A Few Similar Things

February 6 – March 24, 2017

+15 Window Exhibition

Untitled Art Society + Stride Gallery + TRUCK Contemporary Art + The New Gallery

Tanya Lukin Linklater + Celia Perrin Sidarous

Maggie Groat + Simone Rochon

Scott Benesiinaabandan + Sanaz Mazinani

Vuk Dragojevic + Liza Eurich

Curated by Natasha Chaykowski + Alison Cooley

Exhibition Description

She once suggested to a respected, successful, and generous curator that a particular artwork be included in an exhibition alongside another. The curator dismissed the suggestion without pause: “those works are too similar, it’s too obvious” said the curator.

A Few Similar Things presents what its title suggests; it comprises four pairings of similar works, made autonomously by different artists. Mounted in vitrine spaces throughout the Arts Commons +15 pedway in Calgary, each installation is a coupling of works that in some way—aesthetically, conceptually, formally—are forthrightly alike.

Curating often prides itself on revealing the esoteric connectivity of artworks: the potential for juxtaposition to illuminate as-yet-unseen kinships, to tease out subtle thematic and formal tendencies or progressions, to build bonds between disparate objects. In this way, curatorial authority is engineered and maintained. A Few Similar Things plays critically with this impulse, questioning the relationship between power and curatorial methodologies.

In another vein, A Few Similar Things is situated in the context of a post-Internet ecology characterized by dizzying effluences of material—an environment that makes the avant-garde impulse of unique, novel creation appear impossible. How might artists faced with such a climate reckon with the act of creating? What can we understand from these similar works, made entirely independent from one another, each likely in complete ignorance of the other’s existence? How do art works become agents who operate outside of particular constraints of control, once unmoored from their artist’s hand?

Rarely are we afforded the opportunity to look at similar images alongside each other. Instead, images are contextualized within an artist’s body of work, within a movement, a style, a regional artistic dialogue—their uniqueness highlighted in variation, rather than in their particularities. In A Few Similar Things, obvious pairings of like with like open poetic confluences between works, but also trace the rhythm of their small differences. In the space of the Arts Commons +15 vitrines, these pairings might become a kind of experiment: how do we reckon with sameness? Can the foundational impulses of curating be undone or de-familiarized by gestures of obvious combination? What might aesthetic closeness lend to us for understanding each other?

Scott Benesiinaabandan + Sanaz Mazinani

Underlying the mesmerizing quality of both Scott Benesiinaabandan’s AK Sunrise (2012) and Sanaz Mazinani’s War Equipped #3 (2011) is a formal interest in a kind of kaleidoscopic mirroring. In each artist’s work, small images repeat rhythmically across decorative expanses: in Benesiinaabandan’s video, a moving wheel of tessellation; in Mazinani’s photographic collage, an ornate but unrecognizable form, delicate and jewelry-like. Yet, upon further inspection, the decorative structure of each work gives way to varied violences. In Mazinani’s collage, helmets, handguns, and heavy military boots, appear together as markers of the uncomfortable anonymity and authority created by wearing a uniform. In Benesiinaabandan’s, the image of the AK-47 returns time again, rotating in a decorative wheel alongside text fragments in Anishinaabemowin, excerpted news text, and historical images from Canada and Australia (where the work was completed while the artist was on residency). And while each work serves as a critique of state violence, each is also finely attuned to the potential of military technology to change behaviour—whether it is a querying of the space of identity within a military apparatus, or an imagining of the possibilities of resistance.

Documentation by Jeff Cruz

Scott Benesiinaabandan is an Anishinabe intermedia artist that works primarily in photography, printmaking and video. Scott has recently completed  international residencies at Parramatta Artist Studios in Australia (2012), Context Gallery in Derry, North of Ireland (2010) and is most recently been awarded the University Lethbridge/Royal Institute of Technology iAIR residency 2013,  along with international collaborative projects in both the U.K and Ireland. He is currently in Montreal, and recently completed a Canada Council New Media Production grant through OBx Labs/Ab-tech and Concordia.

In the past four years, Benesiinaabandan has been awarded multiple grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, Manitoba Arts Council and the Winnipeg Arts Council.

Benesiinaabandan has taken part in several group exhibitions across Canada and the United States, most notably in  Harbourfront’s Flatter the Land/Bigger the Ruckus (2006), Subconscious City at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (2008) and with more recent solo exhibitions, unSacred, at Gallery 1C03 ( 2011) and in Sydney,  Mii Omaa Ayaad/Oshiki Inendemowin (2012).In September, 2013 Benesiinaabandan will take part in Ryerson Image Centre’s Ghost Dance exhibition.

Sanaz Mazinani is an artist, curator, and educator based in San Francisco and Toronto. She holds her undergraduate degree from Ontario College of Art & Design University, and her Masters in Fine Arts from Stanford University. Mazinani’s work explores the relationship between perception and representation by drawing on concepts such as censorship, scale, and the body as a site of action or violence. Working primarily in photography and large-scale photo-based installations, her practice intersects conceptual and formal boundaries of the photographic image in response to site, sight, and insight, especially in relation to digital culture.

Her projects have been exhibited in venues such as Museum Bärengasse, Zurich, Art & Architecture Library at Stanford University, University of Toronto Art Center, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Sarai, New Delhi, di Rosa Museum, Napa, ASU Museum, Arizona, Gallery 44 Center for Contemporary Photography, Toronto, and Emirates Financial Towers, Dubai. Her artwork has been written about in Artforum, Flash Art, artnet News, Border Crossings, NOW Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, and Washington Post, and Vice’s Creator’s Project.

Mazinani’s catalogue “Unfolding Images” was released in 2012. She has recently received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and San Francisco Arts Commission for her art practice. In 2013 she was shortlisted for the 2013 Magic of Persia Contemporary Art Prize, granted the Kala Art Institute Fellowship, and was awarded the San Francisco Arts Commission Art on Market Street public art installation. In 2014 she completed two other major art installations for Facebook and the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, Washington, DC.

Alison Cooley is a critic, curator, and educator based in Toronto. Her research deals with the intersection of natural history and visual culture, socially engaged artistic practice, and experiential and interpretative dimensions of art criticism. She is the 2014 recipient of the Middlebrook Prize for Young Canadian Curators, and her writing has been published in Canadian Art, C Magazine, FUSE, Blackflash and Magenta, among others. She is currently the Curatorial Assistant and Collections Archivist at the Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto Mississauga.

Natasha Chaykowski is a Calgary-based curator, writer, and researcher. She holds and MA in Art History from York University, and is the co-recipient of the 2014 Middlebrook Prize for Young Canadian Curators. Chaykowski was editorial assistant for the Journal of Curatorial Studies, editorial resident at Canadian Art Magazine and Curatorial Research Practicum at Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff Centre. Her writing has been published in Carbon Paper, esse: arts + opinions, momus, Canadian Art, and the Journal of Curatorial Studies, among others. Currently, she is Director of Untitled Art Society in Calgary.

Image credit:

L: Sanaz Mazinani, War Equipped #3 (2011)

R: Scott Benesiinaabandan, AK Sunrise (2012)