Ross’s projects lie at the intersection of photography, film and installation, with a particular interest in the ephemeral and inchoate aspects of civic and cultural infrastructures.
With an international career that has spanned more than two decades, Ross has been concerned with the processes and infrastructures that support and facilitate public access to cultural or architectural structures and events. His projects often reveal hidden aspects of cultural production and offer glimpses into worlds that the viewer does not normally access. His interests include the performative capacities of un-choreographed and un-scripted activities, along with the relationships that exist between recorded events and their representation in physical space.
Ross’s work can be found in private, corporate, and institutional collections including the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, and Hydro Québec. He received his Master of Architecture from the University of Toronto in 2003.
Among notable solo and group presentations, Ross has appeared in The Long Moment at Patrick Mikhail Gallery, a satellite project for Momenta – Biennale de l’mage; In Search of Expo67/À la recherche d’Expo 67, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; Rencontres Internationales, Paris/Berlin; Builders: Canadian Biennial, National Gallery of Canada; The European Rooms, Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Chicago; La Triennale québécoise: Rien ne se perd, rien ne se crée, tout se transforme, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.
A form of proxy architecture, the mockup is a temporary structure erected on, or close to building sites to test the feasibility of building materials for non-standard architectural projects. Assembled to assist with particularly difficult construction details, the mockup also aids in the overall understanding of how a building's components will appear or function. Designed to be demolished, the mockup has a definitive expiration date, one that usually coincides with the completion of the building it emulates. Propositional but not speculative, the mockup is a ruin in reverse; a fragment made from components for a building that will exist in the future. Built as an affirmation, the mockup exists as a declaration of functionality, despite its fugitive nature.
Built at a scale of 1:1, the mockup is frequently comprised of disparate elements from a single building project. Windows, curtain wall systems or material samples often find themselves coupled together in an assemblage that bears more resemblance to a film set or public art installations than to architecture.
The mockup’s temporary status, combined with its frequently flat appearance puts it in league with another, much better known pararchitecural form: the film set. To this end, this photographic project utilizes direct lighting to isolate the mockups from their (often) haphazard surroundings, permitting a more focused reading of the structure.
Signature is a photography project which captures the visible qualities of expelled vapour released by HVAC systems (Heating Ventilation & Air Conditioning) of various art institutions and art conservation sites.
The project proposes a particular link between the interior activities of art institutions and the exterior exhaust that is a signature of these processes. The photographs capture the vapour in which trace elements of art works are ‘breathed’ out of a building on a daily basis. While acknowledging the discreet physicality of unique objects, Signature also recognizes the evanescent and ultimately unstable nature of art works. Over time, particles from all art works in a given collection disappear and collapse together on a nanoscopic level. Their particulate residue is then evacuated by the very building which protects them.
In creating a body of work focused on the elusive cloudy mass that rises from such institutions, Signature obliquely references the historic interest that artists have had in clouds, mist, steam, and smoke as subject matter for their works. Representing one of the most fugitive, dynamic, and possibly destructive of substances, the idea of ‘visible air’ has moved along a symbolic trajectory that connects the picturesque to the sublime to the tragic—from Ruskin to Turner to Stieglitz and beyond.
THE EUROPEAN ROOMS
“The European Rooms” is a 27-minute film work by David K. Ross. The film presents intimate views of Enlightenment-era architectural interiors featured in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Thorne Room Collection. In this work, an unhurried camera glides by bedrooms, drawing rooms, dining rooms, and entrance halls filled with finely crafted furniture and carefully selected “objets.” Though well-appointed, this “sealed and stifling” world of privilege, class, and prestige is also inescapably uncanny and oneiric. A slow unraveling of cinematic, sonic, and architectural space played out in real time, The European Rooms is as confounding as it is elucidatory.
