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Donigan Cumming: Ex Votos

June 21, 2008 - August 10, 2008


Curator:
Year 2008 Theme Film, Video & Performance, Photography

The internationally renowned, Montreal-based artist Donigan Cumming is known for his staged portraits of the aging, ill and socially assisted poor, in the form of photographs, videos and photographic collages. Cumming’s work deliberately attacks the objectivity claimed by traditional documentary media. His disturbingly intimate images have been influenced by Artaud’s “theatre of cruelty,” Surrealism and cinéma vérité, among other historical art forms. Robert Enright comments that, “there are times when Cumming’s work is almost unwatchably abject. What retrieves it…is its humour, as dark as it is.”

Cumming works with a committed group of friends, models and professional actors. His videos deploy fictional monologues by the artist and his subjects, plus sing alongs and reminiscence to explore themes of loss and alienation. Together with selected videos (1996-2005) and the photo installation The Stage (1990), the exhibition contains two new 8 x 14-foot photo-collages (Prologue and Epilogue) that transform Cumming’s earlier, intimate material into epic narratives with biblical overtones. As the artist describes them, “these dense collages are a collective portrait of the community that I’ve been working with for twenty years.”

In her essay, Cultural Studies scholar Jackie Davis analyzes the Christian rhetoric that pervades much of Cumming’s video production, as well as the compositions of Prologue and Epilogue (2005).

Financial support from the Canada Council for the Arts is gratefully acknowledged.