press release

Henceforth all things shall topsy-turvy turn; Physic shall kill, and Law enslave the world; Cits shall turn beaux, and taste Italian songs, While courtiers are stock-jobbing in the city. -- Henry Fielding, Pasquin, 1736

The teacher said that black was the opposite of white, sweet was the opposite of sour, and up was the opposite of down. I began to make my own list of opposites: the number one must be the opposite of the number ten, ice was the opposite of water, and birds were the opposite of snakes. --Jimmie Durham, “The Search for Virginity,” 1991

In World Upside Down, expectations about artistic and cultural norms are boldly stood on their heads. This exhibition explores how contemporary artists use strategies of symbolic inversion as a playful form of social satire.

In Indigenous cultures of the Americas the tradition of inversion is best known through the character of the Trickster, a spirit who sometimes teaches humanity about the morality of freedom by breaking all the rules. In Western culture the history of inversion is less central – in fact it literally emerges from the margins of medieval illuminated manuscripts, where images lurk depicting “world upside down” inversions. These include rabbits hunting humans, women beating men, and apes performing human tasks. In many of the early traditions of inversion the strategy was used not to challenge the social order but to confirm it by showing the absurdity of its opposite. It is only with a thousand years of historical distance that their subversive potential emerges. This exhibition takes up themes of inversion wherever it finds them, from Planet of the Apes and the killer rabbit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail to the inversions of “masterpieces” of the Western canon staged by artists such as Yinka Shonibare, Renée Cox, and Jim Logan. Superman even makes an appearance, but in World Upside Down he wears a hammer and sickle on his chest and fights to protect his comrades in the Soviet Union.

When the contemporary artists in this exhibition take up inversion they are using it self-consciously as a form of social critique. They aim at the dichotomies of gender, ethnicity, and sexuality that police many of our social hierarchies. When these hierarchies are set on their heads, the dichotomies that support them often collapse into absurdity, their regulatory function revealed to be arbitrary, conventional, and far from disinterested.

only in german

Kurator: Richard W. Hill
Walter Phillips Gallery / The Banff Centre

mit Ahmoo Angeconeb, Lori Blondeau, T.C. Cannon, Renee Cox, Jack Daws, Rosalie Favell, General Idea, Cheryl L´Hirondelle, Terrance Houle & Jarusha Brown, Goyce Kakegamic, Jim Logan, Shelley Niro, Roger Shimomura, Yinka Shonibare