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by Robert Epp.
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by Dr. Jeanne Randolph.
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by Cliff Eyland.
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commentary by Robert Epp
on Gordon Lebredt's
white walls:black holes
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by Gordon Lebredt on his
white walls:black holes
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by Gordon Lebredt from
white walls:black holes
This -- the very book you have open before you -- is not of the exposition proper. To be a bit more precise, what you have in your hands is a supplement.1 Now even though it is a display object, it is not a work of art. Logically speaking, we say that its role in such an event is merely ancillary or subordinate, its participation counting only insofar as it in some way supports or extends the scope of what is offered within the precincts of a more or less conventional presentational format.
By all accounts, it should prosthetically assist in extending the limits of the exposition, but only from its internal border. Given that it takes part in the exhibition, it should work (if it makes sense, here, to say that it works) the exposition -- the work as exposition -- from just inside its border. But to say that it works only from what I have called the internal border (which implies that some sort of external limit is in play as well) is to admit that the border proper to the exhibition is not as simple as it appears. Besides, we're not even sure that we know what border we are speaking of, for when I say its border, am I referring to the border of the exposition proper or that of the book? Even if its job is to make things easier, the book and its borders necessarily complicates things. So, even if we agree that the book does not in itself constitute a work, apparently it still has a job to do.
For example: it can work to facilitate one's approach to the objects on display (expand and expound further on the oeuvre as it were); but it can, in turn, also make work. For all intents and purposes, it can itself demand that one work. Not in the sense that one should make a work (this possibility is not, however, completely out of the question), but that one must be attentive to what is shown or what is said about the work in the work. And this takes work, is work-making. Thus, the book is something of a devil's advocate. Now for some, this would be equivalent to saying that the book, in effect, is engaged in advocating for a bad cause. But what in this instance would constitute a bad cause or condition? The book itself? The book as supplement as depreciator? More importantly, does this not imply that I view the book as some sort of agent provocateur working against the exhibition? Yes, in a certain sense and from a difficult to determine angle, I do. At the risk of over simplifying things, I would say that the book is representative in the sense that it is an agent, the delegate of something or some thing that might not know -- or care to know -- its own place, its own topos. But who or what, then, would it be working for if not strictly speaking for the exhibition? What kind of archive would disparage, internally, its own reserves, its own resources?
Convention requires that the book, as archive or reserve, withdraw, hold itself in abeyance since, as a mere supplement, it doesn't have the authority to proclaim itself a work of art. In this case, it has been reduced to becoming the repository for what could not be shown -- what I will call my no-shows. Now it's quite understandable if this condition should come to be seen as a sad state of affairs, hence, as one extended work of mourning.2 Indeed, at first glance this account book or ledger -- even now, I don't know how else to classify it -- appears to commemorate, somewhat ironically, the very fate that the disposition or placement of most of these so-called no-shows laboured so intensively to avoid. Some would argue that this condition -- a result of the work's fixedness, its specificity, its commitment to a particular location -- was unavoidable, that such a modus operandi prefiguratively condemned it to an image bank of one kind or another. And some, no doubt, would even go so far as to claim that the approach was a way of avoiding the future, of not having to confront, at some point down the road, certain inevitable acts of institutional renovation. Doubtless these are valid criticisms and I do not dismiss them out of hand. However, in lieu of a response, I will say, all to briefly, that, for me, there are bound up in these criticisms, these concerns for the future, relations to a certain notion of expenditure: a form of potlatch or, as Bataille would have it, expenditure without reserve.3 If this is the case, would we not, then, be witnesses to an empty or overdrawn reserve, a reserve without reserve?
But the word reserve doesn't simply refer to a repository or archive; it is also indicative of delay or deferment. Epokhé, the title of an exhibited work, thus announces in its very nomenclature this notion of suspension or delay. And what must be accounted for along this detour is the differentiated apparatus that necessarily imposes itself between the work -- the work, inasmuch as it stands forth, differentiates itself from the apparatus -- and its reception. Thus, it was precisely the relay, the play between posts that will have been accounted for in the no-shows. Here, there, everything, will have rested with the point of emission or send-off; nothing, here, there, will have been sent in anticipation of an immediate return.4 And if there should happen to be some reception, that the work, by chance, happens to be received, it will not have been by way of the logic of the rendezvous, that is to say, the programmed, calculated-in-advance encounter. As far as I was concerned, it was enough that one chanced the send-off. Unaddressed, the works' reception or destination was relegated to the vicissitudes of the relay itself. At this point, one was reduced to saying that, in part, it will have arrived -- if it arrives -- belatedly. So you see, the work as dispatch or missive was, at once, from the point of emission, destined to suffer delay: delay as return or repetition.
