July 1, 2016 - Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art - The State
July 1, 2016

Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art

Maryam Jafri, Sri Lanka – Ghana - Botswana 1948-1966, from the series “Independence Day 1934–1975” (2009–present). Photographs.


The State
Vahap Avṣar, Maryam Jafri, Christian Jankowski, Duane Linklater
July 1–September 11, 2016

Opening: July 21, 7pm

Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art
Unit 1 - 460 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg Manitoba R3C 0E8

T +1 204 942 1043


All nations represent themselves in some manner. They assert their identity through flags, colours, historic moments, heroes, mythologies, circulating symbols to define borders and unify those within them. There is at times an anxiety that can be felt as a nation-state intently tries to control its identity. The artwork in this group exhibition picks up on this unease, distilling how through government propagation nations represent themselves and define citizenry. All the works in The State begin with officially sanctioned or controlled forms of national representation, using authorized monuments, or images of parades, ceremony, and ancestry as starting points. The artists leave these authoritative representations untouched, only manipulating the way they are encountered, presenting them through archive or reproduction, and animating them through performance or aesthetic gesture.

Vahap Avşar
"Lost Shadows, [AND Museum]," 2015, is a series of photographic reproductions originally produced in the late 1970s by the Turkish printer “AND Postcard Company." They commissioned photographers to capture images of cities, towns, ceremonies and tourist sites in Turkey to be made into postcards intended for domestic travelers visiting places within their own country. The vast archive of 15,000 images came into Vahap Avşar’s possession in 2010, many of which are nearly identical and most never having been printed. Avşar selected for his first iteration of "Lost Shadows" a series of 12 previously unprinted images. He chose images of moments that were slightly off—a lull in a parade, a solider caught in the frame, a group of onlookers staring into the camera—to print in the format of the original postcards, stylistically reflective of the time period. In one image there is a white car pulled off on the side of a mountain road disrupting an otherwise idyllic vista. The model of car, a white Renault 12, was commonly used by the Turkish secret service, and alludes to a control that was building and visibly present after a military coup in 1980. The effects of this control are sometimes directly present in the AND company’s photographs, capturing government agents and soldiers who were likely monitoring the photographers as well as directing subject matter that often contained military regalia and political rallies. 

Maryam Jafri
"Independence Day 1934-1975"(2009–ongoing) is an historical unfolding of how new governments ceremonially begin their independence from colonialist control or civic revolutionary action from previously ensconced governments or aristocracies. Jafri amassed an archive of hundreds of images capturing the foundational moments of new states establishing themselves through ceremony. Her research focuses on the manner in which many African, South East Asian, and Middle Eastern countries represented the signing over of a nation’s care to a new government order. What is repeated in these archival images is a staunch old guard posturing that invades the ceremony and celebration of new beginnings—a whitewashing of sorts where the pomp and formalized ceremony creates a unifying blanching effect. Of course there are many differences, but the uniformity of the formal rites of passage represented through this documentation draws likenesses that are bound to the past, familiar to colonial statehood and aristocratic pageantry.

Christian Jankowski
Heavy Weight History (2013) immediately reads as a parody of televised sports programs with its play-by-play voice-over by a well-known sports announcer, athlete commentary and interviews, slow-motion replays, and close-ups on action, but this genre reference is merely the frame that serves as comedic ground to represent a nation’s erratic attempt to define itself. For this work Jankowski hired 11 members of the Polish weightlifting team to lift historic and symbolic sculptural monuments in Warsaw. The monuments range from celebrating Polish/Soviet relations to a larger than life-sized bronze sculpture of Ronald Reagan. The weightlifters were asked to lift seven sculptures, to varying success. A statue of The Mermaid of Warsaw, a symbol of the city and its coat of arms, rises with relative ease, but Reagan and a statue of Ludwik Warynski, a key player in defining The People’s Republic of Poland in the late 19th century, poses more of a challenge. Jankowski plays up the varying ease and effort needed to elevate the sculptures as relative to their historic significance and their continued relevance in defining Poland.

Duane Linklater
The Jay Treaty was established in 1794 to settle conflict between the US and Britain, whose relations were strained mainly by imbalanced importing and exporting practices. As part of this treaty, both nations acknowledged the distinct and long established movement of aboriginal peoples across Canada and US borders, recognizing their pre-existing rights and exempting them from paying duty on goods brought across this boundary. In 1956 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that it would not acknowledge the treaty because it wasn’t implemented by Canada. The US applies the Jay Treaty through blood quantum tests based on a person’s ancestral history. If they have 50% aboriginal blood that person can live and work in the US without any repercussions of being deported. Duane Linklater has two letters that identify his paternal heritage through his great and grandparents as 100% Native American, proving him twice to be 50% aboriginal and thus eligible under the Jay Treaty. These letters from 1999, signed by band Chiefs from Fort Albany and Weenusk First Nation, are joined in a white frame, placed under glass and form the central vertical element in an abstract wall hanging. The letters rest between clear plastic sheeting and a vibrant pink cotton cloth that drapes behind it. Folds and twists in the plastic sheeting cross the front of the framed letters partially concealing their content. This piece titled border (2016) is one of four new sculptural assemblages by Linklater that amalgamate printed images into draping gestural abstractions that bend images of nationhood into formal compositions. 

Plug In ICA gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Manitoba Arts Council and Winnipeg Arts Council. We thank the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts for their support of our 2016 and 2017 program, and we extend gratitude to The Winnipeg Foundation and all our generous donors, valued members and dedicated volunteers. Vahap Avşar's "Lost Shadows" was first commissioned by Protocinema, Istanbul and NY; P!, NY.

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