Ron Benner is an artist, gardener and activist from London, Ontario.
In 2013, Benner presented his work at La Biblioteca Andrés Henestrosa (Oaxaca, Mexico) in both an exhibition in the gallery and in the courtyard of a restored colonial site which had been previously converted into a library, exhibition space and municipal cultural centre. Recently he was selected for a special project in a bus shelter for Resistance, Manif 7, the 2014 Quebec City Biennial . A solo exhibition curated by Julian Haladyn for the McIntosh Gallery, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario will open in January 2015.
His mixed media photographic installations are in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Hart House (The University of Toronto), Museum London (London, Ontario), McIntosh Gallery (The University of Western Ontario), The
Canada Council Art Bank and the Casa de Las Americas (Havana, Cuba).
His photographic garden installations have been installed in locations across Canada and in Salamanca and Sevilla, Spain. Museum London's French/English bilingual publication Ron Benner: Gardens of a Colonial Present published in 2008 documents and analyses his numerous garden installations constructed between 1987 and 2005.
He has been awarded numerous times including awards from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council. In 2000 he was awarded the studio at the Cité Internationale des Arts (Paris, France). He has participated in an advisory capacity for the Canada Council for the Arts, Art Bank Ottawa and was an advisor for Museum of World Cultures, Museion (Gothenborg, Sweden) in 2001. In 2005 he participated in Art, Geography and Invisibility at an international geography symposium in Olot, Catalunia (the University of Barcelona, Spain). He was an exhibiting artist and installation coordinator for the national touring
Trans/mission: Vectors, Ron Benner, mixed media photographic installation, 2014
exhibition Orientalism & Ephemera, a project by Jamelie Hassan (2006-2008).
Benner calls himself a survivor of Agricultural Engineering at the University of Guelph where he attended for one year in 1969/70. In 2012 he was appointed an adjunct professor in the Visual Arts Department at the University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario). He was Artistic Director of the Forest City Gallery, an artist-run centre in London, Ontario established in 1973 and co-founder with Jamelie Hassan of the artist-run centre, the Embassy Cultural House, which they oversaw from 1983 through 1990.
Ron Benner Artist Statement
I have been producing mixed media/photographic installations, which visually investigate the history and political economy of food cultures for four decades. Over the years I have worked to locate my installations beyond the usual cultural spaces. These sites have included a cliff face on Lake Erie, Ontario, Canada, a railway underpass, a university research greenhouse, a civic plant conservatory, shopping malls, supermarkets and local farmers’ markets. In relation to the photographic/garden installations, I have been open to locating them wherever the hosting institutions have had an available site, and I have adapted my ideas to each site.
Key aspects of my work have been the research process, including travel to locations in order to photograph combined with the use of found material culture. I have also produced installations which involve the use of native-Américan plant species and the movement of these plants globally. What begins as a direct approach to an idea concerning the production of an installation changes over time as a result of places and spaces visited, people and plants encountered and books read. Old native American species such as corn, chilli peppers, tomato plants, papaya and marigolds will crop up in the most unlikely places and cuisines.
Recent garden installations include: Trans/mission: Blé d’Inde at AXENÉ07, Gatineau, Quebec (2008) and /10, Forman Art Gallery, Bishop's University, Sherbrooke, Quebec (2010). As the Crow Flies, photographic garden and water installation begun in 2005 has continued on site at Museum London through to 2014. Your Disease Our Delicacy (Cuitlacoche) installed in 2012 at Hart House at the University of Toronto has continued for its third year.
My photographic installation Trans/mission: Vectors 2014 is presented both within a gallery space of the Xi’an Art Museum and a larger format is located in a public site including a garden within the complex of the Great Tang All-Day Mall, near to the Xi’an Art Museum. The black and white images in the installations were photographed in Mexico, Peru, Canada, Africa, India, the Philippines and China. These photographs were selected from my archives of photographs which were taken during my travels over a fifteen year period. The photographic/garden installation has involved the usual negotiations and dialogues with the site manager, the museum team and curators, the plant nurseries and volunteers in the community.These partnerships have contributed significantly to the realization of this work.
As the Crow Flies, mixed media, photographic, garden installation at Museum London (London, Ontario), 2005
Photography: John Tamblyn
Across the Line - In Memory of Ruth First, detail view, mixed media photographic installation, 1984
Collection of the National Gallery of Canada
Photography: John Tamblyn
And the Trees Grew Inwards (for Manuel Scorza), mixed media photographic installation, 1979 -80
Collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario
Photography: John Tamblyn