney not 
only spurs our memories but also demonstrates the vulnerability of the 
material incarnations of a city's and culture's past. Like another part of 
Corridart, Memoire de la rue by Jean-Claude Marsan, Lucie Ruelland, and 
Pierre Richard, which collected and displayed in photos and prints recol- 
lections of the street's history, LesMaisons worked with the urban environ- 
ment to sound a warning about cultural amnesia that went far beyond 
nostalgia. 

The social and political dimension of Charney 's architectural memories 
are seen again in his unrealized project for the Dokumenta 7 exhibition in 
Kassel, West Germany. Better if they think they are going to a farm . . . (1982 and 
following) was to be another facade, this time that of a farm building, 
erected in front of the Kassel train station. Charney 's chilling reference 
which we can see in his drawings for this project was to the Nazis' 
construction of a similar facade at the entrance to Auschwitz. This work 
reminds us in the most visceral terms that even seemingly banal architecture 
stores memories, and that this architecture has been, and can still be, 
(ab)used politically. Again, Charney is not nostalgic about the innocent, 
original state of any building. Across a drawing connected with this project, 
he writes: 'Idealized farm "facade" cuts into common understanding of the 
facade as it is riveted ... in the memory of history.' 3 His alterations and 
redeployments of architecture show the instability of culture and the need to 
recollect its mistakes. The same can be said of Charney's partner in the 1986 
Venice Biennale, Polish-born Krzysztof Wodiczko. 

When he immigrated to Canada in 1977, Wodiczko began to develop a 
type of intervention into the public spaces of architecture and social 
memory that has justly become famous around the world. His signature 
'public projections' beam disruptive images onto the facades of various 
buildings and monuments at night, altering their appearance, their con- 
text, and frequently recalling for their viewers historical and contempo- 
rary meanings suppressed by the supposed freedom of a 'public' site in the 
West. As the artist explains: 

The aim of the memorial projection is not to 'bring life to' or 'enliven' the 
memorial nor to support the happy, uncritical, bureaucratic 'socialization' 
of its site, but to reveal and expose to the public the contemporary deadly 
life of the memorial. The strategy of the memorial projection is to attack 
the memorial by surprise, using slide warfare, or to take part in and 
infiltrate the official cultural programs taking place on its site. (10) 



88 



Remembering Society 

Official public memorials, then, in fact attempt to kill memory; for 
Wodiczko, theirs is an 'obscene necro-ideology' (4) that must be dis- 
rupted by acts of anamnesis. Wodiczko implies that structures of institu- 
tional power are so completely absorbed by architecture as to become 
literally invisible. How often do we pass by the many victory columns 
that commemorate past military triumphs in our civic spaces and think 
nothing of the horrors of war that these memorials in fact suppress? 
Wodiczko's projections make such forgetting difficult. Onto the column 
in downtown Toronto commemorating the British victory in South 
Africa, for example, he projected an image of a hand stabbing with a 
knife (1983). In the Schlossplatz, Stuttgart, in the same year he projected 
the image of a missile with a nuclear warhead on another victory col- 
umn, implying that wars and their destruction are anything but things 
of the past to be glorified, especially in West Germany, the likeliest 
battleground (at that time) for any confrontation between NATO and the 
Warsaw Pact countries. These memorials, then, are not able to slip into 
the oblivion that their seeming accessibility paradoxically promotes: 
like Charney, Wodiczko seeks a much more active public awareness of 
architecture. 

There is one important point of comparison between Wodiczko's pro- 
jections and those of Murray Favro considered in Chapter I. Both employ 
the basic technology used in the teaching of art history the slide 
projector and both implicitly offer a critique of the ways in which art's 
history is ideologically constructed. Wodiczko has executed several pro- 
jections on architecture that exists not only as a public memorial of some 
kind but that is also important in the history of art. His works in Venice in 
1986, for example, revealed the interconnectedness of art history's valida- 
tion of certain objects, the tourist trade, terrorism, and the military. Onto 
the famous campanile of San Marco he applied (from top to bottom) a 
camera, an ammunition belt, and at the base, the bottom of a tank with its 
tracks heading towards the famous square. Venice's history as a trading 
centre and a military power, he has suggested, is re-enacted today in 
menacing ways: 

mercenary pirates of political terrorism are threatening to cut off the 
commercial routes to tourism's global empire, of which Venice is the 
strategic center. To secure this empire's operations, in particular its over- 
seas summer crusades, the imperial jumbo-jet fleet demands military 
protection. Thus the contemporary fear of terrorism joins with the fear of 
the entire empire of tourism, finding its center today in Venice, whose 
embattled history and architectural memory are haunted by it already. (18) 



89 




24 Barbara Steinman, 
Cenotaph (1985-86) 



Remembering Society 

Wodiczko's projections expose the unspoken allegiances between a 
building's past and present, what we might call its institutional power. 
While offering potent reminders of the ideologies of architecture, how- 
ever, he seems also to acknowledge his inevitable (and typically postmo- 
dern) complicity or 'collaboration with its power'. 4 He is very aware of 
public censorship in the West he was required, for example, to excise the 
terms 'power' and 'ideology' from the article just cited (Crimp et a/., 40) 
but also of the need to take advantage of opportunities to make public 
statements with his work. 

One such critique was effected by the Courthouse Projection in London, 
Ontario, in 1983. The normally unremarkable face of this building was 
transformed by the projection of one of its court's 'products', the incarcer- 
ation of prisoners, suggested here by the hands holding onto cell bars. The 
person found guilty is faceless, just as this brutalist facade itself effaces one 
of the results of its judicial power. In being forced by this manipulation of 
the architecture to remember one aspect of a major public institution's 
power, the building itself changes through its viewers' eyes. We see 
perhaps for the first time the cell-like windows that range between the 
hands Wodiczko has projected, the impersonal and authoritarian potential 
of this late modernist architecture and its functionality. It is also worth 
remembering that these projections are, like memory itself, ephemeral and 
constantly mediated by factors as divergent yet crucial as the weather and 
a given civic authority's permission to 'use' a building in this way. The 
Courthouse Projection lasted for little more than an hour (except in still 
photographs), but its salutary effects live on in recollection. 

Montreal installation artist Barbara Steinman's Cenotaph (1985-86; 
Plate 24) offers an analogous but more permanent meditation on the 
evanescent phenomena of memory. A cenotaph is of course a public 
memorial to the dead, a way of keeping memories of them alive. But like 
Wodiczko's memorial projections, Cenotaph works to show how this sort 
of monument again effects the demise of certain specific memories. As we 
enter the darkened room in which this piece is now installed in the 
National Gallery in Ottawa, we are confronted by a large, dark, pyramidal 
form with what appear to be flames flickering at its top. Around the base 
are three granite slabs, each of which carries part of a quotation from the 
political theorist Hannah Arendt: 

The radicalism of measures to treat people as if/ 
They had never existed and to make them disappear / 
Is frequently not apparent at first glance 



Remembering Postmodernism 

Projected onto the sides of the room enclosing Cenotaph are images of 
unknown 'disappeared' people. The work is a highly technological recre- 
ation of more traditional cenotaphs: the 'fire' is actually the product of a 
video loop and the faces we see are reminiscent of media photos. The 
granite 'tombstones' are not inscribed with names but instead convey 
textual information. Like her more recent installation Borrowed Scenery 
(1987), then, this work questions both how and what we remember as 
individuals and as a society. And like so many politicized reflections on 
memory, Cenotaph probes the conventionalization of recollection, the 
extent to which we are bound by forms like the cenotaph and also the 
possibility of employing them differently. 

Steinman does not keep a flame burning for 'official heroes', 5 but explic- 
itly for those unknown casualties of totalitarianism. Hers is an alternate 
memory not only of nameless people but also of the possibilities, both 
positive and negative, of the contemporary information systems video, 
newspaper photography and text, art that make the past in the present. 
These vehicles can be used to designate individuals and to perpetuate their 
dignity, as here, but they are by no means necessarily benevolent. Since we 
tend to elaborate narratives from the smallest bits of information, infor- 
mation selected by those who present it, many different interpretations of 
events are plausible and much is inevitably forgotten. Even in this case, a 
viewer cannot read all of the Arendt passage at once, since it is presented in 
fragments split among the three sides of the pyramid. Any number of 
stories could be imagined to make sense of the incomplete statement 'the 
radicalism of measures to treat people as if as it combines mentally with 
the wall images. I would suggest, however, that this very fragmentation 
productively duplicates the processes as well as the specific contents of 
memory: we as viewers are urged to find meaning by piecing together 
text, images, and our own recollections. The structural systems of mem- 
ory in our culture are revealed, not masked. The work does not lecture: it 
instructs by giving us the opportunity to experience and question the 
norms of public commemoration. 

This sense of inviting viewers to participate to recognize their inevita- 
ble complicity in the discourses of their society, perhaps, but thereby also 
to offer alternatives is a typically postmodern mode of political com- 
mentary, and an installation is very often its vehicle. This is true nationally 
and internationally. For example, London, Ontario, artist Jamelie Hassan 
is best known for works that encourage the beholder to engage politically 
with her subject through emotion and memory. In Los Desparecidos (1981), 
she recalls her experiences in Argentina, specifically an incident when a 
grandmother of a disappeared person gave her a kerchief, a memento of 



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Remembering Society 

the missing person and the grandmother's vigil. Hassan extended this 
mnemic connection by making and exhibiting ceramic kerchiefs repre- 
senting others whose disappearances she subsequently researched. Primer 
for War (1984) is a more complex interweaving of personal recollections 
in the form of photos taken on a trip to Germany and pointed textual 
statements on warfare borrowed form an American First World War 
manual. These parts are brought into proximity on top of a long, low 
bench, where we see ten small bible-like books, text on one facing leaf, 
image on the other. A viewer needs to bend over to read the text and see 
each photo clearly. This involvement is voluntary, but it can lead one to 
question the odd combinations seen, their rationale, and the authority of 
their presentation. Outside Canada, the work of Hans Haacke best 
exemplifies what I take to be a postmodern concern for the social and 
political. Like Steinman and Hassan and very like Bruce Barber, to 
whom I will turn shortly Haacke seeks to get inside systems of institu- 
tional power in order to expose their codes to critique. His controversial 
U.S. Isolation Box, Grenada, 1983 (1983-84), for instance, replicates one of 
the inhuman portable detention boxes used by the US army in Grenada, 
boxes whose existence was initially denied and that were largely 
unknown because of press censorship. Haacke's installation literally re- 
members this instrument. 

Many of the works discussed here could be said to engage with the 
politics of memory in more oblique but no less important ways. If we 
again define politics very broadly as the dynamics of an ever-shifting but 
perpetually unequal relationship of power within the polis, then mne- 
monic interruptions and revelations of this power on the inter-personal as 
well as inter-national plane can be construed as political. Clay's Lure is 
such an intercession in the tradition of modernist abstract painting, as are 
Gurney's Screen and The Damage is Done in the politics of the formation of 
a subject and the ethics of ownership respectively. But as we have seen, 
and as the final two works I will examine demonstrate, postmodern visual 
memory is also effective in the realm of state politics. 

With Nam II (1990; Plate 25), Bruce Barber continues and revises his 
project of re-collecting and reconstituting images and texts about the 
Vietnam war in ways that alert us to both the dangers and the critical 
potential of memory's constant construction and elision of the past. In 
forging an interaction between texts and images that are themselves mem- 
ories of Vietnam, Barber works in the sphere of culture's representation of 
its own history, just as he did in his 1985 Remembering Vietnam Triptych, 
whose left panel superimposes one of United Technologies' (a major arms 
manufacturer) eulogizing texts for the soldiers who fought in Vietnam 



93 





25 Bruce Barber, 
Nam II (1990) 



Remembering Society 

over a picture of a military massacre. This text begins, 'Vietnam occupies 
that part of the mind inhabited solely by memories,' and continues, 'Let us 
begin by remembering.' This is exactly what Barber does both here and in 
Nam II, but his interjected recall seeks to compensate for any particular 
memory's inevitable double, forgetting. Like Hans Haacke in his analo- 
gous representations of social propaganda broadcast by companies like 
Mobil, he doesn't suppose that one true account can be recovered he is 
too involved himself in the (re)construction of history to take such a 
simple stand but his work does strongly suggest that some memories 
have a moral superiority, and that these interventions are often systemati- 
cally repressed in culture's current projections about the Vietnam War. 

