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Courtesy Adad Hannah

First of three-part Glenbow series looks at Senegal shipwreck

By Gurman Sahota, April 04, 2017 —

The Raft of Medusa by Adad Hannah kicked off the first selection of Glenbow’s year-long three-part series, Artefacts: Contemporary Moving Images on March 18.

The piece is a tableau vivant — a “living picture” with carefully posed actors within an elaborate scene — that the artist created during his five-week residency in Saint-Louis, Senegal. What distinguishes Hannah’s piece from a traditional tableau vivant is his use of photographs and video to emphasis detail. The tableau takes inspiration from the painting Le Radeau de la Méduse by Theodore Gericault, which currently hangs at the Louvre.

The Raft of Medusa depicts the historic shipwreck of the Medusa, a ship that was bound for Senegal. When the captain abandoned ship, patrons were sent in rafts. Curator Sarah Todd notes how Hannah used his residency in Senegal to create the piece in a community setting.

“He restaged the painting collaboratively with a group of people from Saint-Louis, Senegal, using materials from the town to make these incredible compositions,” Todd says.

Each filmed composition is five to seven minutes long and displayed on television screens to guide patrons through the work. Community participants are acknowledged in the exhibition and are an essential part of the project.

“Initially, when you walk up to the television monitor, it looks like a high definition photograph,” Todd says. “But as you spend a little bit of time with it, you notice the little twitching or the breathing [by the actors] and then you realize that these people are just standing in these poses — it totally changes the way you think of the work.”

Hannah’s use of mixed media anchors important issues that arise from the historic shipwreck, which during Gericault’s time was a scathing critique on the dynamic of government power and how corruption harms people.

“It also was illustrating, at that time, how people were moving across borders, through different countries. It demonstrates the human cost of that movement and also the human cost of corrupt power,” Todd says. “Now, we can read those narratives through Hannah’s works about the ongoing legacy of colonialism too.”

Todd says the series is important for Calgary patrons in order to continue the Glenbow’s tradition of providing cutting-edge contemporary art for the city.

“[Hannah’s work] is such a great example since he’s doing something that you wouldn’t necessarily think of as a video or a moving image because it’s moving in a very subtle way,” Todd says. “We want to engage Glenbow viewers [with] how images function today, how artists are using the medium today.”

Artefacts: Contemporary Moving Images is a three-part series that will present throughout the year. The Raft of Medusa will exhibit until May 22 at the Glenbow Museum. Student pricing is $11 and the first Thursday of the month is free from 5:00 p.m – 9:00 p.m.

For more information visit glenbow.org

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