OTTAWA ART GALLERY (Ottawa, Ontario)

CARBON + LIGHT
JUAN GEUER’S LUMINOUS PRECISION
With artists Barry Ace, Doug Back, Juan Geuer, Darsha Hewitt, Catherine Richards, Daniel Sharp, Michael Snow, and Norman White

March 9 – August 18, 2019

“Canadian artist Juan Geuer’s ground-breaking work sits in the threshold between science and art. It bridges the human condition, in all its various states, and the carbon-based ecosystems and oxygenated atmospheres upon which we depend.

The exhibition Carbon + Light celebrates this artist’s significant legacy as a fearless truth seeker. Through his inventive approach to installation, he pointed out the onset of the Anthropocene long before the term emerged to denote the geological period in which we now find ourselves embedded. Here, Geuer’s work will be in dialogue with artists with whom he either collaborated, influenced, or worked with in parallel, from Michael Snow to Catherine Richards.

The exhibition will also showcase the importance of Ottawa as the site within which Geuer’s surprising practice emerged, suggesting that time and location were instrumental to his ability to develop his unique investigation.”

CURATOR
Caroline Seck Langill

ABOUT THE WORK

Ace was invited to participate in the exhibition Carbon + Light – Juan Geuer’s Luminious Precision as an artist who was not influenced by Juan but rather as an artist whose work, utilizing technology in art, has paralled Geuer’s.

The work Bandolier for Alain Brosseau that was included in Carbon + Light incorporates Ace’s signature style and innovative use of bronze mesh screen, electronic component floral motifs (resembling Anishinaabe beadwork) and digital tablets. Ace made the work in 2017 for the exhibition Unsettled curated by Adrian Stimson for the Queer Arts Festival held at the Roundhouse in Vancouver, British Columbia. The work was subsequently exhibited in 2018 in the exhibition URL : IRL curated by Blair Fornwald, Jennifer Matokek and Wendy Part for the Dunlop Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Commenting on Bandolier for Alain Brosseau, curator Caroline Seck Langill notes on the work,

“There is a certain beauty to the electronic parts stitched in to Anishinaabe artist Barry Ace’s work, but there is also a suggestion of potential energy and communicative power. The floral arrangements move the viewer to mourn for the murder of a young man who was dropped off the Alexandra Bridge in a horrific and violent homophobic crime that shocked and galvanized Ottawa – Gatineau’s gay community. Ace ensures such stories attached to our land are not eased through time. Geuer and Ace share a love for electronic hardware and they recognize that exposing the parts and production of their practice may concentrate the audience’s attention on their respective politicial concerns.”

For Ace, Bandolier for Alain Brosseau is an honouring work in memoriam for a young 33-year old waiter who worked at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa in 1989. Alain was murdered just prior to midnight as he walked home through Major’s Hill Park. In the 1980s, Major’s Hill Park was a gay cruising area and was a prime target for regular beatings, robberies and on-going harassment by aggressive homophobes and the Ottawa police. On the night of August 21, 1989, Alain was chased and taunted by a gang of young thugs as he walked along the dimly lit path at the edge of the park that traverses the steep limestone cliffs cascading towards the Rideau Canal and the Ottawa River. The gang viscously attacked Alain and dragged him to the railing on the Alexandra Bridge hoisting him over by his ankles and dangling him upside down directly over the 50 foot drop to the stone shoreline of the Ottawa River. The last words Alain heard uttered by one of his assailants as they released their grip on him was “I like your shoes”. He flailed and tried to grasp the iron bridge as he plummeted to his death. The attackers fled the scene and continued their rampage later that night in a second attack on a suburban gay couple, Alain Fortin and Wilfred Gauthier, who were asleep in their home on Borland Drive in Orleans. The couple were dragged from their bed in the middle of the night and brutally stabbed with a screwdriver. Fortin was choked with a belt before being wrapped in a blanket and dumped in the trunk of the couple’s vehicle. The assailants couldn’t start the car, so they fled the scene on foot. Both Fortin and Gauthier survived the attack and lived to testify against their attackers at trial, after police arrested the gang of six assailants.

During the summer of 1989, seven other men “mysteriously” fell from the cliffs in Major’s Hill Park and two men died: John Miller (36) and Peter Vainola (37). It is unlikely that the murder of Alain would have sparked such public outrage had he been a gay man. Alain was, in fact, straight. That fateful night, he was enroute to his home in Gatineau that he shared with his long-time girlfriend. His murder though, was a definitive turning point that galvanized and mobilized Ottawa’s queer community. Ottawa gay activists organized and fought back against homophobia and the police. In July 1991, the LGBT Ottawa Police Liaison Committee was established. The committee’s October 1991 report resulted in police sensitivity training and the formation of a police hate crime unit.

Alain’s murder drove home the salient point that anyone can be a victim of homophobia or hate crimes.

In the Ottawa Art Galleries inaugural exhibition catalogue We’ll All Become Stories, Cara Tierney’s article “Wide-eyed and Giddy: (Ottawa Dearest, You’re A Queer Queer City)” addresses Ace’s Bandolier for Alain Brosseau and Carl Stewart’s Nice Shoes Faggot! Artist Carl Stewart was the first to address the murder of Alain in 1996 in textile work and video. Tierney notes that Bandolier for Alain Brosseau reinvigorates the current and on-going issues of hate crimes and violence against the LGBTQ2S+ community.

In the Spring of 2019, Ottawa-based Qu’ART, an arts collective dedicated to heightening LGBTQ2+ queer artistic activity, hosted London-based (UK) artist Paul Harfleet. With his ongoing project Pansy Boy, started in 2005, Harfleet plants pansies at sites where homophobic and transphobic hate crimes has taken place. This project has taken him to sites all over the world. While in Ottawa, Harfleet planted a pansy for Alain at the Alexandra Bridge and participated in the panel discussion Irrepressible: Creativity and Queer Resistance, organized by Qu’ART, that also included artists Stewart and Ace and that was moderated by Tierney, who along with being a writer, is also an artist, curator and educator.

Below are the slides from the digital tablet embedded in the Bandolier for Alain Brosseau. The slides tell the account of Alain’s death and the impact his death had on Ottawa. Watch as a slideshow or hover over the images to bring up the control arrows.