This year, Remai Modern presents exhibitions by Ken Lum, John Akomfrah, and Céline Condorelli, each offering a new way to experience museums, the world and ourselves.
Ken Lum: Death and Funiture
February 12–May 15
Death and Furniture brings together works by Ken Lum, an acclaimed Canadian artist who was raised in Vancouver’s Chinatown and is now based in the United States. Lum is best known for photo-and-text based works that juxtapose portraiture and language in an examination of contemporary experience. This exhibition includes a new series in this genre entitled Time. And Again., which captures some of the anxieties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly as they relate to work. In addition to being displayed at Remai Modern, these works can be seen on billboards in the downtown area of Saskatoon as part of Lum’s public art practice.
Death and Furniture also includes sculpture, installation and printmaking, conveying the diversity of work that Lum has produced over his more than 40-year career. The exhibition title is inspired by two bodies of work: Necrology (2016–17)—a series of monumental, fictional death announcements—and the Furniture Sculptures (1978–ongoing)—living room decor turned into artworks through simple reconfiguration. “Death and furniture” is also a phrase borrowed from philosophy. When realists—philosophers who believe that things exist outside of our perception of them—argue with relativists—philosophers who believe that there is no absolute truth—they point out that “furniture” and “death” are two undeniable certainties. They are used as examples of things that exist whether we are witness to them or not, occupying the space of our shared experience.
Lum’s practice is based in idea-driven, Conceptual Art and the simple, geometric shapes of Minimalism. It is also deeply rooted in socio-political concerns such as class, ethnicity, migration and difference. These issues define Lum’s art and our shared experience in the contemporary moment. To engage with his work is to connect with the artist’s distinctive, humorous and astute view of the world; it is also an opportunity to think through how we each fit into the time we currently occupy together, and a space of undeniable truth.
Death and Furniture is organized by the Remai Modern, Saskatoon and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.
John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea
March 2-June 19
John Akomfrah’s three-channel video installation Vertigo Sea (2015) immerses the viewer in the overwhelming power, beauty, and destructive capabilities of the ocean. Composed of imagery from the archives of the BBC’s natural history unit cut together with new footage shot by the artist, the result is a complex and layered narrative that brings us into relationship with the beauty and terror of the ocean.
Scenes include a whale hunt off the shores of Newfoundland and polar bear hunting on Arctic ice floes, as well as the hold of a slave ship, political prisoners being cast into the sea, and refugees floating in makeshift vessels. We know the stories behind many of these familiar images. However, the number of scenes relating to the power of the sea that Akomfrah has brought together across the large screens and a 48-minute running time results in an awe-inspiring viewing experience that is greater than its elemental parts.
Akomfrah’s fictional scenes refer to the seascapes of J.M.W. Turner, Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa (1818–1819) and the sublime landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich; his inter-titles are drawn from the writing of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851), Virginia Woolf’s The Waves (1931) and Heathcote Williams’ poem Whale Nation (1988). Also woven through the piece is Akomfrah’s telling of the remarkable story of Olaudah Equiano (about 1745–1797), a freed slave from the Kingdom of Benin who became a British abolitionist, sea merchant and Arctic explorer.
This haunting work was first presented in 2015 Venice Biennale, All the World’s Future, and is on loan from the National Gallery of Canada.
Céline Condorelli, Conversation Piece (Spinning)
From March 2022
Céline Condorelli’s work addresses the divisions between public and private, art and design, and work and leisure in order to reimagine what art and museum can be, building on the legacies of those who came before her. Inhabiting the in-between spaces of Remai Modern, Condorelli is creating a series of works that invites visitors to encounter and experience the museum in new ways, over the next 18 months.
Conversation Piece (Spinning) is the first in her year-long project at Remai Modern, and is part of the artist’s ongoing series of carousel sculptures. The artwork builds on the lesser-known history of artists who have designed playgrounds and introduced ways to play inside museum spaces. The piece is both an homage to modernist art history and invites guests to have a playful experience at the museum.
Conversation Piece (Spinning) was developed in dialogue with local communities with the support from Remai Modern staff, and engaged with school children from the museum’s Art for Life Program. The students helped develop colour studies to inspire this work, giving them the opportunity to learn about the interplay between colour, form and movement.
Céline Condorelli lives and works between London, UK, and Lisbon, Portugal. She is known for her research into legacies of modern art and architecture and the ways they come together to reimagine public space with special attention to structures of support. Recent exhibitions include Our Silver City, 2094, Nottingham Contemporary (2021/2022); Two Years Vacation, FRAC Lorraine, France (2020); TEA, Spain (2021); Céline Condorelli, Kunsthaus Pasquart, Switzerland; Kunsthal Aarhus, Denmark (2019); Zanzibar, permanent installation for the Kings Cross Project, United Kingdom; Vera Cortes, Portugal (2018); Proposals for a Qualitative Society (spinning), Stroom Den Haag, Netherlands; Corps à Corps, IMA Brisbane, Australia, including a sculpture garden which won Australian Institute of Architects Art and Architecture Prize (2017), Gwangju Biennial, Liverpool Biennial, Sydney Biennial (2016).
About Remai Modern
Remai Modern is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Traditional Homeland of the Métis. We pay our respects to First Nations and Métis ancestors and reaffirm our relationship with one another.
Remai Modern is a new museum of modern and contemporary art in Saskatoon. The museum presents and collects local and international modern and contemporary art that connects, inspires and challenges diverse audiences through equitable and accessible programs.