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World Upside Down

June 5, 2009 - June 5, 2009

The World Upside Down is one in which the symbolic order is turned on its head. It is a world visualized by artists where killer rabbits hunt humans and Superman is a hero of the Soviet Union. It is the Planet of the Apes and a planet where British aristocrats lose their heads when they find themselves dressed in ‘African’ fabrics. In each symbolic inversion an artist turns a hierarchical dichotomy on its head illuminating and challenging the visual conventions that maintain social order. In most cases the dichotomy itself breaks down under the strain of its own absurdity and we are liberated through this particular form of satire.

When power relations are suddenly turned on their head, we have the opportunity to recognize that some behaviours that we take to be natural and necessary are merely conventional. For this reason, contemporary artists using inversion tend to seek out existing hierarchy, often satirizing the most venerated works in the Western canon.

This exhibition also extends out into public spaces to include a commissioned billboard by Terrance Houle (with Jarusha Brown) who use photography and video to parody the complexities of contemporary Aboriginal identity. In his Urban Indian Series, Houle depicts himself going about the tasks of daily life ‘ shopping for groceries, working at the office ‘ while dressed in his powwow regalia, highlighting the perceived but far from actual schism between traditional Indigenous identity and contemporary life.

World Upside Down is curated by Richard William Hill, organized by the Walter Phillips Gallery, The Banff Centre and produced in collaboration with the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and the Mus’e d’art de Joliette. This exhibition is presented with the support of the Museums Assistance Program of the Canadian Department of Heritage, the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Presented as part of the exhibition, Terrance Houle’s public performance, Casting Call, involves Aboriginal collaborators “auditioning” for roles in famous Hollywood westerns.  Responding to the Hollywood practice of casting white actors in “Indian” roles, Houle’s performance undergoes this convention, humorously destroying the credibility of Hollywood stereotypes in the process.  To participate, check out the <a href=””>full press release.</a>

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