October 7, 2019 - Fogo Island Arts - Abbas Akhavan: script for an island
October 7, 2019

Fogo Island Arts

Abbas Akhavan, script for an island, outdoor installation, Joe Batt’s Arm, Fogo Island, 2019. Repurposed theatre curtain and scaffolding, 20’ x 12’. Image courtesy the artist.

Abbas Akhavan
script for an island
October 12, 2019–February 16, 2020

Exhibition Opening: October 12, 6–8pm
Conversation: October 13, 2–3pm, with Abbas Akhavan, Alexandra McIntosh and Nicolaus Schafhausen

Fogo Island Arts
210 Main Street, Joe Batt’s Arm
Newfoundland and Labrador A0G 2X0

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The Fogo Island Gallery presents script for an island, a site-specific exhibition and public installation by Montreal-based artist Abbas Akhavan. Drawing on the languages of theatre, gardens, and sacred and vernacular architecture, Akhavan creates an open-ended site for reflection and engagement that speaks to our desire for rituals and collective mythologies.

In script for an island, a thin platform resembling a theatrical stage bridges the full width of the gallery, seemingly suspended above the floor. Bowed slightly in the middle, the platform appears precarious and somewhat neglected, as water from a hose pools on its surface before spilling over into a shallow pool beneath. Nearby, a garden hose lies in large loops, partially unspooled from its reel. The whole is enveloped in a warm yellow glow cast by stained glass installed in the second-floor window. The glass itself mimics strand board, a type of structural panel made of compressed shards of wood, and yet conveys a reverential atmosphere.

In parallel with the gallery exhibition, Akhavan has conceived of an outdoor installation on Brown’s Point in Joe Batt’s Arm. A 20’ x 12’ black velvet curtain repurposed from an actual theatre runs a length of scaffolding erected along the shoreline, facing the water. Open to the elements, the work creates a billowing counterpart to the stark solidity of Fogo Island Arts’ Long Studio, which stands like a two-dimensional plane across the bay. The curtain appears freestanding when viewed from the water and renders the island as a stage in anticipation of a performance.

The theatre, much like the church, as an archetype suggests a collective encounter, a space for shared beliefs or the suspension of disbelief. But any communal feeling is tenuous and fleeting, dependent on shared cultural references and an individual’s willingness to engage. In this way, the exhibition evokes our need for overarching mythologies: common ground through which we might find ways to act together.

Scaffolding stands in for three-dimensional space, the stage in the gallery is constructed as a set or a prop, and a garden hose suggests the presence of a snake. The gallery space itself is illuminated by light that filters through stained glass made to replicate a material substitute for wood, one that might otherwise be used to board up a broken window. The power inherent in such symbols belies their makeshift character. These are elements that approximate rather than explicitly reference larger symbols or archetypes, inviting viewers to complete their own version of the narrative.

Drawing oblique references to theatre, architecture, landscape and religion, script for an island opens a field of enquiry into our formation as a community and the shared symbols that bind us as a culture. The exhibition and installation create spaces that are held in (dramatic) suspension, rife with the potential for collectivity or contemplation.

script for an island is curated by Alexandra McIntosh (Director of Programs and Exhibitions, Fogo Island Arts) and Nicolaus Schafhausen (Strategic Director, Fogo Island Arts).

Artist’s biography
Abbas Akhavan’s practice ranges from site-specific ephemeral installations to drawing, video, sculpture and performance. The direction of his research has been deeply influenced by the specificity of the sites where he works: the architectures that house them, the economies that surround them, and the people that frequent them. The domestic sphere, as a forked space between hospitality and hostility, has been an ongoing area of research in his practice. More recent works have shifted focus, wandering onto spaces and species just outside the home – the garden, the backyard, and other domesticated landscapes. Recent solo exhibitions include cast for a folly (2019), CCA Wattis Institute, San Francisco; Folly (2018), Vie D’ange, Montreal; Variations on a Landscape (2018), The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto; Not titled (2017), Museum Villa Stuck, Munich; and They hit a tree with an axe, SALT Galata, Istanbul. Akhavan is the recipient of the Sobey Art Award (2015), The Abraaj Group Art Prize (2014), and Kunstpreis Berlin (2012).

About Fogo Island Arts 
Fogo Island Arts is a residency-based contemporary art venue for artists, filmmakers, writers, musicians, curators, designers, and thinkers from around the world. Since 2008, FIA has brought some of the most exciting emerging and renowned artists of today to Fogo Island, Newfoundland, to take part in residencies and to present solo exhibitions at the Fogo Island Gallery. FIA also presents programs in cities across Canada and abroad, including the Fogo Island Dialogues interdisciplinary conversation series, as part of its international outreach. FIA is an initiative of Shorefast, a registered Canadian charity with the mission to build economic and cultural resilience on Fogo Island.

Fogo Island Arts
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