JAN 7 - FEB 4
Susan Goodyear / Brandon Vickerd Veracity
Susan Goodyear explores her brother's experience of schizophrenia. Tightly stretched banners of white cloth display a grid of her brother's messages. The grid mimics the shape of a calendar, but each block of time is blank, suggesting the insignificance of regular perception of time. Systems and patterns commonly used to create order are presented as obstacles. After this first installation, the viewer reaches a corner lit by a bare light bulb. A wooden chair faces a great avalanche of paper, which cascades haphazardly down the walls and floor of the gallery. On the far-right side of each full sheet of 8"x 10" loose leaf is a note written by Goodyear's brother. Although hand-written, his notes are sometimes so similar that they appear to be carbon-copied. "Mom write me a note saying you will get me 20 wooden rings at the hardware store and also toothpicks." "Dad I want to get a tex-mex and fries because this is burger day and I haven't had my burger yet." "Can I walk to Zellers sometimes this week." The overwhelming flood of notes is a provocative entrance into how schizophrenia has drastically affected the artist's brother and his familial relationships.
Brandon Vickered, from Victoria, B.C., presents large animal skeletons that appear to be constructed from bone but are actually built from plaster. Having created plaster vertebrae, pelvises, leg bones, skulls and antlers, Vickered makes a point of noting that both bone and plaster share the root element calcium implying that he may be playing God, with tongue planted in cheek. "Actuality," he says, "is contrived and interchangeable. Truth has become a tale, the residue of an animal that has never been." One Vickered-born skeleton consists only of a curly spine with a horned head at either end. The antlers entwine and the skulls are inseparable, locked in an eternal dead-on gaze. Another skeleton sports a fat ribcage but no head or forelegs. The animal's two opposing pelvises and four knock-kneed legs brace against each other in a ridiculous state of codependency and conflict.
FEB 18 - MAR 31
Tara Cooper / Lise Melhorne-Boe Beneath Her Covers, Annual Women's Day Exhibition
For the International Women's Day Exhibition, Tara Cooper explores the tradition of the "crazy quilt": a blanket made of mementos and fine swatches that are collected from neighbours, friends and family, and sewn together by a women's quilting circle. A crazy quilt binds together the fabric remnants of many pasts, and often the process of making the quilt involves storytelling and reminiscing. The final product speaks of the quilting circle itself which often functions as a support network and strengthens ties between women. Using the medium of printmaking, Cooper will weave a narrative on large paper quilts, focusing on domestic imagery with the intention of connecting to the viewer's domestic experiences.
Lise Melhorne-Boe examines behavioral social constraints imposed upon women at childhood. Creating subversive "girlish" pop-up books which combine real-life women's stories with pointed and humorous imagery, Melhorne-Boe makes a cutting commentary on the morality commonly found in girl-targeted books. The gendered dichotomy of "good" and "bad" is brought to light with superimposed images of icons commonly used to decorate little girls' bedrooms (Sunbonnet Sue, The Virgin Mary, etc.), and tales with unpredictable twists.
APR 8 - MAY 19
Andrea Cooper, curator I Confess
Jason Jenkins, Bonnie Leyton, Elizabeth MacKenzie, Mikiki, Undrea Norris with Lori Clarke, Jerry Ropson, and Anne Troake
I confess there is nothing new about spying and snitching. There is nothing new about voyeurism. Peeping Toms. Rear Window. Candid Camera. Jerry Springer. Jennicam. The Truman Show. Survivor.
Surveillance cameras are watching us on street corners, in subways, malls, parking lots and public parks. We exist in the age of the omnipresent gaze.
As curator, I invited artists to submit proposals in response to the observation that our "camera" culture has become increasingly obsessed with the private within the public, keeping in mind the many questions which arise from this phenomenon: why it has become public fodder? How do we watch? Who are we watching? Why do we watch? Who will watch those who watch us? I selected eight artists whose work addresses these questions provocatively, arrestingly, humorously and seductively.
