Canada Pavilion

53rd International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia
Mark Lewis: Cold Morning

June 7 - November 22, 2009
Openings: June 3, 4, 5, and 6, 2009

Commissioner: Barbara Fischer

Mark Lewis, TD Centre, 54th Floor, 2009. Courtesy the artist, the Monte Clark Gallery (Vancouver), Clark & Faria (Toronto), and galerie serge le borgne (Paris).

Mark Lewis: Cold Morning

In June 2008, a jury of the Canada Council for the Arts awarded artist Mark Lewis and commissioner Barbara Fischer, Director/Curator of the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, the honour of representing Canada at the 53rd International Art Exhibition of the 2009 Venice Biennale.

A part of a global generation of artists concerned with the history of film, Lewis's work refracts the techniques, grammar, genres, and historical tropes of film through technologies and consciousness derived from the present. Engaging the most minimal and pure forms of recording (the long shot, the pan, the zoom), his work uniquely fuses pictorial traditions with the art of cinema, and represents a unique synthesis of two well-known Canadian traditions: the structuralist approach to film commonly associated with the films of Michael Snow and Joyce Wieland; and the documentary interest in urban modernity recognized as one of the special strengths of the Vancouver School. Mark Lewis's indebtedness to these traditions is borne out by his own trajectory in Canada (he grew up in Hamilton and began his work as an artist in Toronto before getting involved in filmmaking and teaching in Vancouver).

The project for Venice revolved around the classic technique of rear projection, which combines staged events (the foreground action) with documentary footage (the background locations). The medium allowed a record of the everyday to slip into Hollywood film, while the flatness of the rear-projected image shares with montage and certain principles of artistic modernism. Titled Cold Morning, the project consisted of the ambitious production of three new works: a rear projection-based film, Nathan Phillips Square, A Winter's Night, Skating (2009); and two documentary works, TD Centre, 54th Floor (2009), and Cold Morning (2009). These were presented in the context of an existing rear-projection work, The Fight (2008), and off-site screenings of the 2009 documentary on the pioneers of rear projection, titled Backstory, during the opening week of the biennale.

Canada Pavilion in the Giardini showing architectural revisions by Wasiuta Leung Design. Photographed by Piero Codato, 2009.

The presentation of Mark Lewis’s films at the biennale also involved a major architectural revision of the Canadian Pavilion. Working with architectural designers Mark Wasiuta and Jennifer Leung, (WLD -- Wasiuta Leung Design), the installation reversed the visitor’s passage through the pavilion by closing the main entrance doors and replacing its façade with black glass; replacing the two plywood rear entrance doors with glass doors to become the main entrance; replacing the office/storage area at the rear-end of the pavilion with a fresh, spatially-integrated entrance; and coating the entire glazed façade of the interior courtyard with graded shades of black automotive film, thus effecting a passage from light (at the new entrance) to a completely darkened (but still transparent) main pavilion space perfectly suited for the projection of film.


In conjunction with Mark Lewis: Cold Morning, the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery produced a 160-page full colour catalogue in partnership with the Vancouver Art Gallery. The catalogue (written in three languages) includes four essays and one interview, with each contribution emphasizing a specific aspect of Lewis’s work. The catalogue includes a foreword by Kathleen Bartels (Director, Vancouver Art Gallery) and Barbara Fischer. Vancouver Art Gallery curator, Grant Arnold, presents an introduction to the overall direction and interests of Lewis’s film-based works from 1999 onward. Writer David Campany contributes a theoretical approach toward the themes and strategies of Lewis’s films, with a particular emphasis on modernity and its cinematic tropes. Laura Mulvey’s essay is a thoroughly inspiring analysis of rear projection in the history of cinema and its appearance in Lewis’s work. Barbara Fischer focuses on the nature of film and location as it appears in Lewis’s work, with particular emphasis on the spatial and temporal disjunctions that seem to be a thread in the work and prepare our interest in rear projection. An interview between Mark Lewis and Klaus Biesenbach (Director of MoMA PS1 and Chief Curator at Large at the Museum of Modern Art, New York), rounds out the catalogue with an informative discussion of the developments of technology and the relationship between the artist’s work and emergent forms of cinema.

Venice Apprentice

The Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, in coordination with Hart House and Aeroplan, instigated an open, web-based competition for students of the University of Toronto to apply for a coveted position on the Venice team. The competition offered the opportunity for students at the University to participate in this unique experience, and provided important career opportunities to several arts, curatorial, and museum studies students.

Five finalists were chosen and worked with the Venice team for five weeks until the week following the Venice Send-off Party. The final winner, Valentine Moreno, won the competition and received a free trip to Venice, coupled with the opportunity to work in Venice for the installation period and through the opening week events including final wrap-up.

Installation of Mark Lewis: Cold Morning at the 53rd International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia. Photographed by Piero Codato, 2009.

On the web:

The official Canadian participation at the Venice Biennale was made possible through the financial and administrative support of the Canada Council for the Arts, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, and the Canadian Embassy in Rome. Mark Lewis's new work is produced in collaboration with the National Film Board of Canada. The exhibition is supported by Aeroplan, Christie, DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art, the Ontario Arts Council, Fondation Hermès, BMO Financial Group, Rogers, Prime Focus London, Hal Jackman Foundation, Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, University of the Arts London, and many others.

Commissioner: Barbara Fischer
Deputy Commissioner: Natalie De Vito
Project Assistants: Christopher Régimbal, Maiko Tanaka, Jenna Winter
Justina M. Barnicke Gallery Staff: Katie Bethune-Leamen, Tejpal Ajji
Venice Events Coordinator: Tamara Adruszkiewicz
Architectural Design: Wasiuta Leung Design
Public Relations: Carrie Sager, FLIP Publicity (Canada); Cecilia Bonn, Cecilia Bonn Marketing and Communications (USA and Europe)
Mark Lewis Studio Assistants: Alice Channer, Kate Owens
Film Producer and Production Manager: Michael White
Post Production Supervisor: Lisa James
Galerie Serge Le Borgne, Paris: Serge Le Borgne, Fanny Gaudry, Alice Vaganay, Marianne Derrien
Monte Clark Gallery, Vancouver: Monte Clark
Clark & Faria Gallery, Toronto: Daniel Faria, Alysha Rajkumar
Construction Manager: Troels Bruun, M + B Studio (Venice)
Audio Visual Consultant and Installation: ADi Audio Visual (London)
Venice Apprentices: Jennifer Davis, Cristina Fogale, Valentine Moreno, Charlotte Rodon, John Rubino

Canada Party