A Short Description of the DDR

Text / Vincent Trasov

How to describe life in the German Democratic Republic? Stasi, Berlin wall, barbed wire, state run economy – or affordable rent, subsidized foods, adequate child care? Life was real socialism.

In the forty years existence of the DDR there was always a clash between state policy and the individual in daily life, fashion, and the arts. Freedom of expression was not guaranteed. Content and form were under the control of the one party, the German Socialist Unity Party, the SED Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschland. It was an authoritarian state. There was censorship and surveillance. Despite restrictions and controls an underground subculture existed in the arts, religion and politics. There was much private initiative and creativity. Jürgen Schweinebraden founded the Wohn-und Alternativgalerie EP Galerie in East Berlin in 1974. He exhibited concept, performance, video and mail art from the west, until the gallery was closed in 1980 for illegal press and publicizing. His gallery was a model for similar galleries which sprang up in the DDR and formed the alternative art scene. One of the few forms of communication with the outside world was mail art. DDR mail artists took their chances, as the post was censored.

To survive as an artist one had to be a member of a visual arts, writer’s or musician’s union. For many artists existence depended on government grants and commissions. Nonconformity often meant career suicide and in some cases prison. There was always the danger of being denounced.

The official dogma was social realism. It was possible to deviate from this course, but it was seldom acknowledged or supported. As an artist following the party line you could exist and work relatively easily. Although there were periods of relaxed censorship there was always uncertainty and distrust.

There was a housing shortage. To find an apartment meant untold hassles with authorities, letters to leader Erich Honecker, endless searching in the want ads, dubious contracts, trade-offs and fraud. Even in 1989 at the end of the DDR more than a quarter of all older apartments only had plumbing in the stairwell or courtyard and were shared by multiple families. There were neither showers nor bathtubs. One washed at the kitchen sink. There were neither finances nor the political will to modernize older buildings. New levels of comfort and functionality were promised with the era of Plattenbau, cheap high rise apartments towards the end of the 1960s. 

Leisure, squeezed in between job and family responsibility and overcoming economic shortages, was spent in cultural activity. Books (censored), libraries and bookshops were plentiful. Quality classical concerts and opera were reasonably priced. By the 1960s everybody had television, after 1969 color. There was one state run television station and several radio stations. Children’s programs, like “Das Sandmännchen“ (“The Little Sandman”) were popular. This program exists on German television today. With the exception of areas in the country where there was no reception, DDR viewers also tuned  into West German television, mostly critical of the DDR. Officially it was not allowed to watch West German television, but everybody did. West German television played a major part in accelerating the revolution of 1989. It was like crowd strikes today. People would return from Monday night demonstrations and see that their solidarity protests were succeeding.

During weekends and holidays, people got out of the confinements of their apartments. Friday afternoons the family took off with packsack and supplies to the datscha (country bungalow).

They were passionate of the outdoors, including the Baltic Sea, where FDGB (worker’s union) lodgings were popular, but in short supply. Even on holiday, recreation was meant to be a socialist experience; e.g., the “Rote Ecken”, agitprop red squares everywhere to honor the workers’ movement.

Nudist camps and nude sunbathing (FKK Freie Körper Kultur) were popular. There were nudist camps along the entire Baltic coast and at most outdoor recreation centres.

Travel was restricted. Apart from not being allowed to travel in the West, even travel within the Iron Curtain was curtailed. Shortages of private lodgings made individual travel impossible. An exception was camping, but unfortunately a lack of campsites. Youth slept under the stars. 

East German design conformed to the planned economy. In the East and West it was praised and ridiculed. Objects were meant to last. Quality, functionalism and the minimum need for raw materials was standard. Simple form followed the scarcity of raw materials but also the pursuit of a new cultural identity. Many DDR products are timeless, the reason being their simplicity and ergonomic form. The 1960s was the zenith of DDR design. After that the economy switched to plastics, with the slogan “Chemicals provide food, quality of life and beauty”. Practical and low cost articles were mass produced. These new products were meant to free the country from expensive imports from the West. Advertising was discontinued after 1972, as production couldn’t keep up with demand. In the seventies more and more private businesses were expropriated, suppressing individual initiative. The planned economy was very inflexible and couldn’t respond fast enough to demand. The state decided peoples’ tastes. Quality suffered due to the motto “Mass production before quality”. More and more quality products were exported in exchange for much needed foreign currency. There weren’t enough quality products for the domestic market. Often there was a stark deviation of the design, due to factors like unavailability of colour, raw material or run down factories and machinery. Many staples like bread never changed price. A bun always cost 5 pfennig. Luxury items, like a nice shirt or tropical fruit, were sold in specialty stores, and were expensive. There was a waiting list for years for an auto, electronics, or telephone. One waited 12 years for a “Trabbi” car. A kilo of coffee cost 70 Mark. Restaurants and grocery stores were state run. Somehow a minimum existence was guaranteed.

The DDR was always short of materials. To offset this there was a vigorous program of recycling secondary materials. Under the SERO drop off program recycling was paid for and thus encouraged. There was a return on glass, paper, cardboard, as well as metal, textiles and plastics. The program was ahead of its time. Unfortunately it did not translate into protection of the environment. The environment was polluted.

By the late 1960s the idea of modern design and the radicalism of Bauhaus and inter war formalism were considered decadent and elitist. During the time of Erich Honecker’s leadership, 1971–1989, DDR vision had become kitch and bourgeois, albeit continuing lip service to the idea of a workers’ and farmers’ state. 

DDR was a patriarchal society. Officially homosexuality did not exist, although there were a few gay bars in East Berlin, “Burgfrieden” and “Likör”. Discussion about same sex was a taboo. Sexual minorities were persecuted. The protestant church played an important role in the history of the homosexual movement. The church, which was very active in the peace movement and was instrumental in supporting political opposition and self-help groups, opened its doors to queer groups and their activism. Under the protection of the church the state could not intervene. Persecution of dissidents (anders denken) led to much despair and high suicide rates.

