I Don't Get It

Aleesa Cohene, Untitled, 2017

I Don't Get It

Friday, September 8, 2017 to Saturday, October 21, 2017
Opening Reception
September 8,
6:00PM to 8:00PM
Brunch Talk
September 9,
12:00PM to 2:00PM
Thieves Like Us (Workshop)
September 5,
6:00PM to 9:00PM
About the Exhibition: 

Co-commissioned by Gallery 44, The Western Front (Vancouver) and The Rooms (St. John’s), I Don’t Get It is a new body of work by Aleesa Cohene. Through a two-channel video and a series of sculptures and photographs Cohene exposes how whiteness, as a fundamental category of belonging, is never not at play. 

How do my rhetorical politics contribute to what is happening around me? How do I make room for other systems of representation to come into being? These are the questions at the core of Aleesa Cohene’s new body of work, which pushes at the limits of what is legible within the homogeneity of contemporary white Hollywood cinema. 

"Aleesa Cohene’s most recent project I Don’t Get It takes as its starting point a two-channel video, each bearing one of the artist’s trademark composites. The characters she proffers here are neighbours—one black, one white. The scene that unfolds between them is a spare but familiar one, a frustrated exchange inevitably teasing out the intricacies of white fragility, of the permissions that whiteness creates to avoid, evade, or redirect.

At turns tense, embarrassing, and enraging, the work is a canny depiction of white supremacy at work, rendered as readily through inaction and silence as through the characters' exchange. Built in large part from white saviour narratives, in which white characters’ messianic actions serve not only to elevate characters of colour but to permit their own personal growth and discovery, I Don’t Get It directs our attention to the ubiquitous—and grossly destructive—scripts for white fulfillment and racialized gratitude that have come to shape much of contemporary life. The structure of the work reflects these dynamics trimly, with a disparity in the composites’ complexities underscoring the crude distortions in the way black and white bodies are captured on film and, by extension, writ into the cultural imaginary." 

--- Matthew Hyland, Director, Oakville Galleries, excerpt from essay entitled Something Better from forthcoming exhibition catalogue


This exhibition is curated by Noa Bronstein, Allison Collins, and Mireille Eagan.

Artist Biography: 

Vancouver-born artist Aleesa Cohene (º1976) has been producing video installations since 2001. Her work has shown in festivals and galleries across Canada as well as in Brazil, Cambodia, Germany, Latvia, Netherlands, Russia, Scandinavia, Turkey, and the United States. Recent solo exhibitions include I Know You Know (Oakville Galleries, Canada, 2015), Yes, Angel (Galerie Suvi Lehtinen, Berlin, 2012) and (Reykjavik Photography Museum, Iceland, 2013) and Like, Like (Glasmoog Gallery, Cologne, Germany 2010); and group exhibitions Slash (kim? Contemporary Art Centre, Riga, Latvia, 2015), Coming After (The Power Plant, Toronto, Canada 2012) and Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time (Or Gallery, Vancouver and Platform Gallery, Winnipeg, Canada 2010-11). In 2010 she completed a fellowship at the Kunsthochschule für Medien in Cologne, Germany mentored by artist/filmmaker Matthias Müller. She holds a Masters of Visual Studies from the University of Toronto. Her single-channel videos and installation works have been presented in a wide range of media arts contexts such as Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen; Indonesian Independent Film-Video Festival, Jakarta; Mix New York; Light Cone, Paris; Transmediale, Berlin; and the Toronto International Film Festival. She has participated in residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts, Canada; Impakt Festival, Netherlands; and the Danish Arts Agency, Denmark, amongst others and has won various grants and prizes. Her work is in the permanent collection of Oakville Galleries, Canada and in various private collections.