Art historian John O’Brian converses with Jason Gowans and Michael Love of The Everything Company about their current exhibition Three Wrongs Don’t Make A Right. On the books for discussion: the legacies of the Group of Seven, the N.E. Thing Co., and photoconceptualism; allegory and the apparatus; and the notion of failure as an artistic strategy.
Three Wrongs Don’t Make a Right is a self-conscious inquiry into the constructs of landscape within the tradition of western aesthetics and the history of picture making. This exhibition, which is The Everything Company’s first gallery presentation since their relocation from Montreal to Vancouver in 2010, combines elements of the members’ own photographic practices as well as a number of interests from the collaboration’s earliest moments – particularly their investigations into masculinity in a Canadian context. Three Wrongs Don’t Make a Right queries the nature of aesthetic experience itself and the historically laden roles of painting and photography in the fabrication of that experience. Each of the three works that together comprise the exhibition is “wrong” in some way. Purposefully scaled too large for the space of the gallery that contains them, these images and installation present viewers with hopelessly elaborate framing devices and viewing apparatuses. They playfully expose the ever-present (but so often cunningly veiled) gap between artist, object and audience and, ultimately, the realities of landscape as a social construction.
John O’Brian is a writer, curator and art historian. His many books include Beyond Wilderness: The Group of Seven: Canadian Identity and Contemporary Art (with Peter White); Atomic Postcards: Radioactive Messages from the Cold War (with Jeremy Borsos); Ruthless Hedonism: The American Reception of Matisse and Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism. Since 1987, he has taught at the University of British Columbia where he is a Faculty Associate of the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies and held the Brenda & David McLean Chair in Canadian Studies from 2008 to 2011. He was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2009. In 2011 received the Thakore Award in Human Rights and Peace Studies from Simon Fraser University and an honorary doctorate from the University of Trinity College at the University of Toronto.
The Everything Company (TEC) is a collaborative founded in Montreal and now based in Vancouver. Membership is fluid; currently active are Jason Gowans and Michael Love, other past and current members include Simon Benedict, Chris Dahl and Max Yuristy. Both Gowans and Love have individual photographic practices and see TEC as an outlet for ideas that are somewhat different from their solo work. Gowans and Love are also founders and co-directors/curators of Gallery 295 in Vancouver, a space dedicated to the presentation of emergent photographic practices. They see 295 as an ongoing TEC project. The collaborative practice of TEC has to date focused mainly on creating events and facilitating relationships; recent projects have included a year-long series of distillations and speakeasies engaging with various local Vancouver sites and histories of prohibition and alcohol consumption (and presented at the Western Front and 221A among others), and the construction of a giant, bicycle-powered cedar salmon smoking hut in downtown Toronto for Nuit Blanche 2013, wherein participants were encouraged to pedal for several minutes in exchange for smoked salmon. This will be The Everything Company’s first gallery exhibition since the members’ relocation from Montreal in 2010.