Saturday, February 27, 2010

Marcel Dzama: Of Many Turns

In Saturday's National Post, we explore the strange world of Marcel Dzama, whose work is being celebrated in a new exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art called Aux mille tours, meaning, Of Many Turns.
Click here to read the story.
Alison Norlen, who is now an associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan, was the one who introduced Dzama’s work to the curator Wayne Baerwaldt, who in turn got Dzama his first show at the Richard Heller Gallery in Los Angeles in 1997. “His work was so unusual to me,” she says. “[I’d] never really met anybody quite like him.” She recalls how, in 1996, during his final year of university, his house burned down, forcing Dzama and his family to live in a motel for four months. Instead of being defeated by the fire, Dzama channelled it into his work.
“His life had been really disorganized and upset [by the fire],” she says. “I think that what was going on in his life was being drawn into the work that he was doing. So it was quite autobiographic and quite interesting. Quite whimsical. And he certainly never complained about the situation. He just starting documenting it through his work.”
“You meet Marcel,” she later says, “and he’s so unassuming and humble and such a quiet person, quite shy. It’s not this exuberant person that tells you about all of his life. His life really goes into his work. You pick up what’s going on [in his life] through his work more than his person.”
If you learn about his life through his work, as Norlen believes, then it is clear that Winnipeg, where he was born in 1974, is a major part of his life. Indeed, The Royal Art Lodge ( the collective he co-founded in 1996 with several artists, including his uncle, Neil Farber, and which dissolved in 2008 ) has become a part of the city’s mythology, alongside the films of Guy Maddin and the songs of The Weakerthans. Though he no longer lives there, Dzama maintains it is still home. “I think I really understand [Winnipeg] a lot better now, getting away from it. I think it’s probably healthy for most people to get away from whereever they grew up just to see their origins.”

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