September 28th, 2010 5:33 pm | by KELLY CLARKE News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

Drink Beer and Look at Dead People

Dead Silence at Ampersand

Halloween comes early to Alberta's fabulous Ampersand gallery, with Dead Silence, a show of 1930s morgue photography.

To make the fascinating and unsettling visuals go down a bit easier, the gallery's offering free beers from Ninkasi at the preview reception 6-10 pm Wednesday, Sept. 29.

Here's the skinny from Ampersand's Mile Haselhorst:
Our October show features a selection of 16 vintage morgue photographs taken by one R. Magnus, a photographer working in Hoboken, New Jersey in the 1930s. Adopted as a general term in 1880s America, morgue replaced the coarser, though perhaps more direct, dead house, to describe the location where bodies of unidentified persons or those that died of violence were kept before being released for burial. Etymologically, morgue is a nuanced word, deriving its meaning from the French morguer, denoting a place where new prisoners were held so that jailers could become familiar with their looks for future identification. At its most basic, morguer means haughtiness, to look at solemnly, to defy. It's this idea of haughtiness, of posing & posturing, of declaring your existence, of placing yourself in front of an onlooker, whether that be a prison guard or a portrait photographer, that resonates so sublimely in these photographs.
Rather, it's the absence of such posturing that's so mesmerizing. Less about the nuances of violence & crime in an age that paralleled Weegee's street photographs, Dead Silence focuses instead on a singular kind of portrait photography in which the sitter no longer has the ability to declare that he is.

GO: Dead Silence at Ampersand, 2916 NE Alberta Street, Suite B, 805-5458. Show opens 6-10 pm Wednesday, Sept. 29. Show closes Oct. 24.
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