The Terminal Show, Public_Spaces, curated by David Liss at the Drake Hotel March 6 – April 1, 2005.
The Furniture Show, or Why I Hate the Drake
David Liss has put together a show on abjection and destruction as responses to the stultifying banality of North American dominant culture. His curatorial statement is hardly illuminating: artists as diverse as Janieta Eyre and Seth Scriver receive suspiciously similar descriptors like "grotesque," "pathetic," "on the precipice of a dark and haunted abyss" etc. etc. A self-indulgent and idea-free video (Liss: "celebrat[ing] alienation and loathing") by Tammy Forsythe is thankfully confined to the Hotel’s vestibule, setting a trend that is more IKEA than Inferno: art as design accessories. As if Liss’s drearily repetitive writing wasn't foreboding enough, the installation of the artworks seems designed to prevent you from looking at them. There is no excuse for playing one of Fame Fame's jarring media-vomit videos on a small monitor nestled between two luxury couches with the volume turned way low so that the desk clerk can blast Radiohead while informing hotel guests of how they may access the sun deck and yoga den. Even worse is the mounting of poor Janieta's photos – smaller than usual and reduced to "brooding and foreboding" in Liss's parlance – right next to said clerk’s desk (out of sight, out of mind) while local luminary Scriver’s cartoon menagerie ("bodies jerking in nihilistic spasms" apparently) are neutered, adorning the Drake’s café, which boasts a happy hour called – wait for it – The Starving Artist. You can rest assured that there's no one running the Drake who's starving since setting themselves up as the Walmart of the Queen West art scene. Maybe in the future they can actually set aside some space -- maybe even a whole room! -- for artworks rather than décorifying them to death. God forbid that someone actually look at the show rather than buy a latté!
Theodore Wan curated by Christine Conley at the Blackwood Gallery January 24 to March 13, 2005.
An eighty-minute bus ride brought me to the Blackwood Gallery in distant Mississauga. The special occasion was a long-posthumous solo show by Vancouver's Theodore Wan whose prolific and varied conceptual art practice – mainly focused in the late seventies – brought together many of my favorite themes: medical science, celebrity and self-portraiture among them. Most of the exhibit is comprised of series of formal black and white images taken by and starring Wan being prepped for an assortment of surgical procedures at the Dalhousie Medical and Dental School in Halifax including "Bound by Everyday Necessities" I and II in which he is aided by a nurse to eat (puffed rice) and pee (in a bottle) while attached to foreboding hospital beds designed for patients with spinal injuries. Another series features the lithe nude form of young Wan painted in antiseptic also in preparation for surgery. Wan was also a commercial photographer of local strippers – and Linda Lovelace! – and he changed his name to Theodore Saskatche Wan after a small town in that dignified but rarely represented middle child of a province for a meticulously documented performance. Another photographic work involved copying a snapshot of Jackie O. and leaving them in public places as gifts for anonymous potential fans. To polish off the show, an excellent computer database has been put together by curator Christine Conley compiling documentation of Wan's practice arranged according to each of his alter-egos. Wan clearly deserves a more visible place in the Canadian art canon, his production in just a few short years – successfully melding art into life where many have failed – outshines many of his contemporaries who were blessed with far longer lives. He died of cancer in his mid-thirties.