The Canadian Art Database

Donigan Cumming

Donigan Cumming uses photography, video, painting, drawing, sound, and text in experimental documentary films and multi-media installations. Since 1983, Cumming's work has contributed to Canadian and international festivals and exhibitions dealing with themes of the body, truth/fiction, taboos of representation, and social engagement – most recently, in a Montreal action for the homeless, L'état d'urgence 09, Montreal, and in the thematic exhibition Bearing Witness organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery. The international anthology, 100 Video Artists / 100 videoartistas (Madrid: EXIT publicaciones, 2010) recognized Cumming's contributions, with an essay by Jean Perret, who writes: "Donigan Cumming is the filmmaker of those people who are damaged by life, in whom he can see the angel which also lives within them."

Moving Pictures (2005), curated by Peggy Gale for the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto, surveyed Cumming's work in its full diversity, including video, photographic, and his mixed-media production. The exhibition premiered two monumental panels, Prologue and Epilogue, constructed from his photographic and videographic archives, and the DVD collection of 18 video works, Donigan Cumming: Controlled Disturbance Vidéographe, 2005). Prologue and Epilogue were featured in Donigan Cumming : La somme, le sommeil, le cauchemar (catalogue), curated by Catherine Bédard for the Le Mois de la Photo à Paris (Centre culturel canadien in Paris, 2006). A large suite of drawings printed in inkjet, Kincora, produced during a residency at Centre VU, culminated in solo exhibitions at VU and Galerie Éric Devlin. In 2010, the Cinémathèque québécoise screened a survey Donigan Cumming : preuves nouvelles et choses trouvées videos since 2004 concurrent with the exhibition Kincora 2010.

Major solo exhibitions of photography and sound installations include Reality and Motive in Documentary Photography (New York and Paris, 1986), The Mirror, the Hammer and the Stage (Chicago, 1990), Diverting the Image (Windsor, 1993), Pretty Ribbons (Arles, 1994), Harry's Diary (New York, 1994), Les Pleureurs (Paris, 1995), La Répétition (Lausanne, 1996), Barber's Music (Ottawa, 1999), Moving Stills (Montreal, 1999 and Rotterdam, 2000), and Gimlet Eye (Cardiff, 2001).

In 1998, the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) featured Cumming's work in the program The Cruel Machine. In 2000, his video installation Moving Stills was part of the IFFR's Exploding Cinema and in 2005 the IFFR premiered Fountain. In New York, his tapes have been presented at the New York Video Festival, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Museum of Modern Art (New Documentaries, 1997, and MediaScope, 2005). The Festival du Nouveau Cinéma has shown Cumming's work since 1996 (Montreal), when he won the Telefilm Canada Video Prize for Best Canadian Discovery. Continuity and Rupture, a VHS collection of video work, was published by Cinéma libre in 1999. In 2002, there were two retrospectives of his work in video: at the Pacific Film Archive (Berkeley, California) and at Visions du Réel, Nyon International Film Festival (Switzerland). In 2004, Cumming was the first guest curator for the Shadow Festival in Amsterdam. His triptych 3, previewed at Monkey Town, Brooklyn, premiered at Antitube, Quebec, and paired by curator Fabrice Montal with Fountain in "Twisted Tales," at Raskolnikow Gallery, Dresden. Monument was commissioned by LX Filmes for "So Close/So Far," a collection of short films funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon. Too Many Things (2010), produced during an established artist residency at PRIM, premiered at the Rendez-vous du Cinéma Québécois and was selected for Visions du Réel 2010.

Cumming's books are The Stage (Maquam Press, 1991), Pretty Ribbons (Stemmle, 1996), Gimlet Eye (Chapter and ffotogallery, 2001), Lying Quiet (Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, 2004), Kincora (Maquam Press, 2008). Pencils, Ashes, Matches & Dust (Éditions J'ai VU, 2009). The Stage is included in Martin Parr and Gerry Badger, eds., The Photobook: A History, Volume II (Phaidon, 2006). His photographs have been featured in international exhibitions and anthologies, including Contemporary Photographers (1996), Phaidon's The Photography Book (1997) and Art and Photography (2003), World Without End: Photography and the 20th Century (Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2000), Knaur's Das Lexikon der Fotografen (2003), Darkside, Part 1: Photographic Desire and Sexuality Photographed, Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland (2008), and The Art of Caring: A Look at Life Through Photography, New Orleans Museum of Art, (2009).

His photographic and videographic works have been acquired for the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography (Ottawa), the Maison Européenne de la Photographie (Paris), the Musée de L'Élysée (Lausanne), the Musée du Québec (Québec), the Musée d'art contemporain (Montréal), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles), and by national museums in Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States. He has been a fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. His work has been supported by senior visual arts grants from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and the Canada Council for the Arts, including a Long-Term Grant (2008-10).

The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art
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