More in: Visual Arts
It isn’t surprising that an art show subtitled the Calgary Biennial focuses on... Calgary.
Well, actually, this first biennial, called Hearts of the New West, explores a bit more than that — namely the idea of “home.” But since it’s also premised on showcasing over two dozen established and emerging Calgary-based artists, there’s a lot of local flavour.
“I started with the theme of home because it felt like the right way to start this off,” says Steven Cottingham, curator of the show. “There’s a lot [of pieces] that portray home in a physical sense or what it means to be Calgarian, like looking out your window and seeing mountains all the time, or squinting through the sleet or fog, trying to ascertain the shape of something, and then a number of them deal with nostalgia, or what home meant as a child.”
Unlike the Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art, based out of the Art Gallery of Alberta, the Calgary Biennial isn’t backed by a single institution and has a healthy DIY flavour. Cottingham explains that by the time he decided to undertake this project last spring, he had missed deadlines to collaborate with centres such as Stride or Truck.
“I really like how circumstance forced it into what I think is like the quintessential natural state it should be in,” he says.
That is, the art is staggered across several contemporary venues, such as 809 Exhibition Space, the brand new Avalanche! Institute of Contemporary Art, the online-only experience of The #000000 Gallery, or the impressively sleek garage-turned-exhibition space of the Haight Gallery. “I feel like they’re all some of the best places to see art,” says Cottingham. “I love that they’re very reflexive and reactive. [By] only programming a few months in advance, they can be very adaptive.”
Whether you can make it to all the venues or just a few, Cottingham has done his best to make each a well-rounded artistic experience, with each gallery showing “a gamut of work that both complements and contrasts with each other, as well as having an aesthetic union so that the space itself doesn’t look like a conflict — despite the big variety of work that will be shown.” You’ll find drawings and sculptures, web installations, murals, collected objects, and more.
True to its name, the Biennial will recur every two years, but Cottingham is focused on the present for the moment, as he admits he isn’t sure how the show will manifest itself for the next iteration. For Hearts of the New West, though, he says, “My biggest goal is that this show will be a celebration of Calgary — rooting for the underdog as it were — and being able to publicly display all of these people who have remained here upon graduating or found ways to make careers here.
“Even though we lack the plethora of institutions or the art infrastructure found in other cities, there are still people here dedicated and committed and I really want to showcase that.”