Girl Germs: An Interview with Emily Gove Curator/Director at Xpace
August 6th, 2015
“This exhibition was inspired by zines and mix tapes; the artists and works were selected in an intuitive, relational way. I chose works I wanted to see together and people I wanted to meet each other. Amy Wong describes mix tapes as “mini-curated universes… an art form motivated by love,” and that sentiment expresses this show, too. Girl Germs also brings to mind dichotomies of sweet vs. nasty, dirty vs. clean, vulgarity vs. politeness, which all of these artists are exploring in some way. Like a mix tape, their practices are separate, but play off and inform each other within the gallery space. Here’s my summer 2015 Girl Germs mix: Amy Wong, Lauren Cullen, Beth Frey, Katie Morton.” Emily Gove, Girl Germs Exhibition Essay
Tussle Magazine: How would you describe the transformation process of the gallery space during the installation of Girl Germs?
Emily Gove: Amy’s and Beth’s processes are similar in that they both bring lots of materials and ephemera with them and spread everything out on the floor, then build their installations gradually and intuitively. They both talked about their materials as being in sort of a “nest”. We tried to maintain some of that with Beth’s installation, where she has left behind a few “nests” of leftover fabrics, wig hair and plastic body parts. The installation process felt a bit like hanging out in a teenage bedroom—it was comfortably messy.
TM: Have you worked with any of these artists before?
EM: The short answer is no, not in a curatorial sense. I’ve been familiar with Lauren’s research practice investigating hooked objects quite a while and had programmed her to speak in a lecture series a few years ago. Beth and I used to work together in the education department at Oakville Galleries, and I’ve been following her work and its evolution since then. I saw Amy’s work in an exhibition at Artscape Youngplace and Katie’s in a sculpture class exhibition at OCAD U (and on her Instagram account @broke_art_student) and got in touch from there.
TM: What initially attracted you to these particular artists?
EM: I was attracted to how these artists are exploring ideas of inclusion/exclusion and the creation of identity. In her research into the history of the hooked object in Canada, Lauren is examining the history of the practice of rug-hooking in Canada, and who is included in and excluded from that history. It’s history that comes with a romantic narrative of colonial women re-purposing rags and old clothing into beautiful objects to warm their floors, but this telling of history excludes the contributions of indigenous women, who were not only practicing rug-hooking as well, but whose lands were dispossessed in order for colonial women to have floors to warm. Lauren’s pieces are also practical objects that she uses in her home, and so they show those signs of wear and tell the story of their use. Amy’s painting practice is occupying a space that isn’t traditionally welcoming to women of colour; she’s creating these exploded narratives that take up space both metaphorically and physically and reclaiming pop cultural signifiers by appropriating and remixing them. Beth and Katie are also using painting as their starting point but not in a ‘traditional’ sense. Katie is creating these weird characters and narratives that are not completely in line with current trends in contemporary painting, and Beth is using paint skins combined with strange, bodily materials to create these kind of abject girl-monsters. I like how on paper the works in the show don’t fit together neatly but once you’re in the space they really make sense.
TM:How do you feel this exhibition adds to the female role in the art world?
EM: I get so excited to hear about any exhibition that includes women, people of colour, LGBTQ2S communities and marginalized folks. I think there’s a false sense that we’ve come really far in terms of inclusivity, but if you actually look at statistics in terms of whose practices are being seen and whose are not, there is still so much work to be done.
TM: In your opinion do you foresee a trend in the art world favouring the female artist?
EM: If you look at the Canadian Art Gallery Demographics from April of this year (http://canadianart.ca/features/canadas-galleries-fall-short-the-not-so-great-white-north/) it’s obvious that most institutions are still really falling short. Most of the spaces surveyed are showing (often much) less than 50% female-identified artists, and WAY fewer artists of colour. I recently went to the Guerilla Girls retrospective and 30th birthday party at the Abrons Art Centre in New York City, and while it was an inspiring place to be, it was really disheartening to see that so many of their early posters are still completely relevant today. These are concerns that are more than 30 years old at this point. So I think more so than a trend, there needs to be a permanent change in how institutions operate.
I want to share this quote from Amy’s MFA thesis (you can read an excerpt in Breach Magazine here:
“When I first started out ten years ago I really thought that I could start here, at this second stage of activism, to paint whatever I liked without making issues of race and gender explicit, because somehow I really believed that we had passed that stage. Now I keep struggling with the fact that we are not even close to being there yet.”
TM: What are the future exhibitions plans at Xpace?
EM: Katie Morton, whose work is included in Girl Germs is currently participating in the Xpace residency for recent OCAD U grads where she is creating an installation for our Window Space. Her installation will open on Sept. 11 and it will be a 3-dimensional interpretation of the characters from her painting practice.
100percentreal, opening in our Main Space on Nov. 6, is curated by Adrienne Crossman and is part of The Wrong New Digital Art Biennale. The exhibition has two parallel pieces – an IRL exhibition at Xpace and an online component; the online component will include digital paintings by emerging digital artist Colin Rosati that viewers will be able to navigate in 3-dimensions on their computers. The IRL exhibition will include a piece by Jazmine v. k. Carr that will explore paintings as physical objects in a 3-dimensional installation that will change colour according to the temperature of the room.