Mirages, 2010, video still
MAY 1 to JUNE 19, 2010
Conversation with Emanuel Licha and Stephen Horne (in English).
Saturday, May 1, 2010 from 2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Saturday, May 1, 2010 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art presents Emanuel Licha’s Why Photogenic?, curated by Stephen Horne. The exhibition brings together the works Mirages (2010) and Bagdads (2009) for the first time. In an occupation of the gallery’s public space utilizing techniques borrowed from film, architecture, and journalism, Licha’s inventive staging forces the viewer to question the influence of the military, Hollywood, and news media in the West’s construction of the Other.
Visitors enter a highly controlled environment of plywood walls that lead them through a series of viewing stations where they are both participant and spectator. The first stop in Why Photogenic? is a television on which the artist is seen watching a broadcast about the military training camp at Fort Irwin, California, that models the city of Baghdad, Iraq. The viewer then proceeds to Mirages, a two-channel video presented in a room that evokes both movie hall and puppet theatre. By a judicious cross-cutting between the training camp images, the interviews with the production team of the camp, and a guided tour of a Hollywood studio, Licha reveals the construction of reality that is Fort Irwin. The cinematic soundtrack and techniques such as cross fades and travelling shots scramble the reality of the military’s preparations for the real war. Perceptions are altered even further as we move behind the set to Bagdads, a series of four photographs created in a layering of three places bearing the name Bagdad. Elements of the deserted Californian town, Bagdad, are combined with those of Fort Irwin and the Iraqi Baghdad steeped in war to create a fourth Bagdad that blurs the boundaries between reality and fiction, between poetic and politic.
Emanuel Licha becomes simultaneously detractor and proponent of the photogenic. The answer to the question Why Photogenic? lies in the staging. The constructed environment forces us to question our ways of seeing and perceiving through a play of concealing and highlighting.
Emanuel Licha lives in Paris and Montreal. His work has received critical acclaim in solo exhibitions at the Disseny Hub Barcelona in Barcelona, 2009, at the Galerie Cortex Athletico in Bordeaux, 2008 and the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris, 2005. Several international exhibitions also presented his work, notably the Quebec Triennial of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, 2008 and La Biennale de Montréal, 2000. In June 2010, he will participate in the exhibition Storyteller at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Emanuel Licha wishes to thank the Conseil des art et des lettres du Québec for their financial support.
Stephen Horne lives and works in Montreal. Author and contemporary art critic he has published several articles and essays in Canadian, European, and Asian anthologies and periodicals. His most recent essay, Dwelling: A Set-Up, examines the work of Emanuel Licha and will be published next summer in the magazine Ciel variable number 85.
SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art wishes to thank the artist, the curator, the Canada Council for the Arts, the ministère de la Culture, des Communications et de la Condition féminine, the Conseil des arts de Montréal, the Claudine and Stephen Bronfman Family Foundation, the Phyllis Lambert Foundation, MP Reproductions Inc., Patrick Doss from Concept Audio-Visuel and the restaurant Star of India for their financial support.