July 21, 2016

Curating as Kitchen Table Talk

Installation view, Rockstars & Wannabes, 2007 (Urban Shaman Gallery)

Curating as Kitchen Table Talk
Curator talk with Cathy Mattes

This morning we had the pleasure of listening to a curator talk with Cathy Mattes discussing her important curatorial career and current practice. This lecture was presented as a part of a series of talks related to the Wood Land School, Plug In ICA's 2016 Summer Institute. Mattes is a curator and writer based in Southwestern Manitoba, currently a professor of Visual and Aboriginal Arts at the University of Brandon, Brandon. 

Sorting beads during Curatorial talk with Cathy Mattes

Mattes' practice is rooted in generative dialogue as a propagational tool for curating. Her lecture's title, Curating as Kitchen Table Talk, refers to this methodology of curatorial work; relationships and dialogue between artists, curators, and the community are critical in Mattes' approach. Discussing her career beginnings, Cathy Mattes presented some of her early curatorial projects, including Rielisms at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, 2001, and Blanket(ed) at Urban Shaman Gallery, 2001. Mattes described the contention of the former show within the Metis community at the time, and how that has impacted the way she views her role as curator today. Mattes' curatorial work has since maintained a strong degree of tension, for example through the mixing of work by indigenous and non- indigenous artists at Rockstars & Wannabes at Urban Shaman Gallery, Winnipeg, 2009. 

Mattes' curatorial pedagogy, which places importance on communication between curator and artist played a key role in the development of Frontrunners, a show curated by Mattes in 2009 at Plug In ICA and Urban Shaman Gallery. For a year leading up to the show, Mattes explained her regular meetings with artists including Jackie Traverse and Lita Fontaine (two artists participating in the Wood Land School: Thunderbird Woman) at the Nook, a breakfast restaurant in Winnipeg's West Broadway. It was during these breakfast meetings that the concept for the show was developed, and in addition to a critical art dialogue, prosaic discussions led further to the show conceptualizing and art work production. 

Following her lecture, Mattes invited the faculty and participants of the Wood Land School among other attendees of the morning lecture including Plug In ICA staff, members of the Winnipeg arts community, and members of the general public to partake in a game of Le Twist, a variation of the game Twister she developed for Hochelaga Revisted, an exhibtion in Montreal curated by Ryan Rice. Playing Le Twist beside Dan Graham's Performance Cafe on the Plug In rooftop patio was a clear example of Mattes' curatorial approach; artists, curators, and community members engaged together sharing a real, lived experience of naturally occurring dialogue and discussion of art and indigeneity was a telling and important ending of Cathy Mattes' visit to Plug In ICA for the Wood Land School. 

Playing Le Twist with Cathy Mattes

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