DDR citizens voted in 1990 in the first free election to disband the country and join the Federal Republic of Germany, resulting in reunification October 3, 1990. The mid 1990s witnessed the civil rights movements of the former DDR fusing with the West German greens. The former activists did not play a role anymore. There is no conception today of what it meant to have lived as an opposition activist in the DDR. 

Image Bank & Morris/Trasov Archive

Founded in 1970 by Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov the Image Bank helped facilitate the exchange of ideas, images and information between artists through the use of the postal system. Image Bank compiled and printed address and image requests lists that were sent to participants through the mail creating an open ended decentralized method of networking. The possibilities inherent in this kind of activity are limited only by the imagination so it is not hard to draw parallels between the pioneering work of the Image Bank and the later development of e-mail and the internet. As the Image Bank acted as both a clearing house and depository Morris and Trasov realized the importance of creating an archive to document and preserve the material accumulated from their activities. The concept of an artist’s archive or artist’s museum accounting for the concerns of a lifetime exists, the most famous is Duchamp’s “Green Box”. Other important examples include Ray Johnson’s “New York Correspondence School”, Robert Filliou’s concept of an “Eternal Network”, Daniel Spoerri’s ideas as outlined in his “An Anecdoted Topography of Chance”, Claus Oldenburg’s “Mouse Museum” and General Idea’s proposals for “The Miss General Idea Pavilion”. In 1973 Morris and Trasov helped found and direct the Western Front Society, Vancouver’s first artist run centre. The Western Front remains to this day a centre dedicated to the production and presentation of new art activity. The contribution of Morris and Trasov to the Western Front’s events and visiting artist program, the directory issues of General Idea’s File Magazine, the “The Miss General Idea Beauty Pageant” as well as Trasov’s entry into the mayoralty race for the 1974 Vancouver civic election as Mr. Peanut are legend. All these activities have helped create the climate of ideas that have contributed to the recognition of Vancouver today as a major centre for contemporary art activity. Morris and Trasov left their duties at the Western Front in 1981 to accept a DAAD residency in Berlin. While there they pursued their interest in performance and video, participating in numerous events and exhibitions in Germany and around Europe throughout the decade and beyond. In 2019, a retrospective exhibition of the work of Image Bank was held at Kunst Werke in Berlin.

An invitation from the Banff Centre in 1990 to a residency dedicated to preserve and accession of the accumulation of material comprising the Image Bank legacy left in storage at the Western Front resulted in the creation of the Morris/Trasov Archive. Since 1993 the archive has been housed at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery in University of British Columbia, thanks to the support of Scott Watson, the gallery’s director. Numerous research projects, exhibitions and publications have resulted, including “How Sad I Am Today” a major survey exhibition and publication of the art of Ray Johnson and the New York Correspondence School, “Hand of the Spirit, Documents from the Seventies from the Morris/Trasov Archive” and “Image Bank Colour Research” for the 1994 Sao Paulo Biennial. The archive as the lifelong project of Morris and Trasov has meant casting a large net. It is time to pull that net in and make the connections that will link all the items in it to each other.

IMAGE BANK: CULTURAL ECOLOGY OF THE DDR

ARTISTs
Michael Morris + Vincent Trasov

CURATOR
Lam Wong

EXHIBITION DATES
June 10 to July 31, 2021

GALLERY HOURS
TU–Sa: 12–6 PM; M, SU: CLOSED


The exhibition focuses on everyday life in the DDR German Democratic Republic, the Communist state which lasted 40 years from 1949 to 1989. The collection documents the history of design and culture in the Soviet Occupied Zone/ East Germany. Most of the objects in this collection are found images. They tell a story and preserve a snapshot of the society that produced them.

The collection was initiated in Germany by Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov who were living in Berlin at the fall of the wall, November 9, 1989. Realizing the historical value of these artifacts of a no longer extant culture the Image Bankers Morris and Trasov collected the mostly thrown away objects. They comprise articles incorporated into daily life (Alltagsgegenstände) and state ideology- household, photographs, children’s toys, flags and banners, military, textiles, promotional gimmicks, books, posters, newspapers, magazines, video, sound and a piece of the Berlin wall.

The DDR ceased to exist on midnight October 3, 1990. What was daily life like, under a dictatorship with no free elections, judiciary or freedom of movement? 

There was a good representation of Canadian artists (and more specifically from Vancouver), who had been part of the Berlin scene in 1989 and 1990. Their artistic endeavors were often defined by the fusion of east and west cultures as well as the clash between them. Morris’ and Trasov’s view of events will be communicated through examples of their work -Trasov’s STRASSENBILD, a conceptual word painting treating the phenomenon of the numerous street name changes, squares and underground stations in Berlin, and Morris’ Berlin photographs at the turning point.

The pop artists appropriated everyday objects into their art, and as early as 1980 Joseph Beuys incorporated DDR consumer items into a work entitled “Wirtschaftswerte – economic values”, comparing packaged goods from DDR, Poland, former Soviet Union and Federal Republic of Germany. 

The revolution of 1989 was a manifestation taking wrath out on the fallen system, destroying monuments and statues, ransacking pioneer and summer camps, storming the Stasi headquarters, changing street names, throwing out possessions, in short getting rid of everything socialist. The discussion and debate since the end of the cold war has been about these symbols, perhaps that objects remain as historical documents. It is timely for the work to be shown now when there is so much discussion about the process of history, at a time when we are questioning our own values and systems in an uncertain time.

Canton-Sardine would like to thank Silvia Krankemann, former citizen of the DDR and wife of Vincent Trasov for her curatorial assistance.

Silvia Krankemann: “As I grew up and matured, life in the DDR became more and more intolerable. With respect to the Helsinki Act, guaranteeing human rights and signed by the DDR in 1975 but never honoured, I applied for asylum in 1982. In the five years waiting for the application, I was forbidden to work and was constantly harassed by the bureaucracy. In a system with neither courts nor lawyers I was subjected to arbitrary hearings and the Stasi. When asylum was granted in 1987 I was given 24 hours to vacate the country, with two suitcases for personal belongings, never to set foot in the DDR again. Two years after my exile to West Germany on my 34th birthday, the Berlin wall fell.” 

