Juan A. Gaitan

Juan A. Gaitán is a curator and writer. Recent exhibitions include I, YAMA, Istanbul; The End of Money, Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam; and Models for Taking Part, Presentation House Gallery, Vancouver and Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Toronto. His writing has been published in Afterall, The Exhibitionist, and Mousse magazine, among others. He is teaching in the curatorial studies master’s program at CCA in San Francisco.


  • Burning Bush

    September 10–October 15, 2005

    Engaging with the pictorial traditions of landscape, Kevin Schmidt’s representations of nature raise discussions around the sublime and the spectacular. Often employing special effects, Schmidt’s work calls on the artifice of theatre and cinema. Many of these works, including recent projects Fog and Long Beach Led Zep, utilize ideas of spiritualism, whether the Romanticism denoted by supernatural fog or the hippie mysticism of 1970’s rock music. Schmidt’s investigations into the genre of landscape take into consideration its long tradition, particularly in Vancouver, and attempt to reimbue it with a qualified optimism.

    Schmidt’s most recent project Burning Bush is a durational video projection of a bush in a desert landscape that appears to burn, yet miraculously remains unconsumed. This extended landscape portrait takes its cue from Exodus 3 in which Moses encounters a burning bush through which God speaks. Schmidt’s work plays on contemporary interpretations of this myth and its cooption by Hollywood (as well as the Hollywoodization of the church in which sermons are held in vast movie theatres and stadiums while the live event is projected on the big screen). The work’s intermingling of religious and political mythologies point to the languages, both visual and textual, around faith. Schmidt describes Burning Bush as “a staging of artistic artifice, spiritual symbolism and humanistic concern.” In revealing its construction, Burning Bush extends an invitation to the viewer to participate in a meditation on art historical, pop cultural, political and spiritual references, while presenting the possibility of an experience of wonder.

Talks & Events

  • Intangible Economies

    November 18–November 20, 2011

    GreyChurch Collection & Project Space, 3092 Fraser Street, Vancouver


    7pm: Antonia Hirsch
    8pm: Hadley+Maxwell


    11am: Melanie Gilligan
    12:30pm: Lunch
    1:30pm: Monika Szewczyk
    3pm: Olaf Nicolai
    4:30pm: Clint Burnham (Response)


    11am: Juan Gaitán
    12:30pm: Lunch
    1:30pm: Candice Hopkins
    3pm: Jan Verwoert
    4:30pm: Marina Roy (Response)

    Clint Burnham and Marina Roy

    Artspeak and Fillip present Intangible Economies, a three-day forum that broadens the notion of economy beyond its financial dimension. Initiated by Fillip Associate Editor Antonia Hirsch, the Intangible Economies series focuses on the multifarious forms of exchange fuelled by affect and desire and speculatively investigates the fundamental role these affective transactions play in modes of representation and, accordingly, in cultural production.

    The premise of Intangible Economies is the assumption that personal relationships are produced by economic activity, and that conversely, affect, and in particular desire, generates economic transactions. In the wake of recent global financial crises, it seems critical to interrogate the notion of “value” in a broader sense. Intangible Economies seeks to tackle the difficult task of tracing the role of affect in economic exchanges relative to artistic production, while also enacting the unruly force of such transactions.

    Intangible Economies was initially developed through a series of texts published in Fillip magazine over the past year and will culminate in a book anthology published as part of Fillip’s ongoing Folio Series in 2012.

    The Intangible Economies forum is generously hosted by Jane Irwin and Ross Hill through the GreyChurch Collection & Project Space and made possible with support from the City of Vancouver and the Canada Council for the Arts. Additional support provided by Best Western Hotels.

