Matthew Brooks, Burger Time, 2017. Courtesy of the artist

In choosing works for this annual exhibition Michèle Thériault and I considered the artists’ words, or descriptions of what they would like to show, and images of past works or works-in-progress that gave us a sense of their respective styles. The proposals were like missives, to which we replied initially with more words: bold, haunting, romantic, incisive, considered, darkly funny or just plain dark.

There was no guiding theme for the exhibition, but connections between the works abound. After imagining the selected projects in the space, I kept circling back to two senses of the word “articulation” as a stand-in for a theme—the linguistic sense of a clear and coherent expression or speaker, and the more spatial sense of a joint, corner or link. Through the articulation of their practices, the selected artists reflect a feature of Concordia’s MFA pedagogy—that each takes responsibility in thought and in words for their works. The artists in IGNITION 14 have done this brilliantly. The second sense is more difficult to explain. By accident, or serendipity, or Michèle Thériault’s intuition, or a combination of these, the works were grouped in the gallery to suggest some form of an articulation—a joint, a corner, a link—between nature and culture, surfaces and depths, speaking, writing and fighting, and between thoughts of home and the feeling of being away.

In the first room Claire Ellen Paquet and Etta Sandry’s pieces are frozen in mid-conversation. Paquet’s looming banners showing excerpts from a book by Charles Darwin are confronted by Sandry’s leaning textile piece that captures the cycle of sunrise and sunset as a gestalt. In the next room, Matthew Brooks’s crisp nighttime views of vacant road-side architecture face-off with portraits of Brent Cleveland’s gooey and libidinally-charged cast of characters. These pairs of works describe then trouble a taken-for-granted line between nature and culture. Around the corner, Malcolm McCormick’s divided room-installation offers an anatomical view of painting as a play between decorative surfaces, constructed and projected depths, and ideal angles of vision. With this we are plunged into virtual and actual rooms for writers’ views. As Mara Eagle retraces facsimiles of Jane Austen’s correspondence live in the gallery, Muhammad Nour Elkhairy’s looped videos explore the exile’s task of writing-as-wish-fulfillment and as rehearsal. The concept of articulation in these works is freighted with the gender-politics of a channeled Victorian author, and the anti-colonial politics of Palestinians in the diaspora. Along the back of the gallery in three separate rooms, the concept comes up in works that explore the gaps and joints between home and away. Again, we are with exiles: on a suspenseful bike-ride home at dusk in Undine Sommer’s video; in the undulation of a dangling piece of driftwood, live-streaming a Newfoundland tide in Adam Simms’s kinetic sculpture; and in the gallery’s meeting room for an experiment with mediated intimacy in Emilie Morin’s Skype performance from her Montreal apartment.

Commentary by Tammer El-Sheikh

IGNITION is an annual exhibition that features new work by students currently enrolled in the Studio Arts or Humanities graduate programs at Concordia University. It provides an up and coming generation of artists with a unique opportunity to present ambitious, interdisciplinary works in the professional context of a gallery with a national and international profile. Graduate students work directly with Gallery staff to produce an exhibition that places an emphasis on critical, innovative, and experimental work, engaging in the exploration and consideration of diverse media and practices. IGNITION is of interest to all students and faculty, the art community, and the general public.

Projects selected by Tammer El-Sheikh and Michèle Thériault

Tammer El-Sheikh is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Fine Arts at Concordia. His teaching and research interests are focused on postcolonial theory and criticism and global contemporary art. His writing has appeared in Canadian Art, C Magazine, Parachute, ETC Magazine, ARTMargins and Arab Studies Journal. He is the Montreal correspondent for Akimbo.

Produced with the support of the Frederick and Mary Kay Lowy Art Education Fund.


Matthew Brooks

My work employs photographic space as a stage to explore the boundaries between the documentary and the fictional. Through the evocative use of light and recurring motifs, such as aging architecture and neon signage, an anachronistic reality adjacent to our own is revealed in which mundane scenes are transformed into cinematic tableaus. Within these large-scale images, the viewer’s perception of time and place is destabilized, creating an uncanny experience of both reality and fiction.


Bob’s Oil Co., 2017

Burger Time, 2017

Laundromat, 2018

Digital C-prints
122 x 152 cm each

Courtesy of the artist

In the ongoing series Scenes from an Untitled Film, I am interested in the process of translating reality into photographic images and the relationship between the film set and the built environment. Ambiguous narratives are embedded in each tableau, as spaces suggest traces of characters and create a sense of time where action seems to precede or follow the image.


