Ursula Mayer: Not a curse, nor a bargain, but a hymn. Installation view, Audain Gallery, 2014. Photo: Blaine Campbell.

Ursula Mayer: Not a curse, not a bargain, but a hymn

June 12 – August 02, 2014
Audain Gallery

Ursula Mayer’s practice is grounded in the semiotics of cinema. Her single and multi-channel films are crystalline circuits of images composed of signs borrowed from architecture, fashion, literature, politics, mythology, geology and visual art. These references cross multiple periods, locations, figures and works. Mayer uses the grammar of cinematography and montage to excavate how spatial composition, human choreography and narrative construction inform each other.

In her most recent body of work, Mayer also extends this grammar off screen. Not a curse, nor a bargain, but a hymn is a solo exhibition composed of two films, photographs, glass sculptures, fabric screens, collages and neon. The objects are displayed with the same attention to staging, framing and lighting that is evident in the films, creating a cinematic set in the gallery.

In these works, Mayer traces narratives on individualism, personal freedom and consumerism through pre-modern, modern and post-modern periods. She highlights Medea, Ayn Rand and Margaret Thatcher as symbolic figures from these periods, whose ideologies have accumulated in our increasingly individuated, neo-liberal ethos.

Mayer is also attuned to perceptions and representations of these figures’ femininity, sexuality and power. The exhibition’s title is borrowed from Mayer’s film Gonda (2012). It is excerpted from a rhetorical question Gonda poses about the existence of an ideal woman like herself. To address the role that images play in the construction of private and social identity, Mayer composes reflexive loops between the gaze and gestures of the image and spectator.

Mayer enlists a number of theoretical, structural and material frameworks to parse the construction of visual language and its impact on social formation, including Patricia MacCormack’s proposition for cinesexuality; Maria Fusco’s liquification of grammar; Pier Paolo Pasolini’s vision for a cinema of poetry; Gilles Deleuze’s formulation on the crystals of time; Donna Haraway's cyborg manifesto; and Bruno Gironcoli’s modernist sculpture. Mayer synthesizes these conceptual forces to transfigure the curse of idealism into a hymn.

Ursula Mayer is an Austrian artist who lives and works in London. She studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna and at Goldsmiths College, London. She has exhibited in major art festivals and institutions such as Moderna Musset, Malmö; 21er Haus, Vienna; Ursula Blickle Foundation, Kraichtal; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Tramway, Glasgow; Performa 11, New York; 11th Baltic Triennial at CAC Vilnius; 2nd Athens Biennale; The Banff Centre, Banff; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Kunstverein Hamburg; Lentos Museum, Linz; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Whitechapel Gallery, London; MoMA PS1, New York; and Kunsthalle Basel.

All works are courtesy of the artist; Juliètte Jongma, Amsterdam; Krobath Wien | Berlin; and Monitor, Rome.

Curated by Amy Kazymerchyk.


Opening Reception
Wednesday, June 11, 8pm

Artist Talk: Ursula Mayer
Wednesday, June 11, 7pm
Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre
Simon Fraser University
149 West Hastings Street

Screening: Ursula Mayer: House of Mirrors
Monday, June 16, 7:30pm
DIM Cinema at The Cinematheque
1131 Howe Street

Further unfolding the cinematic grammar of Ursula Mayer’s films Gonda (2012) and Medea (2013), House of Mirrors is a survey of her cinematic work from 2005-2010, featuring Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight (2009), The Lunch in Fur/ Le Dejeuner en Fourrure (2008), The Crystal Gaze (2007), Interiors (2006), Portland Place 33 (2005), Keeling House (2006) and Villa Mairea (2006).

Co-presented with DIM Cinema and The Cinematheque. Courtesy LUX, London.

Christine Evans will introduce the House of Mirrors screening. Evans is a sessional instructor in Film Studies at the University of British Columbia. Her research focuses on the intersections between love, universality, Lacanian psychoanalysis and film theory.

No Looking After the Internet: Affective Analysis
Facilitated by Laura U. Marks
Wednesday, July 9, 6pm
Audain Gallery

Laura U. Marks will facilitate an open reading of Ursula Mayer’s images using affective analysis, a method that postpones thinking in order to attend to affective and bodily responses and perceptions. No Looking After the Internet prompts the open reading of images and objects, and encourages visual literacy through sustained private and public attention in the gallery.

Laura U. Marks is a scholar, theorist and programmer of independent and experimental media arts. She teaches in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University.

Exhibition Tour: Amy Kazymerchyk
Saturday July 19, 1pm
Audain Gallery

Join us for a tour of the exhibition led by curator Amy Kazymerchyk. Afterward, walk with us to the Satellite Gallery for a 2pm tour of Welcome to Screenland by guest curator Carolyn Jervis, then continue to Contemporary Art Gallery for a 3pm tour of exhibitions by Kelly Richardson and Steffan Bruggemann led by director Nigel Prince.

Not a curse, nor a bargain, but a hymn is presented with support from the The Austrian Federal Chancellery, Division II: Arts.

Support Material