Barber's Nam II thematizes popular culture, specifically its use in the 
comic-book (called The 'Nam) of the famous photo by the American 
Eddie Adams of execution that we see reproduced here. The image shows 
(then Colonel) Nguen Van Loan killing a suspected Vietcong terrorist in 
the streets of Saigon in 1968. We think we know and understand the 
horror of this picture, but this supposed familiarity is for Barber itself 
symptomatic of the danger of amnesia. The 'original' circumstances in 
which the photo was taken are far from clear. There are allegations that the 
shot was posed. But it operates quite uncritically in the comic-book 
example of popular imagination as an image of 'our side's' rightful use of 
power. For many, the Pulitzer Prize- winning photo was and remains just 
the opposite, but the comic book alteration remembers things differently. 
In Nam II, Barber re-poses this question of meaning yet again by recon- 
textualizing what is already a reconstituted journalistic photo. He includes 
a montage of quotations from Adams as a way of rethinking the role of 
'documentary' photography in our writing of the history of the Vietnam 
War. Barber states: 'I am interested in the notion advanced by Susan 
Sontag that one or two significant images could be said to summarize a 
whole war. This execution shot is one of them, and Adams's statements 
seem to me to allow some questioning of the veracity of his photo's 
"decisive moment".' 6 As with The Damage is Done by Gurney, there is no 
original to return to, but there is an ethics of memory to be asserted 
through not in spite of the ongoing politics and mnemonics of repre- 
sentation. 

Barber does not claim to be the first or only artist to expose for us how 
society creates its present versions of the past by appropriating 'documen- 
tary' artifacts. At least as we look back on them now, the photomontages 
by German artist John Heartfield (1891-1968) in particular stand behind 
this practice. This example returns us to the modern-postmodern debate: 
if Heartfield as a modernist took contemporary images of fascist Ger- 



95 



Remembering Postmodernism 

many and, by recontextualizing them, evolved a powerful critique of his 
society which he did why would I claim that Barber's work is distinct 
enough to be called postmodern? Part of an answer lies in chronology: 
Heartfield's works did not have precursors in the sense that Barber's do; 
postmodernism's belatedness partially accounts for its self-consciousness. 
More significantly, although both Heartfield and Barber use their politi- 
cal memories and overtly political images to make statements, their cri- 
tiques are as different in some ways as the societies in which they grow. 
Germany in the 1930s and Canada in the 1990s may not be as absolutely 
separate as we would wish, but it is nonetheless the case that Heartfield's 
montages were less concerned with disclosing how representation can 
manipulate 'reality' than with immediate social intervention. Inevitably 
because of historical differences and elapsed time Barber's Nam II is 
more reflective and theoretical. Its postmodern politics enjoy the relative 
stability of Canada in 1990 in recalling the past (Vietnam, and indirectly, 
Heartfield) and in entertaining a future in which we might see and read 
more politically. Nam II employs the privilege of critique at a time when a 
laxness and complacency of memory threaten our society with the repeti- 
tion of previous political misadventures. 

Like Barber, Stan Denniston questions the often assumed veracity of 
photography while simultaneously exploiting its mnemonic potencies. 
Denniston's Kent State U. /Pilgrimage and Mnemonic (1982/1990), however, 
finds its political voice more through personal experiences of how mem- 
ory moulds the subject and then projects into society at large. The history 
of this work illustrates the point. It is a triple mnemonic: the piece is itself 
a revision of Denniston's 1982 montage of the same name, which in turn 
memorialized his reactions to the murders at Kent State University in 
Ohio in 1970, when the National Guard shot and killed demonstrating 
students. Denniston's procedure in creating and recreating Kent State U. 
also underlines its powerful and unusual examination of place memory 
our corporeal relation to space a scrutiny that significantly addresses 
what one prominent commentator sees as 'one of the most conspicuously 
neglected areas of philosophical or psychological inquiry into remember- 
ing' (Casey, 183). 

Denniston physically separates his 'pilgrimage' to Kent State from his 
'mnemonic' of his experience. When he travelled to the site, he explicitly 
sought to memorialize it, and the result is a somatically particularized 
montage of photographs that pans up from his own feet. The recollection, 
however, is constructed of images taken in Toronto and Victoria that 
reminded Denniston of Kent State. They are 'triggers' of his memory of 
another place. In recreating Kent State with Canadian imagery, he is both 



96 



Remembering Society 

personalizing the meanings of his trip and placing Kent State in Canada, 
showing that in spite of the calm that seems to pervade both sets of 
images, the sort of rampant and indiscriminant violence that occurred in 
Ohio's past could be in our Canadian future. Memory is of the future as 
much as of the past; indeed this dedication to what is potentially yet to 
come must be a prime motivation for the construction of any memorial. 
There is something desperately isolating about such an attempt to mourn 
death. As Derrida has it in his own eulogy to the late Paul de Man: 

We weep precisely over what happens to us when everything is entrusted to 
the sole memory that is 'in me', or 'in us'. But we must also recall, in 
another turn of memory, that the 'within me' and the 'within us' do not 
arise or appear before this terrible experience, or at least not before its 
possibility, actually felt and inscribed in us, signed. (Memoires 33) 

For Derrida and I think also for Denniston, 'we come to ourselves 
through this memory of possible mourning' (34). But in Kent State U, this 
inward-turning, even narcissistic memory work also impinges on the 
viewer politically. 

It is useful to think for a moment about Denniston as a viewer of his 
own 1982 work, a work that he claims felt 'unresolved', and that he even 
seemed to repress in his own consciousness by not referring to it publi- 
cally or even in private for several years. Denniston's recent alterations to 
the work suggest in their illustration of memory's constant revision of 
the past why he was unhappy with his earlier efforts and why he 
returned to them. Screened onto the Canadian recollections of Kent State 
in the 1990 version are images of police violence and social intolerance 
that are very specifically Canadian: images of the notorious 1981 bath- 
house raids in Toronto in which Metro police violently lashed out at the 
gay community. Denniston discovered that this event was indeed the 
trigger for his own thoughts about Kent State, yet only recently has he 
made this overlay of associations visible. The addition of these images 
clearly brutal even if we don't recognize them from their wide circulation 
in the press makes Kent State U. at once more explicit and (even) more 
intricate as an exploration of memory. What we cannot see but might 
glean from the fact that Denniston was drawn back to his 1982 version is 
his assertion of the possibility of memorialization, the positive potential 
of his own social and political agency in keeping memories alive through 
his work. This guarded optimism, Denniston has said in conversation, 
parallels the pleasure he felt in participating in the protest marches after the 
bathhouse raids, intervening quite physically in a political situation. And 



97 



Remembering Postmodernism 

of course this demonstration is itself a reminder of the abhorrent results of 
the students' civil actions at Kent State. 

The installation of Kent State U. reinforces this sense of communal 
commemoration. The two panels are designed to face each other (either 
frontally or at a 90-degree angle); as viewers, we must situate ourselves 
within their mnemonic construction of history, since we cannot 'stand 
back' and see both sets of pictures completely at the same time. The spatial 
and temporal shuttle among projected pasts, presents, and futures that the 
two panels delineate pulls us into these contexts instead of allowing us a 
'pure' vantage point from which we can see both sides at once and then 
compare and judge. Memories are thus spatialized and framed for each 
viewer, but as was the case with The Rip by Wiens, with its screen ready 
for new projections, Kent State U. allows for the vagaries of each viewer's 
recollections. Without this anti-didactic flexibility, its political efficacy 
would be lost to an over-specified, artist-centred context. Put another 
way, Denniston's triggers with all the violence implied by the term 
must be more than personal. They must allow for other memories and 
other forgetting. 

Like Nam //, Kent State U. challenges society's amnesia yet is also built 
on the selectivity forgetting of representation. Describing his early 
Reminders works (1978-82; 1987), which are closely related to this piece, 
Denniston claims that they were primarily an 'exercise in forgetting, not 
remembering' (1989). In the Reminders series, Denniston opposed sets of 
two images, one taken out of interest at a particular place, the other (shot 
later and without recourse to the first) an image that in memory reminded 
Denniston of the first. He went searching for these memories throughout 
North America they determined his future for quite a while yet in 
order to find them and exercise his memory, he had to forget a great deal 
about the first image. One of the most complex and interesting pieces 
from this series is Reminder #20 (1979; Plate 26). In this example, we see 
that 'Edmonston, Texas, from the West' triggered a memory of 'Down- 
town Toronto from King St West'. While these images invite comparison, 
both formally and thematicalry, in a sense and I think this is especially 
true when one first sees this pair the pictures are very different. \et as in 
memory's workings themselves, it seems that differences are increasingly 
elided and the profound similarity of feeling between these photographs 
comes to the fore. Despite the 'business' of the Toronto image, what we 
begin to see is the dramatic focus directed by the streetcar tracks, a visual 
pull that is echoed by the tire tracks in the Texas image. Ironically, then, the 
two places end up looking very alike. What this process allowed him to 
find were the types of memory traces visual, spatial, atmospheric that 



98 




o 

ON 






Remembering Postmodernism 

worked for him as cues. This of course is the procedure he put to use again 
in Kent State U in 1982 and again in 1990. In 1982, it seems, he had 
forgotten the bathhouse incidents through which we now see this work. 
His amnesia allowed certain memories to find their place, however, and 
what the viewer forgets will also permit other recollections. 

Forgetting may be instrumental to the operations of recall, but in its 
more political dimensions, it is to be avoided. Milan Kundera writes that 
'the struggle of [civilization] against power is the struggle of memory 
against forgetting' (3). This social and political context for the agency of 
art has become more and more important to Denniston. Speaking of his 
Reminders, he has recently remarked that with these works, he was 'hoping 
to learn something about the structure of memory, especially my memory' 
('Talk'). Later work borrows the techniques of the Reminders but seeks to 
make them tell in society at large. Speaking ofDealey Plaza /Recognition and 
Mnemonic of 1983, his memory work about the John F. Kennedy assassi- 
nation, he claims that 'my memories of these events [labour] against the 
public record or officially sanctioned' line ('Talk'). The same could be said 
of Kent State U, but here the 'line' might well be the complacent and blind 
attitude common to so many Canadians that 'this sort of thing' could not 
happen in Canada. Denniston's spatialized memories prove them wrong, 
and in doing so, his counter-memories and those of his viewers prove that 
they can be active agents in a politics of resistance. 

Reflecting on the numerous memory works collected here, I believe 
that it is now possible to refute Marxian literary critic Terry Eagleton's 
description of postmodernist culture as comprised of 'depthless, styleless, 
dehistoricized, decathected surfaces' (61), Fredric Jameson's apocalyptic 
vision of 'the waning of our historicity, of our lived possibility of experi- 
encing history in some active way' ('Cultural Logic', 68), and artist Ian 
Wallace's definition of postmodernism as 'a term which has come to 
justify a condition of amnesia by which [the avant-garde's] history of 
confrontation could adapt itself to the demands of society: that its conflict 
be symbolic, pluralist, and confined to the limits of fashion' (1984). I have 
sought to show very specifically that what is and should be called post- 
modern practice in Canada is, because of its frequent thematization and 
exploration of memory, anything but an example of amnesia, and thus 
that it is decidedly historical in new and specific ways. In using these 
counter-examples against the frequently generalized anti-postmodernist 
rhetoric exemplified by these statements, I am not claiming that no recent 
art, in Canada and elsewhere, conforms to the ahistorical and depoliti- 
cized paradigms of what E. Ann Kaplan has aptly deemed 'co-opted 
postmodernism' (3). What I hope to have counteracted through this 



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Remembering Society 

examination of the specificities of memory, however, is the reductive and 
absolutist move that would define postmodernism so narrowly and then 
condemn it so sweepingly. What seems in these three writers and so many 
others to be a fear of a postmodern gaze of the questions this gaze might 
pose is most commonly a fear that the political interventions of the 
historical avant-garde are both forgotten and rendered impotent by recent 
practice. I think that my final chapter in particular demonstrates that the 
possibility of this sort of intervention has in a much-changed historical 
context been thrown into question but also remembered and rede- 
ployed. As Foucault has argued, the 'return' indeed, I would say all 
memory 'is not an historical supplement which would be added to ... 
discursivity, or merely an ornament; on the contrary, it constitutes an 
effective and necessary task of transforming the discursive practice itself 
('Author', 116). If the fear of it can be alleviated by understanding in this 
way how history is made, then perhaps postmodernist memory its 
constant collective and individual reappraisals of the subject as potential 
agent and its recall of its art-historical pasts can be seen and appreciated 
for the challenges it presents to received ways of looking and thinking, as 
well as for the radical perspectives it provides on the active, mnemic 
construction of reality through art. Through such memory works, we 
could find paths to the future as well as to the past. 