AS SOVEREIGN AS LOVE
As Sovereign as Love is a guided, cinematic tour of Montréal’s Parc Jean Drapeau, the former site of the Expo 67 world's fair. In the film, a narrator annotates a series of unfolding vistas which have been shaped by fifty years of post-Expo 67 activity. The script for the tour is drawn directly from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1939 memoir, Terre des hommes, the same text that gave the Montréal exposition its subtitle “Man and His World.” Saint-Exupéry’s words, penned some eight decades ago, provide uncanny descriptions of the park as it exists today.
Footage for the film is gathered by a drone that follows the original path of the now-demolished MiniRail, an elevated monorail line used to move visitors across the exposition's sites. Data extracted from archived Expo 67 engineering drawings enable an accurate retracing of the train’s path across the park, although the growth of trees and electronic interference from cellular transmission towers cause frequent breaks in what should be an uninterrupted flight. These disruptions result in stoppages that become edits. Thus, the park itself, working in conjunction with the passage of time, becomes the co-editor of the film.
As Sovereign as Love was produced for the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal's 2017 exhibition In Search of Expo 67.
Providing a view into the past and future of imaging technologies, these drawings depict an object as it spins through various axes. Loosely based on the zoetrope — a proto-cinematic device for watching animated drawings — but frequently resembling a stylized telecommunications satellite, the images oscillate with each rotation, with each view.
I was born in Toronto in 1966 to parents who wished to be elsewhere. Consequently, I was raised in rural southwestern Ontario, principally on a one hundred acre sheep farm, riding the school bus three hours a day with children from neighbouring Mennonite farms, a startling number of whom were named either Mary or Joseph. In 1985 I arrived at the University of Waterloo intending to study Social Work, but left instead with an English Literature and Fine Arts degree. 17 years later I obtained an MArch from the University of Toronto; it is training that continues to infect an approach to my projects, though not always their content.
With the exception of a three year interlude during which I was teaching photography, flmmaking and nephology the Art Institute of Chicago, I have been living in Montréal since 2005. Currently, I occupy a Visiting Researcher position at Concordia University’s Faculty of Fine Arts. My projects have been presented in numerous museums and flm festivals, including Te Graham Foundation, the Rencontres Internationale Paris / Berlin, the Rice Media Centre in Houston, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, CineMarfa, and the Toronto International Film Festival. My work can be found in the permanent collections of numerous institutions including the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, and the National Gallery of Canada.
My frst solo exhibition, featuring large scale drawings of fuses, was mounted at the Art Gallery of Opava in the Czech Republic in 1991. I spent the following decade involved in a practice that was largely based in installation and drawing. In the mid 2000's I turned to photography and the moving image as a means of investigation. Projects have included a short flm that examined the enigmatic activities of student land surveyors in the neighbourhood of St-Henri, Montréal; a flm about the uncanny qualities of a series of rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago; a video installation whose subject is the nuanced and nervous movements of dancers about to perform, and a flm about the mythic and sublime qualities of the search light mounted atop of Place Ville Marie, Montréal’s highest building.
Photographic projects include Archetypes (ongoing), a collection of images that looks at the para-architectural world of construction site mockups; Signature (ongoing), whose subject is the vapour that exits HVAC systems at major museums and art galleries; Dark Rooms (2009), an investigation into the quietude of artists' storage spaces; and Attaché, works from which were featured in a solo exhibition at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal in 2010, and which closely examined a crate identification system used by museums in Canada.
A moving image project As sovereign as Love was shown in the summer of 2017 at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal as part of the exhibition À la recherche d’Expo 67. Te flm uses a camera-mounted drone to retrace the path of the MiniRail, a now demolished elevated monorail train used during Montreal’s world exposition (Expo 67), and unites the resulting footage with text excerpts from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s seminal 1939 memoire, Terre des hommes. I have also worked collaboratively with Rebecca Duclos on curatorial and research projects under the name graphic standards. Our projects together included Te Manchester Letherium and As Much as Possible Given the Time and Space Allotted.
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