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Primitive Tongues

Brendan Fernandes
April 9, 2011 – May 14, 2011

Neutral Ground Contemporary Art Forum and Soil Digital Media Suite are very pleased to present Primitive Tongues, Brendan Fernandes’ first exhibition in Saskatchewan. His work recontextualizes images, objects, texts, and tropes associated with Africa and the African Diaspora, challenges hegemonic claims of authenticity, and uses them to reveal the multiple and contingent nature of cultural identities. He investigates the concept of authenticity as an ideological construct that both dominant and subordinate cultures use to their own ends. Ideas of “authenticity” shape cultural experience, and thus, the formation of identity. In his recent work he explores the dilemmas and codes that language creates through ethnicity and sub-culture and how vernacular can be forgotten once removed from its place of origin. He also considers the duality, hybridity, and nonsensicality coded in language through Dada where comprehension is negotiated through chance but can also be associated with ideas of the primitive.

The exhibition features the works, “Voo Doo You Doo Speak”, a multi-channel video installation of animated African masks speaking Dadaist sound poems and “Foe”, a video installation where the artist has hired an acting coach to teach him the “accents” of his cultural backgrounds.

Primitive Tongues is curated by Blair Fornwald for Neutral Ground and opens in conjunction with SHIFT: dialogues of migration in contemporary art, a three-day symposium bringing together artists, curators, and communities to discuss how contemporary artists, institutions, and audiences are responding in new ways to complex issues of indigenous and non-indigenous migrations of people. SHIFT is being organized by Strandline Curatorial Collective and the MacKenzie Art Gallery. For more information on SHIFT, please visit

Neutral Ground gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, he Saskatchewan Arts Board, the City of Regina, SaskCulture, and Saskatchewan Lotteries.

Artist’s Bio:

Born in Kenya of Indian heritage, Brendan Fernandes immigrated to Canada in the 1990s. He completed the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art (2007) and earned his MFA (2005) from The University of Western Ontario and his BFA (2002) from York University in Canada. He has exhibited internationally and nationally including exhibitions at The Art Gallery of Hamilton, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Andy Warhol Museum, The Art Gallery of York University, Manif d’Art: The Quebec City Biennial, The Third Guangzhou Triennial and the Western New York Biennial through The Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Fernandes has participated in numerous residency programs including The Canada Councils for the Arts International Residency in Trinidad and Tobago (2006), The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Work Space (2008) and Swing Space (2009) programs, Emerge 10 at Aljira: A Center for Contemporary Art, Newark, NJ (2008), the AIM Program at the Bronx Museum (2009), The New Work Residency at Harvestwork, NY (2009), and the Gyeonggi Creation Center Residency at the Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, Korea (2009). He held the position of Artist in Residence at The School of Visual Arts, NY, in the graduate program for computer arts (2008). He is the recipient of a New Commissions Project through Art in General, NY (2010) and was shortlisted for the 2010 Sobey Art Award. His work is included in the exhibition “Found in Translation,” part of the Deutsche Bank Series at the Guggenheim New York, traveling to the Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin in early 2012.

Fernandes is based in Toronto and New York. His work is represented by Diaz Contemporary, Toronto.