The Gam Gallery is pleased to present Perimeter, David Semeniuk’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. Semeniuk’s work explores two core themes. It is concerned with histories of labour and capital and how these mediate our use of and access to private and public spaces. It also examines our experience and memory of place through images that shift between real and imagined, private and public, domestic and natural spaces. His method skirts liminality, both in his choice of content and the form his works take, often imposing one image over another. In the case of the current exhibition, Perimeter, Semeniuk examines the liminal spaces of the City of Vancouver’s boundary and juxtaposes images that have formal and/or historical affinity with one another.
For this exhibition, Semeniuk walked along the boundaries of the City of Vancouver with his partner, Alice Campbell. This took place in nine separate trips between February 3 and April 7, 2013, the walks sometimes taking up to eight hours. Beginning in the northeast corner of the city at New Brighton Park, in view of the Port of Vancouver, the Iron Worker’s Memorial Bridge, and the nearby Cascadia grain elevators, Semeniuk photographed the outer edges of the city, skirting places inaccessible to the public because of industry or private property. Other boundaries are less clear, such as the transition from Vancouver to the University Endowment Lands, or the small wooden stake demarcating the Musqueam Indian Reserve from the nearby multimillion dollar properties in the Southlands neighbourhood. Issues of class, private property, and accessibility in general circulate throughout Perimeter.
The transitional characteristic of the series parallels its subject matter, which focuses on the active process of defining urban spaces. This relation between the form and content of Semeniuk’s work is particularly well-suited to examining Vancouver, a city located in an intertidal zone, at the edge of a vast wildernesses. As discussed in the exhibition catalogue for Intertidal (a 2005 survey exhibition of contemporary Vancouver artists at M HKA, Antwerp), Vancouver—both as a city in general and as an art market specifically—is shaped by its shifting or peripheral relation to its surroundings and to other centres of the world, despite its location within an increasingly globalized system.
Semeniuk’s work is thoughtfully positioned both in relation to the history of photographic practice in Vancouver as well as to the Capture Photography Festival specifically. This is especially evident in his use of the plotter printer, a technology often employed in producing architectural floor plans because of its historically mechanical function (the use of a pen or other instrument to draw complex line art). The resulting images are somewhat crude but richly textured reproductions of the original photographs and stand in measured contrast to the large, richly coloured and glossy or backlit photographs of many post-conceptual photographic artists. Similar to Roy Arden’s photographs of detritus found in the streets of Terminal City, Semeniuk’s work focuses on the socioeconomic conditions of his urban environment while moving away, at least in the plotter prints, from naturalistic representation and its relation to the history of painting. Instead, and similarly to other contemporary artists working with photography in Vancouver, Semeniuk challenges photographic realism through the medium itself, creating a rich discussion around photography’s material properties and its ability to faithfully represent our contemporary situation.