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By Cassandra D’Amico-Mazza
What is the true meaning of the gifts we give? What is the meaning behind this ancient ritual of exchange between people that makes it worth exploring? That is the main question being asked in Montreal at the DHC/ART Foundation’s newest exhibit, L’Offre, now on through March 2018. A fitting name for such an exhibit, L’Offre directly translates to ‘the offer’ in French, which is exactly what is being taken into consideration by the multitude of artistic voices in this exhibit. An exhibit that puts on display works from nine different international artists, including Mike Kelley, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and Sonny Assu, these works are all united in the idea of the power of the gift exchange and what it means to give and receive. Centring around a single text, that of Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, the exhibit works with questions of what is the gift in relation to art? What comes into play when a gift is exchanged and how does the market economy contribute to our understanding of gift exchanges? As well as, where can art fall into our understanding of the gift and can it be used as an “agent of transformation”? Highlights from the exhibit include Dora Garcia’s work entitled Steal This Book (2009), which consists of hundreds of copies of her book made into a sort of sculpture meant to be stolen, while simultaneously offering her book for purchase in bookstores, bringing into question the very notion of an offer or gift.
There is as well Simryn Gill’s most recent work, which is produced by asking her closest friends what their favourite book is and subsequently tearing out the pages of a said book and making them into beads which she then fashions into necklaces to give back to her friends. Artist Lee Mingwei has two works on display in L’Offre, Money For Art (1994-2010), is a photo series that documents various objects he exchanges with strangers in a café.
All these works deal with the idea of exchange. Whether it be information exchange, gift exchange, or personal exchange, each work in L’Offre deals with what it means to interact with objects as humans. This exhibit features many more works in all mediums, including live music and video installations, but all come back to that central question of what it means to connect with each other and how we connect with each other.