The Canadian Art Database


The Winnipeg Effect: Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

The Winnipeg Art Gallery, November 3-5, 2016


Border Crossings


Kegan McFadden

“Border Crossings is committed to Northrop Frye's sense that the centre is where you are, and so we take Winnipeg as the place from which we begin looking at the culture and art of the world.” This is an important notion from where to being. “Winnipeg as the place from which we begin looking… at the World.” When you look from a place, not through or past or beyond it … you take it with you.

First issued as Arts Manitoba in January of 1977 by Robert Enright, whose premier editorial foregrounds the words of an artist — the poet Robert Kroestch — by way of indicating that what the magazine was setting out to do was akin to cartographic work, or map making. The nature of Arts Manitoba is critical and retrospective, that is to function less in a reportorial and informative way than one that is reflective and interpretive.

This is how it began, and this is how it is today.

I referred to the magazine in its earliest years as Arts Manitoba. That geographic designation was changed as quickly as we recognized that boundaries and borders existed only to be crossed, pushed, traversed and manipulated. For us, for me particularly, borders and outside edges provided the necessary vantage and surest lookout point. Sixteen years into my role as Editor I'd say — on that point I haven't budged. It became Border Crossings in 1985 with a Special Issue looking south to the US. (North Dakota, Minnesota, our neighbours) the name seemed to better reflect our broad interests — geographic, disciplinary, also seeking edges and borders and risking to cross over them or rub up against them. ” – Meeka Walsh

Since the early days as Art Manitoba, 139 issues have been released. Some are thematic – painting is a recurring investigation, as is photography. There was a period where we saw the exploration of topics such as Performance, Identity, Animals, and of course Place (including Winnipeg). In my attempt to compile information for this Spotlight, I asked Meeka Walsh just how many Winnipeg artists had been included in the long history of these 139 issues. She laughed and quickly said there was no way to accurately calculate … “Take any issue” she said, “Find the names of Winnipeggers and then multiply those by 139 and you might get close. ”

On a personal level, I remember one of my first contracts out of school was to review a show at Meeka's invitation. I'd only every published one or two things by this point, now almost a decade ago. The review I submitted was of a show with six artists. I like half of the work and disliked the other half, and I said so. I was honest. The issue went to print and I was pretty pleased with having now contributed in a very small but earnest way to the pantheon that is Winnipeg art history. Some time later in conversation with Meeka I was told one of the artists whose work I wrote about in unfavourable terms had called her up and demanded to know who this McFadden guy was and where he got off on calling his paintings derivative. Meeka stood firm and told the artist she agreed with me and that was that. That's the kind of editor Meeka is — she is steadfast to defend not only the magazine but those she invites to contribute to it. The magazine has won numerous awards over the years, but when asked which accolades stood out in her mind, Meeka told me she keeps a file of some correspondence — from friends who felt compelled to write her in response to certain issues of the magazine they'd found noteworthy, of merit, doing something special. These notes, for her, are far more valuable than the industry awards.

Border Crossings, true to name, has gone beyond the work of the magazine and in recent years developed a unique portable archive of the magazine's publishing history, which acts as a generator for exhibitions but also functions as an object for reflection and interpretation. This archive known as the Border Crossings Study Centre (BCSC) is a collection of each of the magazines to date. It is housed in a portable hybrid storage/reading unit designed by architects Neil Minuk (DIN), and Karen Shanski and Eduardo Aquino (spmb), originally commissioned by Cliff Eyland for Gallery 111. Since 2009 the Study Centre has been presented 8 times, 9 counting this symposium. With Issue 139 it was announced that Border Crossings will be partner with the WAG to present MATTER — a lecture series of the coming months. This is just another effort as identified in the following:

The particularity of the local set against the broad concept of the international has been Border Crossings's plan dating from the first issue published in fall, 1985, when the magazine assumed its current name. As a focused program, the local, national and international would find themselves sharing space between our covers. Borders were geographic, political, social and permeable. The best from here, which we resolutely identified as the centre, mixed with the best across the country and as far as we could reach, would hold up just fine. Not only hold up but flourish once seen in that broader context. By stealth and intent Border Crossings would do what it could do what it could to make the local international. Reports would indicate the plan has met with some considerable success.

Meeka doesn't so much edit Border Crossings as she curates it. A good curator thinks about conversation, dialogue, how pieces fit together and inform one another or play off each other.

It is eccentric in all the senses of that word: out of the centre, unique and unusual. It has remained steadfast in its commitment to the two things that have defined it for all of these years: a respect for artists, for what they make and say about that making, and an equal respect for the readers who come to our pages for an unmistakable engagement with the art of writing. – Robert Enright

Border Crossings is improbable. The glue that binds it is will and stubbornness and a total dedication to make it work, as it is, where it is, against all odds.

When you look from a place, not through or past or beyond it … you take it with you. Map making. Wherever Border Crossings looks to next, know that we, too, will be there.