organized by Althea Thauberger
20 June to 10 August 2013
In this exhibition, Linklater draws together four iconic images connected by their designation as artifacts from his upbringing in Northern Ontario (where he still lives and works). Yet in the shrewd distancing Linklater deploys in his presentation of these images, he invites further meanings to proliferate between them. For example, the logo for Ontario Northland, the primary transportation carrier for Northern Ontario, which Linklater reduces to its constituent yellow zigzags as a custom-made wall work, is potentially reassigned as modern abstraction. Likewise, his inclusion of a popular reproduction of a drawing (titled Learning, from which Linklater’s exhibition takes its name) by the late Ojibwa artist Benjamin Chee Chee, possibly repositions Chee Chee’s fluid abstractions of geese against the logo’s visual vocabulary. But nothing Linklater presents is that simple. Elsewhere, as Linklater culls images from their circulation on the web by rephotographing them directly from his computer screen and enlarging them, he encourages us to look at them anew. His appropriation of Canadian Press photographer Tom Hanson’s image of Oka warrior Richard Nicholas, photographed standing on top of an overturned Sûreté du Québec vehicle, highlights it as one of the most iconic images of the 1990 Oka Crisis. But what is perhaps less known is the two men, who never met face to face, were linked again when they died in separate incidents (Hanson of a heart attack, Nicholas in a car accident) on the same day almost two decades later. What could be dismissed as a coincidence is investigated again by Linklater, who presents the image alongside a still of Kurt Cobain during Nirvana’s Unplugged session for MTV in 1993. Rephotographed by Linklater in the same way, these two disparate images are recast as bookends of the artist’s youth and of the early 1990s. Given the circumstances of both Cobain and Chee Chee’s deaths—they committed suicide arguably when they were at the height of their careers—the assembly of images within Learning become deeply profound and personal artifacts to be opened and reopened again.