The letter - Selections from the permanent collection

Curated by Crystal Mowry
August 29, 2014 - March 8, 2015


William Kurelek,(Canadian, 1927-1977), Philosophical Battle, 1963, watercolour on paperboard, H 47.2 cm x W 41.4 cm (framed), Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery Collection. Gift of Mr. Peter Oliphant and Mr. Robert White, 1992.

Every time we experience a major change in the methods we use to communicate with one another, geographic distance appears to collapse. From the efficient smoke signals used by early civilisations across the world to the instantaneous tweets sent through wireless networks, the range and volume of the individuals we reach increases. Our expectations also shift. We grow impatient awaiting replies, "likes", "retweets" or any other verification that the information and ideas we share have some traction with others. On the other hand, the swift exchange of information creates an environment in which we quickly learn of remote revolutions and local protests through social networks. In the wake of silence,  inactivity or non-responsiveness we speculate on the reason for delays and may wonder whether our messages are finding their fate in a recipient's dreaded junk mailbox. Is this pervasive FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) a contemporary phenomenon, or is it simply an intensified desire to feel connected to and valued by one's peers?

The works featured in The Letter are inspired by the rapidly changing role of written communication in our everyday lives. Allusions to the content and nature of language, text and symbol are evident throughout this selection of works. William Kurelek's Philosophical Battle (1963) represents the artist's own reliance on traditional pen-on-paper letters to convey to others the urgency of his thoughts. In Joyce Wieland's Patriotism (1965), the form of the ephemeral broadside poster is transformed into a critical announcement that doubles as a subtle test of our vision.  Other works, such as Transitions III,  by Yves Gaucher, suggest other systems of communication such as Morse code and Braille. Through the work of these artists and others included in this exhibition, we are invited to revisit Marshall McLuhan's familiar assertion that "the medium is the message". What might our personal broadcast strategies and the information we choose to share say about what is relevant to humanity today?

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