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FOFA Gallery celebrates 10 years of research and creative development

Exhibition coordinator Sarah Amarica offers us a glimpse into the Concordia venue’s artistic archives
September 26, 2016
By Sarah Amarica

Sarah Amarica is exhibition coordinator for the
Faculty of Fine Arts’ FOFA Gallery,  located on the ground floor of the Engineering Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex (EV).

In September of 2006, the newly inaugurated FOFA Gallery opened its doors, one year after the completion of the EV Building.

Since its early years under the direction of Lynn Beavis, followed by jake moore, and in recent years Jennifer Dorner, the gallery has exhibited over 300 artists by way of shows, artist talks, conferences, workshops and publications, among many other initiatives.

The sheer size and diverse nature of the FOFA archives — an assorted collection of digital, physical and published material — reflect the range of collaborators, curators, faculty members and emerging and established artists who have participated, in one way or another, with the gallery over the years.

From conferences to publications, workshops to performances, countless interdisciplinary projects have emerged outside the gallery’s traditional exhibition framework. Yet all centre around one goal: to encourage research and creative developments in contemporary art, within Concordia and beyond.

Notable mentions over the last decade

It is little surprise that artists and scholars exhibited a decade ago lead prolific careers today.

Marion Wagschal, for example, was among the very first artists to exhibit at the FOFA Gallery in 2006 with Body Notes, followed by a solo show titled Private Views in 2009, which showcased a collection of intimate watercolour drawings.

The Montreal-based painter has since been featured nationwide, including in a retrospective titled Portraits, Memories, Fables (2015) at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which travelled to London, England this past spring. 

FOFA Gallery’s 2008 exhibition, symposium and publication Rearranging Desires: Curating the ‘Other’ Within featured four Montreal-based Asian-Canadian artists: Ayesha Hameed, Karen Tam, Chih-Chien Wang and Mary Sui Yee Wong. Curated by Alice Ming Wai Jim, the project sought to rethink notions of cultural otherness often ascribed to Asian-Canadian Art.

Tam and Jim continue critical discussions of cultural authenticity and consumption eight years later at Tam’s current exhibition, Terra dos chinês curio shop, at Articule until October 2.

In another exhibition and publication effort, Martha Langford curated a series of photographic projects on the subject of the Grey Nuns Residence, Preoccupations: Photographic Explorations of the Grey Nuns Mother House. Interestingly, the space has undergone a major transformation since this 2009 venture.

Artistic experimentation

Apart from its traditional programming, the gallery has also been the site of artistic exchange and experimentation. 

Three distinct summer projects: Recto/Verso (2012-13), Visitations (2015) and Artists at Work (2016) harnessed the public nature of the gallery to foster participation from passersby and artists alike. These creative projects brought into plain sight that which is often hidden from view and greatly undervalued: artistic production and labour.

Another instance of gallery-turned-creative-laboratory is Alison Reiko Loader and Christopher Plenzich’s interdisciplinary exhibition En Masse (2015), where viewers could study the growth of the M. disstria species, from larvae to moth.

In 2011, Tagny Duff showcased engineered tissue culture specimens in Cellular Memorabilia, then mentored artists WhiteFeather Hunter and Tristan Matheson, who exhibited their own bio textile experiments and contagion studies in Biomateria + Contagious Matters in 2015.

These impressive scientific and artistic endeavours reflect the interdisciplinary trends of contemporary art, and cutting-edge resources available to artists at Concordia. 

Indigenous-centered exhibitions and events

The FOFA Gallery also has a vibrant history of indigenous-centered exhibitions and events. Izhizkawe: To Leave Tracks to a Certain Place (2008) featured the work of seven indigenous Concordia alumni. The 2014 exhibition Exhibiting the Archive / Performing the Archive, curated by Dayna Danger under the mentorship of Heather Igloliorte, reflected on the history of colonization in Canada through the artwork of three contemporary aboriginal artists.

More recently, the group exhibition The Rebel Yells: Dress and Political Re-Dress in Contemporary Indigenous Art (2015) explored indigenous self-representation.

Since then, the gallery has also hosted a discussion panel and film screening series, both exploring authentic cultural representation in film, and celebrating Inuit culture more broadly.

Showcasing Concordia talent

Of course, we have to mention FOFA’s annual initiatives focused on current students, and its collaborations with many student-run groups and FOFA organizations.

There’s the annual undergraduate student exhibition and catalogue (formerly titled Combine), the graduating students’ exhibition and Concordia Remembers. Hundreds of students have participated in the annual shows over the past decade, and these projects continue to grow and flourish.

Moving forward, the FOFA Gallery hopes to continue to build its legacy through interdisciplinary initiatives, community engagement and continued critical discourse surrounding contemporary art today.

Visit the FOFA Gallery from Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 1515 Ste-Catherine St. West, EV 1-715, in the Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex (EV Building).

Currently on view: pk langshaw’s the parachute unfolds: follow the thread and Kim Waldron’s Superstar, until October 2.


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