Image Bank & Morris/Trasov Archive


Founded in 1970 by Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov the Image Bank helped facilitate the exchange of ideas, images and information between artists through the use of the postal system. Image Bank compiled and printed address and image requests lists that were sent to participants through the mail creating an open ended decentralized method of networking. The possibilities inherent in this kind of activity are limited only by the imagination so it is not hard to draw parallels between the pioneering work of the Image Bank and the later development of e-mail and the internet. As the Image Bank acted as both a clearing house and depository Morris and Trasov realized the importance of creating an archive to document and preserve the material accumulated from their activities. The concept of an artist’s archive or artist’s museum accounting for the concerns of a lifetime exists, the most famous is Duchamp’s “Green Box”. Other important examples include Ray Johnson’s “New York Correspondence School”, Robert Filliou’s concept of an “Eternal Network”, Daniel Spoerri’s ideas as outlined in his “An Anecdoted Topography of Chance”, Claus Oldenburg’s “Mouse Museum” and General Idea’s proposals for “The Miss General Idea Pavilion”. In 1973 Morris and Trasov helped found and direct the Western Front Society, Vancouver’s first artist-run centre. The Western Front remains to this day a centre dedicated to the production and presentation of new art activity. The contribution of Morris and Trasov to the Western Front’s events and visiting artist program, the directory issues of General Idea’s File Magazine, the “The Miss General Idea Beauty Pageant” as well as Trasov’s entry into the mayoralty race for the 1974 Vancouver civic election as Mr. Peanut are legend. All these activities have helped create the climate of ideas that have contributed to the recognition of Vancouver today as a major centre for contemporary art activity. Morris and Trasov left their duties at the Western Front in 1981 to accept a DAAD residency in Berlin. While there they pursued their interest in performance and video, participating in numerous events and exhibitions in Germany and around Europe throughout the decade and beyond. In 2019, a retrospective exhibition of the work of Image Bank was held at Kunst Werke in Berlin.

An invitation from the Banff Centre in 1990 to a residency dedicated to preserve and accession of the accumulation of material comprising the Image Bank legacy left in storage at the Western Front resulted in the creation of the Morris/Trasov Archive. Since 1993 the archive has been housed at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery in University of British Columbia, thanks to the support of Scott Watson, the gallery’s director. Numerous research projects, exhibitions and publications have resulted, including “How Sad I Am Today” a major survey exhibition and publication of the art of Ray Johnson and the New York Correspondence School, “Hand of the Spirit, Documents from the Seventies from the Morris/Trasov Archive” and “Image Bank Colour Research” for the 1994 Sao Paulo Biennial. The archive as the lifelong project of Morris and Trasov has meant casting a large net. It is time to pull that net in and make the connections that will link all the items in it to each other.

Acknowledgement
Canton-sardine, the curator and Image Bank would like to thank Anna Tidlund, Teresa Sudeyko and Scott Watson from Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia, for their immense help and support for locating and loaning the DDR objects and artworks in this exhibition. We would also like to thank Silvia Krankemann, former citizen of the DDR and wife of Vincent Trasov for her curatorial assistance.

Further Reading:

A Short Description of the DDR | by Vincent Trasov | June, 2021

Iron Curtain Fantasy // Image Bank: Cultural Ecology of the DDR at Canton-sardine | by Rhys Edwards | July, 2021

Michael Morris in West Berlin 1989
Installation of STRASSENBILD, painting by Vincent Trasov, Berlin 1991
DDR leader Erich Honecker’s ironic pronouncement “The wall will last 100 years”, early 1990s
Street name change in East Berlin 1991
Removal of Lenin monument, Berlin 1990
Demolishing of the Palace of the Republic (DDR Parliament building), Berlin, 2006- 2008

Related Exhibition in Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery of UBC
IMAGE BANK 18 June – 22 Aug, 2021


Pierre Coupey

Pierre Coupey (b1942) was raised and educated in Montreal. He graduated from Lower Canada College, received his BA from McGill University, and studied drawing at the Académie Julian and printmaking at the Atelier 17 in Paris. He received his MA in English and Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia, and a Certificate in Printmaking from the Art Institute, Capilano University. 

He was a founding Co-editor of The Georgia Straight and the founding Editor of The Capilano Review. His work has received awards, grants and commissions, including grants from the Conseil des Arts du Québec, the Canada Council, the British Columbia Arts Council, and the Audain Foundation for the Arts. In 2013 he received the Distinguished Artist Award from FANS. He was inducted into the  Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2018. In 2019 he received the designation Faculty Emeritus for his service to Capilano University and his ongoing contributions to Canada’s literary and artistic communities. His archives (Pierre Coupey Fonds) are held in the Contemporary Literature Collection at Simon Fraser University Library in Vancouver.

He has published several books of poetry, chapbooks and catalogues, and exhibited in solo and group shows nationally and internationally. His work is represented in numerous private collections in Canada, the United States, Japan and Europe, and in numerous corporate, university and public collections across Canada. He has received private and corporate painting commissions, notably for 745 Thurlow in Vancouver and Fifteen 15 in Calgary. Major public collections include the Belkin Art Gallery, Burnaby Art Gallery, Canada Council Art Bank, Kelowna Art Gallery, Simon Fraser University Art Gallery, University of Guelph Collection, University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, Vancouver Art Gallery and West Vancouver Art Museum.

Pierre Coupey + Dion Kliner 2021 exhibition in Canton-sardine.