NOTES 

This attribution is now disputed, but for Buyers and most people familiar with 
the work, it is a Simone Martini. 

2 Undated artist's statement. 

3 Cited in Bruce Ferguson, Ktinstler aus Kanada: Rdume und Installationen. Stutt- 
gart: Wiirttembergischer Kunstverein, 1983: 39. 

4 Wodiczko, 'Public Projection', Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory/ 
Revue canadienne de theorie politique et sociale 7, 1-2, Hiver/Printemps 1983: 184-7. 

5 Renee Baert, 'Focus on Barbara Steinman', Canadian Art, Winter 1988: 95. 
6 Letter to the author, 5 May 1990. 



101 



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Borges, Jorge Luis. Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings. Ed. Donald A. 
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Burger, Peter. Theory of the Avant-Garde. Trans. Michael Shaw. Minneapolis: 
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Clay, Allyson. Lure. Vancouver: Artspeak Gallery, 1988. 

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Crimp, Douglas, Rosalyn Deutsche, Ewa Lajer-Burcharth. 'A Conversation 
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de Bolla, Peter. The Discourse of the Sublime: History, Aesthetics and the Subject. 
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Deitcher, David. 'Drawing from Memory'. The Art of Memory/The Loss of History, 
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Denniston, Stan. 'Artist's Talk'. London: University of Western Ontario, 1 Feb. 
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Derrida, Jacques. Memoires for Paul de Man. Trans. Cecile Lindsay, Jonathan 
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Eagleton, Terry. 'Capitalism, Modernism and Postmodernism'. New Left Review 
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Fenton, Terry, and Karen Wilkin. Modern Painting in Canada: Major Movements in 
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Ferguson, Bruce, and Sandy Nairne. The Impossible Self. Winnipeg: Winnipeg 
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Fleming, Marie. Murray Favro: A Retrospective. Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 
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Fokkema, Douwe, and Hans Bertens, eds. Approaching Postmodernism. 
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Foucault, Michel. The Archaeology of Knowledge. Trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith. 
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Freud, Sigmund. 'Screen Memories' (1899). In The Freud Reader, pp. 117-26. Ed. 
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Griffiths, John. 'Deconstruction Deconstructed'. The New Modernism: Decon- 
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Hume, Vern. 'Another Look at the Plot for a Western'. Video Guide 9, 1 (Oct. 
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Kundera, Milan. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. Trans. Michael Henry Heim. 
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Pollock, Griselda. Vision and Difference: Femininity, Feminism and the Histories of 
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Smolik, Noemi. Review of 'Focus: Canadian Art from 1960 to 1985'. Canadian 
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107 



AFTERWORD 



POSTMODERNISM^ IRONIC PARADOXES 
POLITICS AND ART 



by Linda Hutcheon 



A Canadian postmodern scene: five photographs, topped and underlined 
with a verbal text. The central image is a soaring view upwards of the 
Trans-America building in San Francisco, its formal and cultural associa- 
tions probably equally divided between American-ness/modernity and 
phallic power/presence. A large Marlboro cigarette billboard adds to this a 
sign of consumer capitalism. The photograph on the left appears to 
represent a naked woman in a pose suggesting especially in its conti- 
guity with the phallic building next to it sensual abandonment. Ironi- 
cally, this is no living, flesh-and-blood sensuous woman, but a stone 
statue actually part of a bench in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto. 
On the other side of the central image is a representation of two more 
stone figures, one male and one female, captured in a pose that suggests 
arrested motion. But death is still present and not only because of the 
proximity of that cemetery bench: this is a photograph of part of the 



109 



Afterword 

Toronto War Memorial for South Africa. Race and colonialism are cov- 
ertly added to gender as implied concerns; war and death are overtly used 
ironically to 'frame' American capitalist power. The two outer and smaller 
photographs one of a male and one of a female act formally as quota- 
tion marks that signal sexual difference and, more significantly, sexual 
separation in an Americanized consumerist world of death and destruc- 
tion. The texts that accompany these images are small, forcing the viewer 
to approach the work very closely and thus enter the space visual and 
cultural of those images. Above them is printed, in capital letters, the 
words 'HIGHLIGHTS SHADOWS'. This is, on one level, a descrip- 
tive heading, sitting as it does atop photographs which show considerable 
play with chiaroscuro and thus foreground, on another level, the technical 
mechanism of black and white photography in a very self-reflexive way. 
Beneath the images are the oddly phrased words: 'To see the rules of your 
expression become the laws of an exchange.' The ironies here are acute: we 
can see no facial expressions full-on (all are in shadow or turned away 
partially or totally from the viewer) except that of the Marlboro man in 
the central advertisement image, the image of the 'laws' of American 
capitalist 'exchange'. The combination of the resolutely political and the 
self-consciously aesthetic here in the third panel of Canadian photogra- 
pher Geoff Miles's pointedly entitled Foreign Relations (1987; Plate 27) is 
what I think best defines postmodernism today. 

Roland Barthes once claimed that it is impossible to represent the 
political, for it resists all mimetic copying. Rather, he wrote, 'where 
politics begins is where imitation ceases' (Roland Barthes, 154). This is 
precisely where the self-reflexive, parodic art of the postmodern comes in, 
underlining in its ironic way the realization that all cultural forms of 
representation literary, visual, aural in high art or in the mass media are 
ideologically grounded, that they cannot avoid involvement with social 
and political relations and apparatuses (Burgin, Between, 55). It is not that 
postmodernist art necessarily represents politics; instead, it unavoidably 
foregrounds what Victor Burgin calls the 'politics of representation' 
(Between, 85). This is as true of the fiction of Michael Ondaatje, Robert 
Kroetsch, Margaret Atwood, or Timothy Findley as it is of the art of Joyce 
Wieland, Evergon, or Carole Conde and Karl Beveridge. 

Umberto Eco considers postmodern 'the orientation of anyone who 
has learned the lesson of Foucault, i.e., that power is not something 
unitary that exists outside us' (in Rosso, 4). He might well have added to 
this (as others have) the lessons learned from Derrida about textuality and 
deferral, or from Vattimo and Lyotard about intellectual mastery and its 
limits. In other words, it is difficult to separate the politicizing impulse of 



111 




Standing above it all, 

he sensed the power 

of his position. 



The text needs its shadow! 

This shadow is a bit of ideology, 

a bit of representation, a bit of subject. 



28 Geoff Miles, 
excerpt from The Trapper's Pleasure of the Text (1985) 



Afterword 

postmodern art from the deconstructing impulse of what we have labelled 
'poststructuralist' theory. For example, Roland Barthes's playfully serious 
expositions of the duplicitous role of linguistic and visual codes in both 
mythologizing and de-mythologizing, in both controlling and subvert- 
ing the doxa the received opinions of cultural consensus have been 
important in helping artists negotiate the space between the verbal and the 
pictorial as well as between the political/theoretical and the aesthetic. In 
this book, Jane Buyers cites Barthes in her Language/Possession (1988), and 
Geoff Miles, once again, in The Trapper's Pleasure of the Text (1985; Plate 28), 
also uses the same critic's words to play off the complexities of texual 
language against the deceptive, seeming transparency of the photographic 
image. Both Buyers and Miles do this in part self-reflexively to engage the 
art historical memory: Language/Possession recalls a work by the Italian 
Renaissance artist Simone Martini, and Trapper's Pleasure invokes docu- 
mentary street photography as well as Cartier Bresson's 'decisive 
moment' shots. Here the postmodernly ironic street scene decisively 'cap- 
tures' only the shadow of the 'trapping' photographer himself. 

Although there has been much debate on this issue, I still believe that 
the inseparability of poststructuralist theory and postmodern art today 
can be seen not only in these particular works but in the more general way 
in which both artists and critic/theorists write about their 'discourses'. By 
the very choice of this term they signal their awareness of the inescapably 
political contexts in which they work. When 'discourse' is defined as the 
'system of relations between parties engaged in communicative activity' 
(Sekula, 'Invention', 84), it points to such a politically un-innocent thing 
as the expectation of shared meaning, and it does so unavoidably within a 
dynamic social context that acknowledges the inevitability of the exist- 
ence of power relations in any social activity including art. As one 
theorist of postmodernism has put it: 'Postmodern aesthetic experimen- 
tation should be viewed as having an irreducible political dimension. It is 
inextricably bound up with a critique of domination' (Wellbery, 235). 

Yet it must also be admitted from the start that this is a very strange kind 
of critique, one bound up with its own complicity with power and domina- 
tion, one that acknowledges that it cannot escape implication in that 
which it nevertheless still wants to analyse and even undermine: capital- 
ism, liberal humanism, patriarchy, or any other cultural dominant of our 
time and place. The ambiguities of such a position are translated into both 
the content and the form of postmodern art, which thus at once purveys 
and challenges ideology but always self-consciously. In many contem- 
porary art forms painting, video, film, photography, sculpture, and so 
on there are works that engage in these postmodern ambiguities largely 



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Remembering Postmodernism 

through their problematizing of the issue of representation that is, 
through their de-naturalizing of the 'natural' or what we take as 'given' in 
the images by which we recognize, and create, ourselves in society. These 
'representational' (often figurative) arts share an aesthetic history that is 
firmly rooted in realist representation but that, especially since their 
twentieth-century reinterpretation in modernist, formalist terms, now 
seem to be in a position to confront both their documentary and their 
formalist impulses. This is the confrontation I see as postmodernist: 
where some form of documentary historicity meets formalist self- 
reflexivity and parody. At this juncture, the study of representation 
becomes not the study of mimetic mirroring or subjective projecting, but 
an exploration of the way in which images structure how we see ourselves 
and how we construct our notions of the self in the present and in the past. 
This is how postmodern memory works. 

Postmodernism in Canadian art has been called 'a challenge that has 
displaced style by content, rejected the values and expectations of 
modernist art, and engaged itself directly with political and social issues, 
with communication, with self-identity, and the binding and devisive 
natures of human relationships' (Burnett and Schiff, 247). Generally 
speaking, the postmodern also appears to coincide with a greater cultural 
awareness of the existence and power of systems of representation that do 
not reflect society so much as grant meaning and value within a particular 
society. If we believe current social scientific theory, there is a paradox 
involved in this awareness, however. On the one hand, there is a sense that 
in the Western world we can never get out from under the weight of a long 
tradition of visual representations. On the other hand, we also seem to be 
losing faith in the inexhaustibility and power of these existing representa- 
tions. And parody is often the postmodern form that this paradox takes. 
By both using and abusing the general conventions and specific forms of 
representation, postmodern parodic art manages to de-naturalize the 'nat- 
ural' in them, giving what Rosalind Krauss has called the strange sense of 
'loosening the glue by which labels used to adhere to the products of 
conventions' (121). I am not referring here to the kind of ahistorical kitsch 
seen in some Toronto restaurants or at the West Edmonton Mall; rather 
the postmodern playful but serious parody in the art of a group like 
General Idea is one of the important means by which our culture can 
express both its social and aesthetic dilemmas and the two are not 
unrelated. In The Unveiling of the Cornucopia (Plate 2), General Idea both 
inscribes and subverts a number of our inherited notions about art and its 
role in society. The would-be fresco fragments conjure up a complex of 
ideas clustered around the Romantic aesthetic notions of origin and 



114 



Afterword 

originality. Here history or cultural memory appears to offer art as a 
component in some mysterious ritual, separate and separated from the 
social. Yet by making the figures involved into poodles, General Idea at 
once undercuts the desire for both mystery and Romantic authenticity and 
provokes a postmodern critique of art's role in today's society, bereft of 
both desires, awash in consumer capitalist values. These values are what 
their 1984 Miss General Idea Pageant and Pavilion projects brought to the 
fore so very powerfully, if playfully, as we shall see later. 

The politics of representation cannot often be separated from the repre- 
sentation of politics (of many kinds) in postmodern art. Catharine Stimp- 
son has noted: 

Like every great word, 'representation/s' is a stew. A scrambled menu, it 
serves up several meanings at once. For a representation can be an image 
visual, verbal, or aural. ... A representation can also be a narrative, a 
sequence of images and ideas. . . . Or, a representation can be the product 
of ideology, that vast scheme for showing forth the world and justifying 
its dealings. (223) 

Postmodern representation is self-consciously all of these and more 
image, narrative, product (and producer) of ideology. It is a truism of 
sociology and cultural studies today to say that life in the postmodern 
world of the West is utterly mediated by representations; that our age of 
satellites and computers has gone well beyond Benjamin's 'Age of 
Mechanical Reproduction' with its particular epistemological and aes- 
thetic consequences and moved into a state of crisis in representation 
(Benhabib). Nevertheless, in art critical circles there is still a tendency to 
see postmodern theory and practice as simply replacing representation 
with surface textuality or as denying our 'enmeshment in representation' 
(Arac, 295), even though much postmodern thought has explicitly refu- 
ted these views: for instance, Derrida's argument about the inescapability 
of the logic of representation and Foucault's various problematizations, 
though never repudiations, of our traditional modes of representation in 
our discourses of knowledge. 

