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Will Kwan: Art with a Global Currency

Minna Lee | Canadian Art online | November 2009

If the recession of the past few years has taught us anything, it’s that the great matrix of capitalist modernity is indeed global. From Sarnia to Shanghai, Dubai to Delft, none was spared—and capitalism’s endgame continues on. In his first major solo exhibition “Multi-lateral,” curated by Barbara Fischer at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Toronto artist Will Kwan attempts to probe these complex underpinnings of the modern world. In Clocks That Do Not Tell the Time, Kwan diverts our gaze from the financial hubs of New York, London, Tokyo and Paris to map out lesser-known sites of significance to the global economy. Endless Prosperity, Eternal Accumulation consists of 80 photographs of hongbao (red envelopes used for gifting money in the Chinese tradition) encrusted with corporate insignia, evoking the multinational banking system. Canaries (The Bank and the Treasury) brings together Taoist notions of the afterlife and the colonial legacies of HSBC bank. The rest of the exhibition features works in photography, earth art, performance and video, with a couple of Kwan's featured pieces also opening this week in an exhibition with international media collective Cinema Suitcase at Western Front in Vancouver. Whatever his media or location, Kwan’s mapping of the contemporary world promises to be both disquieting and compelling.

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