  • From where do you start to bring a narrative to these photographs? Is it in the foreground? The background? From the camera’s standpoint? Or out of frame?
  • The time of the photographs—at dawn, dusk or the middle of the night—do these moments bring to mind particular, ready-made narratives?



Ferri, Graziano. “Italian Homes.” FotoRoom (2015). <fotoroom.co/italian-homes-matthew-brooks>

Brent Cleveland

In my practice I focus on harbouring an intimacy with the figure, as well as bringing a sense of humour to my own psychological complexes. I am interested in the aggressive nature of cuteness and the violent tendencies of socialization, specifically, how power is manipulated within social spheres. I believe my practice dances with and tickles at these threads, producing a seemingly endless curiosity for what might happen next.


From the series Time for Another Day

Tina, 2018

Lover, 2018

Brat, 2018

Daydreamer, 2018

Acrylic on canvas
152.4 x 121. 92 cm each

Anjelica Huston
, Roger Moore, Marsden Hartley, Little Ploop, 2017-2018

Oil and acrylic on board, glitter, fake lashes, earplug and plastic butterflies
20.32 x 15.24 cm each

Courtesy of the artist

I’m drawn to the idea of the portrait and how a singular icon is capable of displacing power hierarchies within the self. I desperately want to create meaningful relationships with the characters of my painting world as their identities become increasingly complex and interesting. Conceptually, these portraits become stand-ins to convey unresolved tensions within my own understanding of myself, often taking the form of absurd misfits, glamorous monsters, and misunderstood losers.


  • The thickness of the paint. How the all-over base layer of some works suggests a provisional surface where one portrait can be traced out and wiped away again.
  • Identities and categorization. Think about how you qualify the personality of each portrait. What is at stake when one, for example, is read as cute and another as grotesque?
Mara Eagle

My work circulates through intersections of language, technology and the body. I am interested in poetry, cyber-erotics, and feminist writings on science and philosophy. Irony and humor often figure into my work as affirmations of paradox and hypocrisy. Through sound, video, performance and kinetic sculpture, my work explores how popular narratives sustain grammars of gender and subjectivity.


The Incorporation of Jane Austen, 2018

Performance with chair, desk, lamp, stylus, ink pot, India ink and Mylar

Courtesy of the artist

Variable performance schedule

The artist will be on site 12 hours a week during opening hours according to a schedule posted on the Gallery’s website each Friday preceding the following week.

Duration of the performance: 120 to 180 min.

Week 1

Friday, May 4: 3 – 6 pm
Saturday, May 5: 2 – 5 pm

Week 2

Tuesday, May 8: 12 – 3 pm
Wednesday, May 9: 3 – 6 pm
Friday, May 11: 3 – 6 pm
Saturday, May 12: 3 – 5 pm

Week 3

Tuesday, May 15: 12 – 3 pm
Wednesday, May 16: 12 – 3 pm
Friday, May 18: 12 – 3 pm
Saturday, May 19: 2 – 5 pm

Week 4

Tuesday, May 22: 3 – 6 pm
Wednesday, May 23: 12:30 – 3:30 pm
Thursday, May 24: 12 – 3 pm
Friday, May 25: 12 – 3 pm

Week 5

Tuesday, May 29: 3 – 6 pm
Wednesday, May 30: 2:30 – 5:30 pm
Thursday, May 31: 12 – 3 pm
Friday, June 1: 3 – 6 pm

Given that graphologists use a person’s handwriting to infer character, I wonder will I also begin to take on character traits of Jane Austen as my hand incorporates hers? What connections exist between the body that writes and the creative product of its labour, the body of writing? This project is an invitation to be haunted and transformed through the rehearsal of another’s bodily gestures.


  • The act of corresponding with a writer’s work not through its content but the trace and form of the actual writing on the page.
  • The work of writing compared to the time taken to read.



Muhammad Nour Elkhairy

My character-based video work hovers at the intersection of video art, narrative film and popular moving image culture. It renders the screen a surface onto which the performed self exists between the interiority of the personal and the exteriority of the sociopolitical. With each viewing context I see an opportunity to explore the formal potential of different screens, so that the work might adapt and reach out to distinct audiences.


I would like to visit, 2017

Video on laptop, sound, 3 min.

P is for Palestine
, 2018

Video on a LCD screen, colour, sound, 3 min.

Courtesy of the artist

I would like to visit and P is for Palestine are part of a series of video character portraits that explore the unstable performance of identity for Palestinians within the diaspora and highlight the colonial legacy brought to bear on the locations in which the works were created, namely Montreal, Canada and Amman, Jordan. The works speak towards global political concerns, pointing to the subjective experiences of the characters in order to foreground that the personal is always political.


