Reading Out Loud

Reading Out Loud with artist Gail Bourgeois │Lire à voix haute avec l'artiste Gail Bourgeois

Ottawa Art Gallery

Thursday, November 6, 2014, 7 – 9 PM | Registration Required

Artist Gail Bourgeois will lead an open reading of Linda Nochlin’s groundbreaking article “Why have there been no great women artists?” (1971). Explore the evolution of feminist theory as it relates to art history, as part of the OAG’s current exhibition ALMA: The Life and Art of Alma Duncan (1917-2004).  Also in attendance will be Jaclyn Meloche, part-time professor at the University of Ottawa, and Catherine Sinclair, OAG Senior Curator, the exhibition’s co-curators.

Reading Out Loud_OAG_2014


Poignant Art in Canada’s Cold War Bunker

Bourgeois_review_Poignant Art in Canada's Cold War Bunker - The Epoch Times

Dr. Maureen Korp presented on To warn other Canadians at the School of Visual Arts Conference, Session 12, NYC, New York, October 31, 2014.

Read Maureen Korp’s review: Poignant Art in Canada’s Cold War Bunker – The Epoch Times


 Exhibition of the Month: To warn other Canadians


It was an honor to be listed as ‘exhibition of the month’ in ESPIONART Hot Art / Cold War, July 8, 2014.



 The Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum

My solo exhibition To warn other Canadians / Avertir les autres Canadiens,
took place in The Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum, former CFS Carp, Ontario,
April 26 – September 30, 2014

portrait of the artist

Text below was published with artist’s pages in n.paradoxa, London, England, vol. 35, 2015, pp. 16-21

In November 2013, I was invited as artist-in-residence to the Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum. The museum, started in 1997, occupies the Canadian Government’s coldwar bunker, active between 1961-1994, as central command-control centre to house 535 key members of government and military in the case of nuclear war.

The residency’s main aim was to develop new works based on the museum’s unique history, its archive and architecture. Source material for Cold War Pieces came from three areas: the museum’s vast archive; emblematic images from the Internet which circulate as currency about the period and pinhole images of the bunker’s spaces which I commissioned from two photographers, Giuliano Pirani and Maggie Knaus. I was looking for blurred and distorted images to parallel a culture of spying, fear and mistrust. The pinhole camera photographs provided an excellent resemblance to cold war information gathering where there is little control over what will be recorded in a dark chamber through the tiny single beam of light that is allowed to enter. Generally, these distortions provide little certainty about what is being looked at.

The drawing method I devised for these works played an important role in organising vast amounts of information and in developing a personal response to the specifics of place and historical moment. The document-sized scale relates to human proportions and to the time and space referenced by the exhibition site. I hoped these constructed narratives in the artworks would encourage the viewers’ own engagement through their own interpretations of these images. Motifs repeated throughout the series construct and interweave related themes and references. For example, Potsdam Conference / Hiroshima represents the confluence of Churchill, Truman and Stalin at the conference dividing Germany and Western Europe four days before the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

The exhibition at the end of my residency displayed the series of 95 black and white inkjet prints scanned from my drawings of layered information placed among the already existing bunker displays. Marcia Lea, in the exhibition catalogue, contrasted my work with Martha Rosler’s:

Bourgeois’ use of juxtaposition and the subject matter reference the photo-montage work, Bringing Home the War: House Beautiful, 1967-1994, by American artist Martha Rosler made in protest of the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War. Rosler contrasted the disturbingly different realities of the war zone, as represented by soldiers or casualties, with the idealized home in America, as depicted in magazines …Both Bourgeois and Rosler bring together surprising images and symbols to raise issues concerning war. Bourgeois’ work approaches the Cold War from the perspective of the twenty-first century and although it is recent, it is history. While Rosler compressed ‘here’ and ‘there’, Bourgeois compresses the ‘then’ and ‘now’ … [Cold War Pieces] deals with issues that are relevant, not only to the recent past, but also to the here and now. Bourgeois’ work artistically mines the recent past to inform the critical present.

My approach in these works was to find a way to draw my subject as something intimate, to be looked at closely and to be reflected upon, another look at what is familiar. As an artist I believe my role is parallel to that of the fool in the royal courts of Europe. Only the fool was permitted to speak of a truth to the king. The fool could be beaten if the message displeased, but his role was to report what was observed.


 A Tangential Exploration

Tangential Exploration_RIA Project


Attic drawing I   Attic drawing I_ detail

Drawings and collages developed from Deborah Margo’s Salt and Paper. My works for A Tangential Exploration were produced for and shown in the RIA Artist Project Room, Ottawa. In addition, they have been produced as an envelope project.


RIA Artists Project Room

One Thing Led to Another
The Story of Deborah Margo’s Salt and Paper Intervention and the Tangents and Events that Followed
Petra Halkes (ed.)


DOCUMENTUM ONE –  online catalogue here
 Pages with images and text covering my works:

  • Early Tangential Exploration, pp 12-14
  • Never Forever, pp 29-31
  • Art in Odd Spaces, pp 41-43

RIA (Research in Art)
This is an initiative started by Petra Halkes, artist, writer and curator and her artist-husband Rene Price, who live in Ottawa, Canada. From the local to the global, RIA aims to promote discussions and reading on contemporary art. RIA wants to serve real-life intellectual and social needs of a broad spectrum of artists, art writers, curators, dealers and viewers in Ottawa and the region. RIA takes place but needs no space of its own. Although at the moment most of the events happen at Petra and René’s house, RIA at times branches out to other locations.

RIA (Artist Project Room)
The project room is part of a domestic setting, the living area in Petra and René’s home. From November 2011, [link to my exhibition, Incidental things] the RIA Artist Project Room has been an exciting and very satisfying experience for René and me, and, judging from responses, just as much for the artists that had exhibitions here and the many, many viewers who dropped in.

Beginning in September 2013, with Deborah Margo’s domestic installation Salt and Paper, we looked for different ways of exhibiting art at RIA. Inspired by Anthony Huberman’s  The Artist’s Institute, New York, we used Deborah’s Salt and Paper installation as a springboard for related group or solo shows, discussions, lectures, screenings etc., over a span of twelve months.  Unlike The Artist’s Institute, however, we did not pre-plan any of these events. Also unlike The Artist’s Institute, our focus was not not so much on Deborah, the artist, but on the evolving themes that emerged from her work.  A wrap-up of the year-long project took place on Sept. 7 and 13, 2014.

Petra’s RIA
The Research In Art Project Room has a more personal note. Petra says,  “Ria was my sister, who died in 2006. I like to hear her name”
You can contact Petra Halkes by email at: researchinart.ria@gmail.com