Editorial 35: Sources

We are thrilled to present you La Centrale Galerie Powerhouse as our guest curators for this Sept/Oct issue no.35 of NMP. Thank you, Jen and Eilana.

Thank you also to everyone who helped copy edit and assemble this issue.

Mél Hogan & M-C MacPhee (eds.)

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Cover image: “Noémi McComber during the performance of Cake of Fire, with the assistance of artists Helena Martin Franco and Virginie Jourdain (dressed as artist Claude Cahun) in homage to early heroines of feminist art history, May 30th, 2014, photo: Paul Litherland

Sources – to which we return over and over again

Source – a site where we replenish, renew and recharge

To source – to cite, to seek out, to ground our project in a set of precedents

Source – of energy or impulsion, of even a sense of moving forward from a righteous and vigorous source of struggle

Source – returns to our origins, or sources of inspiration, motivation, sense of justice

We had wanted to use the word re(s)sources because it could work in French or English, and because it referred not only to sources but to the continual returns that we celebrate and interrogate in the special 40th anniversary programming series that inspired this issue.

It is the result of a year of celebrations, queries, research and conversations about impact of a 40-year history of feminist art on contemporary practice. La Centrale was born almost forty-one years ago out of a consciousness-raising group for women artists. We have been working with its living history as our source.

We asked artists to consider our relationship to this source, our history, from the following angles: undermining the authority of history, reanimating the archives, reflecting on feminist canons/anticanons and re-performance. The series aimed to question the impact(s) of historical feminist strategies on contemporary artists. Rather than fix histories in place, we proposed a set of questions about how the past figures within present practices in ways that are in turn playful, commemorative, confrontational and decadently celebratory.

In this issue, Nicole Burisch writes about the artistic practices of Jenna Dawn MacLellan and Wednesday Lupypciw, who both playfully and reverently pay homage to histories of feminist materiality in weaving, but with wildly divergent methods. Nicole Burish places these homages in the context of contemporary craft theory and La Centrale’s history.

What is our responsibility to history? This question brings the most striking answers when posed to those who were around in the very beginning – the founding members of the centre. Eliana Stratica-Mihail speaks with founding members in an interview with artists integral to the creation of the first gallery for women artists in Canada or Québec, Isobel Dowler, Margaret Griffin, Clara Gutsche, Tanya Mars, Stanje Plantenga and Pat Walsh.

From the wild night of the 40th anniversary party, we present a series of images that capture the decadent and sensory rites that marked the momentous occasion of the centre’s birthday. These featured a performance by Noémi McComber, a performative feast by Sonja Zlatanova in the gallery setting of the work of Kirsten McCrae during her residency. Guests continued the theme of performative homage, dressed as a favourite feminist artist or artwork.

Anne Golden completed a research residency this spring and curated a screening that traces the early development of film and video associated with La Centrale in its first decade. Through an imagined diary and homage to early 70s video pioneer Doris Chase (1923-2008), she evokes an era of limited access for women artists to the means to make film and video and a possibility for an art practice very different than what we take for granted today. This kind of fiction, in the face of all too often lost histories, has been a common response by artists to this series. We want to fill in what is missing and the imaginary potential of what we imagine should be in our archives triggers a strong sense of desire to recreate, to fictionalize, to project onto our pasts all kinds of wish fulfillment and a desire to make tangible what we sense so strongly from the past.

It is in this spirit that the artist projects were made and presented at La Centrale this year, and in this same spirit we present you a gleaning of some elements that came into being as the unanticipated outputs of a year full of activity and exchange.

Jen Leigh Fisher
for the Editorial Committee