In one sense the very word 'representation' unavoidably suggests some 
given which the act of representing in some way duplicates. This is 
normally considered the realm of mimesis. Yet by simply making repre- 
sentation into an issue once again, postmodernism challenges our 
mimetic assumptions about representation (in any of its "scrambled 
menu" of meanings), especially assumptions about its transparency and 
common-sense naturalness. In the background is Louis Althusser's 
much-cited notion of ideology as a system of representation and as an 



115 



Remembering Postmodernism 

unavoidable part of every social totality (231-2). In the foreground is Jean 
Baudrillard's theory of the 'simulacrum'. In Simulations Baudrillard argues 
that today the mass media have neutralized reality in stages: first reflecting 
it; then masking and perverting it; next, masking its absence; and finally 
producing in its stead the simulacrum of the real, the destruction of mean- 
ing and of all relation to reality. Baudrillard's model has come under attack 
for the metaphysical idealism of its view of the 'real', for its nostalgia for a 
pre-mass-media authenticity, and for its apocalyptic nihilism. But there is 
an even more basic objection to his assumption that it is (or was) ever 
possible to have unmediated access to reality: have we ever known the 
'real' except through representations? We can certainly see, hear, feel, smell 
and touch it, but do we know it in the sense that we give meaning to it? In 
Lisa Tickner's succinct terms, the real is 'enabled to mean through systems of 
signs organized into discourses in the world' (19). This is where the 
politics of representation enters for, according to Althusser, ideology is a 
production of representations (231-2). Our common-sense presupposi- 
tions about the 'real' depend upon how that 'real' is described, how it is 
put into discourse and interpreted. There is nothing natural about the 
'real' even before the existence of the mass media. 

This said, it is also the case that however naive his views that innocent, 
stable representation was once possible Baudrillard's notion of the simu- 
lacrum has been immensely influential in the debates on postmodernism. 
Witness the unacknowledged but no less evident debt to it in Fredric 
Jameson's own version of pre-mass-media nostalgia: 'In the form of the 
logic of the image or the spectacle of the simulacrum, everything has 
become "cultural" in some sense. A whole new house of mirrors of visual 
replication and of textual reproduction has replaced the older stable reality 
of reference and of the non-cultural "real" ' (42). What postmodern theory 
and practice together suggest is that everything always was 'cultural', at 
least in the sense that everything always was and is mediated by repre- 
sentations. They suggest too that notions of truth, reference, and the non- 
cultural 'real' have not 'ceased to exist' (Baudrillard, 6) but that they are no 
longer unproblematic issues, assumed to be self-evident and self-justifying. 
The postmodern, as I have been defining it here, is not a degeneration into 
'hyperreality' but a questioning of what reality can mean and how we can 
come to know it. It is not that representation now dominates or effaces the 
referent, but that it now self-consciously acknowledges its existence as 
representation that is, as interpreting (and indeed, as creating) its referent, 
not as offering direct and immediate access to it. 

This is not to say that what Jameson calls the 'older logic of the referent 
(or realism)' (43) is not historically important to postmodernist represen- 



116 



Afterword 

tation. In fact, many postmodern strategies are premised on a challenge to 
the realist notion of representation that presumes the transparency of the 
medium and thus the direct and 'natural' link between sign and referent. 
Of course, modernist art (in all its forms) challenged this notion as well, 
but it did so deliberately to the detriment of the referent, that is, by 
emphasizing the opacity of the medium and the self-sufficiency of the 
signifying system. What postmodernism does is to de-naturalize both 
realism's transparency and modernism's reflexive response, while retain- 
ing (in its complicitously critical way) the historically attested power of 
both. This is the ambivalent politics of postmodern representation that 
Allyson Clay's Lure (Plate 7) deploys so effectively in relation to the 
purism of modernism. 

With the problematizing and de-naturalizing of both realist reference 
and modernist autonomy, postmodern representation opens up other 
possible relations between art and the world. Gone is what Benjamin 
called the 'aura' of art as original, authentic, unique, and with it go all the 
taboos against textual strategies that rely on the appropriation and parody 
of already existing representations. Think of what happens when a con- 
temporary Canadian artist parodically inserts his own face within the 
representation of a famous modernist, as does Chris Cran in Self-Portrait as 
Max Beckmann. What happens is that memory is at work, and at work 
effectively: the history of representation itself becomes a valid subject of 
art and not just its history as high art. The borders between high art and 
mass or popular culture and those between the discourses of art and the 
discourses of the world are regularly crossed in postmodern theory and 
practice. But it must be admitted that this crossing is rarely undertaken 
without considerable border tensions. 

The appropriation of various forms of mass-media representation by 
postmodern artists like Bruce Barber has come under attack by the (still 
largely modernist) art establishment. Yet others see this as a necessary 
strategy of 'regenerative iconography' (Peterson, 7), as a recycling in the 
ecological sense of breaking down and recasting images to address a 
contemporary society that is in danger of losing its cultural memory in its 
drive toward novelty. This conjunction of the political/social and the self- 
reflexively aesthetic of the outward- and the inward-directed defines 
the postmodern as operating both against and within the sphere of influ- 
ence of the realist, romantic, and modernist pasts. And Andy Fabo's Craft 
of the Contaminated, as Mark Cheetham has discussed it, is a good example 
of how such parodic recycling can actually make memory into a political 
tool. The fact that the parodied work Gericault's Raft of the Medusa has 
been interpreted allegorically as both a historical reminder and a political 



117 



Remembering Postmodernism 

statement alerts the viewer of Fabo's painting to seek historico-political 
allegory as well. And indeed the items on this crafty raft do suggest such a 
reading: a Canadian flag, a teepee, a landscape by Lawren Harris of the 
Group of Seven. Part of Fabo's 'craft' as a Canadian painter, perhaps, is to 
come to terms not only with European high art (Gericault) but with 
Canadian cultural representations as well no matter how historically 
repressed (that of the native peoples), no matter how cliched (the flag) or 
aesthetically burdensome (the Group of Seven's legacy). Does the Cana- 
dian content here also 'contaminate' European high- art representation? 

But it is not always nationality that Fabo's postmodern parody allegor- 
izes. His Laocoon Revisited (1981) is a painted parody of that famous Roman 
statue, inspired by Greek sculpture as well as of Lessing's Romantic 
fascination with it. The men represented, however, bear certain specific 
semiotic signs of 'gayness' in their appearance. The implied sexuality of 
the original statue is made overt in two of the males' erect members. The 
entwining snake here takes on complex and diverse meanings: it is unmis- 
takably phallic, thereby giving a new interpretation to the forbidden 
knowledge of Eden's serpent; but it also comes to allegorize the binding 
forces legal and moral that society uses to constrain gay men. 

This issue of the representation of gay males takes us back to The Craft of 
the Contaminated, for, in our society today, the notion of 'contamination' is 
difficult to disassociate from AIDS. Certainly Fabo's recent work would 
support such an interpretation. Significantly, however, perhaps in order to 
address our society more directly and more powerfully, Fabo has moved 
from painted parodies of European high art to paintings used in video 
form: his 1989 Survival of the Delirious, a video about those who live with 
and die from AIDS, is a piece made in collaboration with Toronto video 
artist Michael Balser. Fabo represents AIDS through the painted metaphor 
of the Cree demon, the Windigo. Canadian native art and narrative here 
replace the art of the European past in a complicated political statement 
about both Canadian post-colonialism and the shared oppression of 
natives and gays in this society. 

This complexity of political message, deriving directly from aesthetic 
parody operating on every level from that of titles to composition and 
content, often means that postmodern representational strategies refuse to 
stay neatly within accepted generic conventions and traditions. This art 
frequently deploys hybrid forms and seemingly mutually contradictory 
tactics, and therefore always frustrates critical attempts (including this 
one) to systematize them, to order them with an eye to control and 
mastery that is, to totalize them. Roland Barthes once asked: 'Is it not 
the characteristic of reality to be unmasterable? And is it not the characteris- 



118 



Afterword 

tic of system to master it? What then, confronting reality, can one do who 
rejects mastery?' (Roland Barthes, 172). Postmodern representation itself con- 
tests mastery and totalization, often by unmasking both their powers and 
their limitations. We watch the process of what Foucault once called the 
interrogating of limits that is now replacing the search for totality. On the 
level of representation, this postmodern questioning overlaps with simi- 
larly pointed challenges by those working, for example, in post-colonial or 
feminist or Marxist contexts. How is the 'other' represented in, say, imperi- 
alist or patriarchal or capitalist discourses? However represented, it differs 
from its portrayal in works like those of Fabo or Barber. Postmodern 
thought 'refuses to turn the Other into the Same' (During, 33). 

It is this kind of refusal that has contributed to the now standard view of 
the postmodern as being too dispersed, too appreciative of difference, or 
as lacking an ordered or coherent vision of 'truth': 'To the postmodernist 
mind, everything is empty at the center. Our vision is not integrated 
and it lacks form and definition' (Gablik, 17). Actually that centre is not so 
much empty as called into question, interrogated as to its power and its 
politics. And if the notion of centre be it seen in terms of 'Man' (as in 
Alice Mansell's punning Manoeuvre, Plate 14) or 'Truth' or whatever is 
challenged in postmodernism, what happens to the idea of the 'centred' 
subjectivity, the subject of representation? In Stimpson's terms, 'the the- 
ory that representational machineries were reality's synonyms, not a win- 
dow (often cracked) onto reality, eroded the immediate security of another 
lovely gift of Western humanism: the belief in a conscious self that gener- 
ates texts, meanings, and a substantial identity' (236). That sense of the 
coherent, continuous, autonomous and free subject, as Foucault suggested 
in The Order of Things, is a historically conditioned and historically deter- 
mined construct and this is what the art in the second chapter of this 
book calls to our attention. Representational self-consciousness in works 
like Janice Gurney's Screen (Plate 13) points to a very postmodern aware- 
ness of both the nature and the historicity of our various discursive 
representations of the self. And it is not only the obvious psychoanalytic 
and poststructural theories that have helped engender this complex 
awareness. As we can see here, feminist theory and practice have proble- 
matized even poststructuralism's (unconsciously, perhaps, phallocentric) 
tendency to see the subject in apocalyptic terms of loss or dispersal: 
instead, they refuse to foreclose the question of identity. This refusal is 
undertaken in the name of the (different) histories of women: 'Because 
women have not had the same historical relation of identity to origin, 
institution, production, that men have had, women have not, I think, 
(collectively) felt burdened by too much Self, Ego, Cogito, etc.' (N. Miller, 



119 



Remembering Postmodernism 

106). It is the feminist need to inscribe first and only then to subvert 
that I think has influenced most the complicitously critical postmodern 
stand of underlining and undermining received notions of the subject. 

In postmodern art, subjectivity is represented as something in process, 
never fixed, never autonomous or outside history. It is always a gendered 
subjectivity, but it also cannot be considered apart from class, race, ethnicity, 
and sexual orientation. And it is usually textual self-reflexivity that para- 
doxically calls these 'worldly' particularities to our attention by fore- 
grounding the politics behind the dominant representations of the 
self and the 'other' in visual images. To give an example from a related 
medium, R. Murray Schafer's Patria I: The Characteristics Man is a theatrical/ 
operatic/rock/performance work that thematizes and actualizes the prob- 
lematic nature of postmodern subjectivity. A silent, anonymous immigrant 
('D.P.'), introduced to the audience as 'victim' (a large sign with this word 
and an arrow follows him about the stage), seeks to define a self in a new and 
hostile Canadian world that denies him his (non-English) speech, leaving 
him only with the symbolic voice of the (ethnically coded) accordion. A 
strategically placed wall of mirrors faces the audience at one point, prevent- 
ing any self-distancing and any denial of complicity on our part. 

