NOTES FROM THE 20th: In Memoriam and Walter

Freda Guttman

A Space Main Gallery

September 10 – October 16, 2004

Curated by: Carole Condé

Essay by Peter White

In Memoriam consists of three 1930-40’s upright radios, large and ornate, their inside workings removed. The radios have a metaphorical role – presences, speakers, ghosts of the past, warning voices that remember Walter Benjamin’s life and work, and remind us of his prescient understanding of the revolutionary significance of new technologies, as well as their impact on the production of art. Five large Jacquard tapestries will be hung on the walls in a relationship to the three radios. Thematically, they refer to instances in the 20th century of violent events, such as the coup in Chile in 1973, the Hitler era, the bombing of cities in World War II.

Just as I began this project with an individual life, my own, I will end it with the fifth installation, Walter, by paying homage to the life of Walter Benjamin, the German Jewish philosopher and cultural critic. Again, I will be using early radios. Considered by many to be one of the great thinkers of the 20th century, Benjamin was also one of its many victims. My work mourns his tragic life and hopefully convey the lessons of his message, needed now more than ever.


Freda Guttman, native of Montreal, has worked as a printmaker, photographer and laterally, as an installation artist. In more than forty years of active research and practice, her work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Canada, the United States and internationally. The works at A Space are the fourth and fifth of a continuum of installations – Notes from the 20th. The project is in part autobiographical and is influenced by the writings of Walter Benjamin, in particular his notion of the need for us to awaken from the myth of history as progress in order to free ourselves from endless cycles of violence and despair.

 Condé and Beveridge work with unions and communities as part of a larger collective process with the intent to change the practice and understanding of culture in society. As Clive Robertson observes, the artists ³… engage with their represented subjects both as collaborative storytellers and as primary audiences for their work.² (Fuse vol. 25 #4) Their lucid, clean presentation eloquently articulates the concerns and experience of working and community life; but it also stands up to the slick image-making of corporate culture, as it mocks the crisp style of advertising. The artists live and work in Toronto. Their work has been exhibited across Canada and internationally in both the trade union movement and at art galleries and museums. Recent exhibitions include the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and The Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. They are currently producing a public art project with the Edmonton Art Gallery for fall 2003. Carole and Karl are active in several labour arts initiatives such as the Mayworks Festival in Toronto and the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre in Hamilton, Ontario.