Ser·en·dip·i·ty – Angela Grauerholz

Angela Grauerholz's exhibit
Kelly viewing the photographs of books
Kelly viewing the photographs of books

ser·en·dip·i·ty

ˌserənˈdipədē/

noun

the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
“a fortunate stroke of serendipity”

Serendipity is what brought Kelly and I to Angela Grauerholz’s exhibit of work at the Ryerson Image Centre. We went out to buy some Bluetooth headphones (which I never bought) and to get Kelly’s iPod battery replaced (which didn’t happen). On the way to not get these things, we took a route we often take and, instead of walking past Ryerson’s Image Centre, on a whim, we went in.

Photo 2016, of 3 photos of burnt and damaged books (c) 2011 Angela Grauerholz
Photo 2016, of 3 photos of burnt and damaged books (c) 2011 Angela Grauerholz

The display of some of Canadian artist Angela Grauerholz’s work, winner of the 2015 Scotiabank Photography Award, was completely unexpected for us. There were more than seventy works on display, but many of them related to books and text. They “evoke the artist’s interest in the persistence yet unreliability of cultural memory”.

a kind of amnesia, a vague recollection of something that can be conjured up, triggered by an event or site, but remains blurred.

Photo 2016, of a photo (c) 2011 Angela Grauerholz
Photo 2016, of a photo (c) 2011 Angela Grauerholz

A recurrent theme in Grauerholz’s work addresses the specific architecture and distinctive display modes of archives, museums and libraries, questioning their authoritative and traditional representations. The artist also evokes the accumulative practices of collecting institutions through her own selective archives of uncommon subjects, proposing subjective and alternate inventories of the past, challenging and subverting the restricted accessibility of historical and artistic artefacts and locales. The exhibition is presented by Scotiabank, organized by the Ryerson Image Centre, and a primary exhibition of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. Running May 4 – August 21, 2016, co-curated by Paul Roth and Gaëlle Morel in the MaiN Gallery, Ryerson Image Centre.

Photo 2016, of a photo (c) 2011 Angela Grauerholz
Photo 2016, of a photo (c) 2011 Angela Grauerholz

The prestigious Scotiabank Photography Award includes a $50,000 cash prize, a solo Primary Exhibition at the Ryerson Image Centre during the 2016 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, and a book of the winner’s work to be published and distributed worldwide by renowned art book publisher Gerhard Steidl. Get the book here.

Photo (c) 2016 Sue Molyneaux of "Spiral Staircase" (c) 2011 by Angela Grauerholz
Photo (c) 2016 Sue Molyneaux of “Spiral Staircase” (c) 2011 by Angela Grauerholz

The theme of books, libraries and text run throughout the exhibit and was most attractive for Kelly and I. The media itself was a point of discussion – they are matte ink jet prints and lacked the traditional depth found in glossy photographic prints. The images of the books also evoked some discussion between us – burned around the edges, destroyed and then… scanned? This will sound strange to say, but it added another layer of lack of depth. Maybe I should say, it failed to materialize an opportunity for depth that should have been capitalized on. I never forget that books are printed on paper, which comes from wood, which comes from trees that were once alive, and I can’t say I have ever held a book that did not convey that life.

Sue discussing a photographs of two men and books
Sue discussing a photographs of two men and books

But Grauerholz’s books are dead. And seem to be Photoshopped into their current state of distress. Hey, I use Photoshop too, on every single Grauerholz image I am reinterpreting here. I did not earn $50,000 for the work, nor win a prestigious award, so we really know who the better photographer is. But I also think we know which of us loves books more.

Sue photographing the men in the library, reflecting the wall of rare and extinct texts by Angela Grauerholz
Sue photographing the men in the library, reflecting the wall of rare and extinct texts by Angela Grauerholz

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