It will have returned -- if it returns -- as if from the future.
In other words, it returns, comes back -- if it comes back -- as a spectre, a ghost.
As an (after)image -- perhaps.
At this point, the account fails. But then, that was its mission. In giving itself, in advance, over to the image, to the image bank at large, it feigns -- but I no longer know if this is a simulation or not -- drawing itself up to the abyss. Busying itself about the abyss, the account comes apart.
And (or) so it seams.
1. Everything begins with reproduction. Always already: repositories of a meaning which was never present, whose signified presence is always reconstituted by deferral, nachträglich, belatedly, supplementarily: for the nachträglich also means supplementary. The call of the supplement is primary, here, and it hollows out that which will be reconstituted by deferral as the present. The supplement, which seems to be added as a plentitude to a plentitude, is equally that which compensates for a lack (qui supplée). Suppléer: 1. To add what is missing, to supply a necessary surplus, says Littré, respecting, like a sleepwalker, the strange logic of that word. It is within its logic that the possibility of deferred action should be conceived, as well as, no doubt, the relationship between the primary and the secondary on all levels. Let us note: Nachtrag has a precise meaning in the realm of letters: appendix, codicil, postscript. Jacques Derrida, Freud and the Scene of Writing, Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1978), pp 211-12.
2. The work, insofar as it survives, stands as a limit to the processes -- the working through -- of interiorization. Thus the work, as a form of mourning, will always remain, interminably, at a remove from the one who mourns. It is, precisely, this lack of closure, this necessary exteriorization or ex-scription that is being memorialized here.
3. As a game, potlatch is the opposite of a principle of conservation: it puts an end to the stability of fortunes as it existed within the totemic economy, where possession was hereditary. An activity of excessive exchange replaced heredity (as a source of possession) with a kind of deliriously formed ritual poker. But the players never retire from the game, their fortunes made; they remain at the mercy of provocation. At no time does a fortune serve to shelter its owner from need. On the contrary, it functionally remains -- as does its possessor -- at the mercy of a need for limitless loss, which exists endemically in a social group. Georges Bataille, The Notion of Expenditure, Visions of Excess: Selected Writings 1927-1939, trans. Allan Stoekl (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985), pp 122-23
4. This is not to disparage the place of the viewer. Contrary to what certain models of communication presuppose, structurally speaking, there is can be no absolutely determinable viewer (point of reception) prior to something being sent. Which is another way of saying that the very possibility of reception is a condition of non-reception. Suffice it to say that Duchamp's comment concerning the spectator who later [with all kinds of delays] becomes the posterity irreducibly still holds.
* * *
Last Word No Exchange, 1977-1980:
Last Words No Exchange (part 2) 1977-1980 (formerly Untitled, 1980) consists of two wall paintings in which a heavy frame has, for the most part, been painted out leaving only a pair of opposed corners exposed. It was a supplement to the installation Last Word No Exchange (actually the principal pieces were removed during the final week of the exhibition and replaced with the wall paintings) and clearly anticipates my actions taken with regard to the framing of Title: not specified and Epokhé. The issue there was the notion of what I call the paint back, that is, the necessity of having to paint out at the end of an exhibition, anything that had been applied directly to the display walls. In fact, I have several proposals dealing with this issue that involve the over-painting of a number of Garry Neill Kennedy wall works.
