Today drool reviews some Festival X shows.
Now, that’s probably boring for you droolers who don’t live in Kapital
City, might even be boring for you who do. So just skip the boring bits.
Then, after the reviews, there are some thoughts about Festival X itself.
I hope you local droolers read that and feel free to comment.
SOME FESTIVAL X SHOWS
Les Filles du Roi- GENEVIEVE THAUVETTE
Genevieve keeps mining, and undermining, history, recently with
her work about the Dionne Quintuplets and now, with a beautiful
and amazing show at Galerie St-Laurent Hill. Les Filles du Roi.
Very briefly (from notes provided by the gallery). . . .
“Les Filles du Roi is the name given to the large
group of poor young women sent from France
to Canada in the 1600’s as brides of the state.
About 800 selected girls, usually orphans, were
given a dowry from Louis XIV to help populate
the fledgeling colony. On average they were wed
within four or five months of their arrival and
would bear 7 to 8 children.”
As usual, Ms Thauvette uses herself, props, other actors, lots of
research, a great sense of humor and history, a camera and Photo-
shop.These largish prints have been output as B+W’s on an inkjet
printer and then hand tinted in the old-fashioned way.
Beautiful and fun to look at; subversive but not angry. There’s a
lot to like about these fotos.
Développé was a collaboration between SPAO alumni and The
Canada Dance Festival, in which fotografers were paired with
dancers and fotografy ensued.
As might be expected with such an undertaking, the work on
display runs the gamut. . .from modern to mundane, tricky to
The highlights for me were Gaylen Eyre’s hard and soft pairing
which struck me as perfectly modern, and Magida El-Kassis’
lyrical yet awkward images shot in a field.
But, like I say, there is enough different work here that you
might be able to find your own favorite foto.
images by Gaylen Eyre
images by Magida El-Kassis
Strange Weather- KARINA KRAENZLE
Housed in what must be Ottawa’s most scenic gallery, BLINK, you
will find Strange Weather. Indeed.
Working with a series of found fotos, all shot some time ago in some
living room, photo-based artist Karina Kraenzle sandwiches those
found fotos with salt on a scanner and then prints those scans on
glass. What she ends up with is some mystery and a bit of magic.
She then hangs (and sets) these new combines in the gallery, which
has been dressed to resemble the room where the original snaps
were snapped. Not only that, but there’s salt on the floor as well.
It’s all quite dense and kind of claustrophobic and requires some
time to seep in. Ms Kraenzle tells me that many visitors are not
willing (or interested enough) to allow that seepage to happen.
Fair enough, since there is kind of a weird feeling of being an
interloper when you enter the space. Perhaps that’s the point.
And in this day and age we (and I include myself in that “we”)
have been trained by the internet to be relentless consumers
of everything. To glance and move on. The virtual world has
been stood on its head with this show.
Debris- MICHAEL TOOLE
From the exhibition description on the Fest X website:
Debris is defined as scattered remains,
ruins…Debris the exhibit seeks to draw
attention to those things both forgotten
One has to enter the Gordon Harrison Gallery and ask at the desk
to see the fotos, which are downstairs, tucked into a corner behind
the staircase or, on the other side, left leaning against a wall.
“alone” © Michael Toole
“industry” © Michael Toole
So either the fotos, and their installation, are craaaazy, modern, brilliant,
in terms of relating to the exhibition description, or this exhibition was
attached to the festival as a way to draw traffic. I suspect the latter and
wonder why such a display is included in Festival X.
Now, right up front I want to make clear that I’m just some guy sitting here at
his computer being an armchair quarterback. I have had brief discussions about
the festival, and made suggestions to some of its Board of Directors, but have
done nothing else in terms of participating at that level. I’m just an interested
bystander, an onlooker. But one who is concerned.
Before I begin let me quote from the Fest X website:
Since its inception in 2007, Festival X has been
committed to advancing photographic knowledge,
creativity and innovation in Ottawa. Through its
programming, X intends to increase exposure to,
and recognition for regional, Canadian and inter-
national photo-based artists.
You would think that by now certain kinks would have been worked (or figured)
out. Things like, at the most basic level, a website that contains images (have you
ever seen a foto festival website with no fotos?) and is updated in a timely way.
But there are other concerns. . . .
The festival happens once every two years. That seems like plenty of time to pick
a theme and get a few feature shows organized around that theme. (The theme
this year is “Otherwise than Seeing:Photograph, Image and Representation”.) But
that’s not the case. There were no feature shows that relate to that theme, nor
were there any publications or other critical writing about what that theme might
mean. There will be a round table discussion and, I believe, at some point (after
the fact) there will be an essay made available that will, using backwards logic,
retrofit certain exhibits into the theme (are you still with me?).
What you do get is a random bunch of shows, some solo, many group. I’m sure
that in amongst these shows there is something for everyone. So that’s good, I
But the festival’s stated purpose is to advance photographic knowledge, creativity
and innovation in Ottawa. And I, for one, am not sure that the way to do this is
to simply provide an official forum for fotografy in Kapital City and then to stand
back and just let things unroll.
Obviously there has to be an acceptance of all the different kinds of foto-practice
that happen here if you are to have a popular festival. But without feature shows
and critical oversight, without the inclusion of fotgrafers from outside the region
and without the publication of materials and catalogs that speak to, expand and
illuminate the theme, the festival is not advancing foto-practice here, it is merely
And, for me, there is a big difference between promotion and advancement.