There is a certain chaos to Sled Island that’s undeniably addictive. You don’t sleep if you’re doing it right. You don’t eat well if you’re doing it right. You run from place to place or, more appropriately, bike, if you’re doing it right. It all sounds rather bohemian. Naturally, that makes it the perfect beast to showcase visual as well as aural arts.
And this overlooked aspect of the festival is growing, bursting to 24 exhibitions this year over last year’s eight. It includes everything from a retrospective photo and music exhibition honouring the memory of Calgary musician Chris Reimer, to a show using interactive creative coding using a new cyber language called C4 (and no, I can’t really explain it further).
The exhibitions are peppered throughout an eclectic mix of venues. “I think it kind of speaks to, not only the many venues, but the many communities that we’re touching on. We are in MOCA Calgary for the Reimer show and we’re in Skew Gallery and then we’re in house galleries — 809 and Haight Gallery,” says Paisley Sim, who organizes the art and comedy offerings and is the venue co-ordinator for the whole festival. “And then we have work in the Simmons building, we’re taking over the Legion again this year and we have a stage install at the Republik again. So there’s a pretty diverse lineup.”
One of the highlights last year was magic/CAVE in the Legion’s darkened billiard room. Featuring giant flashing digital clocks, disco balls and fluorescent glowing figures, the room was an ethereal escape from the music and crowds in the rest of the building. This year’s Legion exhibition, Lying, promises something similar, featuring the works of six female artists “creating a really dark, atmospheric witches’ coven of sorts.”
Sim says it will be dark, but stops short of calling it scary, which might be a good thing for the giggly crowd (you know what I mean). “Atmospheric is the word,” she says.
“The coolest thing about working with the Legion is those seniors are down for most everything. Every year when I call them up in January and ask if they’re down for Sled, every year they ask if Fucked Up is coming back. No joke.”
This year’s Republik stage installation, created by Caitlind r.c. Brown, Lane Shordee (who we recently featured for his Pith show Hello Neighbour) and Wayne Garrett, will feature billowing clouds and yellow lightning bolts framing bands such as Bend Sinister and Archers of Loaf.
Of course, if you’d rather have your visual art without bands backing it up, you could check out Kent Merriman Jr. at Haight Gallery. His pools and layers of paint go way beyond brushstrokes on canvas, creating dense acrylic sculptures (including the jacket in the photo). Or there’s Dave Lieske (a.k.a. Davey Gravy) and his hip-hop cross stitch along with Jason Deary’s custom-made, designer ski masks at the Fluevog Peanut Gallery. For a more cerebral, and enveloping, experience, you could head to Skew Gallery for Noel Bégin’s exhibition (the name of which is too long and complicated to be reproduced in print) featuring 21 projected film slides dealing with the Fukushima nuclear meltdown and the never-ending crisis in Athens, which change as you move through the exhibition.
For Sim, however, one exhibition stands out from the rest: the Reimer show at MOCA. “Marc Rimmer curated it and Marc and Chris were best friends for many, many years,” she says. “It’s a collection of photographs of him by many people in his life and then we’re playing many of his unreleased, ambient scores — they’re all so textured.”
The show features a silent auction to raise funds for a foundation in Reimer’s name.
“More than anything, I feel humbled to be able to present it. I loved Chris and I hope that the show is well-received by his family more than anything else.”