While most art forms today can show this same kind of awareness of the 
politics of representation, photography often seems to have chosen to do so 
more blatantly than others. As a visual medium, it has a long history of 
being both politically useful and politically suspect: think of Brecht, of 
Benjamin, or of Heartfield's anti-Nazi photomontages. A recent show of 
three Vancouver photographers (Arni Runar Haraldsson, Harold Ursuliak 
and Michael Lawlor), called A Linear Narration: Post Phallocentrism, offered 
examples of sophisticated satirical socio-political analyses of dominant 
cultural representations (E. Miller). Lawlor 's media-derived photomon- 
tages are most reminiscent of Heartfield's in technique, if not in virulence: 
Two Queens appropriates two already existing and familiar images, placing 
together roughly torn-out pictures of Warhol's Marilyn Monroe and a 
newspaper photo of Queen Elizabeth II. This conjunction suggests a partic- 
ularly Canadian irony directed against our double colonialization: historical 
(British royalty) and present-day (American media). 

Photography today is one of the major forms of discourse 'through 
which we are shown and show ourselves' (Corrigan, 13). Frequently, 
what I would call postmodern photography foregrounds the notion of 
ideology as representation (Althusser, 231) by appropriating recognizable 
images from that particular omnipresent visual discourse, almost as an act 
of retaliation for its (unacknowledged) politics (Burgin, Between, 54), its 
(unacknowledged) constructing of our images of self and world. Photog- 



120 



Afterword 

raphy, precisely because of its mass-media ubiquity, allows what are 
considered high-art representations like those of Nigel Scott or Jeff 
Wall to speak to and against those of the more visible vernacular, to 
'catch the seduction' (Foster, 68) of those conventional images. 

What is common to all postmodern challenges to convention is their 
exploitation of the power of that convention and their reliance on the 
viewers' knowledge of its particulars. In most cases, this reliance does not 
necessarily lead to elitist exclusion because the convention being evoked 
has usually become part of the common representational vocabulary of 
newspapers, magazines, or advertising even if its history is more exten- 
sive. For example, Maillot Noir et Blanc (1986; Plate 29), by Nigel Scott, 
offers a model in a bathing suit, striking a pose that suggests she is ready to 
dive, though a bathrobe hangs from her arms, which stretch out behind 
her. She stands on a pedestal against a (self-reflexively) ill-hung canvas 
backdrop. In this one image Scott openly contests a number of prevailing 
and obvious (male) representations of women: as inactive pin-up bathing 
beauty (this one is prepared to dive, wears a utilitarian bathing cap, and 
refuses the gaze of the viewer, looking and facing, instead, off to the left); 
as idealized passive female figuratively set on a pedestal; as capitalist 
symbol (the Rolls Royce Winged Victory's silhouette appears as a 
bathrobe-dropping swimmer). Photographs like this address their view- 
ers' memory and knowledge of the common visual vernacular of 
twentieth-century Canadian life. 

In the work of Bruce Barber, existing photographic representations 
such as those of the Vietnam war are appropriated and are effective pre- 
cisely because they are loaded with pre-existing meaning. They are placed 
in new and ironic contexts to bring about that typically postmodern com- 
plicitous critique: while exploiting the power of familiar images, this art 
also works to de-naturalize them, making 'visible the invisible mechanisms 
whereby these images secure their putative transparency' (Owens, 21), and 
bringing to the fore their politics, that is, the interests in which they operate 
and the power they wield or fail to wield through cultural amnesia (Fol- 
land, 60). Both any (realist) documentary value and any formalist 
(modernist) pleasure such an appropriating practice might invoke in Nam 
are inscribed, even as they are undercut. So too is any Romantic notion of 
individuality or authenticity for the work or the artist. But this particular 
notion has always been somewhat problematic for photography as a 
mechanically reproductive medium (Solomon-Godeau, 'Photography', 
80), and this technological aspect has other implications as well. Commen- 
tators as diverse as Annette Kuhn (26-7), Roland Barthes (Camera, 87-8), 
and Susan Sontag (179) have remarked on photography's ambivalences: it is 



121 



f 




29 Nigel Scott, 
Maillot Noir et Blanc (1986) 



Afterword 

in no way innocent of cultural formation (or of forming culture), yet it is in a 
very physical sense technically tied to the real, or at least to the visual and the 
actual. And this paradox is what the postmodern use of this medium 
exposes: even as it exploits the ideology of the Visible as evidence' (Kuhn, 
27), it unmasks what might be the major photographic code the one that 
pretends to look uncoded and 'natural'. 

The postmodern photographer is, in Hal Foster's terms of reference, 
more the manipulator of signs than the producer of an art object; the 
viewer is the active decoder of a message, not the passive consumer or 
even the rapt contemplator of artistic beauty. The difference is one of the 
politics of representation. However, postmodern photographs are often 
also overtly about the representation of politics. Carole Conde and Karl 
Beveridge's No Immediate Threat (1986; Plate 30) is a photo-textual narra- 
tive series telling the story of the exposure to radiation hazards of Ontario 
nuclear power plant workers. No attempt is made here to achieve the 
traditional documentary illusion of transparency or of objectivity or even 
neutrality of representation. Nor is this an example of the passive 'victim 
photography' of the American documentary work commissioned in the 
1930s by the Farm Securities Administration. The point of view here is 
that of the workers and the aim is not really to record working conditions 
but to agitate for their change. Instead of images of real workers on the 
job, Conde and Beveridge present photographs of manifestly 'staged' 
tableaux with artificial-looking props and actors stiffly posed like manne- 
kins, in order to re-enact scenes recounted by the workers themselves (in 
interviews). Texts drawn from these accounts accompany the pictured 
scenes, in stark and ironic contrast to other incorporated texts and images 
presenting official government and industry statements about nuclear 
safety. This series has been shown not only in galleries (it has been 
purchased by the Art Gallery of Ontario) but in union halls, community 
centres, and libraries in other words, in public sites that signal its social 
and political intent. The series' intense self-consciousness about its own 
constructing of images of historical actuality through flagrant artifice is 
what actually enables not inhibits such a politicization of representa- 
tion. There is no transparency to either the images or the stories; there is 
only the clash of different representations and their politics. 

As some commentators have argued, photography may legitimize and 
normalize existing power relations, in one sense, but it can clearly also be 
used against itself to de-naturalize that authority and power and to reveal 
how its representational strategies construct an 'imaginary economy' 
(Sekula, 'Reading', 115) that might warrant deconstructing. Of course, it 
is not only photography that both does and undoes this 'economy'. For 



123 




30 Carole Conde and Karl Beveridge, 
one element from No Immediate Threat (1986) 



Afterword 

instance, Stan Douglas uses multi-media installations to study representa- 
tion in terms of the relations of culture to technology, especially film 
technology He disassembles film into its constituent parts (sounds; stills 
projected as slides) in order to make opaque the supposed ability of film to 
be a transparent recording/representing of reality. As we have seen, Gen- 
eral Idea has taken a different tack but one that also looks to this kind of 
politics of representation. Their 1984 Miss General Idea Pageant made the 
high-art world into a beauty pageant, literalizing art's relation to what we 
today like to call 'displaced desire' and 'commodity acquisition.' In the 
process, they also managed to problematize our culture's patriarchal 
notions of the erotic and of sexual 'possession" in relation to capitalist 
values. 

It has frequently been women artists, however, who have most point- 
edly engaged in the politicized critique of gender representations. Sheila 
Ayearst's Three Minutes (Plate 1) uses an ironic but reverential parody of a 
famous Rembrandt painting to lay bare the patriarchal discourses that 
determine the representation of the human body and brain in history: 
science (Dr Deijman's anatomy lesson to male students), medicine (the 
autopsy report), art (Rembrandt). Joanne Tod's Self Portrait (1982) deploys 
a series of multiple ironies to tease out a political message about feminine 
subjectivity as represented in North American culture. The first subvert- 
ing irony of the work is that this is not a self-portrait of Joanne Tod; it is an 
image copied from an ad in a fashion magazine of an elegant woman in an 
evening dress, standing in a dramatic, if stagey, pose. The setting is not 
Canadian, but ur-American: the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, 
with the phallic Washington Monument asserting its presence strongly. 
Yet in another sense this is an ironically pointed portrait of how the 
gendered self is portrayed and constructed for and by women (and 
Canadians?) themselves. As in advertising copy, there is a text inscribed 
here on the image, but this one appears strangely incongruous: 'neath my 
arm / is the color of Russell's Subaru.' Is this an anti-Yuppie, anti- 
consumerist irony against people who define themselves by their posses- 
sions? Are the Japanese car and the American setting signals of the 'global 
village' of advertising and therefore of the aptly termed 'multinational' 
capitalism of today? This very same painting is later reproduced in an even 
more obviously ironic context, hanging on a dining-room wall in Self 
Portrait as Prostitute (1983; Plate 31). Here the table is set for dinner, but no 
one is present: perhaps guests have not yet arrived; more likely, the absent 
woman is cooking it in the kitchen. The title here suggests that women 
have been 'prostituted' not only to fashion and advertising but to 
domesticity all manifestations of patriarchal power and ideology. 



125 




31 Joanne Tod, 
Self Portrait as Prostitute (1983) 



Afterword 

Gay artists like Fabo address the structures and strictures of dominant 
representations of the male and the masculine in ways that recall feminist 
work on the social construction of Woman. Evergon is a Canadian photog- 
rapher whose identity as a gay male is central to his work. For example, 1 
Boy with Ingrown Tattoo (1971) offers multiple parodic echoes of the art- 
historical tradition of male nudes but with an ironic twist or two. Here is a 
youthful, well-built male posing in a natural setting in a way that recalls 
classical and Baroque portrayals of, for instance, St Sebastian (Hanna, 6). 
But ironic incongruencies at once both inscribe and disrupt this work of 
memory and also encode other signs of a homoerotic sexuality left only 
implicit in those theoretically religious representations. First, there is the 
tattoo 'ingrown', according to the title. Second, there is the facial expres- 
sion of the young man: either sensual or sullen, or both. The third incon- 
gruent item is the underwear worn by the youth (pulled down around his 
thighs). Two very different iconographic memories come into play here: the 
conventions of soft-core pornography and ironically modernized the 
modesty-protecting loin-cloths that usually covered male genitals in high- 
art representations of otherwise naked men. Here the underwear serves no 
such purpose, as it is lowered to reveal all. Another level of sexual sugges- 
tiveness enters with the parodic recalling of Caravaggio's Flagellation in the 
boy's pose. Given the importance of that painter in terms of both his 
sexuality and his lushly coloured and textured rendering of male figures to 
Evergon's later large- format Polaroid photographs, this connection is not a 
gratuitous working of visual memory. 

Gender and sexuality are two important politicized issues explicitly 
raised by postmodern Canadian art and by current feminist and gay 
criticism and theory. Class and race/ethnicity have also become promi- 
nent, if problematic, social notions addressed by postmodernism. Joanne 
Tod's Reds on Green (Plate 8) parodies colour field painting in particular 
and modernist formalism in general. But there is perhaps another politics 
operating here as well: a politics, literally, of colour. The Chinese commu- 
nists are figured not only to engage the title's punning play on 'Reds' (on a 
green background), but also to raise the issue of race and colour in politics. 
In some of her work, representations of Asians and blacks replace women 
as symbols of 'otherness', in what is often considered Canada's generally 
homogeneous white (and patriarchal, capitalist) society. In Allegro Furioso 
Ma Stereotypissimo (1985), nine oriental female musicians are dwarfed by a 
giant pair of (male) hands bearing drumsticks. The unrealistic scale in an 
otherwise realist representation alerts viewers to allegorical and ironic 
possibilities. The 'allegro' of the title is obviously a musical term for a 
certain speed of playing, but its conjunction with 'furioso' may well be 



127 



Remembering Postmodernism 

meant to suggest Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, the comic Renaissance epic of 
male and Caucasian chivalry. But this 'allegro furioso' is said to be 
'but most stereotypical', likely in both gendered and racial terms: Asians 
play Western musical instruments and do so these days with great accom- 
plishment and flair; women play strings, woodwinds, and keyboard 
relatively gentle and genteel instruments while martial males 
stereotypically play loud drums, whose drumsticks resemble clubs about 
to beat the women players' heads. In works like Infiltration (1988), installed 
in the Pump Building of Toronto's Harris Water Filtration Plant for the 
1988 Waterworks show, a black male takes on the role of symbolic 'other', 
here trying to block out (with his hands over his ears) both the noise of the 
capitalist water-purifying industry (this is the noisiest room in the plant) 
and the represented notes of Handel's Water Music both perhaps equally 
(and punningly) 'white noise'. This site-specific work plays iconographi- 
cally in complex and often confusing ways with notions of social and 
racial infiltration. Similarly, in Research and Development (1986), Tod repre- 
sents black men in a racially unmixed, black bar, drinking Black Label 
beer. The semiotic overdetermination of 'blackness' here is juxtaposed to 
two oddly inserted, separate paintings: one (on the upper left) portrays six 
white, middle-aged men in what appears to be a corporate boardroom 
where 'research and development' may not include thinking about racial 
equality of opportunity; the other (on the upper right) is a representation 
of New York's Guggenheim Museum. Have modern art and big business 
connived in marginalizing certain groups? 

