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National Geographic goes ghetto at La Petite Mort Gallery

By Alessandro Marcon on December 7, 2012

While continually transforming with the technological means of the times, the map has been always a tool that illustrates our desire to explore our surroundings. A map is never solely ornamental. From the earliest explorers to modern day road-trippers, the map stands as more than a guide to simply understanding the physical layout of an unknown territory; its presence is an invitation to continue the exploration of that which is foreign. This Friday at La Petite Mort Gallery, many artists will be exhibiting work exploring this theme of maps. We caught up with Guy Berube to talk about the event.

Apt613: For anyone who hasn’t yet been down to La Petite Mort, what goes on in the space? What are your personal objectives for the gallery?

Guy: Here at La Petite Mort Gallery, we thrive on showing what typically goes unseen, aiming to give opportunities to artists who are not typically shown at other galleries. We have a large section of the gallery devoted to emerging artists, but our monthly shows tend to be international in scope. Our objective is to have a strong crib of artists who push the limits in various ways, without going over the top.

Apt613: Looking at pictures of a desk (I’m assuming yours) on your gallery webpage I can see some displays of taxidermy. Can you explain your interests (aesthetic or otherwise) in taxidermy?

Guy: Initially I only had the single baboon, and my collection has grown from there, serving as an accidental refuge for discarded or unwanted taxidermy animals. I don’t go looking for them, but they are brought to me. Therefore the gallery has become a loving home for these animals that are no longer wanted.

Apt613: Keeping with the animal theme – when browsing past artists, I was struck by the collections by Tou Yun-Fei and Lynne Anderson, in which the work seemed to problematize, or reflect on, our ability to capture animal essence.  How can spending time with artwork like this benefit a viewer?

Guy: At La Petite Mort Gallery, we believe in the power of art to create dialogues that will produce social change. Yun-Fei Tou’s treatment of these very delicate issues is extremely dignified and sensitive. He presents these topics specifically in order to provoke discourse and invoke powerful feelings. We find the work by Yun-Fei Tou incredibly courageous. Similarly, when dealing with Lynne Anderson, continuing to consider representations which remind us of our own mortality – regardless of weather such representations take place before or after death – one is reminded that this is the reality of our own lives. In both of Anderson’s “Roadkill” series I see true artistic form due to her honesty in depicting such difficult subject matter.

Apt613: The event taking place this Friday is called “National Geographic Goes Ghetto”? What can you tell us about this show, and how did you come up with the idea?

Guy: I acquired several vintage National Geographic maps years ago, and these collectors’ items have been selected for an interactive artistic project for the month of December. The exhibition was organized with the help of my intern Laura Carusi. We had a vision in which the end result becomes a unification of the world, as the maps will be used to cover an entire wall. Our goal is to pull the world together using the medium of art.

Apt613: Who is participating?

Guy: We pooled local Ottawa artists, as well artists from Montreal, Toronto, and New York. The list of artist so far is: Brothers Degandpre, Peter Shmelzer, Cameron Kallos, Andrew Mosley, Patrick Cocklin, Tavi Weisz, Betty Liang, Graham Thompson, Cindy Beachman, Uta Riccius, Joyce Westrop, Aleks Bartosik, Julie LaPalme, Michael Ryan Cooke, Natalie Bruvels, Sherry Tompalski, Dan Marlock, Peter Simpson, Charlene Walker, David Westrop, Olivia Johnston, Danniel Oickle, Lea Dunning, Bill Stobie, Jean-Paul Lamarche, Sarah Lickley, Zaneta Pernicova & more.

Apt613: What is it about maps, specifically maps from National Geographic, that provide artists the springboard to plunge into different themes?

Guy: National Geographic has helped to shape many of our personal perceptions of global identities throughout our youth, as well as into our adult lives. This connection is both complex and evolving, and yet each person has a unique experience with National Geographic – this experience is something we hoped would be translated back onto the map through creative expression.

Apt613: The paper map, which historically acted as both a tool and a conquest stamp of exploration, has been rendered obsolete in the digitization of the world. Is this exhibition playing, in any extent, with this “loss”?

Guy: Since the vintage maps date from the late 1930s to the 1990s, there is a kind of appeal to own such collectors items. But we hoped to contemporize them through creative expression. This may seem shocking to some, and some of the artists said that it was quite the challenge for them to paint over these. However, we don’t see this as a loss, rather we feel we are giving them a longer lifespan through the addition of unique material.

Apt613: Any words for folks out there who are piqued by this idea, but are still unsure about attending?

Guy: We encourage everyone to come check out the gallery this Friday for the opening, especially because this group show has work from a multitude of local artists. It is an excellent opportunity to become familiar with Ottawa’s local talent!