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Artspeak

  • Colleen Heslin

  • Toni Latour

    Toni Latour teaches Interdisciplinary Media at the University College of the Fraser Valley, as well as the Media Arts Institute Program at Capilano College. She has recently exhibited her work at Helen Pitt Gallery, Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography, Toronto, and particpated in the exhibition No Such Animal at SAW Gallery in Ottawa, and in PICSEL+ in Cardiff, UK. Latour is currently working on a series of public performances to be published in FUSE Magazine, and will participate in an upcoming exhibition at the McLaren Art Gallery.

  • Stuart Ross

  • Lorna Brown

    Lorna Brown is a visual artist, writer, educator and editor, exhibiting her work internationally since 1984. Brown was the Director/Curator of Artspeak Gallery from 1999 to 2004 and is a founding member of Other Sights for Artists’ Projects, a collective of artists, architects and curators presenting projects that consider the varying conditions of public places and public life. She has taught at Emily Carr University of Art and Design and Simon Fraser University. Brown received an honorary degree from Emily Carr University of Art and Design (2015), the Vancouver Institute for the Visual Arts Award (1996) and the Canada Council Paris Studio Award (2000). Her work is in the collections of the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, the National Gallery of Canada, the BC Arts Council, the Surrey Art Gallery and the Canada Council Art Bank.

    Director/Curator of Artspeak 1999–2004.

Exhibitions

Perched

TONI LATOUR
December 6–January 24, 2004

“Pigeons are a totally nothing bird: ugly, squat, full of worms, always falling off roofs and shitting everywhere. No other thing in the world falls so far short of being able to do what it cannot do as a pigeon does. Right, those are facts; so why don’t we just wipe them out, shoot them, gas them, have a national hunt week with prizes for the most dead: The point is, in some obscure, irrational, nonsensical way, we love them. There are pigeon protection leagues, pigeon enthusiast clubs, a magazine called the Pigeon Weekly. Old ladies who can’t afford it buy them food, and eccentric but well-regarded novelists walk round with pairs of scissors in case they find one with thread caught round its feet…These aimless, awful birds have the power to conjure up the most violent emotions in the human breast.”
—Jeannette Winterson, Boating for Beginners

In fables, animals speak and act like humans and this device allows the author to speak more candidly about human society than realism would allow. In her art world fables, Toni Latour looks with a similar candour at the pecking order in her field of operations. From medieval Bestiaries to Disneyworld, animals are invested with human foibles, vices, virtues and motivations and used to stand in for the most idealized and debased human characteristics. Latour reflects this cultural history back upon itself by imitating animal behaviour as an allegory of that curious human habit of art-making.

In the video Robin Red Breast, a stationary camera records Latour as she imitates the display of the male robin seeking a mate. Lacking binocular vision, this artist/bird tilts its head from side to side and puffs up a red-sweatered chest, scuttling and stopping, scuttling and stopping, over a cropped lawn. The preening and posturing makes transparent the inherent exhibitionism and attention-seeking rituals of the act of performance.

Perched: Honing Skills for Survival includes a light box containing an image of the artist balancing on a pool noodle outside the Vancouver Aquatic Centre. An audio loop tells the tale of a bird that, needing to make a migration across an ocean, but too small and weak to fly the entire distance at once, carries a twig in its mouth so that it may drop it in the ocean and rest upon it. Accompanied by artifacts of a performance—camoflage underpants, a safety-orange T shirt and rubber boots—this installation both satirizes and elaborates our sentimental identification with the lone struggling bird and dashes our metaphoric impulses against Latour’s self deprecating humour.

Postscript 12: Colleen Heslin on Perched (PDF)

Publications

  • Birds: A City, Some Rain

    Birds front
    Birds spine 1
    Birds back

    Title: Birds: A City, Some Rain
    Category: Exhibition Catalogue
    Artist: Toni Latour
    Writers: Stuart Ross
    Publisher: Artspeak
    Year published: 2003
    Cover: Paperback
    Process: Offset
    Features: 5 colour images
    Dimensions: 20.5 x 12 x 0.8 cm
    Weight: 54 g
    ISBN: 0-921394-47-0
    Price: $4 CDN