The idea of seduction inevitably comes in to play because, it seems, no matter what, we've got to have our fix. The media knows that ratings soar from focusing on private matters. Television/video/film offers intimate information without obligations. We huddle into our winter rooms and ogle at private humiliations on television. We watch as one Survivor passes out into the heat of the fire and we watch still as his fellow contestants see his skin melt off his body in the Australian Outback. Then we watch our friends, our families and ourselves, watching. Are we ambivalent? Horrified? Did you like it? On TV we can indulge in our watching, without having to partake in the reality. We get our fix painlessly.
The boundaries between private and public domains thus become blurred and confused. But where does this fit into modern art? Marcel Duchamp creates Etant Donne's around the same time that Alfred Hitchcock makes Rear Window. Both are skillful interactions of intimacy, privacy and the voyeuristic gaze. So what changed? What happened in our culture at this time to inspire both men to respond with such visions? Could it be, that with the birth of "the talkies," the seeds of what I now call "camera culture" had just been sown? And Duchamp and Hitchcock predicted the results. Duchamp's Etant Donne is experienced through a keyhole. When the viewer looks through the hole, he observes a woman upon a shore, lying with her legs apart. The voyeur unsuccessfully strains to see her face. The perspective suggests violence. It is jarring and disturbing. In Hitchcock's Rear Window the main character is obsessed with peeping on his neighbors- and suspects that his neighbor has murdered his wife. He has not witnessed it, he has only watched his neighbor's unusual behavior. From his own window he looks through their back window. By its very nature, a window is meant to look out, not into. What happens when the viewpoint is reversed?
Camera culture suggests a partial, fragmented, obstructed, filtered viewpoint that - to use a colloquialism - fucks with reality. So how do these ideas play into contemporary art and culture?) Hyper-voyeurism.
Jason Jenkins Most (not all) of us try to control the flow of information. We hold back our desire for what others know about us, while shamelessly indulging in facts about other people. Jason Jenkins' describes his Judas/Still Life Video: "it is intended in its raw honesty to play with the audience's ethical standpoint on eavesdropping on the private domain". Jason sits casually on his bed, his torso naked, a postmodern twenty-something adorned in the icons of individuality. On his right, there is a calendar turned to the month of January with a sexy buxom calendar lady sticking her breasts out. Is this self-mocking? Open and comfortable with the camera, he looks for symbolic Catholic significance in everyday objects: candles, matches, and chains. The central theme of the video is betrayal. We listen to Jason's mind wander from object to object, alluding to some horrible sin that he has committed. The objects exist as tension. Objects stand in the way of the confession. We wait in suspense, in hope that he will divulge the wicked horrors that he has imposed upon a friend. He freely talks about alcoholism, scarification, branding and his reason for adorning his body with earrings and piercing, which he refers to as 'self -imposed imprisonment'. Jenkins asks us to be his witness.
Unlike a talk show confession, we do not get the vivid detail or the horrible forbidden story. We watch a young man search for meaning, validation, and self-worth. We wait perhaps, because we are a race of peeping toms that wants every sordid detail. Because of the all familiar format of the talk shows, we don't expect Jenkins to keep his misery to himself. He wants to be watched. We expect the confession. This is why we keep watching. Jenkins wants to feel better but avoids the actual root of his guilt. He holds back; this is what separates him from tabloid television. With tabloid television, instead of going to visit a counselor, people disclose their most personal details, which lends the teller an aura of celebrity for simply being a victim. Is Jenkin's a victim of his own betrayal? He uses victim terminology. He does not say "I have scars" he says "scarification". His piercing -- much like the scars and the video - mark his presence. He needs to know that he still exists. Much like feminist video art of the 70s, the video reminded me of Lisa Steele's My birthday suit, where in real time she approached the camera naked and recounted the history of her scars. It is honest, straightforward, and clinical. Jenkin's video is a conversation with himself giving voice to the racing of his own brain. He talks to the camera like a psychiatrist -- and asks the viewer to become just that. He will make you uncomfortable. Jenkins explores masochism, self-obsession, guilt, and places you into an uncomfortable void. He uses his weapons, his intimate objects as a shield against the truth, the confession, and his own insecurity.
