Exhibition presents Brendan Fernandes' Inaction, an exploration of collective action and solidarity

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Exhibition presents Brendan Fernandes' Inaction, an exploration of collective action and solidarity
Brendan Fernandes, "Free Fall: for Camera," 2019, video still. Image courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche, Chicago.

VANCOUVER.- Richmond Art Gallery is presenting the timely exhibition Inaction, a new solo show by renowned Canadian contemporary artist Brendan Fernandes on display from February 12 to April 3, 2021. The exhibition, co-produced with the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery at Wesleyan University, is RAG’s first collaboration with a U.S. based institution. Inaction addresses violence against queer and POC bodies, as well as the potential for change through collective action.

“The social upheavals of 2020 catalyzed the global conversation around human rights and equality,” says Shaun Dacey, RAG director and the exhibition’s curator. “Inaction reflects on the continued visible and invisible impacts of hateful rhetoric on marginalized bodies. More than ever, it is crucial to present work that celebrates the diversity of lived experiences, creating safe and inclusive spaces for dialogue.”

Inaction is comprised of two main components: a commissioned series of nine sculptural works and the Canadian premiere of Free Fall: for Camera. The two-channel video work was previously shown at Wesleyan University, but as a single-channel installation.

The video is based on Fernandes’ 2017 performance piece Free Fall, which was created in response to the Orlando, Florida, shooting at the Pulse nightclub in 2016. Free Fall: for Camera explores the act of falling through exquisitely choreographed movements. Featuring 16 dancers clad in shades of gray, the work demonstrates the cataclysmic moments when bodies fall onto a stage. Intimate shots are intercut with stunning aerial views, creating kaleidoscopic imagery reminiscent of film director Busby Berkeley’s visionary style.

“Free Fall was originally in response to the Pulse shooting, but our bodies are still being marginalized and that means the work needs to continue,” says Fernandes. “As a society, we’re finding out how hard we can fall, but also how to stand up, move forward and move on. With Black Lives Matter and other socio-political uprisings gaining momentum, it’s important to seek out our freedom and rights. This extends to the COVID-19 pandemic — we’re finding out what a safe space is and thinking about what our bodies need right now.”

The minimalist sculptures, created in collaboration with Chicago-based architecture firm Norman Kelley, are placed throughout the exhibition space. The pieces will be activated in three performances by contemporary and ballet dancers, breaking the mold of galleries and museums presenting static objects frozen in time. Instead, Fernandes creates a space for individuals to come together and enact change as actors, agents and activists.

The performances will be held in March and April, with dates to be confirmed. They are currently being planned as livestreamed events, in accordance with the province’s latest health and safety orders. If COVID-19 restrictions loosen prior to the performances, they may change to limitedcapacity, in-person events. An artist talk with Fernandes will also be livestreamed during the exhibition period.

Born in Nairobi, Kenya, and currently based in Chicago, Fernandes is an internationally recognized artist working at the intersection of dance and visual arts. He is currently an artist-in-residence and a member of faculty in the Department of Art, Theory and Practice at Northwestern University. Fernandes addresses issues of freedom, sanctuary and social solidarity in his work, which has been shown at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, MOMA, the Getty Museum in LA., the National Gallery of Canada, the 2019 Whitney Biennial and many more. Fernandes is working on a new piece commissioned by the Richmond Art Gallery at Capture Photography Festival in April 2021.

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