The black borders come from a 1974 wall work called Get Hold of This Space. It was installed on the back wall of my studio for years. In the case of Untitled, the borders --complete rectangles -- were painted on the north and south walls of 54 Arthur Street (Winnipeg). Then, in each case, the entire interior of the rectangle as well as most of the frame was painted over in the same white as the gallery wall. Although it's not evident in the photos, the underlying -- the now covered -- portion of each frame could still be read through the coat of white latex. The texts were then superimposed onto their respective interior fields. In the case of Kennedy's work, my plan was to come in after one of his shows had closed and, like some gallery assistant, proceed to remove whatever he had applied to the walls by painting it out with the paint the gallery used to return the space to a pristine state. However, certain strategic areas would be left exposed thus constituting my contribution, my exhibition as it were.
Actually, such a work was completed for an ALLM group effort in 1997. The premise of the exhibition was that one artist would open what would be a succession of one-person exhibitions. Now each artist that followed had the responsibility to oversee the strike of the preceding show, at which point he or she was required to retain something from that show. I was the first up but since I didn't follow anybody, I retroactively secured something of the last artist scheduled (Janice Gurney), thus holding in advance something that hadn't yet put in an appearance. When it came turn for Janice to show, all traces of my efforts had vanished, so we thought we would temporally complicate things even more by bringing back fragments of the first exhibition, to have them in effect, resurface-once again, retroactively-through the various accumulated overpaintings.
* * *
Film Stills - Village of the Damned, 1960, Wolf Riller, Director:
The film stills refer to a drawing in the supplement titled What Birds See and its embodiment in the installation Last Words, Second Thoughts (exhibited at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 1978). A question then of thought transference or telepathy (a reference to Conceptual art and how one might materialize an idea), clock-time (unfortunately I forgot to include an image of the clock face, i.e., a reference to faciality, to the material support as face), the bomb-in-a-valise (Deconstruction as a time bomb that was imported into America much like the plague of psychoanalysis: also Duchamp's valise, his Boîte-en-valise, another French or foreign import), and the burning house which, in the film was a school house, a lyceum.) [See below: reply to Jeanne Randolph.]
Reply to Jeanne Randolph:
Date: Sun, 14 Aug 2005 22:50:20 -0500
Subject: Readings that mattered
From: "firstname.lastname@example.org" <email@example.com>
Apparently Heidegger didn't care much for speed; Lacan, however liked fast cars.
-- So, what are the consequences when one goes faster than one's own time?
Now Deleuze and Guattari were speedsters of a sort. Reading Ant-Oedipus -- possibly one of the more pertinent texts with respect to the work under consideration -- was like listening to two guys bantering into a microphone while out jogging in the park. Pretty fast stuff by academic standards.
-- Speed before space and time (Bernard Stiegler).
Which is probably just another way of saying différance, différence with an a that is. Numbers, in Dissemination by Jacques Derrida, was very influential. It contains, in my opinion, one of the more complex topological models of the archive in general: ex-scription to the limit, etc.
Notwithstanding the issue of speed -- speed and programme; sometimes I get the two confused. You know, like in the game Need for Speed: you can even turn around and go backwards at Daytona, but you can't, at some point, cut out and drive to the West coast.
-- If it's not in the programme, it doesn't happen (Lyotard).
But the space of the work is quite slow. Slow Space as Michael Bell would have it. You should check out his Space Replaces Us (2004).
Space and time out of joint. It's as if things were indeed going backwards. Nachträglichkeit according to Freud. Passing everything on the road, but in reverse. Passibility is the Thing (See Howard Hawk's The Thing (1951)). It's like going to warp-speed where, on the bridge of the Enterprise, there is no sensation of acceleration, yet things momentarily, almost imperceptibly, go slightly out of register. That's why one can't, here, speak of perception. In a pinch, perhaps, a bad 3-D black and white movie -- 13 Ghosts (1960), for example -- might do (See all the films of Guy Debord, Chris Marker, etc. insofar as they predate John Waters). Come to think of it, most of my points of reference aren't theoretical texts; rather, they're B-movies, the ones that played every Saturday at the Lyceum theatre in downtown Winnipeg. (Lyceum: the place where it was said Aristotle taught, the place where one might still go to receive a classical education.) No doubt you recall Freud's comment upon arriving in New York, the offhand remark about bringing the plague to America. Well, it could be said that deconstruction came to Baltimore (John Hopkins University) one morning in 1966 and went off like a bomb, a bomb in a valise, much like the one depicted in Wolf Rilla's Village of the Damned (1960) which -- like Duchamp's Boîte-en-valise -- brought the house down. (Isn't John Waters from Baltimore?)