  • How both works establish a base vocabulary on Palestine and how the speaker or writer brings variation and repetition to this.
  • How does El-Khairy convey a sense of interruption, exception, or exteriority? Conversely, how is a sense of place invoked?


Artist’s Vimeo page <vimeo.com/mkhairy>

El-Sheikh, Tammer. “Interesting.” Canadian Art 35, no. 1 (Spring 2018): 82-85.

Malcolm McCormick

My work is driven by a desire to explore and share the language of painting (specifically colour, texture, and image) in a manner that complicates the medium’s close relationship to capital. Rather than producing autonomous paintings, I engage painting through expanded methods of installation. Utilizing video, architecture, and textiles, I alter exhibition spaces to provide immersive experiences that draw viewers’ attention to the phenomenological aspect of looking.


While You Were Gone, 2017-2018

Wood, fabric, paintings and base
Video projection, 20 min.

Courtesy of the artist

While You Were Gone is an immersive installation that combines architecture, painting, and moving image to address themes of time, space, absence, and the act of looking in the digital age. The title draws on the definition of “abstract” as an act of extraction or removal and is meant as a reflection on the role of abstract art during times of crisis.


  • Distraction and abstraction. Does the installation force a comparison between the experience of screen-based and gallery-situated viewing or are the lines blurred?
  • Variation and association. Consider the variations available through abstract painting and the associations guided by search engines and algorithms.



Emilie Morin

My practice stems from my experience as a dance performer and from my career focus, since 2011, on performing specifically within the screendance genre. Compelled by the idea of the camera as a new spectator and the screen as a new choreographic space, my work focuses on live streaming and video call devices that are enabling new modes of consuming moving images, reshaping how we communicate, our relationship to our bodies and acts of self-representation.


Trou (les beaux jours), 2016 –

Skype call performance upon appointment, approximate duration 8 min.
Artistic director and performer: Emilie Morin
Choreography: Manuel Roque

Courtesy of the artist

Schedule of appointments

Wednesday, May 2 | 5:45 – 7:30 pm

5:45 pm; 6:00 pm; 6:15 pm; 6:30 pm; 6:45 pm
7:00 pm; 7:15 pm

Friday, May 4 | 12 – 3 pm

12:00 pm; 12:15 pm; 12:30 pm; 12:45 pm; 1:00 pm; 1:15 pm; 1:30 pm; 1:45 pm; 2:00 pm; 2:15 pm; 2:30 pm; 2:45 pm

Thursday, May 10 | 1 – 5 pm

1:00 pm; 1:15 pm; 1:30 pm; 1:45 pm; 2:00 pm; 2:15 pm; 2:30 pm; 2:45 pm; 3:00 pm; 3:15 pm; 3:30 pm; 3:45 pm; 4:00 pm; 4:15 pm; 4:30 pm; 4:45 pm

Thursday, May 17 | 1 – 5 pm

1:00 pm; 1:15 pm; 1:30 pm; 1:45 pm; 2:00 pm; 2:15 pm; 2:30 pm; 2:45 pm; 3:00 pm; 3:15 pm; 3:30 pm; 3:45 pm; 4:00 pm; 4:15 pm; 4:30 pm; 4:45 pm

Thursday, May 24 | 1 – 5 pm

1:00 pm; 1:15 pm; 1:30 pm; 1:45 pm; 2:00 pm; 2:15 pm; 2:30 pm; 2:45 pm; 3:00 pm; 3:15 pm; 3:30 pm; 3:45 pm; 4:00 pm; 4:15 pm; 4:30 pm; 4:45 pm

Thursday, May 31 | 1 – 5 pm

1:30 pm; 1:45 pm; 2:30 pm; 2:45 pm; 3 pm; 3:15 pm; 3:30 pm; 3:45 pm; 4 pm; 4:15 pm; 4:30 pm

Trou (les beaux jours) (2015) is a dance piece watched through a Skype call. For Ignition, the performance is an eight-minute call between one viewer and myself at a time. I am curious to see if and what kind of shared intimacy can unfold between two strangers at a distance for such a short duration during which contact is connected and separated by a screen. What sort of communication can dance build with Skype?


  • Your body. How does the act of viewing a dance piece while seated in an office chair differ from the experience seated in a theater or other performance space?
  • The framing. How the performance works with, occupies or troubles familiar views available through a Skype conversation.


