Canadian video and documentary artist Jean-Paul Kelly is bringing his interest around censorship to Plug In Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA).
That ends that matter is Kelly’s exhibition of his interest in showing and hiding what is taboo to most people, whether that is socially or legally.
“Primarily, I’m interested in the ethics of the artist, but also the ethics of seeing, sight and reading, and how those ethics can be translated into aesthetic form,” Kelly says.
Kelly’s project began with a residency in London, in England at the Delfina Foundation, an international artist residency organization. His focus was on the Magistrate’s court there, and in a law of contempt that prohibits any drawings, audio or video recordings or representations of any kind from being made in the courtroom, other than handwritten notes.
“The process really began in that limitation, and I’m interested as an artist in those limitations, in what can be represented and what can’t be represented,” Kelly says. “Ethically, physically, formally, personally (in terms of what people and artists will and will not explore.) I’m interested in the choices that we make.”
The exhibition at Plug In ICA will show three videos. One is a re-enactment of Kelly’s experience sitting in on the Magistrate’s court proceedings, where the camera is his point of view. However, the proceedings themselves were not what Kelly was as interested in showing.
“It’s very opaque and abstract. It’s the moments in between, there’s no utterance of language or anything like that in the space,” Kelly says. “Mostly people just fidget and look away.”
The odd time, one of the performers will look directly into the camera, breaking the boundary between the viewer and the viewed.
The other part of the exhibit shows found material that looks at the policing of vision in queer desire, at people in court covering their faces to protect their identity, and at protest control – in terms of attacking protesters’ sense of sight with tear gas or pepper spray and the protestors’ reactions to that.
Plug In ICA is in its 47th year of operation, making it one of the oldest arts organizations of its kind in Canada.
Jenifer Papararo, the executive director at Plug In, says the gallery is working to build new audiences for contemporary art around Winnipeg. The art gallery offers free admission and inclusive space where the meaning of contemporary art is expanded through many different perspectives and cultures, Papararo says.
As for Kelly’s exhibition, Papararo says the subject of the piece is how people document their experiences.
Kelly “is questioning journalism, documentary as a format and whether it has the ability to be truly objective in giving information,” she says. “He’s not just critiquing it. He’s looking for other ways to build that questioning and conveying meaning through visual art.”
That ends that matter will be shown in Plug In ICA in the Buhler Center until March 24, 2019.
Published in Volume 73, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 31, 2019)