-- Slow burn of the plague of detent, the apocalypse not now! The interminable condition of analysis. Thus a condition more Jew than Greek. See Jabes and Joyce -- as well as Borges, Beckett, Blanchot, and Bataille.
* * *
What Birds See/Point of No Return, 1976:
What Birds See is a citation from Nathalie Sarraute. I can't recall if it's a title of a work or if it was taken from the body of a text. (The full title of the drawing is What Birds See/Point of No Return, 1976.) As far as the title of the drawing is concerned, the citation refers to Pliny's recounting of a story about a painting competition: The contemporaries and rivals of Zeuxis were Timanthes, Androcydes, Eupompus, Parrhausius. This last, it is recorded, entered into a composition with Zeuxis. Zeuxis produced a picture of grapes so dexterously represented that birds began to fly down to eat from the painted vine. Whereupon Parrhausius designed so lifelike a picture of a curtain that Zeuxis, proud of the verdict of the birds, requested that the curtain should now be drawn back and the picture displayed. When he realised his mistake, with a modesty that did him honour, he yielded up the palm, saying that whereas he had managed to deceive only birds, Parrhausius had deceived an artist. (Pliny, Natural History, Book XXXV, 64-6) A story then of vision, of techné, one-upmanship, supports (remember the Road Runner cartoon, of the image of the tunnel entrance painted on the rock face), and an alien regard. One should read this cautionary(?) tale with the final scene in Wolf Rilla's Village of the Damned (1960) in mind, in which a professor attempts to conceal from a group of telepathic children (his students who are hosts for some alien species) the fact that there's a time-bomb in his briefcase, by focusing his thoughts on the image of a brick wall. The entire sequence involves the rapid cutting between close-ups of the professor, the children, the face of a large clock, the briefcase, and the image of the brick wall (superimposed over the face of the professor). I was never happy with the installation of the work at the WAG (Winnipeg Art Gallery). The humanoid figures unfortunately anthropomorphized the entire scene; one alternative proposal called for two opposed blank walls to be rigged for audio playback. At least in the drawing the birds, which were depicted as facing off -- like so many students -- against a blank screen or board, could be taken as representing an alien look or regard. That look could be considered the source of the black hole present in the field of vision or at the centre of any picture: the gaze of the other, the other which is not (necessarily) human. (See Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, ed. Jacques-Alain Millar, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1978), pp 65-119.) The white wall: the display surface which is usually painted white or something neutral. I consider the wall (support or subjectile) to be continuous, a band or banding that, although it appears uninflected and of one piece, is always already discontinuous, discontinuous in the sense that it may be construed as a differential, i.e., as something that maintains itself, erects itself internally through the conflicts of stricture. In other words, there is always more than one band, that is, different tensions or strictures within what appears to be a homogenous field. Deleuze and Guattari's notion of smooth space, an abstracted, nomadic space -- as opposed to a striated, sedentary one -- has, over the years, gained considerable purchase in the field of architectural theory. I'm inclined, however, to distance myself from such a notion simply because the way continuity or the continuous is posed there presupposes an unquestioned immediacy or proximity. In a word, it's just too metaphysical (hierarchical), especially when the notion of the body without organs is introduced into the picture. [This long standing opinion has recently been confirmed by Derrida -- and I'm more or less simply reiterating his comments in this aside -- in On Touching -- Jean-Luc Nancy, trans. Christine Irizarry (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005), pp 125-128 and 156.] Faciality or the surface of faceification arises not so much from the notion of smoothness but completeness: one could say that a blank or monochrome canvas is like a face because it is complete or whole. [I owe the notion of completeness with respect to non-representational painting or object making to Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe -- see Beyond Piety: Critical Essays on the Visual Arts, 1986-1993, pp 73-74, for example, the nonrepresentational object cannot but be complete. It cannot be seen as cropped or adumbrated, as may representation, because it's all there. (74)] My only comment on this impression would be to say that such a possibility -- the sense or effect of wholeness or completeness -- is a possibility, one possibility, among others, of a band already divided, already marked, already --catastrophically -- misaligned with itself.
