UP NORTH exhibition at the Art Gallery of Alberta features multimedia works by internationally renowned contemporary artists

The Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) launches its fall season with the opening of UP NORTH, running from September 10, 2011 to January 8, 2012.

UP NORTH features work by four artists from three circumpolar countries: Kevin Schmidt (Canada), Jacob Dahl Jürgensen/Simon Dybbroe Møller (Denmark) and Ragnar Kjartansson (Iceland). The exhibition, curated by Catherine Crowston, AGA Deputy Director/Chief Curator, brings together the traditions of landscape representation with new forms, of performance and sculpture. According to Crowston, UP NORTH presents us with new ways of understanding the idea of landscape, not merely as an image that is constructed by artists, but as an active site of artistic invention.

Based in Vancouver, Kevin Schmidt uses the vast, empty landscape of Canada’s north to examine ideas of adventure, expedition and exploration. For A Sign in the Northwest Passage, Schmidt hand-routered an excerpt from the Book of Revelations into a large cedar sign which he installed in the ice of the Northwest Passage upon flotation devices. An apocalyptic warning to all passersby, the sign was left to float in the arctic waters. This summer Schmidt returned to the north in an attempt to recover the sign and created new content for the work which will be shown for the first time in this exhibition. Wild Signals, an additional work by Schmidt, is situated in the seemingly untouched northern landscape, this time with a performance of light, sound and dry ice. Mirroring the colourful display of the Aurora Borealis, Wild Signals is a performance in which the northern landscape is the only audience.

Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s work The End is a folk-country music video with the artist and a collaborator performing in the snowy Rocky Mountains. Created during an artist’s residency at the Banff Centre, The End evokes nostalgia for the wild, romantic landscapes depicted in 19th-century art. Using the landscape as his stage, Kjartansson questions the references and myths that frame popular ideas of the North.

In Flotsam and Jetsam, Danish artists Jacob Dahl Jürgensen and Simon Dybbroe Møller construct makeshift musical instruments from debris washed ashore on a deserted island. They utilize these instruments in a musical performance that is played back in the gallery space, with the instruments also present as sculptures.

On Saturday, November 26, 2011 at 2:00pm, Kevin Schmidt will give a Special Artist Lecture at the AGA. Schmidt will talk about his travels to the Arctic both to install and attempt to recover his work – A Sign in the Northwest Passage.

The AGA’s popular late-night art party series will draw inspiration from UP NORTH with Refinery: Explorers of the North and the Monsters Who Killed Them on Saturday, November 19 from 9:00pm-2:00am. Tickets will go on sale to AGA Members on October 17 and to the general public on October 31. Details about the event and the Turn it Up North Refinery Contest – an opportunity to win two tickets to the party – will be released in the coming weeks.

For more information, please visit www.youraga.ca.