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Art gallery presenting two new shows

By Hannah Scott

Published 3:12 PST, Fri January 20, 2023

Richmond Art Gallery begins the year with two new exhibitions, inviting viewers to contemplate traditional gender roles and power dynamics.

Mike Bourscheid’s first major Canadian show, Sunny Side Up and other sorrowful stories, accompanies Codes of Silence, the first exhibition curated by new Richmond Art Gallery curator Zoë Chan.

Sunny Side Up and other sorrowful stories

Bourscheid, who grew up in Luxembourg, has been interested in art since childhood and started getting more involved while in high school. He works with a variety of mediums including video, photography, sculpture, and performance, and his current practice often begins with costumes.

“I create a character or multiple characters, and then at the end when the costumes are done or when I’m making the costumes I decide what they will become—video, photography, performance—because I’m making them myself,” he explains. 

Bourscheid says he often finds inspiration at the library and also forms ideas by making things and seeing materials. Sometimes his costume pieces evolve through practical constraints, such as a sequin-covered foam head that became heavy enough to require a support structure. 

Focusing costumes around the body, and how they function as an extension of the body, Bourscheid also explores humour as a way to hide messages within his works. Sunny Side Up and other sorrowful stories includes a film called Agnes, which was inspired by his experience of being raised by a single mother as well as drawing inspiration from Kathy Acker’s book Don Quixote. 

“This work for the Richmond Art Gallery has a lot of elements that are very personal and slightly autobiographical,” he says. “A lot of things are also inspired by my body; I’m quite tall and always aware of my body, especially when I do performance. When I enter a room there’s a presence that I want to tame down.”

Initially creating hand puppets with gloves, to maintain functionality, Bourscheid then made other costume pieces to facilitate characters. He also created seven latex noses that reference the family story about his nose coming from his father. 

Agnes is composed of filmed segments from a 2021 exhibition in Berlin. This new film premieres at the Richmond Art Gallery and makes use of multiple screens to enable the different characters to interact with each other.

“I hope that people laugh. I hope that people feel good and take away that vulnerability is something positive, solitude is important. To dig into the emotional side and to also not neglect that—that’s an important part of your being,” says Bourscheid. 

He’s also curious how kids will respond to the costume pieces and noses. When creating his artwork, Bourscheid tries to think like a child and maintain that sense of playfulness.

Codes of Silence

Codes of Silence brings together four featured videos by artists Shirley Bruno, Aleesa Cohene, Caroline Monnet, and Cauleen Smith. The exhibition came together over several years as Chan was exploring and researching artists working with storytelling and voice. 

“The voice was very important, but I also thought it could be interesting to look at artists who were looking at silence and maybe more focusing on moments of quiet and intimacy,” says Chan. “Usually we think when the voice has been removed, it’s around censorship or suppressing someone’s subjectivity or their politics, or something like that.”

As a curator, Chan says her role is to find works that fit together and within a theme, while maintaining their uniqueness. Because the exhibition is made of videos, Chan has developed ways to prevent sound bleed including using headphones and other approaches. The show also includes works from the gallery’s permanent collection, which features many B.C.-based artists.

“I’m hoping to create experiences for a public that may be familiar with contemporary art, but also just a general public; as an engaged citizen I hope there’s something there for everyone,” says Chan. “We’re so bombarded with visuals every day and busy-ness, and I hope the space for this exhibition can be contemplative and encourage meditation, reflection, and listening.”

Bruno’s video Tezen is a coming-of-age tale based on a popular folkloric story in Haiti that’s still told today. Cohene’s Kathy brings together the performances of actor Kathy Bates. Monnet’s Creatura Dada focuses on a feast attended by Indigenous women artists and honouring filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin. Smith’s Black and Blue Over You (After Bas Jan Ader for Ishan) shows the artist making bouquets of black, white, and blue flowers in remembrance of the death of a friend’s nephew.

“Each of the works is really unique and really beautiful,” says Chan. “I think they’re compelling and will draw the public in—at least that’s my hope.”

Both exhibitions are on at Richmond Art Gallery from Jan. 28 to April 2. For more information, visit richmondartgallery.org/sunnysideup or richmondartgallery.org/codesofsilence

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