Felix Kalmenson

9 Feb — 25 Mar 2017 at the Pari Nadimi Gallery in Toronto, Canada

24 FEBRUARY 2017
As Always, 2017, installation view, Courtesy of Pari Nadimi Gallery
As Always, 2017, installation view, Courtesy of Pari Nadimi Gallery

Pari Nadimi Gallery is pleased to present как всегда / As Always, a second solo exhibition with Pari Nadimi by Felix Kalmenson.

как всегда translates to 'as always', a lamentation often uttered to express the experience of deep disappointment in the cyclical and perpetual failures of various institutions, groups and individuals. It expresses a certain sense of hopelessness born out of a history of subjugation and loss. The collapse of the Soviet system and its notion of futurity premised on a total break in history inaugurated a jingoistic nationalism. This new regime seeks to perpetuate ancient traumas through gendered expressions of power and loss. "как всегда" the old people mutter as we find ourselves once again at the beginning of history, with a stone hoisted against an unseen enemy. A cry is witnessed but is unheard in the bluster. How will we know which is history and which is memory? Will it be in stories carried through in thick and hidden layers?

как всегда / As Always is a video and installation project that centres around Kalmenson's migration from Leningrad, USSR and return after 27 years to Saint Petersburg, Russia. The show presents performance documentation from his residency at the National Center for Contemporary Art in Saint Petersburg and immersive installation works. Assembled through fragments gathered from a flea market near his childhood home and family stories Kalmenson presents a searching vision which seeks to dissect various motifs of memory construction.

Kalmenson's practice is concerned with the mediation of histories and contemporary narratives by state, institutional and corporate bodies. His work investigates how transformations in the architecture and landscape of communication function to radically reposition the individual in relation to constructed knowledges and lived experience, often exploring notions of publicness, trauma, and the relationship between the construction of history and territory and bourgeoning systems of enframement.

Felix Kalmenson (b. 1987 St Petersburg, Russia) is Toronto-based artist, working in installation, video, and performance. Kalmenson Completed a Bachelors of Architecture and Urban Studies at the University of Toronto in 2011. Kalmenson has exhibited in solo and curated group shows in galleries, artist-run centres, and museums in Canada and internationally including; Aomori Contemporary Art Centre (Aomori, Japan), Success (Perth), Museum Abteiberg (Germany), ZK/U Center for Art and Urbanistics (Berlin), Minsheng Art Museum (Shanghai), SPACES (Cleveland), The Elizabeth Foundation (New York), Le Cube (Rabat), La Fabrique Culturelle des Anciens Abattoirs (Casablanca), Centro Negra (Blanca, Spain) The New Gallery (Calgary), Kungliga Konsthögskolan (Stockholm), Shudder Gallery (Vancouver), TSV (Toronto), Gallery 44 (Toronto), and Pari Nadimi Gallery (Toronto). Kalmenson has participated in several international residency and fellowships programs including Rupert, Vilnius, Lithuania (2016), National Center for Contemporary Art, St. Petersburg, Russia (2016), Aomori Contemporary Art Centre in Aomori, Japan (2014), ZK/U Centre for Art and Urbanistics in Berlin (2013), Centro Negra in Blanca, Spain (2014), and the Boxes, Zones and Quarters Residency in Casablanca, Marrakech, and Rabat in Morocco (2014). Kalmenson is also the recipient of several grants from the Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts and just completed a year-long research project through the generous support of the Chalmers Arts Fellowship In London and Beijing studying imperial gardens as sites for the representation and construction of colonial power.

The artist would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Alterations are a series of C-prints derived from a process of digital manipulation involving Soviet postcards purchased at a flea market near Kalmenson's childhood home in Saint Petersburg. The postcards contain images of 'the good life', depicting ripe fruit, flower arrangements, and happy individuals in natural settings that are meant to denote the success of the Soviet projects' construction of a high standard of living and utopic conditions. The postcards however bear the marks of error—through misaligned offset printing, faulty crops and blurred imagery—failing to image what was in many ways a constructed vision. This evidence of the failures of the mechanization of print serve as an analog to examine by extension the failure of other mechanized processes to emancipate the worker and set the conditions for a prosperous society.

Kalmenson's fascination with the way that these printing errors draw attention to the construction of images and realities in the Soviet period drew connections for him with the falsification and manipulation of photographic images under Stalin's regime of image production. For decades photographs would be altered to erase political enemies from historical images and new images were forged in an attempt to construct new histories. Using a contemporary tool of image correction and disappearance—Photoshop's Content-Aware—Kalmenson manipulated the post cards by situating the postcards in a dialectic with the absence of images, allowing the program to degrade and re-form new realities based on an algorithmic process of non-human image-making. Content-Aware's inability to distinguish subject from background and object from image leads the program to erase individuals, flowers, and berries; instead constructing free-from tonal shifts and fragments, appearing less as digital constructions than objects constructed through analog collage techniques.