Undrea Norris & Lori Clarke The act of taking photographs of oneself is personal, mysterious, and intimate. It is as personal, as mysterious and as intimate as the knowledge of one's own belly. Norris gave disposable cameras to friends and asked them to write confessions on their stomachs. These anonymous subjects offered up their confessions from the symbolic place of vulnerability. Norris sees the stomach as root, gut, and home within the body.
The confessors maintain their privacy. It is in opposition to our larger-than-life culture of exposing all the information, yet it fits into the inherent nature of the photograph, which is always a frame, a border, closing off... something. Norris takes back the confession, reconstructs these frames. Her paintings reinvent the photographs so that they become frames within a frame.
The belly paintings offer a constructed confession. They suggest a piece of truth, while convincing you it is all truth. They are intimate, yet subtle. Norris also gets the power. She is the trusted divine, the person who is the first to view the images, and she is the one who chooses which photograph she will skillfully render. Much like the squares on which they are painted, our view is partial -- like looking into a keyhole or window. We are looking into a square. There is a push/pull between the levels of control in the artistic process, in the sharing between artist and subjects. Norris's process insists that the models always maintain a level of privacy, while still getting them to offer as much of themselves as they feel comfortable with. The confessions are varied. Naked, Hungry is raw and visceral. A similar sexual energy is also felt in the painting of the woman in the bathtub reading The Story of O. The belly paintings move between confrontation and vulnerability. I love This is of a hand pointing to a mole on his/her belly. The little painting exclaims self-approval -- as does I refuse to not enjoy what is being offered. The models always take the photograph knowing that there will be a viewer. They give us a partial view that is reminiscent of looking through a lens. Norris filters this view further, but -- in the process -- offers her own fresh perspective that is textured, sensual and layered.
The multi-talented Lori Clarke has collaborated with Norris by exploring the territory of the confession. She uses orchestral sounds and voices to create a haunting effect. With headphones shaped as ears, attached to the bellies, it alludes to the intimate act of listening to a fetus in the womb. Voices whisper barely audible confessions. The territory of the confession is cerebral. Clarke takes you inside the mind -- and the terrain of the sound-scape creates the sensation of listening within the body. It compliments Norris's work in that it completes the installation and echoes the confessions that are written on the bellies. The soundscape completes the feeling of intimacy by calling upon another of our senses. The viewer's experience is no longer strictly optical, but a visceral occurrence that mimics the sensations created by Clarke.
Bonnie Leyton Oprah is outspoken. She is an icon. For millions of daytime television watchers she embodies justice, honesty, vulnerability and goodness. Oprah can also become your sickly sweet, sympathetic best friend, whose secrets are something to be sold. Everybody's story is important, and nobody has to suffer alone. Bonnie Leyton's multi-media piece A true Confession tells the story of a ten -year old chubby figure skater. She divulges a familiar child-hood anecdote. Leyton writes "This chubby little velvet-skirted girl grew up to watch the OPRAH SHOW. Still looking for answers to why she was so short of confidence, so chubby, so self-deprecating." The book and two clay sculptures are whimsical and gestural. "Oprah promised but never fulfilled the dream of answering life's question's in one hour a day, just as that velvet-skirted little girl couldn't grab her dream in her few minutes on the ice." Leyton answers her own question. She wanted a quick fix. Her fantasy was to be a celebrity, to be a figure skating star, to feel loved or special because she was especially good at something. Leyton watches ordinary woman on Oprah, who become instant fleeting celebrities for self-validation and self worth, simply by telling their stories. Leyton is also painfully aware that the one-hour confessional leaves her empty with unfulfilled desire, and there is no tragedy quite like desire. The confession has become a commodity; and its fetish value is us. Millions of watchers sit entranced in spite of themselves, smiling, nodding, weeping and yelling. We give the confession worth - but never the person...
