Faking Death

Faking Death: Canadian Art Photography and the Canadian Imagination

Penny Cousineau-Levine
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Faking Death
    Book Description:

    Faking Death includes 16 colour reproductions and 150 duotones by artists such as Raymonde April, Jeff Wall, Lynne Cohen, Charles Gagnon, Evergon, Michel Lambeth, Thaddeus Holownia, Geoffrey James, Geneviève Cadieux, Shelley Niro, Diana Thorneycroft, Jin-me Yoon, Ian Wallace, and Ken Lum. By bringing together this many Canadian works "Faking Death" provides a compelling visual introduction to one of Canada's most vibrant and internationally recognized artistic media. It is an invaluable tool for curators, artists, teachers, students, and scholars in art history, fine arts, Canadian studies, film, communications, literature, and cultural studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7095-5
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-2)
    (pp. 3-11)

    Although I didn’t know it at the time, I think that I resolved to write this book one autumn evening years ago as I returned from a lecture given at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts by John Szarkowski, the Museum of Modern Art’s curator of Photography and theéminence griseof the American photographic world. Szarkowski had spoken eloquently about American photography to a house packed with eager Canadian listeners. I was driving home with a friend, a photographer who had also attended the lecture, and he seemed barely able to contain himself as he extolled the virtues of...

  5. PART ONE Dislocation
    • CHAPTER ONE Between the Lines
      (pp. 15-20)

      In a 1974New York Timesreview of John Max’s book of photographs,Open Passport, photography critic A.D. Coleman, while praising the book’s photographs for their distinctive vision, takes Max to task for his “frequent abuse of the snapshot mode.”¹ In the same year, reviewing the National Film Board’s publication of Judith Eglington’sEarth Visions in Afterimage,² I wrote that if the photographer had sought to underline the beauty of the natural landscape, she might have done better to use a large format camera.

      These two statements share a misunderstanding of Canadian photography. Both betray the reviewer’s presumption that there...

    • CHAPTER TWO The Missing Referent
      (pp. 21-47)

      In discussing the nature of photography as a medium, commentators of different stripes have tended to agree about what defines photography and sets it apart from other visual means of expression. At the medium’s inception, photography was seen as a chemical and physical process that “gives Nature the ability to reproduce herself.”¹ Toronto critic Marta Braun has aptly referred to this quality as photography’s “privileged ontological relationship to reality.” Curiously, in ways we will examine, Canadian photographers appear to eschew the very qualities these theorists identify as the defining features of the art.

      “Photography affects us like a phenomenon in...

  6. PART TWO Inside and Outside
    • CHAPTER THREE Subconscious Canada
      (pp. 51-86)

      Perhaps because of Canadian art photography’s long association with the Still Photography Division of the National Film Board, Canadian critics and photographers — when they pronounce themselves at all on the matter — conclude that if we do have a photographic tradition, it is a documentary one. National Gallery of Canada photography curator Ann Thomas has written that “looking back at Canadian photography from 1940 to 1967 — from the inception of the National Film Board with its strong nationalistic and documentary program to 1967 — the year during which theCamera as Witnessexhibition was organized at Expo ’67 and the National Film...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Elsewhere
      (pp. 87-127)

      In the opening scene of Atom Egoyan’s 1990 film,Speaking Parts, the heroine watches a videotape of her dead brother on the rectangular screen of the mausoleum wall behind which his ashes are kept. In this one shot, Egoyan perfectly encompasses, and gives narrative meaning to a configuration that appears again and again in Canadian photography: what Richard Rudisill and others contend the monolithic object is to the American artistic imagination, the rectangular opening into “another” reality is to ours. It would be impossible to overestimate the degree to which this window-like opening dominates Canadian photographic imagery.

      The definitive and...

  7. PART THREE Rehearsal
    • CHAPTER FIVE Arrested Development
      (pp. 131-146)

      In a humorous photo taken by Michel Lambeth in Toronto’s Allan Gardens in 1957, a very large man stands in the midst of rows of flower stands, holding a woman’s tiny handbag. In another image, an anxious-looking man stands by a bench in Union Station, surrounded by luggage. He looks as if his train is about to depart and his travelling companion has failed to show up. Because this photograph is quite dark, we may not immediately notice the baby lying amidst the packages on the railway station bench.

      At the Royal Ontario Museum, a man and his children are...

    • CHAPTER SIX Rite of Passage
      (pp. 147-183)

      Several characteristics have emerged thus far in our investigation of Canadian photography: 1) a frequent rejection of the literal, denotative function of the medium and a concomitant attempt to separate the photographic image from its referent and the subject of an image from his or her surroundings; 2) the appropriation of conventional photographic vocabularies, such as that of documentary photography, in order to point to a metaphysical or symbolic, as opposed natural or social, dimension; 3) a preoccupation with death, bondage, and entrapment, particularly of animals and women; 4) a tendency to see many situations as composed of two interrelated...

  8. PART FOUR Entering and Leaving
    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER SEVEN Home Is Here
      (pp. 187-220)

      Writing about the analysis of dreams, Freud said that it was some-times possible, with the help of the unconscious process of condensation, to “combine two quite latent trains of thought into one manifest dream, so that one can arrive at what appears to be a sufficient interpretation of a dream and yet in doing so can fail to notice” a possible “second” meaning.¹ Something akin to this may be observed with respect to the collective dream that is Canadian photography. The characteristics that appear, at first, to be symptomatic only of Canada’s state of suspension in a rite of passage...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Underworld Geography
      (pp. 221-268)

      The space in-between and the border, both so integral to Canadian photography, also have a presence within the imagination of other cultures. Margaret R. Higonnet writes that Gloria Anzaldua’s “meditations on what it means to be a Chicana lesbian poet” start from “the negative connotation of the border.”¹ She quotes from Anzaldua’sBorderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza: “Aborderland ... is in a constant state of transition. The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants. Losatravesadoslive here: the squint-eyed, the perverse, the queer, the troublesome, the mongrel, the mulatto, the half-breed, the half dead; in short, those who cross over,...

    (pp. 269-272)

    At the end of this search for a Canadian specificity of image, I see that Canadian art photographs made over the last five decades all point to the same unexpected conclusion.

    The photographs of Diana Thorneycroft, Vincent Sharp, Lynne Cohen, Evergon, Arthur Renwick, and other Canadian photographers indicate the extent to which Canadians identify with bound and caged animals and picture themselves as trapped (in individual isolation, in time and space, in mortal existence, within cultural constraints). In their photographs, like those of Michel Lambeth, Tom Gibson, and Michel Campeau, Canadians can be seen to be inordinately preoccupied with death...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 273-278)
    (pp. 279-296)
    (pp. 297-307)
  13. Credits
    (pp. 307-308)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 309-324)