Alternative Histories

Nicolas Baier, Patrick Coutu, Manon De Pauw, Miruna Dragan, Alex McLeod, John Monteith, Charles Stankievech

Works in the exhibition

Focusing on the dichotomy between fact and fiction, Alternative Histories explores the way in which knowledge is discursively and aesthetically constructed. The artists in this exhibition draw on technological developments to negotiate new understandings of matter, space and consciousness. In doing so, they construct alternative realities through which history can be interpreted.

Through the investigation of scientific phenomenon, cosmological theories and literary tropes, this exhibition examines counter-facts embedded in accepted narratives. Exposing the role that agency plays in historical imagination, it becomes apparent that facts do not ‘speak’ for themselves; they are spoken for. 

A poetic account of history and being, Manon De Pauw’s photographic research examines the micro and macro, light and shadow, body and universe. The artist’s Mes lunes series evokes the intersecting fields of light, bodies and matter within the context of lunar cycles and speaks to the human desire to comprehend cosmological developments. In a similar vein, while working within the genre of landscape photography, John Monteith’s visually rhythmic and immersive photographic installation, All That We Seem Not To Be Able to Say, lingers between representation and abstraction. Composed of light and shadow, and viscerally textural, this body of work investigates the poetic dynamics of provisional space – occupying a liminal position between memory, fluidity and time – while addressing issues related to seriality and indexicality.

Adopting a scientific approach to the experience of art, Nicolas Baier constructs intricate images of constellations, fossils and forces of nature that reveal man’s longing for universal knowledge. In particular, Baier focuses on discourses surrounding physics and astronomy to explore the epistemological frameworks that construct our understanding of non-visible worlds. Scientific theories equally inform Patrick Coutu’s sculptural representations of mineral, vegetable and other natural constructions. The artist’s Récif sculptures consist of identical cubic units that form an aesthetic system in their own right. Employing mathematical equations and coding systems, Patrick Coutu constructs an understanding of organic life unfixed in time.

The manifestation of almost a decade of fieldwork, Charles Stankievech’s The Soniferous Æther series documents a remote military intelligence outpost located in the northernmost settlement on Earth. The artist’s rich archive of sci-fi-like artefacts includes a photograph of an abandoned spy station, vacuum-sealed rare earth elements and Arctic air samples. Exploring issues of military colonization and geopolitics, the works present Earth from an extra-terrestrial perspective.

Rather than finding basis in scientific discourse, Alex McLeod and Miruna Dragan’s representations are grounded in the literary trope of the sublime. McLeod’s digitally constructed landscape STALACTIE_AF sees thousands of years of evolution result in sedimentary pillars dripping into an abyss, while his video work, THUNDER COME, documents journeying orbs of light in a barren desert. In Dragan’s photographic series The Mountains Are Mirrors, ominous mountain ranges, both vast and magnificent, are inscribed with iridescent graphite marks shifting in visibility with the viewer's gaze. These strange forms are at once seen ingrained in the mountain’s face, while simultaneously uncoupled from it, suggesting that while we try to view the mountain, we can never know the mountain’s view of us.

In deconstructing historical, scientific and literary representations of reality, the artists included in this exhibition provide alternative indexes of space, time and memory.

John Monteith's installation All That We Seem Not To Be Able To Say has been partially funded by the Ontario Arts Council.