Jerry Ropson In Jerry Ropson's proposal for this exhibition he writes "In relation to our 'camera culture' and the issue of private versus public, I feel the concern not only lies in what we consume from the media (in private), but also what we reflect or put forth as a result of that consumption." Ropson mixes up the notions of public and private in relation to his own image. Who is the real Jerry Ropson? Who are the personas? Is there ever a real Jerry Ropson? When in public, do we create a facade in order to somehow control or protect how we are perceived or viewed? Jerry differentiates between the 'public' me and the 'private' me. He creates his own identity through appropriated images from the media, however, it is a public me that he has created in privacy.
Ropson explores the notion of identity as construct. That we can control our own image, and how we want to be watched. In a culture obsessed with Holly-wood, the desire to be important, to be noticed and watched becomes more and more acute. Witty, his quirky drawings and collages play with illusions of grandeur. The nature of Ropson's ideas fits into the growing number of home web pages, where people post-images of themselves and tell all. With anonymity on the web, the lines between fact and fiction become blurred. What is appropriated? Ropson proves that it is possible to construct your identity and create your own fantasy, rooted in self-awareness and reality.
Anne Troake Viewing the work of Anne Troake reminds me of James Stewart confined to a wheel chair in Hithcock's Rear Window. The viewer is required to sit in a chair to view her work. She creates an environment that suggests a kitschy suburban room- the T.V tray, the overstuffed chair, the tacky picture frames. The viewer is confined to a small space to experience the work. Like a series of interrupted televisions, Stewart in Rear Window cannot stop watching his neighbors. His nurse comments on his peeping tom behavior by noting that looking at things you shouldn't be looking at equal's trouble. This is inherent characteristic of voyeurism.
Troake confesses her pre-adolescent desire to get her period. She eroticized the idea of bleeding because it signified breasts, and getting a cute guy. She confesses to rooting through the bathroom at the Arts and Culture Centre with her best friend to unwrap rolls of toilet paper concealing maxi-pads. The anticipation of bleeding was naughty and a little forbidden.
We watch Troake in the bathroom inserting a tampon with a medical diagram of her uterus superimposed onto her body. Troake eroticizes the private yet universal taboo subject of menstruation. Troake's installation is wickedly funny and comments on what society doesn't talk about. It also raises questions about the politics of the tampon and the larger politics surrounding ownership and control of women's bodies, and women's own relationship with menstruation. In objectifying her own body she explores the pre-adolescent fantasy of obtaining the essence of womanhood.
Elizabeth MacKenzie In The Evolution of Female Surveillance, Elizabeth MacKenzie uses the construction of a screen to represent a very public form of privacy. It is barely private and always vulnerable. MacKenzie writes, "Behind the screen one occupies a liminal space between private and public, always verging on intrusion. It is seductive, nostalgic and vulnerable. Just like a confession. And it hides as much as it reveals". MacKenzie's piece explores the "intrusion of the public watchdog into the bodies and minds of women. Furthermore, [it explores]...an evolution from external to internal surveillance and control, eventually making the private body public property". MacKenzie's work is rooted in feminist concerns, but also reflects the paranoia of a society constantly under surveillance. The objects or symbols that MacKenzie has chosen to depict are cast on a folding screen that you change behind. These objects have intruded into the lives of women. They subject women to a set of rules, controls and boundaries imposed upon them by a nameless, faceless hierarchy. The Chastity Belt. The Crucifix. The Joneses. The Canon. The Bathroom Scale. The Panopticon. Who is watching us? Surveillance cameras. Satellites. The public has imposed the personal on the public. Mackenzie examines privacy as complexity -- as a struggle between excess, access and control. The addition of sexy underwear strewn across the screen and on the floor suggests naughty behavior or conjures up sexual fantasies of bedroom antics -- confirming that 'the private is political'.