  • Speakeasy: Frontierism

    March 27–March 28, 2008

    Speakeasy: Frontierism is a series that addresses notions of unchecked urban expansion within a larger consideration of the city. Vancouver has often been characterized as a boomtown that has yet to bust, but the rapid and rabid growth of the city reveals an unhealthy appetite for unchecked development. The frontier is a physical, technological and intellectual place of possibility, an outer limit away from the known centre. While the frontier is often understood as a site of opportunity, frontierism has long been critiqued for its potential repercussions: environmental destruction, racism, poverty, disease and humanitarian regression. Contextualizing this discussion in the past two incarnations of Speakeasy – Serial Space and Territory – the series continues to articulate how civic space is defined and questions whether the urban frontier is spatial, geographic, political, social or economic.


    Juan Gaitan (curator)

    Brian Jungen (artist)

    Lee Henderson (author)


    John Atkin (historian)

    Mari Fujita (architect)

    Meredith Quartermain (poet)

    Notes on the Speakers

    Thursday, March 27, 8pm

    JUAN A. GAITÁN will participate in a dialogue with Brian Jungen on the production of community through radio, particularly in rural, frontier settings such as Colombia where he is curating an exhibition on the topic.

    Gaitán is a Vancouver based art historian and curator. His research interests are the Americas in the post-War period, religious monuments in the early middle ages, and contemporary art. He is a PhD candidate in art history at the University of British Columbia and is the co-curator of Exponential Future at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery.

    BRIAN JUNGEN will speak with Juan A. Gaitán his interest in radio’s galvanization of community, specifically in northern, rural communities where he is undertaking a radio project.

    Jungen is an internationally acclaimed artist who has solo shows at the Tate Modern, London; Museum Villa Stuck, Munich; Vancouver Art Gallery; Musee d’art contemporain de Montreal; New Museum, New York; Witte de With; Vienna Secession; Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver; Casey Kaplan, New York; and Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver, among others.

    LEE HENDERSON will read from his ahistorical novel, The Man Game, about the origin of a sport invented in Vancouver in the 1800s that combines wrestling, street fighting, ballroom dancing, martial arts, and gambling, and is played by unemployed lumberjacks. The novel follows Vancouver’s founding fathers, race riots, red light districts, opium trade, and deforestation.

    Henderson wrote The Broken Record Technique (2002) and his fiction and visual art journalism has been published in numerous journals and magazines. The Man Game will be published by Viking/Penguin (2008). He is a contributing editor to Border Crossings and Contemporary, and has curated exhibitions in Vancouver and New York. He is the director/curator of Attache Gallery, a portable art gallery that shows emerging artists.

    Friday, March 28, 8pm

    JOHN ATKIN will speak about Vancouver from its inception to the present, identifying relationships between developers and the City in order to define its “frontier” nature.

    Atkin is an author, historian and heritage advocate who offers offbeat insights into Vancouver’s architecture, history and neighbourhoods. He has created, and conducts, unique and popular walking tours throughout Vancouver. He is also the editor of British Columbia History: The Journal of the British Columbia Historical Federation.

    MARI FUJITA will discuss Vancouver via various readings of territory to understand how Vancouver engages with larger spheres of influence.

    Fujita is a designer and educator. Fujita’s research currently includes an examination of contemporary material processes, and the shifting role of the architect in the present cultural, economic, political, and technological climate. Her design studios and seminars explore notions of territory and emergent forms of urbanism in developing cities with a focus on the Pacific Rim. Fujita’s design practice FUJITAWORK pursues a diverse range of projects. Work to date have included projects that range from small-scale gallery installations, building designs, and urban scale interventions. Projects have been exhibited at the Cooper Hewitt Museum, the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York and other museums and cultural institutions in North America.

    MEREDITH QUARTERMAIN will read from her forthcoming collection entitled Nightmarker (NeWest, 2008). Against the ghostly presence of George Vancouver’s explorer narratives, Nightmarker finds interest in the city and its early histories. In expeditions to City Hall, the police station, the sugar refinery, and the courthouse, and ramblings in between, Quartermain explores the human city as an animal behaviour, a museum, and a dream of modernity.

