New Show at the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art: Picto Prophesy


By Jennifer Smith – Kelowna Capital News

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s the end of the world!

If 2012 and the end of the Mayan calendar has your interest piqued, the first show of the year for the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Arts has an end-of-days and prophecies show you won’t want to miss.

“Certainly, everyone’s seen the Hollywood movies and their fantastical representations of the end of the world…So I thought we might just try and tackle some of that hype and the information that’s going around and channel it to create a discussion that we need to have about our future,” explained Jennifer Pickering, co-curator of the show, which is entitled Picto Prophesy.

The show is put together by Penticton’s Ullus Collective, the group who co-hosted the Independent Media Arts Alliance conference at the Alternator in 2008 when it focused on indigenous culture.

Often experimental, and admittedly rough, the artists’ work explores what prophecy means as a concept and what it’s meant in indigenous cultures locally—and how that could affect everyone’s future.

“This is functional indigenous art at it’s highest form…It is about the issues and the work that needs to be done to help feed the people and maintain the culture. And if it’s not at the calibre of mainstream excellence, that’s okay by us,” said Tracey Kim Bono, chair of the Ullus Collective and co-curator of the show.

The exhibit will include digital art forms from cellphone camera imagery to video loops to two-dimensional mixed media prints, and is designed to act as an olive branch to help other Canadians build a better understanding of issues like the residential school system, it’s impact on aboriginal life and culture and on Canadian life—past, present and future.

As a result, many of the artists’ work focuses on language and its importance to culture and tradition. With the world imploding under the weight of excess and greed, this exploration of how others think and communicate, and the true roots of a society, could offer new routes to addressing major issues like global warming and environmental degradation.

Each artist involved was asked to offer up their own interpretation of these themes with Cease Wyss spearheading the project as lead artist. Wyss took the prophecy challenge as an opportunity to discuss the struggle to find balance, using photos and video to create an installation of a forest scene that contemplates the symbiosis and stability of an ecosystem.

“My journey has just been trying to achieve balance in my personal, cultural and spiritual life,” explained Wyss. “We have to learn to respect the earth and walk in harmony with it.”

Using digital screens or “our contemporary modern pictographs,” her work helps bring viewers back to the original lay of the land and how it was thought to look.

Chris Bose, a Kamloops-based artist and the short-lived director of the Alternator (between Pickering and its new director Lorna Paterson), instead draws on his staple muse, the trickster (or the coyote) to explore what 2012 means for the future via a 10-minute video loop.

“In the video projection, there’s about eight images I created all about my interpretation of what 2012 means and the prophecy,” he said, noting he’s incorporated a lot of his own language as well.

Bracken Hanuse Corlett took his venture into the mountains where he tried to see what it would be like if the end of the world, or the end of technology were to leave us all stranded, wireless and needing to head for higher ground for a period. Though he only lasted a couple of days, he said the experience made him really appreciate what it means to turn on a light.

“It was really hard and an eye opener for me. Say if the electrical grid went down or something, the hike up the mountain alone is so exhausting. You need to carry a lot to survive,” he said.

Corlett filmed the experience and shares it in the show. Picto Prophesy runs now through March 17 at the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art inside the Rotary Centre for the Arts building.

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