Special Works School
From November 8 to December 21, 2019
Opening on November 14 at 7 pm
In colourful or even wacky worlds, in which both objects and beings apply themselves to personifying abstract ideas or moral concepts which are difficult to depict, the works brought together here by Bambitchell, Julia Feyrer and Mikhail Karikis offer another way of telling the world and make allegory a form of activism.
Special Works School was the code name used by the British War Office during the First World War, for a group of artists — painters, textile artists, scenographers, designers, sculptors and scenic painters — tasked with developing camouflage techniques. Astonishingly, at a time when an artist’s quality was often measured by his or her ability to give a keenly realistic rendering, the artists brought together in this military unit worked to make things disappear. Bambitchell’s piece, which appropriates the name of this special unit, functions as a counterpoint to camouflage by offering up a contemporary equivalent mise-en-scène of surveillance and asks what aestheticizing surveillance in this way makes visible, or conversely, invisible. As an experience which truly involves all the senses, Special Works School develops a historical trajectory of surveillance — one which defies the idea that it is an intrusion founded for the most part on the visual.
Created in collaboration with the sound artist Richy Carey of Glasgow, Special Works School moves through an abstract narrative in which three colours — sand, cyan and purple — tackle the aesthetics of surveillance through engaging with each of the five senses. The work therefore offers the visitor a multi-sensorial and physical experience of the state, and of dominant power structures. A poly-vocal chorus complicates this narrative suggesting that the ultimate method of surveillance is becoming invisible — the dissolution of self.
Under the name Bambitchell, Sharlene Bamboat (1984) and Alexis Mitchell (1983) have been collaborating since 2009 on artistic projects based on research that seek to re-imagine nationalist histories by the playful recycling of state documents and institutional archives. Mercer Union (Toronto), Gallery TPW (Toronto), articule (Montreal), the Art Gallery of Windsor and Images Festival (Toronto) have recently presented their work, along with festivals such as the Berlinale (Berlin) and the BFI London Film Festival. Bambitchell have held residencies at the Akademie Schloss Solitude (Stuttgart) and the MacDowell Colony (New Hampshire). Their work is also included in the anthology Contemporary Citizenship, Art, and Visual Culture, published in 2017 by Routledge.
Meet the artists
On Saturday, November 16 from 2 pm to 4 pm
In the context of the exhibition Special Works School, Bambitchell (Sharlene Bamboat et Alexis Mitchell) will be in the gallery to speak with the public and answer questions. Swing by Dazibao to see the exhibition and meet the artists in an informal setting!
Dazibao receives financial support from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Conseil des arts de Montréal, the ministère de la Culture et des Communications and the Ville de Montréal.