* * *
A monologue with Robert Smithson (an excerpt: point number six, 1989-92):
The extract from the monologue with Smithson was a belated attempt to come up with some sort of script for the 1983 proposal made to YYZ. Originally the proposal called for some sort of dialogue between Smithson and Paolo Uccello, between two specters, but after some thought -- the proposal had been rejected by the selection committee -- I decided instead to script something more along the lines of an interview, an interview with a ghost:
Accompanying an early article Some Void Thoughts on Museums, in your collected writings, is a reproduction of a drawing titled The Museum of the Void.82 It features the entrance to the museum named in the title. The façade recalls something you might find in a theme park or midway. The threshold, at least as it's depicted, appears radically extended, to the point where all that exists of the interior is a threshold, beyond which one sees nothing but a gaping black hole. A black hole or nucleus, core or kernel -- a cryptic enclave.83 Nothing is revealed with respect to the structure's interior topography, its topocryptography.84 Do you see this interior void as representative or reflective of the place of the Nonsite? And if so, wouldn't this make it -- this opaque opening -- the figure of a place or placement without place?85 Since, on a number of occasions, you've underscored the museum's resemblance to a crypt or sepulcher, a place where artworks appear to be placed in a kind of suspended animation, a condition whereby one could say that they are neither dead nor alive.86 Now it seems to me that the structure of the Nonsite reiterates the logic of such a condition, going so far as provided us with a schema of its operation. By logic, I mean the inherent or structural contradiction which demands that the (non)site maintain itself through the necessary -- hence, interminable -- reappropriation of its borders or its limits. This condition, this necessity -- what I'm calling the taking place of what is without place -- designates the site/nonsite of an impossible mourning. A belated monument, as you might have it, to the preservation of the catastrophe that has befallen art?87
*[One last remark before closing this section: I suppose, in order to have it fit the column, the image was cropped. A portion of the right side of the drawing is missing. An unfortunate omission don't you think? On the original, however, you've drawn what appears to be a blank square -- an opening or, perhaps, even a mirror.88 Outside the confines of the museum -- but I'm not sure we can say where the outside begins in this particular image -- we are shown something the editors thought they could dispense with: the crux of the issue in the form of a marginal notation. An extra, supplementary space.
Thus the museum, as soon as it opens, that is, to the extent that one can say that it is at some point open, always harbours within itself an extra space, one more empty square. An open and discounted, discarded face. Perfectly superficial.89 Which, as I take it, means that any labour spent to exceed its limits will never be completed; the onto-enclyclopedic museum spreads its surfaces everywhere....90 The limit is no longer a limit. Or as you yourself might hazard it: there is/was always another geometry, another differential topology to come. Altogether other. The same.]91
*The text within the brackets is a later addition (1992) to the original manuscript. My comments on the drawing The Museum of the Void was based on the reproduction in The Writings of Robert Smithson, ed. Nancy Holt (New York: New York University Press, 1979), and it wasn't until a few years later, after having come across a publication that reproduced the full image (see Robert Smithson Unearthed: Drawings, Collages, Writings, Eugenie Tsai (New York and Oxford: Columbia University Press, 1991), p 158, that I realized that my original source had been severely cropped.
82. Smithson, The Writings of Robert Smithson, p 58.
83. Jacques Derrida, Fors: The Anguish Words of Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, The Wolf Man's Magic Word: A Cryptonomy, trans. Nicholas Rand (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), p xiv.
84. Derrida, The Wolf Man's Magic Word, p xxi.
85. The topography of the safes requires us to think about a no-place or non-place within space, a place as no-place. Derrida, The Wolf Man's Magic Word, p xxi.
86.Museums are tombs, and it looks like everything is turning into a museum. And: museums and parks are graveyards above the ground . Smithson, The Writings of Robert Smithson, pp 58 and 133 respectively.
87. According to Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, cryptic incorporation is symptomatic of an impossible or refused mourning, of an inability to complete the process of introjection. See Derrida, The Wolf Man's Magic Word, p xxxvii.