Tod's works are never simple and almost never provoke unambiguous 
interpretations. Is Five to Twelve (1988) a parody of the academic still life? It 
certainly represents, on one level, a legitimized (in both aesthetic and 
capitalist terms) image of beauty: a silver objet d'art featuring two female 
angels holding up a large silver bowl. But on the upper right third of the 
painting are four circles, acting almost as cut-outs, through which we see 
the eyes and lips of a black face. As Robert Mycroft asks, what are we to 
make of what he calls this 'Third World Presence' (87)? Is this 'a critique of 
commodification or a celebration of it?' Is it 'a silver samovar or a 
Molotov Cocktail' (87)? While clearly confusing, the work might suggest 
certain interpretive possibilities. The women portrayed on the silver objet 
are idealized beautiful images of winged womanhood, identical each to 
the other and thus symbolically unindividuated. Motionless and bur- 
dened with the bowl's weight, they are turned away from the viewer (at a 
45-degree angle). While the viewer's eyes may safely and voyeuristically 
enjoy these female forms, the eyes of the black likely male showing 
through those four holes look back at the viewer, not at the art object or its 



128 



Afterword 

figured females at all. This confrontational staring back/staring down 
foregrounds both sexual and racial differences that were often ignored in 
art historical commentary before postmodernism. 

This kind of art asks its viewers to question the processes by which we 
represent 'others' as well as our selves and our world, and to become 
aware of the means by which we literally make sense and construct order out 
of experience in our particular culture. We cannot avoid representation. 
We can try to avoid fixing our notions of it and assuming it to be transhis- 
torical and transcultural. We can also study how representation legitimizes 
or privileges certain kinds of representation and knowledge, both today 
and in the past. We can put memory to work. The past for the postmodern 
is something with which we must come to terms, even if our resources for 
doing so may be limited. Postmodernism tries to understand present 
culture as the product of previous codings and representations. The repre- 
sentation of history becomes the history of representation too. Postmo- 
dern art acknowledges and accepts the challenge of tradition, however 
ironically: the history of representation cannot be escaped, but it can be 
both exploited and commented upon critically, often by means of parody. 
This kind of ironic recycling is one mode of problematizing and de- 
naturalizing the conventions of representation in such a way that the 
politics of that act of representing is made manifest. 

The work of Joanne Tod, Bruce Barber, and many other Canadian 
artists represented in this book moves outside the 'hermeneutic enclave of 
aesthetic self referencing' (Solomon-Godeau, 'Winning', 98) and into the 
social and cultural world, a world in which we are bombarded with 
images daily. They manage to point at once to the contingency of art and 
the primacy of social codes. They make the invisible become visible, the 
'natural' whether either modernist/formalist or realist/documentary 
denaturalized. In Canadian art today, the documentary impulse of realism 
meets head-on the problematizing of reference begun by self-reflexive 
modernism. And the result is a new focus on the way in which art 
'intersects and interacts with the social system in all its varied aspects' 
(Paoletti, 54), present and past. All representation has a politics; it also has 
a history. The conjunction of these two concerns in what some have called 
the New Art History (Rees and Borzello) has meant that issues such as 
gender, class, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation are now part of the 
discourse of the visual arts, as they are also of the literary ones today. 
Social history cannot be separated from the history of art: in both, mem- 
ory is at work. There is no value-neutral, much less value-free place from 
which to represent in any art form. And there never was. 



129 



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133 



NOTES ON ARTISTS 



The following brief entries give more information on those Canadian 
artists discussed in detail in Remembering Postmodernism. These notes are 
intended as an orientation and do not claim completeness. 

SHEILA AYEARST was born in Ottawa in 1951. She received a BFA degree 
from York University in 1977 and now works in Toronto. Recent solo 
exhibitions include 'Living on the Edge' (Galerie Powerhouse, Montreal, 
1989) and 'Still Life' (Mercer Union, Toronto, 1988). She has participated 
in many group shows, including 'Beyond the Document: Extended Pho- 
tography' (Forest City Gallery, London, 1989) and 'The Interpretation of 
Architecture' (YYZ, Toronto, 1986; catalogue by Andy Patton). Her inter- 
ests in the appropriation of historical imagery and in photography are 
maintained in her most recent project, a series of large paintings and 
photos entitled 'The Verge', which are inspired by Jack Chambers's 
famous painting 401 Towards London. 

Sculptor, critic, and performance artist BRUCE BARBER was born in New 
Zealand in 1950 and has lived in Canada since 1976. In 1978 he received an 
MFA degree from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, 
where he is currently Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies. 
Barber's extensive exhibition list shows the multidisciplinary nature of his 
interests. Since the early 1970s, he has executed bookworks, performances, 
videos, and sculpture/photo installations. Solo exhibits include 'Reading 
Room' (49th Parallel, New York, 1985) and 'Reading Room IF (Eyelevel 
Gallery, Halifax, and Artspace, Auckland, New Zealand, 1987). He has 
participated in 'Resistance Anti-Baudrillard' (White Columns Gallery, 
New Y)rk) and in the touring exhibits 'Two Countries/Two Cities' (Halifax/ 
Lublin [Poland] exchange, 1988) and 'A Different War: Vietnam in Art' 
(Whatcom Museum, Bellingham, Washington, plus six tour venues in the 
US, 1989-92). Barber is the editor of Essays on [Performance] and Cultural 
Politidsation (Open Letter 5th series, nos 5, 6, Summer/Fall 1983) and author of 
Low Culture versus High Culture: Cultural Hegemony and the Contestation of Power 
(University of Minnesota Press, forthcoming). 

Peterborough, Ontario artist CARL BEAM was born in West Bay, Ontario 
in 1943 and took his BFA from the University of Victoria in 1975. He has 
had solo shows at the Congress Centre in Ottawa (1990) and in many 



135 



Remembering Postmodernism 

private galleries in Canada as well as in New Mexico, and he has been part 
of group exhibitions across Canada. 

SYLVffi BELANGER was born in Quebec in 1951. She has earned a variety of 
university degrees: her MFA at York University, Toronto (1986), her BFA at 
Concordia University, Montreal (1983), a certificate in Education from the 
Universite de Quebec a Montreal in 1974, and an Honours BA in Religious 
Studies from the Universite de Montreal (1973). She teaches in the Fine Arts 
department at the University of Windsor. Recent work has been exhibited in 
the Netherlands as well as in solo and group exhibitions in Ontario ('Contin- 
uous Fragments', Sarnia Public Art Gallery, 1988; 'I am Here', Mercer Union, 
Toronto, 1987; Time as a Minute', Artcite Gallery, Windsor; 'Garden (a 
collaborative work)' [with Anne Devitt], 1 01, Ottawa, 1989). 

JANE BUYERS was born in Toronto in 1948 and works there as well as in 
Waterloo, Ontario, where she is a faculty member at the University of 
Waterloo. She graduated from York University with an Honours BA in 
Visual Arts in 1973. Her recent group exhibits include 'Water Works' 
(London Regional Art and Historical Museums, 1985) and 'The Interpre- 
tation of Architecture' (YYZ, Toronto, 1986; catalogue by Andy Patton). 
She has had solo shows across Canada and has been with the Garnet Press 
gallery in Toronto since 1988. 

Toronto installation artist, sculptor, and photographer IAN CARR-HARRIS 
was born in Victoria in 1941. He was educated at Queen's University (BA 
1963) and the University of Toronto (BLS 1964), and he is currently the 
Chair of the Department of Experimental Art at the Ontario College of 
Art in Toronto. Since the early 1970s, Carr-Harris has had a series of solo 
shows with the Carmen Lamanna Gallery in Toronto. He was part of the 
'Vestiges of Empire' exhibition at the Camden Art Centre, London, in 
1984 and of the 'Aurora Borealis' show in Montreal the following year. In 
1987 he participated in 'Toronto: A Play of History (jeu d'histoire)' at The 
Power Plant in Toronto. Carr-Harris represented Canada at the 41st Ven- 
ice Biennale in 1984. His work from 1971-7 was the focal point of a major 
exhibition curated by Philip Monk at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1988. 

Montreal was the birthplace of MELVIN CHARNEY (1935). He received his 
Master of Architecture degree from Yale University in 1959 and is now a 
Professor of Architecture at the Universite de Montreal. He has exhibited 
in solo and group shows around the world and represented Canada at the 
1986 Venice Biennale. Charney was recently commissioned to install new 
work at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. 



136 



Notes on Artists 

ALLYSON CLAY was born in 1953 in Vancouver, where she now works and 
teaches at Simon Fraser University. She was educated at the University of 
British Columbia (MFA 1985) and the Nova Scotia College of Art and 
Design (BFA 1980). She has curated exhibitions in Toronto, Vancouver, 
and Rome and has recently held solo shows at Artspeak in Vancouver 
(1988) and YYZ in Toronto (1987). Her work has been seen in numerous 
group exhibits across Canada. Clay currently exhibits with the Costin 
and Klintworth Gallery in Toronto. 

CAROLE CONDE and KARL BEVERIDGE (born 1940 in Hamilton and 1945 
in Ottawa) have worked together since 1975. They exhibit in a variety of 
contexts, from union halls to museums. Group exhibits include the 1976 
Venice Biennale, 'Kunst mit Eigen-Sinn' (Museum Moderner Kunst, 
Vienna, 1985), and 'Voices of Dissent' (Painted Bride Art Center, Phila- 
delphia, 1987). They have had solo exhibits at the Art Gallery of Ontario 
(1976), the Australian Centre for Photography (1982), the Institute for 
Contemporary Art in London (1983), and the Staatliche Kunsthalle in 
Berlin (1983), as well as many other venues. 

Toronto photographer STAN DENNISTON was born in Victoria in 1953. In 
1976 he graduated from the Department of Photo-Electric Arts at the 
Ontario College of Art. 'How to Read' was shown at YYZ in Toronto in 
1988, and his 'Reminders' works have been seen throughout the country: 
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, 1983 (catalogue by Jeanne Randolph); 
Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography (touring), 1986; Art 
Gallery of Ontario 'Contact' exhibition (touring), 1987. In 1986, Dennis- 
ton was part of the 'Songs of Experience' exhibition at the National 
Gallery of Canada and of 'The Interpretation of Architecture' at YYZ in 
Toronto. 

EVERGON was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario, in 1946. He studied sculp- 
ture, drawing, printmaking, and painting as well as photography at 
Mount Allison University in New Brunswick. A summer course at the 
Rochester Institute of Technology led to his first experiments with hand- 
manipulated photo-related media. He graduated with an MFA in Photog- 
raphy from RIT in 1974 and taught at the Louisville School of Art in 
Kentucky and the Visual Arts Department at the University of Ottawa. 
Since 1986, with the support of a Canada Council grant, he has devoted 
his time to his photographic work, especially his large-format Polaroid 
photographs. In 1988 the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photog- 
raphy held a retrospective of his work, 1971-87. 



137 



Remembering Postmodernism 

ANDY FABO was born in Calgary in 1953. In 1984 he was part of the 
'Toronto Painting '84' exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Since then he 
has participated in group shows in New York, Zurich, Toronto, Ottawa, 
and Vancouver, among other places. His solo exhibitions include 'Western 
Flesh and Blood' (Garnet Press Gallery, Toronto, 1986), and 'A Landscape 
of Loss' (Forest City Gallery, London, Ont., 1987). He now shows regu- 
larly at Garnet Press and writes critical essays. 

Sculptor JOE FAFARD was born in Ste Marthe, Saskatchewan, in 1942. He 
received his BFA in 1966 from the University of Manitoba and his MFA 
two years later from Pennsylvania State University. He now works in 
Pense, near Regina. Since 1970 his work has been seen in solo exhibitions 
across Canada, including the recent touring retrospective 'Joe Fafard: 
Cows and Other Luminaries 1977-1987'. He has been part of group 
exhibitions in Canada as well as in the US and Europe. 

