My Winnipeg: Winter Kept Us Warm

December 15, 2012 to January 20, 2013

My Winnipeg: Winter Kept Us Warm exposes the underbelly of the city’s social, political, and libidinal experiences as they consort and co-mingle in the galleries.

In his rarely seen and historically significant major work, Notes from the Inquest: Essay and Drawings, Jeff Funnell presents a sequence of drawings from the murder inquest of Northern Manitoba Cree Chief, J.J. Harper. This room-sized installation places the official published verdict and a slow-motion video recording of the inquest’s re-enactment of the event against Funnell’s personal documentation as an independent visual artist. Reminiscent of “official” court-room drawings, these hundreds of sketches go beyond mere documentation to become subjective and historically relevant meditation cum eye-witness account of one of Winnipeg’s most notable 1980s-era public events. 

Two Kindred Spirits, a life-size installation of a log-cabin diorama by Kent Monkman, depicts the story of two famous cowboy-Indian—and vaguely homoerotic—partnerships: Tonto and the Lone Ranger and Winnetou and Old Shatterhand. Monkman, a multidisciplinary artist of Cree ancestry, displays the sidekicks hovering over their passed out fearless leaders on Hudson Bay blankets surrounded by precariously placed crushed cans of beer. Framed on the wall behind them are the words “The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name” written in English and German respectively, referencing Oscar Wilde’s definition of homosexuality.

The exhibition includes a Noam Gonick-curated section that presents over 30 artists in a contained salon-styled installation referencing the back-door entrances of adult movie theatres and 19th-century drawing rooms. The title, Winter Kept Us Warm, takes its name from David Secter’s 1965 film, which in turn took its name form T.S. Eliot’s poem “Wasteland.” Through his research, Gonick suggests that the repression and isolation of the prairie city long cold winter contributes to its inhabitants fevered desires. Gathering artifacts from sensational moments in Winnipeg’s visual art history, one can piece together a composite portrait of Winnipeg through the sexual fetishes scrawled, painted, sculpted, filmed and otherwise proffered by generations of Winnipeg artists.

The exploration of Winnipeg’s fevered underworld continues in Guy Maddin’s film Cowards Bend the Knee. Presented for the first time in five cubicles, reminiscent of a confessional or peep show booth, the installation re-frames the autobiographical, salacious, chaotic, cowardly, and of course, hockey-related plot line filmed within Maddin’s own childhood haunts—the hockey rink and his mother’s beauty parlour. Set in the 1930s, Maddin adopts the stylistic choices of a traditional film noir, with dark shadows, cynical attitudes, and sexual motivations. Divided into chapters, the viewer is allowed to peep at the psychologically “true stories” of Maddin’s life, in the filmakers own words, “no matter how bizarre, stupid, silly or gratuitous.”

My Winnipeg: Winter Kept Us Warm exhibition is open from December 15th, 2012 to January 20th, 2013.

The artists in Chapter 3: Winter Kept Us Warm include: Ed Ackerman, Sharon Alward, C. Graham Asmundson, Louis Bakó, Paul Butler, Dan Donaldson, Cliff Eyland, Karel Funk, Jeff Funnell, Tim Gardner, Larry Glawson & Doug Melnyk, Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline, Jake Kosciuk, Guy Maddin, Bonnie Marin, Kent Monkman, Robert Pasternak, Linda Pearce, Mélanie Rocan, Paul Robles, The Slomotion, Kevin B.C. Stafford, Diana Thorneycroft, Andrew Valko, Jordan Van Sewell, Gord Wilding, Richard Williams, and Sharron Zenith Corne.

The My Winnipeg Project is co-curated by Paula Aisemberg, Sigrid Dahle, Hervé di Rosa, Noam Gonick, Anthony Kiendl, and Cathy Mattes. It is co-organized by Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art, la maison rouge, Musée international des arts modestes (Sète), School of Art Gallery, University of Manitoba, and the National Arts Centre (Ottawa). 

Plug In ICA gratefully acknowledges the support of the Manitoba Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, Winnipeg Arts Council, Canadian Heritage, the Winnipeg Foundation, our donors, members and volunteers.

A publication accompanies the My Winnipeg Project and is available at the Plug In ICA Art Book Shop or online at our online shop.

Related exhibit:

My Winnipeg Project