Dennis Tourbin, Television Conversations (1993), acrylic on canvas. © The Estate of Dennis Tourbin, CARCC, 2013
Their work could not be more different in terms of appearance and approach, but put Canadian artist Dennis Tourbin together with American artist Sharon Hayes, and “something clicks.”
“They’re definitely sharing a lot in terms of their ideas,” says Sandra Dyck, Director of the Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG) in Ottawa, Ontario.
“The taking up and addressing of political events is the most obvious linkage between the two exhibitions,” she said in an interview with NGC Magazine. “They very much share an interest in speech and in text: how people are represented in the news, and how women speakers and male speakers are interpreted differently by journalists.”
Dennis Tourbin was a painter, poet, performance artist and arts activist. He died in 1998 at the age of 52, leaving a legacy of colourful, pop-influenced political art. His best-known works address the October Crisis of 1970, which was triggered by the kidnappings of two government officials by members of the Front de libération du Québec. Tourbin documented the events by obsessively clipping newspaper articles to create paintings and collages. “It changed the way we saw ourselves,” Tourbin wrote about the events. “We entered a new age: the media age.”
One his most famous works from that time, La crise d’octobre/Chronology (1990) is on loan to the CUAG from the National Gallery of Canada’s permanent collection.
The work of internationally-acclaimed multimedia artist Sharon Hayes also explores topics such as student activism, gender and sexual politics, and the Patty Hearst kidnapping in 1974. Hearst recorded four audio tapes after being abducted by the radical political group, the Symbionese Liberation Army. Hayes later performed a “re-speaking” of the tapes.
“One of the privileges of doing this show is the privilege of being introduced to Dennis’s work,” Hayes told NGC Magazine. “He situates himself as an artist, along with his work, inside of a conversation between art and other fields: art and politics; art and the social in a large sense. That is something that has certainly been really operative in my work: that art is always in communication with other forms of social, political and cultural contact dialogue production.
Sharon Hayes, Her Voice (2012), video (detail), courtesy of the artist and Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin
Hayes was one of two artists to receive a Special Mention at the 2013 Venice Biennale for her work involving "speech acts" that address the intertwining of history, politics, love, and public speech. Like Tourbin, she is interested in examining or “speaking back” to political events of an earlier era.
“There’s some obvious crossover in terms of a mutual interest in looking back at large mediated political crises, and looking at the relationship between the political crisis and the mediation of that crisis,” Hayes says. “The biggest differences lie in [an artist’s] aesthetic strategies. We’re employing very different ways of translating historical events or these mediated crises into a present moment, and into a kind of encounter with an audience.”
Dennis Tourbin: The Language of Visual Poetry and Sharon Hayes: Loudspeakers and Other Forms of Listening will be on view at the Carleton University Art Gallery in Ottawa, Ontario until April 27, 2014.
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