Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Requiem


Point de Fuite

This is the former home of the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, located at 380 Sussex Drive between the Rideau Canal and the Château Laurier.

The CMCP was founded in 1985, with a collection based on the Stills Photography Division of the National Film Board of Canada. With a mandate to collect, preserve and exhibit Canadian contemporary photography, it was created an autonomous affiliate of the National Gallery of Canada.

In 1992, the CMCP moved into its distinctive new home, designed by architect Michael Ludhom by adapting a former railway tunnel running alongside the Canal. Built at a cost of $16 million, the underground facility included climate-controlled exhibition and storage space, a professional audio recording booth and a production studio.

In 2006, the CMCP was temporarily closed to the public due to a leak in the building. The temporary closure became permanent in May 2009, when the Conservative Government announced that the museum would cease to exist as a separate venue. The CMCP's collection would be absorbed by the National Gallery of Canada, and the building would become meeting space for Parliamentary Committees.

Granted, the CMCP's problems had begun long before the Conservatives came into power. Through its short history, and some would say even before it officially came into existence, it has been plagued by controversy, bureaucratic drama, territorial squabbles, and management that can only be politely described as baffling. While it would be incorrect to lay the blame for the CMCP's demise squarely at the feet of the current government, the fact remains that the Conservatives have shown precisely zero interest in finding a solution that would preserve the museum's autonomy and ensure its continued existence.

We've known for a long time that Canadian culture is nowhere near the top of the Conservative agenda, and the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography is only one example of the "rationalizations" that have been directed at funding for the arts, public broadcasting, and anything else that will allow Stephen Harper's minority government to wrap itself in a populist mantle of fiscal responsbility. It's easy to look good by closing a small museum that most Canadians have never heard of; but every time a small corner of Canadian culture becomes an easy target for "rationalization", it is our collective national identity that dies a little more.

ADDITIONAL READING

This is an eloquent article in defense of the CMCP written by Martha Langford, the founding Director of the Museum and currently an Associate Professor and Concordia University Research Chair in Art History.

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