Fiona Annis: Room of Knowledge

Summer is sadly drawing to a close once again as we anticipate a new beginning in September. Even if you aren’t going back to school this year, it is easy to feel the nostalgic yearn to curl up with a good book once the weather turns cool. If your summer reading list is still woefully incomplete, look no further than our current exhibition. Get back into the studious mode by exploring all that our current exhibition has to offer. 

Fiona Annis could certainly be classified as a lifelong learner. She holds a BFA from Concordia University, a master’s degree from the Glasgow School of Art and a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies in Society & Culture also from Concordia University in Montreal where she currently lives and works. Her recent studies have taken her to a residency at the Museum of Astronomical Instruments in Naples, Italy where her most recent works will be on display this fall. 

Exhibition view.

Her curiosity for history, astronomy and literature are easily identifiable in this exhibition. You will notice several quotes on the walls placed in conversation with the artworks, as well as annotated physical books just waiting to be opened. When asked how she chose the books to be included in this exhibition, Annis responded that they were the books she wished to have in her personal library, not that they necessarily influenced the works on display. You are invited to browse our miniature library to introduce new ideas to your interpretation of Annis’s work. 

Tucked away in the corner of the main gallery is a space we are affectionately calling the “knowledge room.” You can sit at the oak table to get a closer look at the delicate cyanotype triptych or delve deeper into the exploration of knowledge. Over your shoulder is one of the only artworks in this exhibition that is not photographic, but it explores this tendency towards research nonetheless. 

Fiona Annis, The real as it is… Gold leaf on book page, 2019.

Annis isolates Nietzsche’s words from their textual context, leaving the viewer to extrapolate a philosophical interpretation. By covering the majority of the words, the meaning of the title is destabilized, much like viewing an abstract image. The remaining phrase explicitly questions what is “real” and if knowledge and reality are concrete or simply ever-changing perception. 

Alongside philosophy and astronomy lies this poetic sensibility throughout the exhibition. The interest in the mysteries of the night sky is thematic of the work of 20th-century Argentine poet Jorge Luis Borges. Find a side-by-side translated compilation of Borges’s Poems of the Night in the knowledge room. Ponder these words and the big questions about time and knowledge as you explore this exhibition. 


Something that surely cannot be called

Mere chance must rule these things;

Some other man has met this doom

On other days of many books and the dark.

Algo, que ciertamente no se nombra 

con la palabra azar, rige estas cosas; 

otro ya recibió en otras borrosas 

tardes los muchos libros y la sombra.

-Jorge Luis Borges, “Poema de los Dones,” 1958.


Fiona Annis: a portion of that which was once everything is on at the CRAG for one more week until September 4th.