As a professional group, landscape architects and designers are among the most conservative and least expected to display in their work that potential for critical thought which aids the negotiation of history. An archaic interest in gardening or non-agricultural cultivation represents a quietist or reclusive urge — “tending to your own garden” is the very motto of a retiring privatism, while Nietzche identified and posited the garden as a social space antinomous to the flux and chaos of the market place.
As is now well known, when the Canadian government originally announced its intention to abandon and effectively destroy the activities and collection of the Stills division of the National Film Board, the ensuing protest of the photographic community was sufficient to cause the authorities to reconsider.
In a decade of photographic art activity, Sorel Cohen has produced a body of work which displays an uncommonly clear logic of development and consistency, concentrated in only a few separate project series, and culminating in the presentation of the current exhibition. During this same decade, feminist art (as a category, purpose and orientation) has become accepted, and accepted in the same way that feminism (in all its variety) itself has been – not as a fulfilled program, but as an irrevocable dimension of any discussion of social relations.
It shows great wit that the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, a young institution descendant of the National Film Board and its documentary tradition, should sponsor the exhibition of a photographer whose work stands apart from and questions that tradition. Serving as a challenge, a critique and a correction, Donigan Cumming’s Reality and Motive in Documentary Photography appears at a time of epistemological anxiety when representations are viewed as the arbitrary tokens and worthless baubles of communicative exchange.