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  • Madeline LeBlanc

Revisiting memory at the “…fire and frost” art exhibit in SUB

Updated: May 25

As we head into fall, I remember once again how quietly the trees forget about their leaves in an exhale of colour. I remember the ground in a pool of yellow when I told my partner I loved him for the first time. I remember finding out I could order pumpkin spice lattes year-round. Or hearing Gil Scott-Heron’s “I’m New Here” when the wind was mean and I was reminiscent of days before university. While these recollections may seem miniscule and unrelated, at this very moment, we are all a collection of “I remembers” - even the seemingly insignificant ones. Our brains serve as our own personal wizards, 24/7, cataloging and discarding events at the touch of a synapse. Our memories are sacred. They are stored time.


Memories are the theme of the exhibit ...fire and frost, a partnership between The Art Gallery of Alberta, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and University of Alberta Students’ Union currently being shown at the Myer Horowitz Theatre. The exhibit is curated by Shane Golby and features three contemporary artists: Colin Smith, Linda Craddock, and Candace Makowichk.


The work is deep, and not your one-in-the morning-stoner-revelation-deep. It is physically deep, in that I found myself enveloped within the places the artwork took me. I was an observer to the memories within the pieces and the memories I held in relation to them. I felt like I was dusting off my memories, like that first love of mine in the fall when I stood in front of Craddock’s, Embarkation #5 1944, oil and photo collage, 2012. Or how I felt a longing to be a kid again when viewing Candace Makowichuk’s bromoil photograph, Waiting: The Playground Is Closed Series, 2016. The experience of recalling my memories in relation to the pieces was life deep work and the act of doing so was a tribute to my past.


I was most taken with Colin Smith’s Piapot School, 2013, photography on paper, in it you find yourself observing a classroom as you stand on the outside of a door frame looking in. Outside the door frame lies an upside down projection of a deserted basketball court. The classroom is empty except for a desk flipped on its side, a blank chalkboard with a scribble on it, and a peeling soccer ball on the floor. However, there is no learning taking place here, there is no one to play soccer with and there’s and no basketball to play even in the courtyard by yourself. The emptiness of the basketball court and classroom leave me wondering where everyone has gone and where I find myself? The thought makes me long for secondary school and I think about my friends who animate the space of these memories and begin to feel uneasy. Viewing Piapot School was like viewing a school memory without the subject matter of what made it important: intellectual thought & the people. And so the experience was one that was contemplative and beautifully haunting.


In Scott Heron’s “I’m New Here” there’s a verse that says: No matter how far gone you've gone, you can always turn around. The process of “turning around” is the very act that’s essential to what makes us human. Our memory is a knitted scarf we wear, each memory like a stitch building off the interweaving of the last one. In the presence of the pieces I unraveled the threads of my own personal history and felt the significance of time in all its sincerity. You can view ...fire and frost at the Myer Horowitz Theatre until September 30th or at the Concordia University of Edmonton from October 8th to November 4th.


Madeline Marie LeBlanc



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