FASTWURMS is a collective of three Toronto artists, Kim Kozzi (born in 
Ottawa, 1955), Napoleon Brousseau (born in Ottawa, 1950), and Dai 
Skuse (born in Oldham, England, 1955). Among their recent solo exhibits 
are 'Arbor Vitae' (Forest City Gallery, London, 1988), 'Campo Verrni 
Veloci' (Canadian Cultural Centre, Rome, 1988), and 'Birch Girl Plaza' 
(Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff). Fastwurms has also been part of group 
shows in Italy and across Canada. 

London, Ontario, artist MURRAY FAVRO was born in Huntsville, Ontario, 
in 1940. His numerous solo and group appearances through the 1970s and 
early 1980s culminated in 'Murray Favro: A Retrospective' (National 
Gallery of Canada [touring], 1984). In 1986 Favro was part of 'Focus 
Canadian Art 1960-1985' in Cologne. He now exhibits regularly with 
the Carmen Lamanna Gallery in Toronto. 

WYN GELEYNSE was born in the Netherlands in 1947 but moved to 
London, Ontario as a boy. He has had solo shows in New ^brk, Ohio, 
Florida, Toronto, and Winnipeg and is now represented by Galerie Brehda 
Wallace in Montreal. His work was part of the 'On Track' exhibition of art 
and technology at the 1988 Olympic Arts Festival in Calgary and he 
represented Canada at the 1987 Sao Paulo Bienale. 

The group GENERAL IDEA came together in Toronto in 1968. AA Bron- 
son (Michael Tims) was born in Vancouver in 1946, Felix Partz (Ron 
Gabe) in 1945 in Winnipeg, and Jorge Zontal (Jorge Saia) in Parma, Italy, 
in 1944. Since 1970 they have had solo exhibits around the world, includ- 
ing 'The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavilion' (international tour, 1984-85). 



138 



Notes on Artists 

Their group exhibitions include 'Dokumenta 7' (Kassel, 1982), 'O 
Kanada' (Berlin, 1983), 'An International Survey of Recent Painting and 
Sculpture' (Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1984), and Toronto: A 
Play of History (jeu d'histoire)' at The Power Plant in Toronto, 1987. 
General Idea is also well known for video work and for its writings in Fuse 
magazine. 

Sculptor MARCEL GOSSELIN was born in 1948 in St Boniface, Manitoba. 
He took his honours BFA at the University of Manitoba in 1971 and now 
works in LaSalle, near Winnipeg. Recent solo exhibits include 'Frag- 
ments' (Mercer Union, Toronto, 1989) and 'Delta' (Winnipeg Art Gallery, 
1986). Gosselin has participated in many group exhibitions as well, such 
as 'Diaries' (1987, touring) and the recent 'Contemporary Art in Mani- 
toba' exhibition (touring). He recently won the Forks sculpture commis- 
sion in Winnipeg. 

ANGELA GRAUERHOLZ came to Canada from Germany, where she was 
born in Hamburg in 1952. Her photographs have been seen in solo 
exhibits at The Photographers Gallery, Saskatoon (1988), the Universite 
de Sherbrooke (1987), the Stride Gallery in Calgary (1986), and most 
recently, at Art 45 in Montreal, where she exhibits regularly. She was part 
of the exhibition 'The Historical Ruse: Art in Montreal' (Toronto, The 
Power Plant, 1988). 

Toronto artist JANICE GURNEY was born in Winnipeg in 1949. Over the 
past several years, she has had solo exhibits in Toronto (Wynick/Tuck 
Gallery), Oakville (Gairloch Gallery), and Montreal (Galerie Power- 
house) and has participated in many group exhibitions, including 'The 
Mothers of Invention' (McNeil Gallery, Philadelphia) and 'Identity/ 
Identities' (Winnipeg Art Gallery). She has also published reviews and 
critical essays in many art magazines. 

JAMELIE HASSAN was born in 1948 in London, Ontario, where she con- 
tinues to live and work. Over the past fifteen or so years, she has produced 
over twenty installation works that have been seen in both solo (Mercer 
Union, Toronto; Eye Level Gallery Halifax; London Regional Art and 
Historical Musuems) and group contexts. She has shown in Cuba and 
gained special prominence as a participant in the 'Songs of Experience' 
exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada in 1986. She participated in the 
recent 'Commitment' exhibition at The Power Plant in Toronto (1990). 

VERN HUME was born in Winnipeg and now works in Calgary, where he 
received his MFA in video in 1985. Exhibitions and screenings of his 



139 



Remembering Postmodernism 

videos have taken place at the Winnipeg Art Gallery ('Winnipeg Perspec- 
tive: Video', 1985), at the Centre for Art Tapes, Halifax (1987), at the 
Ottawa SAW Gallery Canadian Video Festival in 1987, and at A Space in 
Toronto (1988), as well as at many other venues across the country. 

London painter GREG LUDLOW was born in Toronto in 1954 and com- 
pleted his MFA at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1981. He 
has had solo exhibits in London, Windsor, Oakville, and Toronto and has 
participated in various group shows since the mid-1970s. 

WILLIAM MACDONNELL was born in Winnipeg in 1943 and received an 
MFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1979. Since 1985, 
he has held solo exhibits at the Stride Gallery in Calgary. He took part in 
the 'Encounters and Enquiries' exhibition at the London Regional Art and 
Historical Museums in 1987 and the 'Survey Alberta 88' show held in 
Calgary at the time of the 1988 Winter Olympics. 

Born in Hanna, Alberta, in 1945, ALICE MANSELL received her MA from 
the University of British Columbia in 1970. She now works in London, 
where she is Chair of the Visual Arts Department at the University of 
Western Ontario. Solo exhibits of her painting have been seen in Bragg 
Creek, Alberta, at the Off Centre Centre in Calgary, and at the Betty 
Oliphant Theatre in Toronto. She has participated in faculty exhibitions in 
both Calgary and London as well as in 'Witness to Private Motives' at the 
Alberta College of Art in 1987. Mansell's critical essays have appeared in 
several Canadian publications. 

GEOFF MILES, born in 1952, received his BA Honours in Photographic 
Arts at the Polytechnic of Central London in 1980. A theorist, critic, 
curator, lecturer, and reviewer as well, he has had numerous shows, both 
group and individual, in Canada, the United States, and England, and has 
received support from both the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada 
Council. He is currently completing a doctorate in Social and Political 
Thought at York University. 

Painter GUIDO MOLINARI was born in Montreal in 1933, where he now 
works and where he teaches at Concordia University. He has had numer- 
ous solo and group shows since the early 1950s and was the recipient in 
1980 of the Prix Borduas. He participated in the Paris Biennale in 1977 
and was the subject of a touring retrospective mounted by the National 
Gallery of Canada in 1976. Recent group exhibitions include '10 Cana- 
dian Artists in the 1970s' (Art Gallery of Ontario and tour, 1980), and 
'Stations' (Le Centre international d'art contemporain de Montreal, 



140 



Notes on Artists 

1987). He has had solo shows recently at the 49th Parallel in New York 
(1987), the Vancouver Art Gallery (and tour, 1989-90), and the Wynick/ 
Tuck Gallery in Toronto (1990). 

NIGEL SCOTT, a native of Jamaica, where he had worked in the photo 
department of an advertising agency, moved to Toronto in 1975 and made 
his name as one of Canada's most interesting fashion photographers, 
before moving to Paris a few years ago. His photographs have appeared in 
Glamour, the German Miss Vogue, Japan's Fashion News and, in the US, 
Mademoiselle. He was one of fourteen photographers chosen to shoot with 
the 20 x 24 Polaroid in conjunction with the Festival de la Foto de la Mode 
in Trouville, France, in 1989. His recent art photographs have been exhi- 
bited at the Jane Corkin Gallery in Toronto. 

TOM SHERMAN was born in Manistree, Michigan, in 1947 and now works 
in Ottawa. His numerous videos have been seen across Canada in solo and 
group shows as well as on cable TV. He was part of the 'Canada Video' 
exhibit at the 39th Venice Biennale in 1980. Sherman also writes on video 
and culture. 

BARBARA STEINMAN lives in Montreal and is a graduate of both McGill 
and Concordia Universities. She has been producing multi-media video 
installations since 1980 and has represented Canada at the Sao Paulo 
Bienale (1987) and in the Aperto exhibition at the 1988 Venice Biennale. 

Toronto painter JOANNE TOD was born in Montreal in 1953 and educated 
at the Ontario College of Art. In addition to her annual exhibits at the 
Carmen Lamanna Gallery in Toronto, Tod has recently had solo shows at 
the Or Gallery, Vancouver (1989), the Forest City Gallery in London 
(1987), and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. She has been part of many 
trend-setting group exhibits: 'Late Capitalism' (Art Gallery at Har- 
bourfront, Toronto, 1985), 'Songs of Experience' (National Gallery of 
Canada, 1986), Toronto: A Play of History (jeu d'histoire)' (The Power 
Plant, Toronto, 1987), 'Morality Tales: History painting in the 1980s' 
(Grey Gallery, New York, and US tour), and 'Waterworks', at the R.C. 
Harris Water Filtration Plant in Toronto, 1988. 

CLAUDE TOUSIGNANT was born in Montreal in 1932 and continues to 
work in that city. He has had solo exhibits nearly every year since the 
mid-1950s, including a retrospective toured by the National Gallery of 
Canada from 1973 to 1975. He has been part of group exhibits across 
Canada and in France (1980). In 1976 Tbusignant was named an Officer of 
the Order of Canada; in 1989 he won the Prix Borduas. 



141 



Remembering Postmodernism 

NEIL WEDMAN works in Vancouver and shows with the Diane Farris 
Gallery. His most recent solo exhibits are 'Margery' (Diane Farris Gallery, 
1990) and 'Death Ray' (Vancouver Art Gallery, 1987). 

Sculptor ROBERT WIENS was born in Leamington, Ontario, in 1953 and 
now lives in Picton, Ontario. Recent solo exhibits include 'The Rip and 
the Little Boy' (Or Gallery, Vancouver, 1989), and 'Bush TV' (Forest City 
Gallery, London, 1989), as well as regular shows at the Carmen Lamanna 
Gallery in Toronto. His work has appeared in many important group 
exhibitions: 'Subjects and Objects' (MacDonald Stewart Art Centre, 
Guelph, 1985), 'Songs of Experience' (National Gallery of Canada, 1986), 
and 'Toronto: A Play of History (jeu d'histoire)' (The Power Plant, 
Toronto, 1987). 

KRZYSZTOF WODICZKO was born in 1943 in Warsaw, Poland, and immi- 
grated to Canada in 1977. He now works in New York. His public 
projections have been staged throughout the world and he has been part 
of numerous important group exhibitions, including Dokumenta 6 
(Kassel, 1977), the Sydney Biennale in 1979 and 1982, 'Aurora Borealis' In 
Montreal (1985), and the Venice Biennale in 1986. 



