Oh, Canada is the latest in a string of Canadian exhibitions presented abroad, including My Winnipeg (2011) at the Maison Rouge, Paris, and, more recently, the Group of Seven's largest European exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London.
What can the curatorial premise of Oh, Canada communicate in light of such high profile, contemporary critiques of national art categories?
Oh, Canada opened at MASS MoCA's entrance, where a working, manpowered carousel made from crowd control barriers by the artist collective BGL set a jovial, playful tone.
Though the physical layout of Oh, Canada followed no thematic organization, the exhibition brochure divides artists into eight broad categories of production: "Cultural identity, national hybridity, and colonialism"; "The use and quotation of craft methods and traditional materials"; "Nature and the vast Canadian landscape"; "A dialogue with painting"; "Conceptual or performative practice"; "The transformation of everyday materials"; and "References to popular culture, and use of parody and humor.
Such curatorial license did pepper Oh, Canada with poetic moments.
Whatever its curatorial successes and failures, Oh, Canada can't help but imply a disturbing dichotomy between the Canadian and international art scenes.
Canadian content held Oh, Canada together thematically as there were literally no other organizing principles beyond the concept of "Canadian," which by default put national identity at the centre of the reflections and conversations around the show.
This daring project that was Oh, Canada was therefore both visionary and limited, which accounts for the curator's confusing commentary, as well as the sense of both achievement and failure lying therein.
21) It seems that Markonish may have turned to Canada for an alternative arts funding model, which meant that Oh, Canada was, at least in part, about establishing an idea of Canada to prompt self-reflection among Americans.