"Portal 2 starts with a murder. The exhibition responds to oral history research by Kevin Allen: in 1979, a man making homophobic and violent advances was attacked and killed by a pair of men-who-have-sex-with-men cruising Central Memorial Park in Moh'kins'tsis (Calgary, Alberta) one night. Silver jacket is a facsimile of a found newspaper article reporting on the event. Found at the scene of the murder was a silver bomber jacket.
Growing up, I often read newspaper headlines about men-who-have-sex-with-men and gay people being assaulted, murdered, or dying by suicide. I had never heard of a "gay basher," to use a vernacular term, being murdered by the people he threatened, demeaned, or killed, and I only learned of this event a few years ago. As an adult queer, did this history make sense, make me feel safer, justified, or emboldened?
Working with textile artist Jolie Bird, we recreated the silver jacket in three sizes: one for a child, one for a young person, and one that is sized to fit me. I wondered if having contact with surrogates for that jacket might help me resolve my deeply troubled feelings. The pattern pieces for these garments were then used to make a series of stencils, monoprints, and proposals for monuments, and the jackets are presented through a series of photographs arranged to resemble an incident room, like one that might be used during crime scene investigations.
Central Memorial Park, where this story begins, is a public space featuring several monuments and cenotaphs, most of which are connected to military conflict and White, colonial narratives. In my research, I have not yet found a single memorial in Alberta that speaks directly to non-heteronormative histories. As a cis-queer White person who grew up in Alberta and who now lives within blocks of the scene of this murder, I feel a confusing sense of connection to and dislocation from this history. In truth, when I first learned this story I felt vindicated by this man's death-and then felt immediately ashamed and anxious.
The Portal suite, including the associated Folio series, served to create three photographs titled Proposal for monument, each of which offers a maquette for humiliated monuments to this complicated history. While cutting the pattern-piece-shaped stencils to create the Portal suite, I noticed that their contours, when piled together, resembled the sculptural work of Anthony Caro. Caro visited amiskwacîwâskahikan (Edmonton, Alberta) and had great influence on a generation of sculptors working there; as a result, Alberta features many outdoor public artworks that are influenced by Caro's modernist aesthetic. Proposal for monument flirtatiously mimics these antecedent works of art, suggesting that no monument can adequately reckon with this little-known history of a violent man murdered and those whose lives were forever transformed because of his hate. This also raises the question: should queer experience and identity subscribe to the grandiosity inherent in "the memorial" as a category, or are there other, countermonumental formats that could better reflect the subtlety of sexuality and its expressions?
This body of work was first shown at Latitude 53 in 2020, and Portal 2 includes new work that expands on these ideas.
Quotation is an ongoing theme in this exhibition. Other rooms, for example, is a hand-carved wooden window grate. This piece is based on a quotation from trans woman director Lana Wachowski, one of the creators of the Matrix universe, as well as part of the title of a book by flamboyant homosexual author Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948); both thinkers, in their own way, celebrate gender and sexuality as shifting in time and space, and they suggest the radical potential of other ways of being.
Some pieces in the exhibition refer to historic context connected to cruising in what is now called Canada - such as No state (2020) and Pas d'état (2021), a pair of quilts that rework a remark Pierre Elliott Trudeau made in 1967 "there is no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation." This statement, which describes the relationship between nation and the monitoring of sexuality in Canada, overlooks the fact that sexuality also exists beyond bedrooms- and that sex and sexuality are still heavily policed in Canada through a range of policies and activities. No state is also mobilized through a brass necklace, soon to be produced in a gold edition.
LONG, Long distance relationship, and Long term relationship are expressions of close relations with loved ones, but also my ongoing relationship with this historic event, and with hate, violence, and aggression directed at non-straight people. Growing up in a small town on the Prairies, I was threatened, belittled, and demeaned verbally and physically for my perceived sexuality and my femme gestures and speech. I recognize that as a White person, although I regularly felt unsafe, I experienced forms of privileged protection not experienced by non-White, non-straight people in the region. Although many people are keen to celebrate the progress made for non-heteronormative rights and freedoms in Canada, to this day I still feel uneasy when I walk alone after twilight in my own neighborhood in Calgary because of the reek of compulsive heterosexuality and macho bravado. What is more, despite the frustrations and violence of my context, I also feel the thrill and sense the lustre of non-straight histories, presents, and futures." - MC
Mark Clintberg is a queer artist who works in the field of art history. He is an Associate Professor at the Alberta University of the Arts. He was shortlisted for the Sobey Art Award in 2013. Public and private collections across Canada and in the United States - including the National Gallery of Canada, the Edmonton Arts Council, and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts - have acquired his work. His work has recently been shown at Latitude 53 (Edmonton), the Dunlop Art Gallery (Regina), the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax), the Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton), the Illingworth Kerr Gallery (Calgary), AXENÉ07 (Gatineau), and Trapdoor Artist Run Centre (Lethbridge). Other exhibitions featuring his work have taken place at Locust Projects (Miami), the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), the Banff Centre, Centre des arts actuels Skol (Montreal), The Harbourfront Centre (Toronto), and Eastern Edge (St. John's), Alberta Biennal 2017 and at Fruitmarket Gallery (Scotland).
Support for this exhibition has been provided by the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Alberta University of the Arts. Work for this exhibition has been produced with several collaborators, including Stephen Harper, Jane Trash, Jolie Bird, Lillian Dwyer, Millicent Dwyer, Violet Combden, and Jarvis Hall. Photographic documentation by Stephen Harper. Photographic printing by Resolve Photo. Framing by Jarvis Hall + Fine Frames. Several works in this exhibition are influenced by the research of Kevin Allen, and his book Our Past Matters: Stories of Gay Calgary. Thank you to Preston Pavlis, Michelle Schultz, Adam Waldron-Blain, Crystal Mowry, Geoffrey Little, Benny Nemer, Jon Davies, Vivek Shraya, Naomi Potter, Jillian Fleck, Megan Kirk, and Sondra Meszaros.