142 



NDEX 



Adrian, Robert: Great Moments in Modern 
Art II (Joseph Beuys Crashes in Russia, 
1943), 11-12 

Alexander, Lawrence, 76-7 

Althusser, Louis, 116 

April, Raymonde, 41 

Arendt, Hannah, 91 

Arp, Hans, 70 

Ayearst, Sheila, 11, 135; Approaching 
Giorgione, 8; Fin dejour, 8; Living on the 
Edge, 9; Sensible Passage, 8; There is No 
Safety, 9; Three Minutes, 1-4, 2, 6, 7-8, 
13, 19, 125 

Balser, Michael, 118 

Barber, Bruce, 117, 119, 121, 129, 135; 

Nam II, 93-6, 94; Remembering Vietnam 

Triptych, 93 
Barthes, Roland, 54, 83, 84, 111, 118, 

121 

Baudelaire, Charles, 24 
Baudrillardjean, 15, 16, 116 
Beam, Carl, 135-6; The North American 

Iceberg, 80, SI; Erase, SI 
Beckmann, Max, 27 
Belanger, Sylvie, 136; Essai de Synthese, 

64-7, 65; Triptych, 67 
Benjamin, Walter, 1, 48-9, 115, 120 
Beuys, Joseph, 12 
Bierk, David: Save the Planet/Autumn 

Sunset to Keith and Caravaggio, 12 
Boethius, 47 
Boltanski, Christian, 55 
Borges, Jorge Luis, 11 
Boyle, Sonia, 41 
Bryson, Norman, 45 
Burger, Peter, 20 
Burgin, Victor, 111 
Burnett, David, 22 
Burnett, David, and Marilyn Schiff, 20, 

113 
Buyers, Jane, 112, \36; Language/ 

Possession 81, 82, 83-4 



Cahn, Miriam, 41 

Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisa da; 

Death of the Virgin, 12; Flagellation, 127 
Carr, Emily, 16 
Carr-Harris, Ian, 136; Nancy Higginson, 

1949- , 55 
Carder Bresson, 113 
Casey, Edward S., 61, 67, 96 
Chambers, Jack: The Hart of London, 55; 

Madrid Window No. 2, 12 
Charney, Melvin, 136; Better if They 

Think They are Going to a Farm . . ., 88; 

Les Maisons de la rue Sherbrooke, 81, 86- 

8,87 

Chipp, HerschelB.,42 
Clay, Allyson, 11, 29-30, 32, 137; 

Constellation of the Great Owl, 30; Cross 

by the Sea, 30; Lure, 30,31, 32, 34, 36, 

44, 83, 93, 117; Paintings with Voices, 34 
Clemente, Francesco, 41 
Cohen, Sorel: Re-reading two Empires, 12 
Conde, Carole, and Karl Beveridge, 111, 

137; No Immediate Threat, 123, 124 
Constructivism, 16, 18, 19 
Corridart Exhibition, 81, 86 
Cran, Chris, 11; Self-Portrait as Max 

Beckmann, 27, 117 
Cubism, 16-18 

Dada, 70 

David, Jacques Louis: Madame Recamier, 

12; Oath of the Horatii, 60-1 
de Bolla, Peter, 63 
Degas, Edgar, 12 
Deitcher, David, 24 
Delaunay, Robert, 32 
Denniston, Stan, 137; Dealey Plaza/ 

Recognition and Mnemonic, 100; Kent State 

U./Pilgrimage and Mnemonic, 96-8, 100; 

Reminder #20, 98-100, 99 
Derrida, Jacques, 39, 73, 97, 111 
Doesburg, Theo Van, 22 
Douglas, Stan, 125 



143 



Remembering Postmodernism 



Duras, Marguerite, 56 

Eagleton, Terry, 6, 100 
Eco, Umberto, 111,127 
Evergon, 111, 127, 137 
Ewen, Paterson, 64 

Fabo, Andy, 11, 127, 138; The Craft of the 
Contaminated, 13, 14, 15-16, 18, 117; 
Laocoon Revisited, 118; Medicine Man 
Memory, 16; Survival oj 'the Delirious, 118 

Fafardjoe, 11, 138; Gauguin, 26; My Art 
Critic, 27; Vincent, 24, 25, 26-7 

Fastwurms, 138; Father Brebeufs Fugue 
State, 81 

Favro, Murray, 11, 138; Van Gogh's Room, 
24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 55, 83 

Fenton, Terry, and Karen Wilkin, 22 

Ferguson, Bruce, 54-5 

Ferguson, Bruce, and Sandy Nairne, 41 

Fleming, Marie, 29 

Fokkema, Douwe, ix 

Foster, Hal, 123 

Foucault, Michel, 19, 70-1, 101, 119 

Fragonard, Jean-Horiore, 9 

Fried, Michael, 24, 26 

Freud, Sigmund, 41, 58-9 

Gale, Peggy, 55 

Gasse, Jocelyn: Composition No. 104, 64 

Gauguin, Paul, 21 

Geleynse, Wyn, 61, 138; Fear of Memory, 
52-4, 53, 79; Portrait of My Father, 54; 
Remembering, 54, 58; We Never Knew 
Her Past, Than Through Her Photos, 54 

Geltner, Gail: Closed System, 12 

General Idea, 11, 138-9; 1984 Miss 
General Idea Pavilion, 4; 1984 Miss 
General Ideal Pageant, 125; Snow Bird, 
12; The Unveiling of the Cornucopia, 1, 4- 
6, 5, 7, 13, 15, 43, 48, 67, 77, 114 

Gericault, Theodore: The Raft of the 
Medusa, 13, 15-16, 19 

Giorgione: Tempest, 8 

Gogh, Vincent van, 20, 24, 27 

Goodman, Nelson, 1 

Gormley, Antony, 41 

Gosselin, Marcel, 139; Delta exhibition, 
51, 52; Fragments exhibition, 51-2; The 



Observatory, 49-51, 50 

Goya, Francisco de: Colossus, 9 

Grauerholz, Angela, 139; Basel, 58, 
61-4, 62; Clouds, 64; Landscape, 64; 
Mountain, 64 

Greenberg, Clement, 21, 27 

Group of Seven, 12, 15, 117 

Gurney, Janice, 139; The Damage is Done, 
74, 75-7, 81, 93, 95; 1001 Details from 
'Genre', 75; Portrait of Me as My Grand- 
mother's Faults, 75; Screen, 56-8, 57, 60, 
75-6,81,93, 119 

Haacke, Hans, 95; U.S. Isolation Box, 

Grenada, 1983, 93 
Harris, Lawren, 15, 117 
Hassan, Jamelie, 139; Los Desparecidos, 

92-3; Primer for War, 93 
Heartfield, John, 95-6, 120 
Hogarth, William: The Four Stages of 

Cruelty, 47 

Holbein, Hans: The Ambassadors, 45, 47 
Hume, Vern, 139-40; Lamented Moments? 

Desired Objects, 67-70, 68 
Hutcheon, Linda, xi, xii, xiii, 8, 16, 71 

Ingres, Jean-Auguste-Dominique, 12 

Jameson, Fredric, 6-8, 9-10, 100, 116-7 
Johns, Jasper: In the Studio, 19 
Joosten, J., and Robert Welsh, 34 
Judd, Donald, 12 

Kandinsky, Wassily, 23, 32 
Kaplan, E. Ann, 100 
Kelly, Mary, 42, 43-4, 45 
Kiefer, Anselm, 11 
Klee, Paul: Angelus Novus, 48-9 
Klein, Astrid, 41 
Koop, Wanda: Airplane, 64 
Kraus, Rosalind, 114 
Kuhn, Annette, 121 
Kundera, Milan, 100 
Kupka, Frantisek, 32 
Kuspit, Donald, 21 

Lacan, Jacques, 45, 47 
Lawlor, Michael, 120 
LeDuc, Ozias: Fin dejour, 8 



144 



Index 



Levine, Sheri, 11 

Lowenthal, David, 7 

Ludlow, Greg, 11, 140: All Conditions Are 

Temporary, 16-19, 17 
Lukacs, Attila Richard: Junge Spartaner 

Fordern Knaben zum KampfHeraus, 12 
Lyotard,Jean-Frangois, 63, 111 

McConathy, Dale, 86 

McDonnell, William, 140; 22 July 1968/ 
16 November 1885, 81, 84-6, 85 

Malevich, Kasimir, 22, 32 

Manet, Edouard, 24 

Marinetti, FT., 42 

Marsan, Jean-Claude, Lucie Ruelland, 
and Pierre Richard: Memoire de la rue, 88 

Mays, John Bentley, 48 

Miles, Geoff, 11, 112, HO; Foreign Rela- 
tions, 110; The Trapper's Pleasure of the 
Text, 112 

Modernism, 11, 13, 19-27, 32, 34-6 

Molinari, Guido, 19, 20, 21-3, 26, 140-1 

Mondrian, Piet, 19, 21, 22-4, 26, 32-4, 
41 

Monk, Philip, 20 

Mycroft, Robert, 128 

Newman, Avis, 41 
Newman, Barnett, 42 
Nemiroff, Diana, 86 
Neoplasticism, 21, 33 

Painters Eleven, 13 

Patton, Andy, 75 

Pek, Robin, 12 

Picasso, Pablo, 19; Demoiselles d' Avignon, 

18 
Piero della Francesca: Flagellation of 

Christ, 8 
Plato, 39, 61, 70 
Poitras, Ed, 81 
Pollock, Griselda, 45 
Pontbriand, Chantal, 63 
Preziosi, Donald, 41 

Rembrandt, 3, 8, 19: Anatomy Lesson of 
Dr.JoanDeijman, 1, 125 
Repentigny (Jauran), Rodolphe de, 22 
Rank, Otto, 60 



Schafer, R. Murray, 120 

Scott, Nigel, 121, 1 41; Maillot Noiret 

Blanc, 121,122 
Sherman, Cindy, 55 
Sherman, Tom, 141; Exclusive Memory, 

55 
Simone Martini, 113; Guidoriccio da 

Fogliano, 83-4 
Smith, Paul, 71, 77 
Smolik, Noemi, 55 
Snow, Michael: Plus Tard, 12 
Sontag, Susan, 121 
Steinman, Barbara, 55, 93, 141; Borrowed 

Scenery, 92; Cenotaph, 90, 91-2 
Sterbek,Jana, 41 
Stimpson, Catharine, 115 
Sweeny, James, 22 

Teitelbaum, Matthew, and Peter White, 

26 

Terdiman, Richard, 7 
Teuber-Arp, Sophie, 22 
Theberge, Pierre, 22 

Thomas, David: Lecture to an Academy, 12 
Tickner, Lisa, 116 

Tod, Joanne, 11,29-30, 127-9, 141; 
Allegro Furioso Ma Sterotypissimo, 127; 
Approximation, 39, 40, 42-5; 
Identification/Defacement, 42; Magic at Sao 
Paulo, 42; My Father, Bob and I, 42; Reds 
on Green, 34-6, 35, 44; Self Portrait, 42, 
125; Self Portrait as Prostitute, 42, 125, 
126; The Upper Room, 75, 76 

Tousignant, Claude, 11, 23, 26, 141; 
Hommage a Van Gogh, 19-22, 24, 27, 34, 
36 

Turner, J.M.W., 64 

Vattimo, 111 
Virilio, Paul, 66 
vom Bruch, Klaus, 41 
von Stroheim, Erich, 58 

Wainio, Carol: The Sight (Site) of a Mem- 
ory Trace, 12 

Wall, Jeff: The Storyteller, 12, 121 
Wallace, Ian, 12, 32 
Warnock, Mary, 73 



145 



Remembering Postmodernism 

Wedman, Neil, 142; Death Ray, 45-9, 46; Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 4, 1 1 

Margery, 49 Wodiczko, Krzysztof, 83, 88-91, 142; 

Whittome, Irene F.: Le Musee de Traces, 52 Courthouse Projection, 91 

Wieland, Joyce, \\\\ Notice Board, 13; 

Redgasm, 13 Yates, Frances, 84 

Wiens, Robert, 142; Before the Rising 

Spectre, 79; Bush TV., 79; The Rip, 77- Zoffany, Johan, 12 

81, 78, 98 Zurburan, Francisco de, 12 



146 



REMEMBERING POSTMODERNISM 



TRENDS IN RECENT CAN ADI AN ART 



Mark A. Cheetham with Linda Hutcheon 

The first detailed examination of postmodernism in Canadian 
visual arts, this ground-breaking study focuses on memory as 
an essential and recurring issue in the work of some forty of our 
leading artists, individual and collective. Among the artists 
discussed are Allyson Clay, Andy Fabo, Joe Fafard, General 
Idea, Janice Gurney, Geoff Miles, Joanne Tod, Claude 
Tousignant, and Robert Weins. 

Cheetham's discussion deals with postmodernism's relation to 
the art-historical past as well as its built-in retrospective con- 
struction of modernism, against which it defines itself. In addi- 
tion, he explores such issues as the gender implications of 
art-historical remembering and the social and frequently politi- 
cal potentials of postmodern art. In her 'Afterword', noted 
theorist Linda Hutcheon presents a broad overview situating 
Cheetham's detailed discussions within the ongoing debates 
about postmodernism in Canada and internationally. 

Illustrated with more than 30 photographs of paintings, 
sculptures, and installations, Remembering Postmodernism is an 
essential book for anyone who cares about the contemporary 
visual arts in Canada. 

MARK A. CHEETHAM, Associate Professor in the Department of 
Visual Arts at the University of Western Ontario, is the author 
of The Rhetoric of Purity: Essentialist Theory and fhe Advent of 
Abstract Painting (1991) and the co-editor (with Martin 
Kreiswirth) of Theory Between the Disciplines: Authority /Vision I 
Politics (1990). 

_ 

LINDA HUTCHEON is Professor of English and Comparative 
Literature at the University of Toronto. Her books for Oxford 
include The Canadian Postmodern: A Study of Contemporary 
English-Canadian Fiction (1988), Other Solitudes: Canadian 
Multicultural Fictions (1990), co-edited with Marion Richmond, 
and most recently, Splitting Images: Contemporary Canadian 
/ron/es(1991). 

OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 

Cover painting: Joanne Tod Self Portrait as 
Prostitute. Courtesy of the Carmen Lamanna 
Gallery. 

ISBN 0-19-540817-9 9 "78di95"408171