Akimblog Critic's Picks 2012: Top 3 Ottawa

1. The Vatican goes Reality TV in Christian Jankowski's Casting Jesus (at the National Gallery) whereby Italian priests and art critics scrutinize hopeful "Messiahs" as they put them through various scenarios designed to reveal which Jesus will be crowned (with thorns?) as the best and be cast in a never-to-be-produced show. Variously hilarious, earnest, absurd, and mesmerizing, this brilliant work is ultimately far more revelatory of the culture within which it had its birth.

2. The first Nuit Blanche Ottawa was met with much praise. As yet, entirely run at a grass-roots level, it remains to be seen whether or not it will grow into something larger and hopefully less reliant on the sheer will and determination of the artists themselves. It does seem strange that it took so long for Nuit Blanche to arrive in our national capital, but perhaps it isn't so surprising in a city that is practically beset with festivals and events already.

Allan Mackay displays a work he later destroyed on Parliament Hill

Allan Mackay displays a work he later destroyed on Parliament Hill

3. Artist Allan Harding Mackay jumped onto the national stage again this year with an impassioned protest against what he called Stephen Harper's systematic abuse of power and contraventions of Veterans' and First Nations' rights. On May 10, Mackay destroyed three works on Parliament Hill with national media looking on. His protest was drowned out almost entirely by a gathering of thousands of anti-abortion protesters occupying the Hill at the same time. Loudspeakers blasting unpleasant, tearful, and inappropriately gruesome testimonials from would-be mothers became the setting for an equally heartfelt but decidedly more heady protest by Mackay and provided for me the most surreal moment of 2012. Mackay's point is made far more clearly and effectively when he did the same thing on live national television on CBC's Power and Politics a few days before. Evan Solomon's shock seemed legitimate and made for some of the best real "reality TV" I've ever seen. To see the interview, click here.


Andrew Wright is an artist based in Ottawa and the Interim Chair of the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa. He has exhibited widely and is the recipient of numerous awards. He was recently elected a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. He is Akimblog's Ottawa correspondent and can be followed @AndrewWrightArt on Twitter.


Akimblog: Nuit Blanche à Ottawa

http://www.akimbo.ca/akimblog/index.php?id=587 #NBO12

Ottawa’s first Nuit Blanche took place this past Saturday night. Clearly there was a thirst for it as crowds were strong and the atmosphere ranged from excited curiosity to surprised satisfaction to unabashed joy. #NBO12 (as it is known in the Twitterverse) did actually seem to be about experiencing art. I didn’t come across too many overly exuberant revelers-cum-critics despite the fact that the Byward Zone was squarely within Ottawa’s nightclub and bar scene. It seemed to me that the Nuit was frequented by genuinely curious and potentially newly interested art lovers, so it was good that there was a lot of art to be seen.



Andrew Morrow

Some highlights: Laura Taler’s large projection of a spinning top onto the soon-to-be closed Sears store at the Rideau Centre Shopping Mall made a subtle comment about the cyclical nature of commerce; Candy Chang’s participatory blackboard installation Before I Die allowed a thoughtful and positive meditation on the event’s theme, “Life is Beautiful”; St. Brigid's Centre for the Arts' deconsecrated church was alive with projections, notably a bucolic nature scene traveling across the chancel by Theo Pelmus; and Andrew Morrow used projection, painting, white bedroom furniture, and baroque music to create a devotional Ikea-like experience at the Rectory Art House.

The sheer scope of projects and geographic range of the locales and zones was impressive. I couldn’t get to it all and was sorry to have missed the Monster Printmaking project by Joyce WestropHeidi ConrodPat Durr, andRob Hinchley where a steamroller was judiciously used to make giant prints.



Laura Taler, Still Moving Still Moving Still Moving Still

The most unexpected project came in the form of René Price’s Free Art Van, which almost ran me over. Tires screeched, doors opened, flashing lights went on and René popped out donning a beret and yelling into a microphone, “Art Gratuite! Free Art!” On offer were hundreds of his paintings. The crowd was instant and the excitement palpable as everyone jostled for position. Admittedly some works were valued appropriately, but my painting of a little green racecar I consider a real gem. The only things missing were sponsors' tents vying for my banking business (thankfully absent) and any participation from the National Gallery of Canada.


Nuit Blanche Ottawa: http://www.nuitblancheottawa.ca/


Andrew Wright is an artist based in Ottawa and the Interim Chair of the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa. He has exhibited widely and is the recipient of numerous awards. He was recently elected a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. He is Akimblog's Ottawa correspondent.