Sometimes you happen upon an exhibition that is so bang-on in its intent and presentation that all you can do is stand back and admire its charms. Such is the lucky fate of anyone who wanders into “When The Cat’s Away, Abstraction”, a new group show highlighting works that begin from digital sources and end in traditional commodities.
If you live in Toronto and have friends in the arts, they were likely busy last week. Most of the local art world were attending the screenings, gallery shows and live presentations launched as part of the Images Festival. Now in its 29th year, Images is the largest North American annual festival for experimental and independent film and video.
Few screenings saw greater demand than Mike Hoolboom’s sold out Incident Reports. Even press, such as myself, were put on a waiting list. This wasn’t exactly a surprise: the Toronto-based filmmaker is an influential figure in the Canadian film and media scenes. He’s not only had a prodigious output that’s warranted retrospectives at festivals worldwide (including Images), but is a co-founder of the exhibition collective Pleasuredome and was the first artistic director of Images (2000).
At least half the fun on any spectacle is the after-chat: the armchair philosophizing, the intention guessing, the interpretation, the endless acts of interpretation. The ancient Romans knew that much.
For instance, think of Beyonce’s recent Super Bowl performance, which is now generating MA theses, or Taylor Swift’s over-discussed Grammy speech, or, even more fleeting but just as worthy of spin-offs, that moment during the Golden Globes when Lady Gaga bumped into Leonardo Di Caprio – memes sprung up like freshly watered Sea Monkeys. (And, no, I hardly think it accidental that these three examples are all centred on people who present as female – women are still watched far more closely than men, because men still run the shows).
Paul Pfeiffer’s tri-part video installation, “Three Figures in a Room”, digs into this watch-analyse-watch again circle by distilling one world media event (a televised boxing match) to its core elements – sights and sounds.
History needs historians. They chronicle the past, poking and prodding at the accumulated details that ultimately defines public record. What’s perhaps less obvious, though, is that history needs artists too.
At least that’s the conclusion I drew after visiting Say Something Bunny!, Alison S.M. Kobayashi’s solo show at Toronto artist-run center Gallery TPW. Having received from a friend a 64 year old wire recording purchased at an estate sale, the Toronto and Brooklyn-based artist manages to unspool a multigenerational yarn of Rothian heights. The audio, augmented by Kobayashi’s rigorous and thorough research, uncovers the trials and tribulations of a middle class Jewish family from Long Island. Throughout the installation, Kobayashi renders the facts that define the lives of these idiosyncratic cast of characters deeply felt and most remarkably, close and real.
Last year, MoMA’s Yoko Ono retrospective bombed by taking the fun (and guesswork) out of her work. But in Tierra de Esperanza at Muso Memoria y Tolerancia, Yoko Ono shines with work that’s interactive, alternately playful and political, and sometimes bizarre.
After tip-toeing through the trash at Charlemagne Palestine’s toyland next door at the Witte de With, I braced myself for another smarmy, high-concept dose of infantile and over-determined abjection before wandering into Ugo Rondinone’s “50 clowns in a big room” installation Vocabulary of Solitude. Well, face paint me surprised! I loved it.