Sort of Site Specific

Three new exhibitions have opened in the Sackville/Moncton area in the last few weeks. Plaza presents new work by Maude Bernier Chabot, Montreal QC. The Closer Together Things Are explores the space between difference and similarity that arises from intense observation, featuring work by Kathleen Hearn, Ève K. Tremblay, Laura Letinsky, Micah Lexier & Dave Dyment, Micah Lexier & Roula Partheniou, Rhonda Weppler & Trevor Mahovsky, Luke Painter, Chris Kline, and Roula Partheniou. Finaly For Rona presents new work by Evan Furness, Sackville NB about building space through narrative.

In all of these exhibitions I felt a real connection to place. The series of sculptures in Plaza, resulted from Chabot’s research into the social and commercial space of Plaza St-Hubert in Montréal. This is a space I have visited with my parents, who both grew up in Montreal. This site of economic and cultural life took off in the 1950s and has undergone multiple transformations with changes of merchants and other socio-culturral changes in the neighborhood. Chabot writes that “The result is a cultural mix visible from the storefronts to the back of the shops: fabric stores, restaurants, wedding and ball gowns, beads, used clothing and objects, wigs, multi-ethnic hairdressing salons, and sex shops. The Plaza is a space of abundance where objects pile up, intermingle, and mix. The Plaza has been both as a source of material acquisitions and a source of conceptual inspiration.” The resulting exhibition transforms the white cube into a space with glow in the dark stalagmites and furry forms resting on tarred carpets, and sensual mix of home comfort and tarmacs. Through titles like ‘do not disturb’ you get a sense of the fur forms resting, and could spring to life at any moment, but the invisible barrier of the tarmack creates a separation of space and sense of safety, not unlike looking in a store window at an alien puppy.

The exhibition; The Closer Together Things Are, just opened at the gallery I have been working at, the Owens. The Co-curaters of the exhibiton Shannon Anderson and Jay Wilson note a focus on “the proximity of time, heredity, frottage, palette, concept and presentation.” Each of the works on display demand a double-take, often made from unusual materials, or methods of working that differ from traditional ways of making photographs, drawings, paintings. “Under close scrutiny, the most mundane objects and situations can compel us, drawing our full attention. The more we look, the more variations surface; differences arise from things that once seemed identical, and sameness arises from things that once seemed unrelated. This exploration of nearness guides how the artworks interact with one another through proximity, mirroring, repetition and reinterpretation. Strange bedfellows are made and unforeseen connections arise.” By looking again, or looking more closely, you can begin to notice the differences in the mundane or common, and how these works are slightly different from the objects they are inspired by, but how different that makes our understanding of them. I wonder from this exhibition if the goal is to look more closely at everything visual, both in and outside the gallery.

Many of the works included explore the notion of place through objects, and our relationship to those objects. By subverting that relationship in someway, the artists make us look at the banal again. Anderson explains this as very deliberately as a “mirroring that happens in the work. You see the same objects one way and the other … but it’s not until you spend the time studying [them] that you realize in what ways they’re different and what’s happening between one set of really simple objects and the next.”

One site specific work included was two pages of the Sackville Tribune Post, featuring the work of Micah Lexier and Dave Dyment. I the paper two advertisements show Sam Rockwell in the film Moon. Similar adds have and will be placed in the other venues of the exhibition while on tour, each “looking at doubles, doppelgangers or actors who have played themselves in a film of some kind.… It’s re-splitting something that was originally split and spliced together and separating it again just to underscore the artificiality of it and to emphasize the double-ness of it,” according to Anderson.

In Moncton, Evan Furness’ exhibition For Rona built a space through narrative. The works play with constructs in stories of fiction and truth. The text heavy exhibition teases out the relationship that memory builds with place, and the acts that have occurred there. Reading the stories you get a sense of the place they occurred even without necessarily seeing the whole space. Furness’ drawings and video play with this though large areas of negative space, and just hints of what could be happening in the darkness and ambiguity behind those stories.

Image gracieuseté de l'artiste / Image courtesy of the artist
For Rona, Video, Evan Furness, 2017

Through all of these exhibitions I am forced to consider my place in relation to the works I am encountering. Some familiar spaces become unfamiliar and alien, while spaces I have never visited become feel personal very quickly though story. Objects I think of as common have a secret life, and I feel forced to reconsider everything I at first thought was familiar.