Wanda Koop...On the Edge of Experience

Wanda Koop, Untitled from the series Hybrid Human, 2009-2010

Wanda Koop, Untitled.from Sightlines, 2000.

For almost three decades, Winnipeg painter Wanda Koop has created an overwhelming body of work tied to an overarching critique of how modes of technology impact nature. Be it social or ecological, nature is a broad concept that has been constructed, manipulated, destroyed, mutated, copied, and revered since humans began to use simple tools. Koop is deeply entrenched in these approaches, building an archive of sorts through compulsive note-taking, sketching, researching, photographing, and filming. For each idea there is a resultant investigation that culminates in an all-encompassing installation of paintings which more recently has been twinned with video.

On the Edge of Experience presents a selection of large-scale signature paintings ranging in date from 1983 to the present. Visitors will be able to explore key elements of the artist’s inspiration through a recreation of Koop’s impressive studio environment that outlines her creative process and includes a number of her single-channel video works.

Koop feels that the creation of her large-scale paintings is akin to a type of choreography—she dances the paintings. Appropriately, the climax of the exhibition is her new work, Hybrid Human, which combines painting, video projection, and the contemporary dance movement of acclaimed performer and choreographer Jolene Bailie, set against a sound piece by Susan Chafe, and lighting design by Hugh Conacher. Hybrid Human is an investigation of artificial intelligence, robotics, and the human body’s integration and understanding of this mediated way of experiencing the world.

A publication for this exhibition is available in the Gallery Shop.

Organized by the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Canada.

The exhibition will be on view at the National Gallery of Canada from February 18 to May 15, 2011, followed by a national tour.

Hybrid Human

Based on sketches created in the early 1990s, the installation piece Hybrid Human will explore the constructed notion of robots and ideas around the disembodied experience, consciousness, creativity, alien intelligence, and artificial life. A recent conceptual breakthrough for Koop has centered on the notion of the screen. Contemporary living is dominated by watching a screen, be it a computer, cell phone, movie, or television. All these screens filter information and are how we make sense of experiencing our day-to-day world. For Koop a painting is another type of screen that holds the potential to morph into a mirror; as we look into Koop’s paintings we catch ourselves looking back at our own reflection.

Below is a series of questions Mary Reid, WAG Curator of Contemporary Art and Photography, posed to both Wanda Koop and Jolene Bailie about the Hybrid Human project.

MR: How did this idea of combining painting, installation and dance come together?

WK:. Dance is a lot like painting in a way. It is a visual art, a translation of the body into visual form and display. Painting is also a lot like dance. It’s physical and often choreographic. Jolene’s work projects a quality and scope that I feel resonates closely with my own. We are both working with the same concern of carving out a space between ourselves and the technological world.

MR: What has the collaboration process been like? How has each artist’s practice impacted or informed the other?

JB: As a whole team, we have spent countless evenings working together. We have been talking, sharing, eating, and brainstorming for over two years. Being an artist who was invited into a project, Wanda’s paintings are the main catalyst for all of the ideas I am currently digging into and experimenting with. The huge presence of technology in our lives, how much we are required to interact with a screen in today’s world, and the development of robotics have all been key influences.

MR: You invited Hugh Conacher and Susan Chafe to join you both on this journey. What have they brought to the project?

WK: I am very open to the possibility of working with others. It can be stressful at times, but it’s important to learn that a collective effort can bring about even greater ideas. Artists can become more than the sum of their parts if they look around, listen, and engage. I have worked with both Hugh and Susan on other projects over the years and my work has only benefited from the process. This collaboration was a natural extension of these working relationships and friendships.

JB: I have collaborated with Hugh for over a decade. He brings a wealth of history, knowledge and experience to this project and he is an expert lighting designer who ensures that all technical and production needs are met. Hugh has created an original design for the work and his work helps focus the viewer as well as transform the space and the perspective of the viewer.

I worked with Susan this past season on a previous dance work, and it was a really great, amazing collaboration. Her sound creates an important layer to the work and is integral to creating an atmosphere for the experience. Sound is important to everyday life and technology, and is also a pathway for the audience to enter into the work.

MR: What should viewers expect when they experience Hybrid Human?

JB: Live performance is very much a thing to experience. Hybrid Human will be presented within the exhibition space. Five paintings, five dancers, video, lighting, and sound. All work presented as Hybrid Human is new work created specifically for this project.

WK: I want people to feel discombobulated, as they too become performers in a sense when they enter the gallery space. Viewers may question when the act of seeing begins—is it when they look at a painting or when they step into the gallery itself?

MR: What do you want viewers to come away with after seeing Hybrid Human?

WK: –Viewers will find themselves stepping outside their own personal space and interacting with the art and with each other. My intention it that they develop a closer understanding of themselves, not in a didactic sense but towards something that is more personal and individual.

JB: I hope people will question the impact that technology has on everyday life and humanity.

Public performances of Hybrid Human
Wed, Nov 10 / Fri, Nov 12 / Sat, Nov 13, 8pm • $20 WAG members, $25 adults, $15 students • Available at the WAG information desk. Note: The November 10 performance will be followed by a discussion between dancer/choreographer Jolene Baillie and curator Mary Reid.
There will also be performances at the September 25 public opening and the October 2 Gallery Ball.


Hybrid Human is supported by the Winnipeg Arts Council New Creations Fund, the Manitoba Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Contributors to Hybrid Human are Evelyn and David Friesen, Art and Lee Friesen, Duncan and Judy Jessiman, Paul and Shirley Martens, Dr. Donald S.Reimer and Mrs. Anne Reimer, Arni Thorsteinson and Susan Glass, Gail Asper and Michael Paterson, Bill and Margaret Fast, Art and Leona DeFehr, and
One anonymous donor



Related Programs & Events

Past Programs & Events

  • Family Sunday - On the Edge

    An afternoon of family fun with music and art-making.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010 from 1:30pm to 4pm

  • Members' Event - Wanda Koop

    For WAG members only! An exclusive look at the exhibition with tours by the artist and curator.

    Thursday, September 16, 2010 from 11am to 6pm

  • Nuit Blanche

    A free all-night celebration of the arts!

    Saturday, September 25, 2010 to Sunday, September 26, 2010

  • Drop-In Tours - Wanda Koop: On the Edge of Experience

    Sunday, September 26, 2010 from 2pm to 3pm
    Sunday, October 17, 2010 from 2pm to 3pm
    Sunday, October 31, 2010 from 2pm to 3pm
    Sunday, November 14, 2010 from 2pm to 3pm

  • Gallery Ball 2010

    A glamorous, black tie evening of fine dining, live and silent auctions, and a live performance of Hybrid Human from the exhibiton Wanda Koop: On the Edge of Experience.

    Saturday October 2, 2010

  • Curator's Tour

    Tour of Wanda Koop...On the Edge of Experience

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010 from 12:10pm to 1pm

  • Performance - Hybrid Human

    A performance choreographed by Jolene Bailie as part of the exhibition Wanda Koop...On the Edge of Expererience.

    Wednesday November 10, 2010 at 8pm
    Friday November 12, 2010 at 8pm
    Saturday November 13, 2010 at 8pm
    Saturday November 13, 2010 at 11pm

  • KOOP - a film by Katherine Knight

    This experience-based film follows artist Wanda Koop as she takes a sketching trip down the Saint Lawrence on a freighter.

    Saturday, April 23, 2011 from 7pm to 9pm

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