The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery was pleased to launch the 2004 fall exhibition schedule with the University of British Columbia’s Masters of Fine Arts graduate exhibition. This was an excellent opportunity to view the work of six emerging artists whose practices explore the mediums of video, installation, sculpture and photography: Lynette Gillis, Anna Harrison, Kyla Mallett, Eleanor Morgan, Heather Passmore and Melissa Pauw.
In Lynette Gillis’ video work, Pop/Rock: An Interview with Alicia Starr and Lizzy Hersh (2004), the artist enacts the role of two fictional female musicians. Using separate scripts compiled from quotes by contemporary music celebrities, Gillis’ two characters simultaneously respond to an off-screen interviewer, each enacting a different, highly gendered persona that recalls conventional stereotypes within the mainstream music industry. Anna Harrison explores the cultural and technological looping and recycling that characterize this “post-cinematic” moment. In All That Far From Heaven Allows (2004), Harrison digitally edits the final scene from Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven (2002) to look and sound like 16mm celluloid film, thereby referencing Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows (1955), on which the Haynes film is based. The digital projector is made plainly visible in the exhibition space, standing in for the film projector it is superseding. Kyla Mallett adopts media techniques and formats such as questionnaires and interviews to examine the culture of suburban teens and girls. The use of language has important subversive potential for girls. In the face of systematized subjugation, the emotional survival of girls relies heavily on stealthy communication, no matter how forbidden. In Notes (2004), the coded language of gossip, transmitted on pieces of paper is laughable, excruciating and damning. In the photographic series In the Basement (2004), we see the walls of a teenage girl’s bedroom, covered with signatures, graffiti and poetry written by the girl and her friends. Mallett’s work provides glimpses into a world that is at once trite and revealing, where young females are simultaneously powerful and vulnerable. “Cultural followers” are creatures – such as spiders, squirrels, fleas, rats and ants – whose lives are affected and transformed by changes in human culture (and possibly vice versa). They are neither pets nor zoo animals, but occupy and share our own space. Eleanor Morgan’s work plays on a fictional understanding of scientific investigation and includes drawings created from spiders’ webs, a video of an endlessly staring squirrel and a flea-circus trampoline. Heather Passmore investigates aspects of class stratification and cultural hierarchies by experimenting with different materials that have “low cultural status and value” such as linoleum (which was invented in 1863 as an inexpensive facsimile of more costly materials like rugs or marble). Kitchen (2003), Corner (2003-04) and Basement Suite (2004) are made of linoleum manufactured circa 1913 and were lifted from the craftsman style rooming house where the artist lives. All three works display histories of domestic labour, worn pathways and redecoration. Using video, performance and sound, Melissa Pauw’s work explores themes of love and everyday desire in relation to alienation, invisibility and the insufficiency of communication technologies. For Lost Love, Lost Courage (2004), Pauw posted photocopied flyers around the city of Vancouver that mimic the look of lost or missing pet posters. The flyers solicit help in finding lost love or courage. Viewers of the poster can call the number listed and leave information leading to the discovery of lost emotions. This piece concerns itself with trying to establish contact of between individuals who are strangers.
The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue that includes an Introduction by Jeremy Todd and essays by Liz Bruchet, Jessie Caryl, Jeff Khonsary, Rebecca Lane, Melanie O’Brian and Kate Steinmann.