/Stride has been keeping a secret hoard of wonderful treasures, but in April 2011 we’re bringing them out into the open
and we’re ready to share. Over our 25 years so far, Stride has accumulated a large and diverse collection of print
materials. This collection includes exhibition catalogues and monographs from galleries and artist run centres across
Canada, artist books and text-based projects from individual artists and collectives worldwide, and miscellaneous
wonders too curious to describe here.
/In the summer of 2010, we established a searchable, online database and catalogued these materials. LIBRARY
LAUNCH is the official debut of our online database and a rare opportunity for us to display the whole collection for
public access. We invite you to visit the Project Room to browse, read, and enjoy.
/A BOOKISH LANDSCAPE
/The best libraries are places where the intellect, the senses, and intuition naturally converge in search of inspiration and knowledge. They are intersections where ideas collide and attentiveness is rewarded with unexpected treasures. They are democratic resources where diverse pursuits overlap in shared appreciation of the book.
Stride’s newly catalogued library of art publications holds such promise. There are hundreds of items in it but one stands out as a perfect synecdoche—a part of the whole that represents the rest. This modest book documents an installation called Scarp and illustrates how artist Jarod Charzewski layered pieces of used clothing to evoke a sedimentary understanding of landscape. The work positions the earth’s geological record as a metaphor for the way in which human experiences are successively accumulated and laid upon each other. Similarly, Stride’s library collection can be viewed as deposits of printed history that have been stacked over time, assembled uncensored, and organized in a natural order. Individual components remain distinct but their importance within the collective is clear. This three-dimensional patchwork of bookish pluralism is a kind of core sample of contemporary culture’s larger landscape.
Stride acquired this collection through a sometimes formal, but often spontaneous exchange ‘program’ through which artist-run centres, galleries, individual artists, and collectives world-wide share their publications. A serious hoard of artist books, monographs, exhibition catalogues, and text-based projects now complement Stride’s own self-produced publications. Continuously growing since the gallery’s inception in 1985, the collection to date is now catalogued in a searchable database available online through Stride’s website (stride.ab.ca/resources). A user simply types in a title, author, or subject and any matches will be summarized on screen. One can then access detailed descriptions of each item. Having the entire collection virtually at one’s fingertips via the Internet is convenient and useful. However one should not pass up the opportunity this month to browse the library in person in the Project Room, where the physical qualities of these books—many of them obscure, rare, or hard to find—are deliciously tangible.
Here are books one will not find in any ordinary library. Here are titles that set the imagination soaring. Here are concepts that stretch the mind, images that dazzle the senses, and forms of publication that invite touch and reward intuitive investigation. Here is a treasure trove of artistic exploration, bound in individual volumes, each with a story to tell.
Sometimes the telling is realized through visual and tactile means rather than words. One such example takes the form of a small square black box. The title To Sow is screened in gloss letters over a matte surface. Inside, a series of black and white photographs inscribed with French text is bound by a soft grey satin bow. A limited understanding of French does not inhibit enjoyment of this multi-sensory package by artist Jake Moore. To hold it is to understand it in ways language cannot reach.
Another find in the ‘must touch’ category is Derek Besant’s exhibition catalogue Migratory. Its aesthetic grace reveals itself accordion style, unfolding in one continuous creased sheet filled with sketches of birds. On one of the hard black covers attached at each end is a compact disc of original music by Michele Gonneville, elegantly affixed by a simple centre button.
Alongside the design-rich works described above, viewers will also find more straightforward publications representing community efforts. Bannockology, for instance, is a collaborative compilation of stories, art, essays, recipes, and poems about bannock. Its seventy-five spiral-bound pages are plainly printed with one-colour text and graphics but the humour, dignity, and spirit contained within speak volumes.
From its beginnings, Stride has published alongside the exhibitions it hosts. Lylian Klimek (in 1988), Micah Lexier (in 1992), and Jason de Haan (in 2007) are just three of many who have created artist-driven publications that go well beyond the essays normally written for each Main Space and Project Room exhibition. These, too, can be found in the library collection. In addition, Stride recently released its first annual catalogue. Documenting the exhibitions it programmed between April 2009 and March 2010, the catalogue demonstrates the gallery’s commitment to making contemporary art practices—which can be temporal in nature—publicly accessible in a lasting medium.
Stride is not alone in this endeavour and the library holds evidence of a strong local artist-run scene. Included are the twenty-five year retrospective catalogues that The New Gallery and TRUCK Gallery have each produced. Within the international scope of Stride’s library, these publications place the longevity and vibrancy of Calgary’s contemporary art scene in a global perspective.
After Library Launch closes, the collection will be accessible by request to anyone who wishes to use it. Organized pragmatically in labeled plasticbins, items are categorized first by medium, then by date. Finding what one is looking for is straightforward. But thanks to its low-tech physical storage system, the collection offers opportunities for chance encounters, random associations, and serendipity presented by proximity and luck. Coming across something of interest that one had no intention of finding is a highly likely and desirable outcome of spending time in the library. Even the most focused researchers will find it difficult not to be tempted by intriguing diversions. From the eloquent, to the informative, to the quirky, this collection will feed wide-ranging purposes and tastes. Those who take the time to explore it will come away with a richer understanding of the breadth and depth of artistic pursuits, especially those undertaken in Canada and involving Canadian artists around the world.
Library Launch is an unusual Project Room installation: it doesn’t focus on a particular project; it doesn’t have a specific artistic process at its centre. But it does invite time-based pursuits, as those who mine its richly layered cache of printed resources are sure to experience.
200.2008 CHA Charzewski, Jarod. Scarp.
Charleston, SC: Halsey Inst. for Contemporary Art. 2008.
500.1997 MOO Moore,Jake. To Sow. Winnipeg, MB: Ace Art Inc. 1997.
100.2001 BES Besant, Derek. Migratory. Calgary, AB: Nickle Arts Museum. 2001.
500.2009 MOR Morin, Peter. Bannockology. Victoria, BC: Western Front & Camosun College. 2009.
1040.2010 STR Various authors. Stride Gallery Catalogue 2009-2010. Calgary, AB: Stride Gallery, 2010.
1060.2000 MAB Mabie, Don. Silver: 25 Years of Artist-Run Culture, The New Gallery’s Retrospective Catalogue, 1975-2000. Calgary, AB: The New Gallery. 2000.
1060.2009 RES Various authors. Resonant Dialogues: 25 Years of Second Story Art Society in Calgary. Calgary, AB: TRUCK Contemporary Art. 2009.
/LINDA HAWKE earned a degree in education at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and applied this training in public museums and galleries for close to twenty years. Her visual art writing is an extension of this work and has been published by The City of Calgary, Alberta Museums REVIEW, and others.