CounterIntelligence / project by Charles Stankievech

Charles Stankievech is talking. January 23, 2014

A glossary of topics regarding the intersection of art and military intelligence communities filled the ears of the audience, a full house, at Stankievech’s talk on January 23. Preparing his audience for what we were about to experience in the gallery, he poetically / eloquently described topics such as: the avant-garde, double agent, drone, encryption, etc. It quickly became evident that Stankievech has been laboring over this project in depth. His collection of objects displayed in the Justine M. Barnicke Gallery consists of historic examples spanning from 1930’s Spain to the NSA’s current control of encryption in the United States of America.

Harun Faroki, Serious Fames IV: A Sun With No Shadow, 2010. Two-channel video, 8:00 min.

Tamas St.Turba, Czechosolvakian Radio 1968, 1968-2014. Sculpture, 10.16×25.4 x 15.24cm. Produced by Charles Stankievech under instructions from the artist

Yves Klein, Peintures: 10 Planches en Couleurs, 1954. Forty page book, unbound: authorized 2006-edition of 400 by Editions Dilecta, Paris. 19 x 24.5 cm.

The project included works from contemporary artists such as Gordon Matta-Clark, Walid Raad, and Stankievech himself. They also featured historical military artefacts such as Encounter magazine (funded by the CIA to promote the anti-Stalinist left), Hizbollah’s “Special force” (a videogame with Jihad videos), and Eyal Weizman’s book “Hollow Land : Israel’s Architecture of Occupation”.

Gordon Matta-Clark, Splitting, 1974, Black and white photograph, printed 2001, 40.6 x 50.5 cm

Encounter Magazine, Vols 1-7, 1953-54, Magazines, 18.5 x 25.5 cm

  Salvador Dali, Total Camouflage for Total War, 1942, Essay and images by Dali in Esquire Magazine, vol.8, no.2, 25.4×35.56 cm

Needless to say, the 98 objects displayed in the gallery were overwhelming. The project is rich with information, as well as opportunities for personal contemplation regarding how these objects reflect the way they served the community in which they were conceived, as well as how it affects us in the context of the gallery.

Details of Bill Burns, Guard Tower Plans, Prison Cell Plans, and the Songs of Guantanamo Bay, 2010. Multiple (three vinyl records + three offset prints). 61x61cm

Icelandic Spar, 6.5 x 6.5x7cm, Crystal with passage from Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day, 2006

Abbas Akhavan, Study for Blue Shield, 2011, Site-specific installation, 2×2.5m

Moreover, since the historical artefacts are paired alongside artworks, I wonder, is Stankievech using the aforementioned themes to challenge the audience to question what he has presented us with? In essence, are we to question their relevancy in the gallery? Are they mask them as artwork for unstated intentions? Could we potentially mistake them as a “decoy” for a readymade? Are these artefacts and images, in appearance, misleading the audience? The project offers its viewer with many manners in which to examine the artefacts/artworks individually, as well as collectively.

Text and photo: Leanne Simaan

Exhibition dates: January 24- March 16, 2014 at Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, 7 Hart House Circle, Toronto. Gallery hours: Thur – Tue 12 – 5, Wed 12 – 8 p.m.

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