    Quartermain’s Vancouver Walking won the BC Book Awards 2006 Prize for Poetry. Books include The Eye-Shift of Surface, Wanders [with Robin Blaser], and A Thousand Mornings, prose poems about old Vancouver’s dockside area. Her work has appeared in The Walrus, Canadian Literature, the Literary Review of Canada, Matrix, The Capilano Review, West Coast Line, filling Station, Prism International, and other magazines.


  • Retrospect

    Retro backRetro spineRetro front

    Title: Retrospect
    Category: Exhibition Catalogue
    Artists: Melvin Moti, Kerry Tribe, Don Coltman, Kristan Horton, Jack Lindsay, Taras Polataiko
    Writers: Melvin Moti, Susan Sontag, Juan A. Gaitán, Kathleen Ritter, Colin Browne, Althea Thauberger
    Editor: Melanie O’Brian
    Design: Courtenay Webber, The Future
    Publisher: Artspeak
    Printer: Hemlock Printers, Vancouver
    Year published: 2008
    Pages: 122pp
    Cover: Paperback
    Binding: Perfect Bound
    Process: Offset
    Features: 9 colour images, 3 b&w images
    Dimensions: 18 x 11.5 x 1.2 cm
    Weight: 148 g
    ISBN: 978-0-921394-59-4
    Price: $6 CDN

    Retrospect is an examination of the role of memory and imagination in the consideration of disaster. Memory, like history, is subjective and unfixed; the records of both are dynamically unstable, constantly shifting and informed by the present. Imagination—in this case the imagination of disaster—reflects anxiety and unsettles the present. In its representation, disaster is imagined both retrospectively and prospectively, as a memory and as a fear. However, it has been argued that imagining future catastrophes is impossible in that we can only circle back to what is known; we model these cataclysms on what has already occurred. In this way, disaster is always represented in hindsight, even in the sci-fi realms of the future.

    Retrospect brings together visual reproductions of the work in three Artspeak exhibitions held in 2007, two new texts by artist Melvin Moti and art historian/curator Juan A. Gaitán, as well as a reprinted Susan Sontag essay to address the themes of memory, reenactment and disaster. The images are from exhibitions of work by Melvin Moti, Kerry Tribe, and On the Beach (Don Coltman, Kristan Horton, Jack Lindsay and Taras Polataiko). The publication also includes reprinted Postscript texts for the above exhibitions. Postscript authors are Colin Browne, Kathleen Ritter and Althea Thauberger.

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  • Burning Bush

    Burning front
    Burning spine
    Burning back

    Title: Burning Bush
    Category: Artist Book
    Artist: Kevin Schmidt
    Writers: Juan A. Gaitan
    Editor: Artspeak
    Design: Hundreds & Thousands
    Publisher: Artspeak
    Year published: 2005
    Pages: 32pp
    Cover: Paperback
    Binding: Perfect Bound
    Process: Offset
    Features: 20 colour images
    Dimensions: 24 x 15 x 0.5 cm
    Weight: 104 g
    ISBN: 0-921394-53-5
    Price: $5 CDN

    Speculating on belief, Kevin Schmidt’s video Burning Bush and Juan Gaitan’s essay Doubt as an Optical Illusion, instigate discussions around faith, disbelief and humanity. Schmidt’s extended landscape portrait of a burning bush intermingles religious, political and art historical mythologies to point to the languages, both visual and textual, of doctrine. In the staging of a miracle, the bush assumes a kind of faltering breath, a sense of possibility. If the bush is indeed “a sleeping life,” Burning Bush awakens in the viewer the prospect of humanistic consideration. Schmidt’s and Gaitan’s investigations are pertinent given the ongoing disasters reported on daily: New Orleans’ sinking, Iraq’s continued bedlam, environmental disaster, terror. In this climate of physical and philosophical crisis, miracles gain possibility, potency and even efficacy. They can ask us to suspend our (dis)belief and bear witness to the world. Burning Bush extends an invitation to meditate on aesthetic, cultural, political and spiritual references, offering the potential of sublime wonder and growth.

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