Featured Features, the Whitehorse edition, is part of a series of project exhibitions that put forward possibilities for exchange between the sport of orienteering and art as viewership, interpretation and participation.
Orienteering, like art making, relies on complex visual literacy as athletes navigate terrain in search of topographical features. Spurs, knolls, distinctive boulders and ‘man made objects’ are represented by hundreds of peculiar, yet highly functional symbols. Scale, colour, line and other abstracted elements of a given landscape are also present on the orienteering map. Since it is imagery that allows this specialized ability to visualize terrain, can orienteering be used to expand our aesthetic understanding of the landscape and our movement within it? And how then, might orienteers contribute to a largely landscape-based collection of artworks?
The Yukon, (home to one of the largest orienteering clubs in Canada), is saturated with representations of its natural beauty in the form of paintings, drawings, prints and photographs. Could these prized landscapes be reconstituted, repurposed, or enriched through the use of different lenses? Both orienteers and artists navigate, render and interpret the natural terrain, constantly shifting between two and three-dimensional perspectives. In Featured Features, each represents an available system, language and field of knowledge made to inform and complicate the other.
Following a series of events that brought together artists, athletes, aesthetes, curators and coaches in Whitehorse, Featured Features was produced as an exhibition of artwork selected and interpreted by orienteers. With rich possibility for usership, open work and ‘bad’ art alongside aesthetic clashing and unexpected joke making, this process began to expand what can be considered a landscape work, a curatorial gesture as well as interpretive expertise when valuing a work of art.
1. This work builds on my earlier projects such as Portland Orienteering Museum (2010) and Featured Features, Rauma (2012). The idea of the “project exhibition” is borrowed from Marion Von Osten’s use of this term as a feminist strategy for counter-narration and the production of publics outside conventional exhibition formats. Marion Von Osten, “Another Criteria…or, What is the Attitude of a Work in the Relations of Production of Its Time?” in Afterall Issue 25 (Autumn/Winter 2010), pp. 56 – 69.
2. Together, the Yukon Arts Centre and the Yukon Permanent Art Collections hold over 400 works, which have been created by Yukon artists, or artists who’ve had a relationship to the north.
3.The Yukon Orienteering Association is a volunteer based organization with active roots in the territory dating back to the 1970’s.
4. Potential for this might be found in Shannon Jackson’s discussion of the “readymade reciprocal system.” Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics (New York and London: Routledge, 2011). pp. 93 – 95.
5. The possibility for replacing “art viewers” with “art users” is discussed by Stephen Wright, “Users and Usership of Art: Challenging Expert Culture” in Transform (http://transform.eipcp.net/correspondence/1180961069, 2007).
6. Sal Randolph reflects on the elements of surprise and embarrassment in her past project work. Sal Randolph, “Am I Open to Change?” Open Engagement: 100 Questions (www. http://openengagement.info/91-sal-randolph/, 2014).
7. Projects such as Carmen Papalia’s See For Yourself, Diane Borsato’s Objects in my Mouth and Jon Sasaki’s A Quarter Inch of a Tom Thomson Painting promise readings of “masterpieces” beyond the artists’ original intentions.