Black Lake I | Oil on canvas | 30″x30″ / 2020-2021

Black Lake II | Oil on canvas | 36″x36″ / 2020-2021

White Poem I (Catullus) | Oil on canvas | 36″x36″ / 2020-2021

White Poem II (Cabral) | Oil on canvas | 36″x36″ / 2020-2021

White Poem III (Carson) | Oil on canvas | 40″x40″ / 2020-2021

Study (Graphite) | Oil on canvas | 16″x16″ / 2012

Imaginary Portrait | Oil sticker on paper | 14″x11″x22ps | 1996

All works’ price upon request by email: stdragonn@canton-sardine.com


Pierre Coupey

Solo Exhibitions

2022   New Work, Gallery Jones, Vancouver [Catalogue] *

2021   New Work, Odon Wagner Gallery, Toronto [Catalogue] *

2020   Walking the Cat Back, Gallery Jones, Vancouver

2019   Manifest/Trace curator Vanessa Black, Seymour Art Gallery, North Vancouver [Video]

2018   Rock Pool, Gallery Jones, Vancouver

2017   Across / Between / Within, Odon Wagner Contemporary, Toronto [Catalogue]  

2016   RaptureRupture, Gallery Jones, Vancouver

2016   Requiem Notations I-IX, curator Darrin Morrison, West Vancouver Art Museum at West Vancouver Library  

2014   Measures, Odon Wagner Contemporary, Toronto [Catalogue]

2013   Cutting Out the Tongue: Selected Work 1976-2012, curators Astrid Heyerdahl / Darrin Morrison,

           Art Gallery at Evergreen / West Vancouver Art Museum [Catalogue]

2013   Field Work, Gallery Jones, Vancouver

2011   Featured Artist, Gallery Jones, West Vancouver

2010   Between Memory and Perception, Gallery Jones, Vancouver

2010   Projects, Capilano University Art Gallery, North Vancouver

2008   Counterpoint, Gallery Jones, Vancouver [Catalogue]

2006   Tangle, curator Darrin Martens, Burnaby Art Gallery [Catalogue]

2006   Requiem Notations I-IX, curator Cecilia Denegri Jette, Richmond Art Gallery (Gateway Theatre)

2004   Paintings / Prints, curator Ingun Kemble, West Vancouver City Hall

2004   BlackWhiteGrey, curator Marcus Bowcott, Capilano University Art Gallery, North Vancouver

2004   Artist in Residence, The Urban Garage, West Vancouver

2002   Notations: Recent Work, Ballard Lederer Gallery, Vancouver

1999   Requiem Notations I-IX, curator Patrick Montgomery, Art Gallery at Evergreen, Coquitlam [Catalogue]

1998   Notations 1994-1998, curator Paula Gustafson, Canadian Embassy Gallery, Tokyo [Catalogue]

1998   Work from the Notations Series, Montgomery Fine Art, Vancouver 

1997   Work in Process: Drawings, Proofs, Prints, Capilano University Art Gallery, North Vancouver         

1995   Notations 12-15 (For Eva), curator Carole Badgley, Seymour Art Gallery, North Vancouver

1995   From the 80’s: Trellis, Wedge, Montgomery Fine Art, Vancouver

1995   From the 70’s: Selected Journal Drawings / New Work on Paper, Atelier Gallery, Vancouver

1994   Notations: Painting the Lion from a Claw, Atelier Gallery, Vancouver

1992   Recent Work: Prints, Atelier Gallery, Vancouver

1991   Paintings 1970-1990, curator Barry Cogswell, Capilano University Art Gallery, North Vancouver

1990   Variations done for bpNichol, Atelier Gallery, Vancouver

1988   Pierre Coupey: Recent Works, curator Ann Rosenberg, Surrey Art Gallery

1987   A Book of Days I-XII, Crown Gallery, Vancouver

1982   Recent Paintings, Studio Nine Gallery, Toronto

1982   Journal Drawing Series, curator bpNichol, The Gallery, Scarborough College, University of Toronto

1981   Seven Paintings, curator Barry Cogswell, Capilano University Art Gallery, North Vancouver

1981   New Work 1980-1981, curator Claire Knight, Presentation House Gallery, North Vancouver [Catalogue]



Selected Group Exhibitions

2022   Léon Coupey Project, curator Hilary Letwin, West Vancouver Art Museum *

2021   Cave Light Flickers, curator David Chaperon, Gallery Jones Offsite, Pendulum Gallery, Vancouver

2021   Pierre Coupey | Dion Kliner, curator Lam Wong, Canton-Sardine, Vancouver

2021   Small Scale Right Hemisphere: Part Two, Gallery Jones, Vancouver

2020   Written on Water: Pierre Coupey, Kristin Man, Ben Lumb, BLAH, Grosvenor Ambleside, West Vancouver

2019   The Raiders: Ceramics, curator Kate Bellringer, Terminal Creek Contemporary, Bowen Island

2019   Celebrating 30 years at the FBG, curator Natalie Roizman, Ferry Building Gallery, West Vancouver

2019   the poets have always preceded: art & poetry from Vancouver, 1960 – present, curator Lee Plested, Griffin

           Art Projects, North Vancouver [Catalogue *]

2018   Transformations: Selected Work from the AFK Collection, curator Daylen Luschinger, Gordon Smith

           Gallery of Canadian Art, North Vancouver (to April 2019)

2018   Through the Memory Atlas: 40 Years of Collecting, curators Charo Neville et al, Kamloops Art Gallery

2018   A Generous Spirit: Work from the Permanent Collection, curators Darrin Morrison & Jackie Wong, West      

           Vancouver Art Museum [Catalogue]

