Vessna Perunovich and Raven Davis exhibitions at UWAG

Wednesday, February 9, 2022 12:00 pm - Friday, March 25, 2022 5:00 pm EST (GMT -05:00)

University of Waterloo Art Gallery (UWAG) presents two exhibitions, Here. In Absence by Vessna Perunovich and Mmenwenmad | To Save for Later by Raven Davis.

UWAG will be open to visitors with proof of vaccination from Wednesday to Friday 12-5 PM with a limit of 5 visitors at a time. 

the artist, dressed in matching black dress and face mask, walks along a paved walkway in front of a large water treatment plant, pulling a long nautical rope ladder behind her

Vessna Perunovich
Here. In Absence

Here. In Absence is informed by the unsettling disposition of the world we live in and our collective experience over the last two years of pandemic. Echoing various crises in society today, the works in the exhibition evoke a reflective space for contemplation and connection around themes of isolation, division and belonging, expanding on concerns at the heart of Perunovich’s practice: boundaries, displacement and migration.

I am Still. Traveling anchors the viewer to a place that is neither foreign nor familiar. Filmed in 2020 at the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant beside Lake Ontario, the video depicts the artist walking around this seemingly abandoned environment dragging the burden of a nautical Jacob’s ladder. An ethereal soundscape composed around the industrial sound of a locomotive underlines the Sisyphean task the artist is engaged in, and suggests places elsewhere.

Reversed Code is informed by messaging codes such as Braille, an alphabet for the visually impaired; binary code used for computing and patterns in weaving; and ethical codes of conduct such as the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Rights and Freedoms. The ten screens that make up the installation strike a poetic balance between darkness and light, beauty and violation. The work invites us to contemplate the precarious role of language and communication in a world that feels increasingly confusing and isolating.

Both works are being exhibited in North America for the first time. The exhibition is generously supported by production grants from The Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council and Toronto Arts Council.

Vessna Perunovich is a Toronto-based interdisciplinary artist whose work embraces performance, video, sculpture, painting and drawing, to address issues around home, displacement and boundaries. Her work was included as part of So-Called Reality, Risk Change Project, National Gallery of Montenegro (2020); and Ad Infinitum, part of the 13th Havana Biennial, Cuba (2019). Recent solo exhibitions include “Fragments of a Whole” at the Contemporary Art Gallery Pancevo, Serbia (2021) and "Shifting Shelter" at Illingworth Kerr Gallery, Alberta University of the Arts, Calgary (2019). She has exhibited as part of international biennials in Cuba, Albania, England, Venice, Portugal, Yugoslavia and Greece, and attended residencies in Banff, Berlin, Bursa and Istanbul, New York, Beijing and Malta. Her survey exhibitions Borderless and Emblems of Enigma toured to galleries and museums across Canada and Europe. She is the recipient of a Chalmers Fellowship Grant (2019) and has been awarded grants by The Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council and Toronto Arts Council.

The artist, lying on their side on a rocky tidal lagoon at the ocean's edge, struggles to hang off a precariously balanced two-drawer filing cabinet sitting in the water

Raven Davis
Mmenwenmad | To Save for Later

Mmenwenmad | To Save for Later is a new body of work by Raven Davis rooted in acknowledging the physical body, and lived experience as an incalculable, unwritten document. Davis’ monochromatic images capture the artist on the coastline of Mi’kma’ki, also known as the Atlantic coast. Through movement, sound, and the juxtaposition to land, body, Davis engages with a common archiving two-drawer filing cabinet that is incapable of archiving the continuum of one's lived experience or intimate relationships with the land. Exploring transgenerational epigenetic matrilineal inheritance, Davis embodies a personal choreography that expresses the impacts of colonialism, trauma, disability, transness, diaspora, and relationship to the land. In doing so, Davis draws on their previous body of works with monuments, creating temporary tributes honouring the water, land, sky world. Questioning, what has been deemed “worthy” of saving, what has been lost, and what has been intentionally left out.

Raven Davis is an Anishinaabe, 2-Spirit, transgender, disabled multidisciplinary artist, activist, and educator whose mother is from Treaty Four in Manitoba. Davis was born and raised in Michi Saagig Territory/Toronto, Ontario, and resides and works fluidly between Toronto and Kjipuktuk/Halifax. A parent of three sons, Davis works within the mediums of painting, performance, and media. Challenging systemic oppression, Davis fuses narratives of colonization, race, gender, disability, transformative justice, and 2-Spirit/Indigiqueer identity in their work. Davis’ performance and art practice bravely embodies their lived experience, reclaiming histories of Indigenous peoples’ restoring cultural knowledge, and honouring land, water and collective kinship futures. 

This exhibition is an extension of the CAFKA.21 biennial, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost. CAFKA would like to acknowledge the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

Vessna Perunovich, I Am Still. Travelling (video still), 2020, HD video, 4:01 min. Image courtesy of the artist

Raven Davis, Mmenwenmad | To Save for Later (detail #3 of 10), 2021-22, photo print on canvas, 54 x 38 inches. Image courtesy the artist.