Richard William Hill
Symbolic inversion illuminates and challenges the visual conventions
Contemporary Feature and Davies Foundation Galleries
Imagine a world where Superman is a Soviet hero, killer rabbits hunt humans, and British aristocrats dressed in "African" fabrics lose their heads. Welcome to World Upside Down, an exhibition opening this fall at Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University. "The world upside down is one in which the symbolic order is turned on its head," says exhibition curator Richard W. Hill. "As an artistic strategy, symbolic inversion illuminates and challenges the visual conventions that police social hierarchies." Through works from a range of cultures, genres and periods, World Upside Down looks at the ways in which this tradition is deployed by artists as a subtle (and not-so-subtle) tool of social satire in works including playfully staged self-portraits, performances and an off-site billboard project.
Artists featured in World Upside Down include Ahmoo Angeconeb, Lori Blondeau, T.C. Cannon, Renée Cox, Jack Daws, Rosalie Favell, General Idea, Cheryl L'Hirondelle, Terrance Houle and Jarusha Brown, Goyce Kakegamic, Jim Logan, Shelley Niro, Roger Shimomura, and Yinka Shonibare. The show also draws on popular culture, examining the symbolic inversion of films such as Planet of the Apes and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and features the DC comic Superman: Red Son (written by Mark Millar) in which the infant Superman lands in the USSR and grows up on a collective farm in the Ukraine. With In the Shadow of No Towers, Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Art Spiegelman contemplates how George W. Bush's America has turned itself upside down in response to the calamity of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
World Upside Down also includes a commissioned billboard project by Terrance Houle and Jarusha Brown to be presented at Princess and Division Streets in downtown Kingston from 22 October 2007 to 18 February 2008. In a series of parodic images, Houle shops for groceries and works at the office, performing mundane tasks of daily life while dressed in full regalia. The series highlights the perceived, but far from actual, schism between traditional indigenous identity and contemporary life.
World Upside Down opens with a curator's walk-through tour of the exhibition at 8 pm on 20 Saturday October, followed by the opening reception. Terrance Houle's Casting Call - an engaging, participatory performance - takes place on the same day, at 2 to 5 pm and 7 to 8 pm.
World Upside Down is curated by Richard William Hill, organized by the Walter Phillips Gallery, The Banff Centre and produced in collaboration with the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and the Musée d'art de Joliette. This exhibition is presented with the support of the Museums Assistance Program of the Canadian Department of Heritage, the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.
Image: Lori Blondeau, Lonely Surfer Squaw, 1997 Courtesy of the artist
Agnes Etherington Art Centre
Kingston Ontario Canada K7L 3N6