2017   Vivid Dimensions, Odon Wagner Contemporary, Toronto

2017   Canada 150: Celebrating Our Artists, Odon Wagner Contemporary, Toronto

2017   The Big Picture, curator Liz Wylie, Kelowna Art Gallery [Catalogue]

2016   Summer Show: Gallery Artists, Gallery Jones, Vancouver

2015   30 Years, curator Sarah Cavanaugh, Seymour Art Gallery, North Vancouver

2015   Winter Show: Gallery Artists, Odon Wagner Contemporary, Toronto

2015   Small Works: Gallery Artists, Gallery Jones, Vancouver

2014   Gallery Jones: Celebrating 10 Years, Gallery Jones, Vancouver

2014   West Coast Innovators, curator Darrin Morrison, West Vancouver Art Museum at West Vancouver Library

2014   The And of the Land, curator Francesca Szuszkiewicz, West Vancouver Art Museum

2014   The Material Form: Contemporary Abstract Painting, Gallery Jones, Vancouver

2011   The Point Is, curator Liz Wylie, Kelowna Art Gallery [Catalogue]

2011   The Artist’s Circle, curator Darrin Morrison, West Vancouver Art Museum / Harmony Arts Festival

2011   Manifestos Now! curator Brian Ganter, Teck Gallery, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver

2010   Gallery Artists, Gallery Jones, West Vancouver

2009   Gallery Artists, Gallery Jones, Vancouver

2009   Coast Art Trust: Works, curator Ellen van Eijnsbergen, Art Gallery at Evergreen, Coquitlam

2008   Harmony Arts Festival Showcase, curator Ruth Payne, Ferry Building Gallery, West Vancouver

2007   Coast Art Trust: Early Works, curator James Felter, North Vancouver Museum

2006   New Acquisitions: City of Burnaby Permanent Art Collection, curator Darrin Martens, Burnaby Art Gallery

2004   Totally Manipulated: Digital Art, curator Linda Feil, Cityscape Gallery, North Vancouver

2004   Celebrating 20 Years of Printmaking, curator Wayne Eastcott, Grand Forks Art Gallery

2003   Celebrating 20 Years of Printmaking, curator Brenda Fredrick, Burnaby Art Gallery [Catalogue]

2002   Art Institute Prints, curator Wayne Eastcott, Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland

2001   Prints from Canada’s Pacific Province, curator Doug Biden, Graphic Studio Gallery, Dublin

2001   Youthful Visions, curator Bill MacDonald, Artists for Kids Trust Gallery, North Vancouver [Catalogue]

2001   Printmaking Possibilities: Photo/Digital, curator Wayne Eastcott, Capilano University Art Gallery

2001   Common Ground, curator Linda Feil, Cityscape Gallery, North Vancouver

2000   From the Collection: Dispatches & Inscriptions, curator Grant Arnold, Vancouver Art Gallery

2000   Impressions and Expressions, curator Carole Badgley, Seymour Art Gallery, North Vancouver

2000   Reflections of Place, curator Deborah Tuyttens, West Vancouver Art Museum [Catalogue]

2000   First Folio, curators Steven Dixon & Wayne Eastcott, Sunshine Coast Art Center, Sechelt

2000   First Folio, curators Steven Dixon & Wayne Eastcott, Capilano University Art Gallery, North Vancouver

1996   Print Works, curator Wayne Eastcott, Capilano University Art Gallery, North Vancouver

1996   The Chair, curators Carole Badgley & Trudy Van Dop, Seymour Art Gallery, North Vancouver

1995   Works on Paper: Canadian, American & European Artists, Atelier Gallery, Vancouver

1993   Abstraction: Which Way from Here? curator Jeffrey Spalding, Canada Trust Tower, Calgary

1993   Prints from the Art Institute, curator Wayne Eastcott, Canadian Consulate, Nagoya

1980   Salon des Refusés 1980, curator Matthew Kangas, Soames-Dunn Building, Seattle

1979   Affinities: Ten Painters of this Region, curator Ted Lindberg, Vancouver Art Gallery [Catalogue]

1978   Three Person Show, curator Barry Cogswell, Presentation House Gallery, North Vancouver

1972   The Private Patron: BC Art, curator James Felter, Simon Fraser University Art Gallery, Burnaby

1972   Microprosophus: International Concrete Poetry, curators David UU & Pierre Coupey, Evergreen State     

            College, Evergreen, WA

1969   Three Person Show, Bau Xi Gallery, Vancouver

1969   Group Show, Bau Xi Gallery, Vancouver

1968   Two Person Show, Graduate Student Center, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

1968   Festival of Technology & Art, Ryerson Institute of Technology, Toronto

1968   Four Person Show, Mandan Ghetto Gallery, Vancouver

1964   J.A.M.M. Collects, Stable Gallery, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

1964   Quebec Painters under Thirty, Stable Gallery, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts



Commissions

2021   Print commission, West Vancouver Art Museum *

2019   Private commission, West Vancouver

2018   Private commission, Toronto

2016   Corporate commission, Fifteen 15, Calgary

2016   Private commission, Port Moody

2015   Corporate commission, 745 Thurlow, Vancouver

2000   Centennial Print Project, North Vancouver Arts Commission

1986   Corporate commission, Prow Restaurant, Canada Place, Vancouver



Public Collections

Art Gallery at Evergreen Cultural Centre, Coquitlam

Artists for Kids Permanent Collection, North Vancouver

Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia

Burnaby Art Gallery

Canada Council Art Bank, Ottawa

Capilano University, North Vancouver

Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa

City of North Vancouver

Contemporary Art Gallery (City of Vancouver)

District of North Vancouver

District of West Vancouver

Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art, North Vancouver

Kamloops Art Gallery

Kelowna Art Gallery

Lions Gate Hospital Art Collection

Maltwood Gallery (Coast Art Trust), Victoria

Nanaimo Art Gallery

North Vancouver Arts Council

North Vancouver Museum

North Vancouver School District

Province of British Columbia, Canada

Simon Fraser University Art Gallery, Burnaby

St Paul’s Hospital Foundation, Vancouver

Two Rivers Art Gallery, Prince George

University of Alberta Art Collection, Edmonton

University of Guelph Collection / Macdonald Stewart Art Centre

University of Lethbridge Art Gallery

University of Victoria Art Collections

Vancouver Art Gallery

Vancouver General Hospital Foundation

West Vancouver Art Museum

West Vancouver School District



Corporate Collections

Aldo Group, Montreal

Barometer Capital, Toronto

bcIMC, Calgary

bcIMC, Vancouver

Christopher Investments, Vancouver

Citibank Canada, Toronto

College & Institute Educators Association, Vancouver

Denbigh Fine Art Services, Vancouver

Hyatt Regency, New Orleans

Image This Photo, Vancouver

Kernaghan Adjusters, Vancouver

Koerner Graduate Student Center, UBC, Vancouver 

Lower Canada College, Montreal

McCullough O’Connor Irwin, Vancouver

McGill Student Society, McGill University, Montreal

North Shore News, North Vancouver

Protechnical Insurance, Vancouver

RSVP Reservations, Vancouver

Securiguard Services, Vancouver

Segal Group, Toronto

Toronto-Dominion Bank, Toronto

Larry Young & Associates, Vancouver



Private Collections

Vancouver, North Vancouver, West Vancouver; Burnaby, Courtney, Delta, Kelowna, New Westminster, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Prince George, Sechelt, Tofino, Tsawwassen, Victoria, Whistler; Calgary, Magog QC, Montréal, Ottawa, Richmond Hill, Saskatoon, Toronto; Dallas, Houston, New York, Palm Springs, Phoenix, Point Roberts WA, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Snowmass CO, Vero Beach FL; Grand Cayman Island; Berlin, Geneva, Paris, Toulouse; Beirut, Okazaki, Tokyo

