Revolutionaries and Ghosts: Memory, Witness and Justice in a Global Canadian Context
January 31, 2019 - May 3, 2019
Works from the Collections of Nickle Galleries and the MacKenzie Art Gallery, curated by Timothy Long and Christine Sowiak
Co-produced by Nickle Galleries, University of Calgary and MacKenzie Art Gallery
Opening Reception: Thursday 31 January, 5:00 – 8:00 pm
They would live on, as dangerous as revolutionaries but as intangible as ghosts
– Madeleine Thien
In her award-winning novel Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Canadian author Madeleine Thien uses the figure of a book within a book to gently assert the power of stories to preserve memories even as changing political tides threaten to sweep them away. By hiding the true names of lost loved ones within the fictional Book of Records, her protagonists keep alive the dream of art, beauty, and freedom amidst China’s repressive political regimes. Thien’s novel demonstrates the important role that Canadian authors have played in recent years in attesting to violence on the world stage while exploring its impacts at home. The presence created by the names of lost loved ones are, in the words of one of her characters, “as dangerous as revolutionaries but as intangible as ghosts.” Similarly, the twelve Canadian artists in the MacKenzie’s original iteration of this exhibition – Ed Burtynsky, Ruth Cuthand, Wally Dion, Sherry Farrell-Racette, Hoang Zhong-Yang, Marie Landon, Grant McConnell, Gerald McMaster, Ann Newdigate, Ed Pien, William Rodgers, and Jeff Wall – embed memories that connect the present to the past, and trouble the narratives of erasure and injustice which have marked the histories that tie Canada to the wider world.
Revolutionaries and Ghosts is constructed around Thien’s suggestion that the names alone of lost loved ones can create a palpable (yet intangible) presence. Just so, the works in this exhibition summon stories of political and personal responses to and memories of many impactful and sustained world events from the 20th and 21st centuries. The first iteration of the exhibition, curated by Timothy Long, was shown at Regina’s MacKenzie Art Gallery in the summer of 2018. Here, stories are added from the collection of Nickle Galleries, through works by Bill Rodgers, William MacDonnell, Dominique Blain, John Will, Garry Neill Kennedy and Faye Heavyshield.
Diversity in local and global contexts requires a willingness to share histories, acknowledge inequities, and work toward justice and reconciliation. The works in this collaborative exhibition grow out of this desire and address a broad range of topics, from the Cultural Revolution to the Holocaust, from 9/11 to the mistreatment of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Together, the works point to the important role of Canadian artists in asking hard questions of ourselves, our histories, and the global power structures in which we are all enmeshed. The collaboration between MacKenzie and Nickle, points further to the role that galleries and institutions in amplifying those questions.