Prefix ICA » Charles Stankievech The Soniferous Æther


October 2 to November 21, 2015

Charles Stankievech
The Soniferous Æther of the Land Beyond the Land Beyond

Curated by Scott McLeod

Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art is pleased to present The Soniferous Æther of the Land Beyond the Land Beyond, the first solo exhibition in Toronto of work created by multidisciplinary artist Charles Stankievech. The exhibition features a 35mm film installation produced during the artist’s residency at the Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert, along with a selection of accompanying artifacts. As such, this exhibition represents the first time that the installation has been exhibited with all of its constituent elements.

Located on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, the Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert is the northernmost permanent settlement on Earth. Formerly a weather station, it became a signals intelligence facility used to eavesdrop on Russian communications during the Cold War and it is now used exclusively as a Canadian military surveillance outpost. Addressing this site, The Soniferous Æther of the Land Beyond the Land Beyond (2013) is one of a series of fieldworks in which Stankievech examines remote settlement architecture, military infrastructure and the “embedded landscape”–a term used by the artist to refer to how the landscape shapes us as much as we shape it. The exhibition features a 35mm film installation produced during the artist’s residency at CFS Alert, along with a selection of accompanying artifacts.

Shot during the continuous darkness of the Arctic’s winter months, the artist employed a computer-controlled, time-lapse tracking camera to capture a series of black-and-white photographs, which were then transferred to 35mm motion-picture film. The result is a sequence of shots that slowly pan across the barren landscape and through the eerily empty interiors of the station, culminating in a distant view of the military spy outpost aglow against the blackness of the Northern sky. Equally haunting is the film’s soundtrack: a composition of indecipherable numerical sequences and electrical pulses, sound bites obscured by radio static, and ghostly music sampled from Glenn Gould’s recording of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

Accompanying the film installation are a selection of artifacts: a pair of wall-mounted clocks that use different power sources and, as a result, are out of sync; a vinyl record; an artist’s book; and a selection of photographs, redacted post cards and archival documents from CFS Alert. While references to science-fiction tropes and Kubrickian aesthetics are evident in the film, the artifacts provide a reminder that the project is grounded in the documentation of an actual site, one that exists at the very edge of Canadian sovereignty and that is deeply embedded in the history of military surveillance.

About the Artist

Charles Stankievech is a multidisciplinary artist who was born in 1978 in Okotoks, Alberta. In sculptures, fieldworks, sound pieces, installations and films realized in a host of remote locations, he critically examines the history, specificity and geopolitics of place. In 2007, he received an MFA in Open Media from Concordia University (Montréal) and, in 2011, he was a finalist for the Sobey Art Award. His work has been widely exhibited at institutions including the Palais de Tokyo (Paris), Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (North Adams, MA), Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (Vienna) and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Copenhagen), as well as at the 10th Venice Biennale of Architecture. He has participated in residencies at numerous institutions including Flaggfabrikken (Norway), Museums Quartier (Austria), Nodar Artist Residency Centre (Portugal), Waterpod (New York) and the Banff Centre for the Arts. Also a writer, curator and educator, he was a founding faculty member of the Yukon School of Visual Arts (Dawson City, Yukon) and is the founder and co-director of K. Verlag, a critical art and theory press based in Berlin. Currently, he lives and works in Toronto, where he is the director of Visual Studies in the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, University of Toronto.

Project Supporters

Canada Council for the Arts