Awards | Grants | Distinctions

2019           Faculty Emeritus, Capilano University, North Vancouver

2018           RCA, Royal Canadian Academy of Arts        

2013      Distinguished Artist Award (Visual & Literary Arts), FANS, North Vancouver

2013      Exhibitions Grant, Audain Foundation for the Arts, Vancouver

2003      Aichi Gakusen Faculty Exchange, Okazaki, Japan

2000      Millennium Print Project, North Vancouver Arts Council

1998      Exhibitions Grant, Canadian Embassy, Tokyo, Japan

1998      Special Projects Grant, Capilano College Foundation

1998      Faculty Development Grant, Capilano College Faculty Association

1996-1997  Visual Arts Grant, British Columbia Arts Council

1996-1997  Paid Educational Leave for Poetry / Printmaking, Capilano College

1981      Broadside Award for Poetry, The Malahat Review

1980-1981  Visual Arts Grant, Canada Council 

1980      Paid Educational Leave for Poetry / Painting, Capilano College

1976      Short Term Grant for Poetry, Canada Council

1974      LIP Grant for Painting, City of Vancouver

1973      Short Term Grant for Poetry, Canada Council

1970      Short Term Visual Arts Grant, Canada Council

1970      Graduate Bursary for Poetry, University of British Columbia

1968-1969  Arts Grant for Poetry, Canada Council

1966      H.R. MacMillan Award for Poetry, University of British Columbia

  1. Arts Grant for Poetry, Le Conseil des Arts du Québec

1964      Chester MacNaughten Award for Poetry, McGill University 

1964      Louis B. Shapiro Award for Poetry, McGill University


Related Experience

Ambleside Arts Advisory Council, West Vancouver, 2011-2012

Artist in Residence / Artists for Kids Trust, West Bay School, West Vancouver, 2001

Arts Awards Juries, Canada Council Explorations Program, Vancouver, 1995

Arts Awards Jury, North Shore Arts Commission, North Vancouver, 1994

Arts Awards Jury, FANS (Fund for the Arts on the North Shore), North Vancouver, 2015

Art Jury, Seymour Art Gallery, North Vancouver, 2018

Capilano Review Contemporary Arts Society, Board of Directors, Vancouver, 2015-

Coast Art Trust, Board of Directors, North Vancouver, 2005-2007

Harmony Arts Festival Jury, West Vancouver, 2012, 2014, 2017

Presentation House Gallery, Board of Directors, 2001-2007

Retired Faculty Group, Capilano University, Steering Committee, 2013-2018

West Vancouver Art Museum, Museum Advisory Committee, 2014-2016


Capilano College | Capilano University

Aichi Gakusen Faculty Exchange Committee

Art Advisory Committee

Capilano Foundation Capital Planning Committee

Capilano Foundation Special Projects Committee

Capilano Review Press Society, President, Board of Directors

Capilano Review Writing Institute Advisory Committee

Chief Steward, Capilano College Faculty Association

Creative Writing Articulation Committees

Dean of Arts Search Committee

Food Services Committee

Founding Editor, The Capilano Review

Humanities Division Faculty Evaluation Committee

Humanities Division Koerner Lecture Series Committee

Humanities Division Reading Series Committee

Province of British Columbia Creative Writing Articulation Committees

Studio Art Department Art Advisory Committee


Academic Positions

Instructor, English Department, Capilano College/University, 1970-2003 (RFT), 2003-2011 (NREG)   

Coordinator, English Literature, English Department, Capilano College, 1978-1979

Summer Coordinator, Humanities Division, Capilano College, 1981-1984, 1986, 1996, 1999

Teaching Assistant, English Department, University of British Columbia, 1965-1966, 1969-1971


Education

Certificate (Printmaking), Art Institute, Capilano College, North Vancouver, 1992

Master of Arts (English / Creative Writing), University of British Columbia, Vancouver, 1971

Académie Julian (Drawing) / Atelier 17 (Printmaking), Paris, 1964-1965

Bachelor of Arts (English / Creative Writing), McGill University, Montreal, 1964

Senior Matriculation, Lower Canada College, Montreal, 1960

Junior Matriculation, Lower Canada College, Montreal, 1959


Websites

coupey.ca

pierrecoupey.ca

coupey.com

pierrecoupey.com

Dion Kliner

Recognized primarily as a sculptor and a writer, Dion Kliner also creates intimately scaled works on paper. Texts for Nothing – One is one of a series of thirteen drawings inspired by Samuel Becket’s thirteen short prose pieces in his book Stories and Texts for Nothing, published in 1967. Kliner’s drawings were produced letter by letter in a laborious rewriting of each one of the texts in its entirety. The original content remains, but has been pulverized through a random distribution of its letters over the paper. Far from being permanent formations, Kliner sees the drawings as short term agglomerations of possibility, which at any moment could crumble back to their original state or reconfigure into something entirely new.

Kliner was born in Los Angeles, California. After attending the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and East Texas State University he moved to New York City where he worked as a sculptor and writer. In 2003 Kliner relocated with his family to Vancouver. Kliner’s sculptures and drawings have been shown throughout North America, including solo exhibitions at Saint Thomas University (Fredericton) and East Texas State University Gallery (Commerce, Texas). He has also been featured in numerous group exhibitions, including those at Burrard Arts Foundation (Vancouver), Gallery Jones (Vancouver) and Vancouver Art Gallery. Kliner was awarded the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation Grant in 2014.

Pierre Coupey + Dion Kliner 2021 exhibition in Canton-sardine.

