Oct 5-21, 2017: Labour of Commemoration

Oct 5, 2017 7:00 PM - Oct 21, 2017 5:00 PM | Toronto

Dismanteling of Berlin Wall Enlarge image Dismanteling of Berlin Wall (© Blake Fitzpatrick and Vid Inglevic) The Labour of Commemoration: Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art

“The Labour of Commemoration” is a collaborative exhibition by artists and Ryerson University professors, Blake Fitzpatrick and Vid Ingelevics. The exhibition will open at Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art, Toronto, on October 5, 2017.

The exhibition is comprised of several elements including a three-channel video projection, 3-D copies of one Berlin Wall souvenir, video and photographic documentation of the fence that separates the United States and Mexico and a small book documenting the placement and movement of the wall in the small Canadian town of Truro, Nova Scotia. Each aspect explores an example of the commemorative impulse and critically examines the implications of borders, walls and the tension between history and memory.

The key element is a 46 minute three-channel video projection onto three adjacent walls of the Prefix gallery. The video, shot by the artists in November 2014, depicts the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. One wall covers a range of events from November 1-8 as the centre of the city is increasingly taken over by the construction of the memorial infrastructure needed to support the anniversary events.  The centre wall focuses on the memorial day itself – November 9 – from early in the day, through to the release of the commemorative balloons later in the evening. The last wall features the relatively quick dismantling of the commemorative constructions as the city returns to normal.

Presented across the three screens, the viewer confronts the past, present and future of a commemorative event simultaneously. In this way, the ‘pre’ and ‘post’ history of the commemorative event are given equal weight to the known and publically celebrated anniversary, framing the commemorative moment with the site-specific labour of workers setting up an event and then dismantling it, with the help of the public itself. 

A second element is a vitrine that contains a set of 3D printed copies of a single Berlin Wall fragment. The reproduction of a wall fragment raises questions about authenticity of the memorial object and provides a way to reflect upon the souvenir as an object that always accompanies commemorative events while reconstructing a version of the past.

A third element provides a counter point to the memorialization of walls that come down by reminding us that walls and fences continue to divide. A video interview shot through the border fence separating Tijuana and San Diego with an American on the Mexican side tells the story of a displaced monument to the friendship between the two countries. This is accompanied by photographs which show families meeting on either side of the fence as the massive structure separating the two countries continues into the Pacific Ocean. 

A final element is a limited edition artists’ book that explores the history and mobility of six large, two-ton slabs of the Berlin Wall that have, improbably, been in Truro, Nova Scotia since 2000. The slabs sat on a vacant lot in the centre of town until 2011 when after much local controversy about their location, they were moved again, this time to the campus of the Dalhousie Agricultural College in near-by Bible Hill, Nova Scotia.

Taken together, the various elements of the exhibition examine the issue of commemoration with particular attention to the Berlin Wall, both in Berlin and North America. The exhibition is timely as it documents the recent 25th anniversary of the fall of the wall and it is taking place in the year of Canada’s 150th anniversary. These anniversary dates foreshadow another pending anniversary connected to the wall and its arrival in North America in 1990. In 2018, the Berlin Wall will have stood as a commemorative object in North America for as long as it ever stood in Berlin itself (1961-89).


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