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R.M. Vaughan in the visual arts column reports on a show at the Mercer Union of work by Annie MacDonell and comments on one piece thus
One can enter the mirrored cube and listen to a Mr. Bean-ish gentleman deliver a rambling lecture on art-making and its traumas. I was initially engaged, until he started prattling on about the writings of French cultural theorist Gilles Deleuze.
I have nothing against Deleuze’s ideas, but Canadian artists quote Deleuze the way Pat Robertson quotes scripture. And the smug, we’re-all-in-agreement-here tone is, strangely enough, un-Deleuzian in its blind supposition of hegemony.
(One could argue that MacDonell’s vacuous display is, in fact, a critique of the bland sameness and secret-handshaking that pervades contemporary art, the copies of copies of copies … but I doubt such an insider view would register with most gallery visitors.)
To me, MacDonell’s assembly is not an exhibition, it’s a concretized seminar. Her students will be charmed.
Who can avoid this gesture? Selecting a sentence at random from A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia … “A becoming-animal always involves a pack, a band, a population, a peopling, in short, a multiplicity.” translated by Brian Massumi.
Is that barking I hear? The sound of exhausted ideas?
Annie MacDonell is a Toronto-based visual artist whose practice includes film, photography, sculpture, installation and sound. She is known for complex, canny works that examine exhausted ideas and images, landscape, repetition and the conventions of display as they exist in relation to art, the cinema, and the space of the gallery.
Worth a second look? A bit of repetition.
The show at the Mercer Union is called “Originality and the Avant Garde (on Art and Repetition)” which as Gabrielle Moser notes “borrow[s] its title from art critic Rosalind Krauss’ 1981 article that critiqued narratives of artistic innovation in the history of modern art.”
Across from the framed photographs, a giant camera obscura, covered in mirrored plexiglas, serves as another mechanism for artistic self-reflexivity. Built to the exact dimensions of MacDonell’s studio space, the structure houses a video projection showing a male actor, dressed in a wool suit, who delivers his theoretical musings about originality and repetition. Between the looping video clips, ghostly, upside-down versions of the found photographs on the outside of the structure are projected onto the screen by the camera obscura’s lens. Through its transposing of inside and outside space, MacDonell’s mirrored camera positions us as both the object of its gaze and its viewer, confusing the acts of framing and being framed, looking and being watched.
Staging so much self-reflection runs the risk of making work that is insular, a kind of artistic “inside joke” that seems to leave the viewer out of the fun. But in MacDonell’s installation, the sense of having seen these scenarios before is exactly the point, reminding us of the enduring impact of photographic repetition.
Gabrielle Moser in Esse
Inside the insular… reterritorialized.
And so for day 2676