Interview for the videodance festival, Movimiento en Movimiento <vimeo.com/197719716>

Article on Screendance Studies <screendancestudies.wordpress.comscreendancestudies.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/trou-les-beaux-jours-une-performance-solo-sur-skype/>

Claire Ellen Paquet

My work begins as an enactment of material: a slow consideration of the emotional function of making. Resulting objects are often familiar or domestic in nature and are used to set up situations that speak to the relationship of our minds to our bodies in order to suggest possibilities for understanding and coping with emotion.


Chapter VII, 2017

Paper, tarred twine, excerpt from Charles Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872)

Courtesy of the artist

Words can roll (off the tongue), be drenched (in meaning), weave (in and out of legibility), or be cut (and pasted). Text is material capable of encapsulating and transmitting feeling. Chapter VII repurposes existing text, treating it as an object to be recast in a new material form. This object-text creates an opportunity for conversation with the viewer’s body and alludes to the (in)discernibility of negative emotions.


  • How the text as an object requires you to combine the act of reading with movement around the work.
  • And how through this way of reading the apprehension of the text’s content—a distanced, empirical study of emotion—drifts from fact to feeling.



Etta Sandry

My materials—graph paper, grids, text, and woven cloth—have inherent logic and language. I build on these pre-established systems by using them as tools and frameworks with which to create and probe. Through translation and rematerialization, I ask questions about seemingly dichotomous concepts, looking at the thing in between two ideas as a malleable membrane, as a third possibility: Is “no” the opposite of “yes”? Is there a space in between?


(45.544728, -73.632496), 2017

Hand-woven cotton, maple and sound
68.58 x 48.26 x 157.48 cm

The only thing I think I know for sure (Sunrise)
, 2017

Colored pencil on graph paper
83.82 x 91.44 cm

The only thing I think I know for sure (Sunset),

Colored pencil on graph paper
83.82 x 91.44 cm

Courtesy of the artist

The only thing I think I know for sure tracks the sunrise and sunset times in four places I’ve called home. Through these drawings, I attempt to locate myself by comparing a seemingly constant factor: the rise and fall of the sun. In (45.544728, -73.632496) I translate Montreal’s time series data into weaving and sound. This inquiry opens up broader questions about place, home, imagined futures, and patterns of time and movement on personal and global scales.


  • The grid as an organizing structure shared between the graph paper and the woven cloth.
  • Means of recording and recalling that do not result in a facsimile.



Artist Highlight: Etta Sandry, Textile Arts Center Blog <textileartscenter.com/blog/artist-highlight-etta-sandry/>

Adam Simms

I need to connect to Newfoundland: to belong to its landscape, to understand its isolation, to trace its history with my footprints so that it becomes a memory on the soles of my feet. I want to walk all over its history, stomp on it and rewrite it by being present in places that history has tried to erase. I must challenge globalization and its lack of consideration for the local.


Driftwood, 2017

Wood, fishing wire, electronic box, Wi-Fi
25.4 x 177.8 cm

Courtesy of the artist

I reclaimed the driftwood from the Atlantic Ocean while traveling to a resettled community off the coast of Newfoundland. Its dislocation and recontextualization in a gallery space are analogous to the forced migration of the Resettlement Acts implemented after the province joined Canada in 1949. Real-time data collected from a buoy introduces an intimate experience of presence that challenges the presumption that resettled communities have no great future.


  • How movement or animatedness links an object to its original environment.
  • What is suggested in the comparison of locality as encountered in a gallery space and as something experienced within a community?



Undine Sommer

The quotidian is my raw material, its muted possibilities my driving force. By weaving choreography and imaginary narratives into fact-based stories, my work dramatizes the gestures of memory. I aim to offer a physical perspective on politics, as somatic remembrances provide a site for memory outside of spectacle and bring to question the duration of the event. Portraying bodies entangled in history and conflict, I seek to preserve and articulate the confounding and agitating effect these histories have upon us.


Riding Home, 2018

HD video, colour, sound, 16:9, 3 min. 26 sec.
Courtesy of the artist

The artist thanks Iso E. Setel and Douglas Moffat for their assistance.

What you see in the image is an uneventful ride through a forest at dawn, but what you see through the text is the remembrance of a lecture by Ariella Azoulay on the mass rape of German women after WWII, an encounter with a psychotherapist, a woman locking the doors of her home. Text and image here become mutually constitutive, confusing and rearticulating the relation between vision and speech, poetics and images.


  • At what points does the text narrate the video? When is it at a distance from what is seen? What feelings are stirred when both line up? Or when the video image becomes the background to recollection?
  • Could the in-between moment of the early morning leave the imagery more susceptible or open to the influence of the text?