Mikiki Confessor, Confessor, the work of Mikiki, investigates the structure of a confession. How does a confession differ from a testimony? A testimony is a statement of facts. A confession infers that the confessor is seeking absolution or will receive punishment for his/her sins. Mikiki reminds the viewer that the person, who the confessor confesses to, is also ironically called a confessor. He examines the hierarchy of the confession. There are two pictures of the artist side by side. It is the same background -- it is not shot, counter shot. Everything is always experienced through a lens. He simultaneously becomes the witness and the sinner. The witness is not hearing the confession. While Mikiki questions the hierarchy of the confession, he becomes locked into a world where he is, tragically, both confessors. A state of purgatory where there is no relief...
"Tell me everything you saw Jeff, and tell me exactly what it means..." wide-eyed Grace Kelly demanded to James Stewart in Rear Window. Contemporary society is fusing the boundaries between the acceptable and the taboo. A pluralistic race of voyeurs struggle with insecurity, self-acceptance, validation, and reflection. Is there a place for morals and dignity among our peeping toms? I confess, I don't know. Question everything and watch your back. - essay written by Andrea Cooper
MAY 28 - JUN 30
Heather Reeves / Lorelei Horne Untitled
Between us and reality sits an internal screen, a site where we attempt to bring about order from our sensory encounters with the world. The screen also acts as a defense against the welling up of the repressed trauma of our earliest experiences of separation. An immigrant yearns to belong, but does neither to the new nor the old, thereby being dispossessed of both native and chosen lands. Memory calls up occasions when the psyche has singled out coincidental experiences of two places, Newfoundland, Canada, and the coastal plain of Western Australia, where plants, land and water coalesce and new island lands are formed to create a geography of the imagination.
JUL 7 - AUG 11
Miyuki Shinkai New Work
Miyuki Shinkai creates large-scale, site-specific installations with hand-made glass and mixed media. Interested in Japanese-Canadian history, specifically the deportation tragedy and the overcoming of hardships after the war, Shinkai's art explores social psychology studies and cross-cultural experiences. "I wanted," she states, " [to] pay my responsibility by making a work to heal others." With spectacular, seductive style and impeccable attention to detail, she uses coloured light on repeated forms made of hand-blown glass, wood, and mixed media to invoke a resounding sense of calm in the viewer.
AUG 19 - SEP 22
Leah Decter / Lisa Deanne Smith / Clint Griffin
Trace/in order to know them better I invite them into my world
Decter's new exhibition TRACE examines issues of individuality and scientific identification. Using images of teeth and concepts of forensic dentistry, she creates a museum-like environment where human beings are identified only by number, bite-mark and grandparents' birthplace. Viewers will be able to contribute their own bite-mark identification.
Clint Griffin sews, scribbles on, and otherwise manipulates found photographs in order to "collaborate with unknown people".
Lisa Deanne Smith creates swaying columns out of collected hair that she finds discarded in public places or that is given to her out of brushes and combs. Griffin and Smith are interested in collaborating on delicate, site-specific installations that evoke somatic responses from the viewer - whether it is attraction/repulsion or simply the effects of walking through a physically fragile space filled with "personal" mementos.
NOV 11 - DEC 20
Benjamin Evans / Peter Drysdale Retrograde Motion &
Benjamin Evans explores issues of nostalgia, high and low art, and the myth of the artist in his new exhibition Retrograde Motion. Using old, abandoned paintings found in The Salvation Army and Value Village, Evans performs a "treatment" of them, either integrating them into a new canvas or painting directly on top of the original. The purchased paintings are often mass-produced or mechanically dictated paint-by-numbers, and by integrating them with an authentic, one-of-a-kind work by a "real" artist, the distinction between high and low art becomes seriously problematic. To highlight this absurd situation, Evans will use a strict formula to put a price tag on the work: purchase price multiplied by one hundred. Thus a paint-by-numbers originally selling for $1.99 is now $199, and a painting received for free is still free. Evans hopes that during his exhibition some of the works will re-appear at The Salvation Army, where the public can make purchases.
Peter Drysdale builds his works entirely out of recyclable materials such as scrap metal, tires, plastics and car parts. Protesting their unnecessary disposal, he reuses "scrap" materials in impressive, amusing, machine-like sculptures. The works are simultaneously seductive and jarring, bringing to light both our fascination with machines and our industrial wastefulness.