Agias the Arcadian+Proxenus the Boeotian | Paster & Mix Materials | 2020

Clearchus the Spartan | Paster & Mix Materials | 2020

Foot and Leg | Paster & Mix Materials | 2020

Four Legs | Paster & Mix Materials | 2020

Hear (Helmet 1) | Paster & Mix Materials | 2020

Head (Scagliola 1) | Paster & Mix Materials | 2020

Head With Wings | Paster & Mix Materials | 2020

Head (Imaginary Portrait) | Paster & Mix Materials | 2020

Head for Edwin Parker | Paster & Mix Materials | 2020

Menon the Thessalian | Paster & Mix Materials | 2020

Socrates the Achaean | Paster & Mix Materials | 2020

All works’ price upon request by email: stdragonn@canton-sardine.com


Dion Kliner

Solo Exhibitions
2009
Sculpture, Yellow Box Gallery, Saint Thomas University, Fredericton, NB.
2004
Entropic State, Zack Gallery, Vancouver, BC.
1989
Meaningless Objects, Vancouver Community Arts Council, Vancouver, BC.                            
1988
Meaningless Objects, East Texas State University Gallery, Commerce, TX.                              
1987
All Roads Lead, East Texas State University Gallery, Commerce, TX.
1983
Dion Kliner: Paintings, Issac’s Gallery, Be’er Sheva, Israel. 

Group Exhibitions
2021
Imaginary Portraits, Canton-Sardine, Vancouver, BC.
2019
Go Figure, CityScape Gallery, North Vancouver, BC.
2018
Pierre Coupey Rock Pool Dion Kliner Selected Sculpture, Vancouver, BC.
2017
The Mislooked, Burrard Arts Foundation, Vancouver, BC.
2012
Enough Is As Good As A Feast, Gallery Jones, Vancouver, BC.
2011
Unreal, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC.
2006
SCOPE Alternative, Trans-ient Art Space, East Hampton, NY.
The Spaces In Between, Silas Marder Gallery, Bridgehampton, NY.
2004
Gallery Jones, Vancouver, BC.
2003
Tendencies of Self-Containment, Universal Concepts Unlimited, New York, NY.
2002
Universal Concepts Unlimited, New York, NY.
The Armory Show, New York, NY.
2001
The Pierogi Flatfiles, Block Artspace, Kansas City, Missouri.
The Time Machine: Sculpture in the 20th Century, The University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, Lethbridge AB. 

2000The Pierogi Flatfiles, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.
Haulin’ Ass, Pierogi in LA, POST Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.

1999
Pierogi 2000: The Flatfiles, Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, The University of the Arts Philadelphia, PA.                                                                                                                              
1998
Current Undercurrent: Working in Brooklyn, The Brooklyn Museum of Art New York, New York, NY. Art on Paper, Weatherspoon Art Gallery, Greensboro, NC.
Pierogi 2000, New York: The Flatfiles, Kunstlerhaus, Vienna, Austria.
The Flatfiles, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York, NY.                                                                     Pierogi Goes to College, Bard College, Rheinbeck, New York, NY.

1997
Summer Invitational, Steffany Martz Gallery, New York, NY.
Dion Kliner and Darcy Mann, Synagogue for the Arts, New York, NY.
New York Drawers, The Pierogi 2000 Flatfiles, Gasworks, London, England.
New York Drawers, The Pierogi 2000 Flatfiles, Cornerhouse, Manchester, England.                       
1996
Sculpture and Painting, PS 122 Gallery, New York, NY.
Mysticism in Jewish Art, Klutznick National Jewish Museum, Washington, DC.

1994
Sculpture at 72 Berry, 72 Berry, Brooklyn, NY.
1993
Ward’s Island Outdoor Sculpture 1993, Manhattan Psychiatric Center, Ward’s Island, NY.
1990
Fourth International Shoe Box Sculpture Exhibition, University of Hawaii Art Gallery, Honolulu, HA.                                                                                                                                               
1989
S’no Show, Idee Gallery, Toronto, ON.
Drawing Conclusions, Southwest Texas University Gallery, San Marcos, TX.

1988
Third International Shoe Box Sculpture Exhibition, University of Hawaii Art Gallery, Honolulu, HA.                                                                                                                                               
1987
Texas Graduates, Sixth Texas Sculpture Symposium, blue collar gallery, San Antonio, TX.
Et Hominum Esse Memento, East Texas State University Gallery, Commerce, TX.
The Louisiana Festival of the Arts, Masur Museum of Art, Monroe, LA.

1986
Ecphore, The Alternative Arts Society, Halifax, NS. 

Commissions
1986
Point Gray Secondary School, Vancouver, BC.
1985
City of Halifax, NS. 
Public Collections
Vancouver Art Gallery
The Canada Council Art Bank. 

Visiting Artist
2010
Saint Thomas University, Fredericton, NB. 

Residencies
1988
Artist-in-Residence, Israeli Center for the Creative Arts (HILAI), Mitzpe Ramon, Israel. 

Grants
2014
Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation Grant 

Education
1989
MFA, East Texas State University, Commerce, TX.
1986
BFA, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, NS.

This World is a Heap of Wonders

On Narrative Logic of Wang Qingsong’s Images

Xiaoyan Yang

Wang Qingsong’s FOTOFEST, created in 2005, describes a typical scene of photographic art creation: a group of people holding cameras who, surrounding several nude models, are taking pictures.

This is an unforgettable and indescribable visual spectacle.

The public revealing of female nudity is an event that violates public morality and constitutes a certain taboo in any society and at any historical stage. But what if it is aesthetic in nature?

It is said that photography is art. Therefore, viewing through the lens has become a legitimate aesthetic. Peeping, in the name of photography, is no longer a problem, and also becomes an aesthetic legitimacy. Also, there s no knowing when this began—the emergence in Chinese society of this kind of pubic spectacle; a few young female models are teasing, surrounded by a group of photographers engaged in frenzied picture-taking. A little attention paid to that group of shooters reveals that, without exception, they are middle-aged people, everyone with telephoto and wide angle barrels–hurried, breathing rapidly.

