Brittany Sostar | November 17, 2017
I had the opportunity to visit Ottawa a few weekends ago, and while there, I stopped by the National Gallery of Canada. The gallery is currently showing the Canadian Biennale 2017, which runs until Sunday, March 18, 2018.
“Every Canadian Biennial strives to present the boldest and most pertinent examples of art-making today as gleaned through the research, travel, discourses and dialogues of curators working in the Gallery’s departments of Contemporary Art and Indigenous Art and the Canadian Photography Institute (CPI).” (Quote taken from the NGC’s article ‘A Visual Primer: the 2017 Canadian Biennale’:)
It’s important to note that this Biennale show only displays artworks from the NGC’s own permanent collection, and within this exhibition, only works acquired by the gallery since 2014 are featured. In total, the permanent collection of the NGC consists of more than 65,000 works of art.
There was one work in particular that had me laughing, and still has me thinking. This piece is Kent Monkman’s ‘The Casualties of Modernity.’ The work is set within a highly realistic hospital room, equipped with hand sanitizer dispensers, x-ray images, and get well cards. The patient within this hospital room is a stylized Picasso figure, who is attached to a heart monitor and appearing not to fare well. Standing over this patient is a life-sized replica of Miss Chief Eagle Testikle (Kent Monkman’s alter ego). Miss Chief also appears in a hilarious video, which reminded me of a doctor focused, daytime TV sitcom. Throughout the video she is visits many other patients who are all experiencing the symptoms of modernity. The video is shown on a TV screen mounted near the ceiling, in the corner of the room, true to the setup of any other hospital.
If you happen to be in Ottawa, stop by this exhibition. Catch a glimpse at what’s happening within Canada and beyond. See some art, laugh with it, and let it let you think.
Image: Photo Credit: Kent Monkman, Casualties of Modernity, 2015, mixed media installation with HD video, 14:45 minutes, (no fixed height) x 272 x 525 cm, Purchased 2016 through the generous donation of Marnie Schreiber and Karen Schreiber, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, © Kent Monkman, Photo: Tony Hafkenscheid. Accessed Nov 11, 2017: https://www.gallery.ca/