A Wall is Just a Wall at Esker Foundation

I feel remorse that almost three years have ticked by since I last enjoyed a contemporary art experience at Esker Foundation. I absolutely relished Oh, Canada and delighted in discovering all the different pieces included in A wall is just a wall (and nothing more at all) by Canadian-born Kapwani Kiwanga. So I am determined to visit more frequently. And I am following Esker Foundation on Twitter and Instagram so that photos/videos from future shows will support my intention. 🙂




The walk through pink-blue installation, is the only piece in the show I knew anything about going in. That’s because the eye-catching pink walls and blue lights are highly Instagrammable. Coming in from making photos along the Bow River Pathway, my lens was fogged, so my first composition is muted.


As I waited for my lens to clear, I listened to the audio installation explain some of the ways architectural strategies showcased in the exhibition are intended to shape human behaviour. And I learned that through her research and creativity, Kapwani Kiwanga wants to get us thinking about whether architectural attempts to control human behaviour actually work. Or do they just move the problem elsewhere?

For those interested in the details, there’s a printed booklet that can be borrowed from the reception desk. A digital copy is available on the Esker Foundation website.

My lens eventually cleared and I photographed some of the details and perspectives I found most compelling.

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The Linear-Painting Series

Walking through the revolving door to the Esker exhibition space, this series is the first thing you see: basically two colours for each panel of drywall, meant to show how paint type, finish and colour can be selected to influence human behaviour in institutions like schools,  hospitals, and prisons. Of the seven panels installed at Esker, four are based on Alberta institutions.

I didn’t pack a wide-angle lens (and completely forgot that using my phone would have been a good option), so I don’t have an overall shot of the arrangement of Linear Paintings. Instead, I opted for carefully angled compositions that show snippets of two coloured panels along with the line that horizontally divides the gallery wall, for context.

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Sculptural Works and Archival Photographs

The large space on the far side of pink-blue includes sculptures that reveal the construction techniques, materials and colours found in traditional institutional buildings, along with archival photographs that – at first encounter – appear oddly mounted to bend from floor to wall. After a closer look at these carefully positioned prints, I was completely fascinated by the way the folding the photographs at the dado line creates a 3D impression. Here are two of the best examples. These images don’t give justice to the illusion. This is one best seen in person!


This free-standing, steel and one-way mirror folding screen was commissioned by Esker for the show. It’s position in the center of the space allows visitors to explore both the observer and observed roles that come with one-way mirrors and colonial-style louvered screens. It made me think about the idea that the observed is also an observer – of self -which prompted me to make a couple of reflected selfies! 🙂

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Other Works

There are several other works in this show, including giant prints derived from aerial photos of Calgary. And be sure to allocated some time to the two side rooms accessed via side passages in pink-blue: one is a carefully staged room with silent video and the other is home to a mini film festival featuring three 15-minute films selected by Kapwani Kiwanga, each running for about a month – another good reason for a return visit.

The Exhibition Space

The interior of Esker has been significantly reconfigured for this show. The Nest meeting room is a constant, as is the strikingly-lit staircase to the aptly named meeting space.


There is a comfortable reading space in the northwest corner, which offers a sunny view of downtown Calgary and the rail lines that run behind the building.


As for the temporary walls put up for this show, I got caught-up in the side passages between pink-blue and the video/film screening rooms, applying a little creativity and some intentional camera movement to create a personal photo set that could be called black-blue:

The show runs through May 6, 2018 and I’m definitely planning a return visit. Will I see you there? If you’ve already been, what is your favourite piece – and why?


One thought on “A Wall is Just a Wall at Esker Foundation

  1. Pingback: Summer 2018 Exhibitions at Esker Foundation | Out and About with the GeoKs

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