Seeing what you don’t see

What is behind this curious display?

What thoughts or intentions are these objects meant to communicate?

What part of the larger whole do they play?

Jessica Vellenga is interning as a community curator and programming at the Yukon Arts Centre. As an artist, herself, she is eager to illumine the meaning of Residue, the KIAC SOVA performance-art exhibit in the Community Gallery.

The inanimate objects and video vignettes are fragments from of the original perfor

mance-art, which itself is a fragment of the historical event that took place Jan. 20, 2009: Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th President of the United States.

The artists were inspired by Rebecca Belmore, an internationally acclaimed artist and visiting artist-in-residence at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture’s School of Visual Arts (KIAC SOVA), in Dawson City.

“The project was her idea,” Vellenga says. “Having it in the Community Gallery was my idea.

“It was really neat to see the way the response was so varied to one subject.

“A lot of them [the pieces] carry hope and a lot of people think Obama carries hope.

“This is an amazing event in world history …

“Students are socially engaged and aware.”

That awareness is in what appears to be odds and ends, a collection of construction materials fastened to a rusted and weathered wooden frame. But the artist, Renée Berquist, breathes meaning into this work and his creation comes to life.

In The Loophole in the Circuit, Berquist challenges observers to look beyond the surface and see what is not immediately apparent. It asks: Do we believe something just because we are told it is true?

Is America truly the Land of the Free?

Vellenga expounds on the exhibit: “Performance art is a difficult thing to do, I think …

“It’s not for those who are shy. And that would be a real challenge,” she laughs, “for me specifically.

“It’s a challenging genre.”

Vellenga has a fine arts degree from McMaster University and spent a year studying at the University of Leeds, in England.

Performance art is difficult to define, she says. It truly is art, but it is performance as well.

The exhibit has a theatrical feel to it. And the video fragments that accompany it reveal some of the artists’ thought processes, delving into what they desire to communicate about this historic event in context of the times that embrace it.

Indeed, one of the pieces is entitled Times, and the creator is Dustin Dorentlein.

A blue-pinstripe shirt and dark dress pants, a baggie of archived cigarette butts and a stack of impressive-looking resumés hint at a sign of our times.

But, as Dorentlein performs his art, the sombre message becomes clear: the future is uncertain. The search for light – hope – continues in these dark days of economic uncertainty.

The pieces, Vellenga says, were originally displayed and performed at KIAC Sova, both indoors and outdoors.

A dozen or more rocks, each bound by a ragged strip of white cotton, lay on a table. What story do these rocks tell? What message is hidden among them?

A brief video answers these questions as Cari Tangedal demonstrates the meaning she has infused into Flight, If Only for a Moment.

Cari stands alone in the snow, in an enclosed space, and methodically picks up the rocks, one at a time, and hurls them beyond their ‘prison’ where they take flight and then settle onto a snowy landscape, becoming one with it.

Obama offers hope to minorities—a spirit of hope that takes a flight of freedom where they become one with a nation.

The pieces in Residue are ambassadors of hope commissioned by their creators to represent a pivotal point in our history.

Vellenga urges people to “come and see art from the next up-and-coming artists”, adding that it is “a good opportunity to see art from out of Whitehorse.

“Come and see what the art school of the North is doing,” she says with a broad smile and with great enthusiasm.

The six performance-art pieces in Residue also include Echo Hearty’s Together, Robyn O’Brien’s Promises and Moe Fezatte’s Mirrors.

Residue is available for viewing in the Yukon Arts Centre Community Gallery until March 8.

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