Fotofest, 150x300cm, C-print, 2005, courtesy of artist

In the West, the historical significance of nude art images have, without exception, always been judged relative to conceptions of pornography. In this context, “pornography” is obviously not a derogatory term, it is simply a description of an objective state of affairs. Of course, throughout history most of the people watched are women; behind this fact the power of male chauvinism has played a role. In patriarchal traditional Chinese society, viewing the naked human form has always been a moral taboo; this is an obvious fact. Generally, because there is this powerful backdrop, when Western art entered China, its depiction of nudity, particularly the female body, despite its legitimate reasons, has for a long time, up to the present, constituted a serious issue. The female body is innocent, yet is ceaselessly incarnated as a body burdened with “reactionary thought,” causing women to feel endless shame. Therefore, once aesthetic appreciation is publicly supported, taking pictures of women’s bodies becomes an incredible public landscape. In the name of art, pornographic peeping rises to aesthetic gaze, and a kind of posturing style spreads freely within the world of images.

Wang Qingsong named this spectacle FOTOFEST. Within this seemingly objective description there is a harsh metaphor.

From this point of view, it is appropriate to define Wang Qingsong as an image artist. For him, photography itself is both medium and expression. What the medium means is that its acknowledged documentary function allows for an unassailable objectivity in photographing a scene. The public has long been accustomed to this age-old characteristic of photography. For them, isn’t photography just an undifferentiated trace of reality? The power of photography is also reflected in this point. But it also seems to prove that without objects there can be no photography, and photography exists because of objects. But imagine that, if there was no photography, the object could not be transformed into, and preserved as an image. If we cannot preserve, then there is no image, so in that case does the object have any meaning? Thus, always the object permits photography to become photography; yet photography changes the nature of the object, causing it to become an image; thus, in this way, is written a history, a history in visible images. Therefore, it is not so much that there is no photography without objects as that there is no object without photography. At this point, the object is equal to the image, or the object is the image. Image is a medium; photography is the inevitable means to make the media become a medium; it is a meaningful object/image, consequently, it is a more fundamental media.

But photography is also a kind of expression. For example, realism is a style of painting. The realistic effect obtained through painting cannot compete with the documentary function of photography. Therefore, in the face of photography, and in the face of realism, painting must emphasize its artistry, emphasize the role of the artist’s mind, as well as the manifestation brought about through skilled hands. In the era when people think that photography is the same as simply documenting facts, it has been impossible to establish the autonomy of photography because, in the face of the painting’s air of artistry, photographers are simply ashamed. This is the inherent problem of photography. The self-saving strategy of photography is to equate documenting events with the real, emphasizing that the authenticity of photography has always been missing from painting. Photography thinks that this can bypass the trap of aesthetics and fantasizes that it is equal to painting. Therefore, there is a strange debate in the field of photography about whether the so-called candid snapshot is real, or the posed photograph is real, and the extremists emphasize the substance of candid snapshots and deny any substance to the  posed photograph. Little do they realize that photography only lets the object be equal to the image but does not let photography be equal to the event. Once the events are reorganized, once the subject is transformed into a director, and the documentary nature of photography is understood as a bias and an expression, the subjectivity of photography can be proved.

Photography lets the object transform into an image. Photography originally has just this kind of medium-nature. At the same time, through arranging, through the reconstruction of the landscape, the image becomes an authentic visual expression, and the image also gains its own independence from so-called documenting, and confronts reality. There is a split here, which I might call the split between image and photography. Image is no longer a record of a man-made landscape; image has become a visual retrospective, seemingly objective, but in fact anti-objective. Similarly, photography is no longer photography. All the interpretation attached to the medium of photography has disintegrated in the face of fictional images, and photography has become a genuine expression.

The meaning of the image is reflected in this division. Wang Qingsong constantly replicates the former landscape, through large-scale, almost crazy posing, letting the image emerge to become a work. He is not replicating a former landscape; if we were to understand it in that way, we would have no way to understand Wang Qingsong’s unique boundless calm’s infinite anxiety. To him, the world is a heap of wonders. Not only is this world a heap of wonders, but history is also a heap of wonders. The combination of the world and history is a heap of wonders. The reason why Wang Qingsong continues to work, his goal, I think, is probably to establish an existence corresponding to this heap of wonders. He wants to create an indefinable existence, the form of which is image.

FOTOFEST how split? Every one of his works is wrapped in this split, by dismemberment. From the creation of Night Revels of Lao Li in 2000 to the new work On the Field of Hope in 2020, we can, from these works, understand the extraordinary satire of such astonishing spectacle.

Did Wang Qingsong achieve his goal? Another of his works, Iron Man, may be a self-assessment of this question, or even a prophecy. The answer lies in the mind of the viewer.

Blood stained shirt, 180x300cm, C-print, 2018, courtesy of artist
The Making of Blood Stained Shirt in Detroit
On the field of hope, 180x300cm, C-print, 2020, Courtesy of artist
Iron Man, 120x160cmx2, C-print, 2008, courtesy of artist
Iron Man, Video, 35mm film, 4 minutes, 2008, courtesy of artist

A poster from the Cultural Revolution entitled To Live Like Such A Person refers to the appreciation of being a brave, honest, and heroic person. In our childhood, we have been taught how to live and why to live in political classes. These heroes were taught to as great models to emulate and to live up to as we grew up. However, the real world is very tough, stifled with conflict, war, violence, strife, controversy, fight, combat… People have to face up to all these severe situations. To be a hero means a lot of suffering, bravery, insistence, all sorts of skills of stamina to combat against the unexpected disasters. In Iron Man (2009), Wang Qingsong created a hero in his own image affectionately referred to as Iron Man. This term Iron Man refers to an oil worker hero (Qingsong worked in the oil-fields for over eight years) who dedicated his life to developing Chinese oil industry in the early 1960s. In this video this strong-minded hero has been beaten up by a lot of fists but always straightens up his head facing sideways as if Taking Death As Merely Going Back Home. He avoids the fist by playing Chinese Tai Chi (a Chinese body-exercise system of slow meditative physical exercise designed for relaxation, balance and health). Finally, though losing hair and teeth in the course of the beating, he still smiles at his opponents. Is it a fact of life or an absurdist satire against all forms of violence? Or what is Iron Man?

Rapidly completed on the way from Wuhan to Changsha to Guangzhou, China

On March 30, 2021