Rita McKeough: Works
The book launch for Rita McKeough: Works (2018) took place in a crowded hall at one of Calgary’s Royal Canadian Legions on a cool October evening. One after the other, artists, curators, and cultural workers took to the microphone to praise McKeough as a creator, mentor, organizer, and activist. Humbled by the outpouring of admiration, McKeough was magnanimous in her remarks, a model and a beacon of hope in an art world fraught with self-preservation, apolitical leadership, and the pursuit of individual success.
Rita McKeough: Works documents the artist’s collaborative artistic practice starting in the late 1970s through a series of essays, interviews, and stories; colour photographs and sketches; and a vinyl record containing audio excerpts from previous works. Edited by Diana Sherlock, this monograph is a unique object cataloguing and revisiting the artist’s prodigious career exhibiting in seminal Canadian artist-run centres, performance festivals, universities, galleries, and museums. The publication outlines the depth of her practice as it fluidly combines visual and media arts, performance, installation, and sound. From Halifax to Vancouver, her work resonates with ecological and socio-political concerns, foregrounding contemporary issues with urgency. Disarmingly humorous yet poignantly gut-wrenching, her interventions are immersive and captivating. As described by Areum Kim, with Veins, one of the most recent projects featured in the catalogue, McKeough creates “an environment where multiple perspectives collide and critical conversations might take place.” In Johanna Householder’s essay she names this ability to develop complex events as an “empathic loop, literally bringing the viewer inside the work.” McKeough binds spaces, objects, and individuals together, generating community and intimacy.