A Total Spectacle

Atomic Centre, Winnipeg
May 18 – June 9, 2013

Celebrity gawking, fear mongering, and other distractions, oh my! Is spectacle a harmless escape from reality, or something more?

Rulers throughout history have gone to great lengths to communicate and maintain their status. Whether that ruler was a dictator, royalty, religious figure, or democratically elected government, displays of power to validate and reinforce control over the masses declared who to admire, what to believe, and how to behave. Preying on core instincts to create situations that appeared effortlessly natural and self-evident, these displays of power featured elements capable of seducing people into agreement, distracting them from unpleasant truths, and/or scaring them out of rebellion.

Today’s spectacle takes many forms, from big budget events and entertainment to ever-present news media and advertising. It displays lifestyles we should envy and tells us how to succeed. It keeps us busy with news about celebrities and sports scores so we dismiss as boring anything that actually affects our lives. It sensationalizes violence while showing us what might happen if we rock the boat. It is power represented through repetitive sights and sounds, stereotypes and cliches, and other social signals about wealth, fame, and technology, and it all serves to influence general opinion and behaviour to support a consumer society and those who profit from it the most.

Taking cues from blockbuster exhibitions past and present to explore the complex nature of contemporary spectacle, A Total Spectacle is a mini spectacle about spectacle created by Winnipeg-based independent curator, Milena Placentile, in collaboration with local, national, and international artists including: Dayna Danger, Glen Johnson, Joe Johnson, Istvan Kantor, Praba Pilar, Scott Sørli, and Paul Wiersbinski. The exhibition will be accompanied by texts written by Milena Placentile and Martin Zeilinger.



The exhibition launches on May 17, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. at Atomic Centre (167 Logan Avenue, Winnipeg) and runs from May 18 to June 9, 2013. Hours are as follows:

  • Wednesday to Friday: 3:00 – 7:00 p.m.
  • Saturday and Sunday: 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.
  • Monday and Tuesday: Closed

Admission to the exhibition and all related events (as described below) is free of charge. For more information, please visit: http://www.atomiccentre.net/.

Featured Artists:  Dayna Danger, Joe Johnson, Glen Johnson, Istvan Kantor (with the participation of Ian Mozden and Dita Vendetta), Praba Pilar, Scott Sørli, Paul Wiersbinski

Schedule of events:

  • Artist talk with Praba Pilar at Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art (611 Main Street): Friday, May 3, 2013 at 12:00 p.m.
  • Exhibition launch: Friday, May 17 from 7:00 – 10:00 p.m. with opening ceremony perfomed by Istvan Kantor beginning promptly at 8:00 p.m.
  • Artist talk with Scott Sørli on the political aesthetics of polic kettling at RAW: Gallery of Architecture & Design (290 McDermot Avenue): Saturday, May 18, 2013 at 6:00 p.m.
  • Church of the Nano Bio Info Cogno with Rev. Praba Pilar at 167 Logan Avenue: Saturday, May 25, 2103. Doors at 8:00 p.m., service at 8:30 p.m. No late entry.
  • First lecture in the new series “How to Think” delivered by Glen Johnson at 167 Logan Avenue: Saturday, June 1, 2013 at 4:00 p.m.

This exhibition has been made possible with thanks to generous financial support from the Canada Council for the Arts through a program formerly known as “Independent Critics and Curators in the Visual Arts Program”, which provided opportunities for creative intellectual research and production initiated by curators working beyond conventional institutional frameworks.

The curator and artists would also like to acknowledge the generous in-kind and promotional support of Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art, Martha Street Studios / Manitoba Printmakers Association, Central Canadian Centre for Performance, RAW: Gallery of Architecture and Design, Edge Gallery, Video Pool Media Arts Centre, and Akimbo.ca.

Additional thanks to Roewan Crowe, Noam Gonick, Ken Gregory, Kika Hannes, Shawn Jordan, Monica Lowe, Megan Moore, Brett Poulsen, Janet Sarson, Evan Tapper, Anuj Larvaidya, and Martin Zeilinger. Special thanks to Ian Mozden and Dita Vendetta for their participation in Istvan Kantor’s Pietà – Opera Omnia. Special thanks to Chris Poulsen for installation and technical support.


“La dottrina del fascismo” (“The Doctrine of Fascism”), written by Giovanni Gentile in 1932 and attributed to Benito Mussolini in 1933, describes fascism as the harmonization of business and labour in the interest of the State. Appreciating Mussolini’s commitment to reduced taxation and union busting, wealthy business owners granted him their support before realizing he aimed to personally control Italy’s various industries by means of a dictatorship. As the self-declared undisputed head of state, Mussolini detested bourgeois luxury and ultimately dismissed the authority of business owners as subordinate to his own. Business owners in Germany experienced similar difficulty controlling Adolph Hitler, the dictator they funded as a way to control striking workers by proxy.

Through the course of events associated with World War II, Mussolini’s Fascism and Hitler’s Nazism were dismantled. Around this time, wealthy business owners and other members of the global elite figured something out: why buy social control via individual, charismatic leaders when you can buy the whole system instead? Representing what became known as the Austrian school of Economics, Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises co-organized a meeting in 1947 at Hôtel du Parc, near Vevey, Switzerland, that established a European economic federation called The Mont Pelerin Society. Designed to promote aggressive liberal/anti-socialist ideology through a decentralized network, the Society facilitated the development and funding of think tanks, policy makers, and lobby groups, as well as the grooming of politicians and backing of favourable candidates. Simultaneously, through concentrated ownership of the media producing an increasingly narrow spectrum of discourse, corporatist ideologues have compelled large segments of society into willingly surrender many of the human and environmental rights gained since the end of World War II.

Seduce ‘em with consumer goods. Distract ‘em with vapid entertainment. Control ‘em with fear. That is how to harmonize the workers and the state in the interests of business.

  • Must-Sees for the week of May 16 – 22, 2013 by Leah Sandals for Canadian Art Magazine.
  • A Total Spectacle at Atomic Centre by Noni Brynjolson for Akimblog (May 21, 2013)
  • Interview with Praba Pilar and Dayna Danger by Rob McGregor for Black Mask: Frequency of Resistance on CKUW 95.9 FM (4:00 – 5:00 p.m., May 22, 2013)
  • Interview with Praba Pilar by Derek Brueckner for Eat Your Arts & Vegetables on CKUW 95.9 FM (5:00 – 5:30 p.m., May 23, 2013)
  • “Provocative, politically minded artwork challenges consumer culture and art’s place within it” by Steven Leyden Cochrane. Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 30, 2013 C7.
  • “Deconstructing police kettling and the body politic” by June Chua for Rabble.ca on July 17, 2013.