Alex Morrison
November 23–December 22, 2007

Based in Vancouver, Morrison is known internationally for his works that, through their construction, analyse both the self-conscious staging of subculture and the strong capacity of genre to mediate past events.

In this exhibition, Morrison assembled a series of new works that reference the ambiguous summit of academia, social critique, and architectural vanguardism known as Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, in order to backlight the convergence of certain economic and cultural forces that have shaped the local and global aftermath of modernism since 1965.

Deployed almost as film props or set pieces for the staging of a dystopian movie, Morrison’s sculptures, banners, drawings, painting and video allude to real events and figures but fabricate these into a kind of fictive counter-environment through which to assess the working of history. Provisional Structure (2007) is a faux-weathered, sculptural representation of an SFU campus feature designed by architect Arthur Erickson which has changed from functioning as a soapbox podium for activists into being a static commemorative monument. Morrison’s replicated object poses questions about how narrative operates to define or placate communal space and to eulogize the recent past.

Branded in the university’s present slogan “Radical… by design,” the ideals of interdisciplinary freedom and progressive social reform that inspired the founding of SFU in 1965 are satirized in Morrison’s sculptural remodeling of a sixties caricature of academic freedom campaigners, Proposal for a New Monument at Freedom Square (2007). Banners, drawings, and a large triangular painting entitled Picture for a Glass Tower (New Dawn Rising) by Morrison evoke the influence of eastern metaphysics on 1960s counter-culture and contrast principles of co-operation, equality, and breakdown of form against the arch-modernism and formalized administration of the university.

After forty years the oppositional force and political intent of the vanguardist gesture has been assimilated in various ways. This exhibition proposed a scenario where the transformation of recent events and figures into narrativized genres and texts might be temporarily paused, interrupting their historical absorption and regimentation in order to regard their present and actual social and cultural effects.

Documentation by SITE Photography.