88. Eugenie Tsai, Robert Smithson Unearthed: Drawings, Collages, Writings (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), p 158.
89. Perfectly superficial. This volume, this cube was without depth. That is why you can indifferently have confused it with a flat square . Jacques Derrida, Dissemination, trans. Barbara Johnson (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1981), p 358.
90. Smithson, The Writings of Robert Smithson, p 58.
91. Derrida, Dissemination, p 366.
* * *
What's Behind It All? 1974-1980:
One important work that's missing from white walls:black holes is What's Behind It All? 1974-1980 which introduced the open letter format. Although Gloss --(present appearances), 1982, can be considered a displacement (the first displacement with respect to my engagement with an institution's space of display), in my opinion Foyer was a much clearer statement. Locating What's Behind It All? in the foyer of 54 Arthur Street was crucial to the development of the logic of the supplement. A foyer or vestibule can function as an introductory space, but is usually thought of as peripheral or secondary in the hierarchical organization of complex spaces. However, the term foyer can also refer to the hearth or fire box, to the centre or heart of a home or household.
* * *
Voice Over, 1977:
The video Voice Over was to consist of a single monitor having its station selector set to receive only snow and white noise. However, beneath the rush of sound one was to hear, albeit with difficulty, a voice; indeed, one should have been capable of making out a barely audible monologue which belonged to none other than the ghost of Marshal McLuhan, a recording of an interview drawn from the CBC-Radio's archives. (Of course, at the time McLuhan was still very much alive.)
It was interesting to see that a year or so ago a commercial film called White Noise was released which dealt with the voices of the dead (see also Voice of the Future/Text of the Dead, 1980), voices which apparently could communicate with the living through various household electrical appliances. Such a phenomenon had at one time a certain degree of scientific credibility, the studies of which, if I'm not mistaken, were credited by the filmmakers. As I recall, one of the principal investigators of the phenomenon was a fellow named Konstantin Raudive. At the time, however, my concerns lay with 1) the notion of the spectrality insofar as its effects are manifested by way of various tele-technologies: telephone, radio, television, film and video and 2) telepathy or thought transference and its relation to the other (the other within oneself). Even now, I will often, rather disingenuously, deny that there are any concepts in my work, at least none that would function as organizational themes or principles, my defence being that I considered the Concept invariably smelled too much of spirit (too Hegelian) or, given that, as far as I knew, I wasn't telepathic and so never indulged in concept mongering -- the upshot being that a purely conceptual art, an art whose medium consisted of thought transference alone (see Robert Barry's Telepathic Piece, 1969), was pretty much impossible. But, then again, maybe not.
White Noise was released by Universal Pictures, 2005, and was directed by Geoffrey Sax.
For further discussion also see, Resistance in Theory by Laurence A. Rickels in Material Events: Paul de Man and the Afterlife of Theory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001), pp 153-79.
* * *
Poster Schematic - By the Numbers:
Download Lebredt Poster (232k PDF).
Reading from the centre to the periphery, the concentric bands are designated as 1) frame (edge), 2) support, 3) artwork, and 4) M/G. The abbreviation M/G stands for Museum/Gallery. The schema is a reference to [Daniel] Buren's pamphlet Five Texts (New York: The John Weber Gallery; London: The Jack Wendler Gallery, 1973), to the diagrams that accompany part V, The Function of the Museum -- specifically the What Really Goes On schema (dia 1.2). My only alterations to Buren's diagram, aside from not indicating what lies beyond the museum/ gallery -- the cultural/archival limits of the period (including the media and so forth), was to replace the index stretcher with that of frame or edge, thus marking the centre area as pure spacing or différance: in which case, the edge is to be read as an impossible centre. At the centre of my diagram one doesn't find an object, a work, but rather, a hole.
* * *
The Gordon Lebredt: By the Numbers CD-ROM includes links to other Gallery One One One projects: Gallery One One One, School of Art, Main Floor, FitzGerald Building, University of Manitoba Fort Garry campus, Winnipeg, MB, CANADA R3T 2N2. Gallery Hours: Noon to 4 PM (weekdays only).TEL:204 474-9322 FAX:474-7605
For information please contact Robert Epp firstname.lastname@example.org