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Force Majeure

Reclined in a chaise longue, the visitor looks upward and contemplates five large-screen LCD monitors. Several flying figures, women and men, flit across the screens against blue sky and clouds. Simultaneously suspended and buffeted about in a world of air, the fliers’ street clothes snap and ripple, testimony to the wind’s elemental power. That the fliers are truly flying, not falling, cannot be taken for granted; the memory of the World Trade Center “jumpers” remains close at hand.

A soundtrack of rock-and-roll drumbeats and synthesized noises parallels the fliers’ aimless trajectories; the drums launch forth on promising starts, but falter and peter out.

Vertigo and peril are never far off. Given the large monitors mounted on the ceiling above, the sense of restrained peril invades even the installation materials themselves. The wind tunnel propelling the fliers cannot be seen, but a temporary suspension from gravity is being tested, both by the flyers and the monitors themselves. The universal order represented in the Sistine Chapel is here inverted: no divine covenant, just a careen through the clouds—provisional, precarious, unmoored.

text: Edwin Janzen

Family Workstations

Family workstations is a documentary photography series of the personal computers and home workspaces of the artist and his relatives in Canada and Northern Ireland. For the photos, family members were invited to arrange their personal spaces and put something significant on the screens–these included documents and applications the owners were creating (a memoir, a newspaper article, a web site, a photo collection a piece software), as well as a favourite computer game and image. At the bottom of each print is a text stating the relation of the person to the artist (mother, brother, uncle, etc.) and the technical specifications for the computer depicted. The people themselves were not included in the photo.

The series is a kind of family portrait, where the identity of each member becomes an extension of their choice of technology and how they arrange their physical space. It is intended as a snapshot of an era. Initially the artist assumed that the computer technology and the way people were using them would appear quickly obsolete, while the human relations would be more durable. But, while the relation of father, mother, brother, uncle, cousin, does not change, the people themselves did. They age, multiply and die.

In the artist’s family, his mother’s disdain for computers (her portrait shows her tech-free writing table) was always in conflict with his father’s early-adopter embracing of technology. The artist recalls the first time a computer came in the house was in 1975. His father set up a rudimentary computer terminal connected to the home dial-phone receiver on the mahogany dining-room table until his mom saw it and told him to take that ugly thing elsewhere.

Since then, the artist is both enthusiastic about new technology, and aware of how it changes things. As digital technologies continue to be more and more integrated into every aspect of our lives and even our bodies, Family Work Stations is a cautiously-nostalgic sign post made for future viewers looking back to see how things have changed and how that change might of happened.

Absolutely Fabulous

Absolutely Fabulous is the title of the exhibition held at Galerie Thérèse Dion in 2006, and is a series of photographic self portraits of the artist. The work was initially presented in 1993 as a storytelling performance entitled “Souvenirs“. The artist sat accompanied with a number of small photos of himself in various guises. They are photos of him as he is, imagined being or had lived. Viewers were asked to choose an image and the artist responded with a short story that would create a poetic juxtaposition with the photograph.

The work “Dead (1)” was featured in Penny Cousineau-Levine’s book “Faking Death“. The publication of the book led to exhibition “Faking Death” at the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York in 2006, and several of the works from the “Souvenirs” series were presented at this important exhibition.

Art Photography

Art photography is a series of photographs in which a painting by the artist is photographed in relationship to a background. The initial inspiration for this series came from looking at photos of artworks that showed more than they intended to show (i.e. ‘bad’ photos of art). I’m interested in developing a visual metaphor, I guess my visual metaphor, for how the conscious surfaces from the unconscious. The paintings and their backgrounds can symbolize either place, and I am trying to create interesting or poetic tensions between references to imaginary and real space. ‘Real’ insofar as photographic space is real… I photograph artworks professionally for a living. Francis Alys, Sign Painting Project  1993-1997, is a reference for this work.

Body Building

Body Building is a sculpture with a brick base holding up a large colour photograph of the artist’s eye. Along the eyebrow are placed eight Montreal buildings modeled in butter, a perishable material sensitive to touch and temperature. As the exhibition progressed, the buildings sagged and collapsed under the heat of the gallery lights.

This work was produced following a risky BASE jump the artist made off a downtown office building around the time of the exhibition. The jump was a personal challenge, a “bucket list” act: walking to the edge and finding the courage to jump. It was done in secret, in the night, alone, without a camera or audience to record the event. So, when the artist was offered a show two weeks before the opening, the solitary but highly significant event became a natural focus as he quickly put together a work to exhibit.

Bodybuilding proposes a mix of symbolic references related to the subversive transformation of the corporate icon of an office building into a personal diving: the brick base evokes the solidity and power of architecture but is contradicted by the soft and unviable butter buildings; the eye of the artist, bigger than life, is the base for the buildings that are radically reduced in scale, the eye is not all-seeing but rather just a flat landscape for the unlikely structures that end up impeding its vision.

Body Building reflects the artist’s conflict filled relationship to both the material art object and the documentary nature of photography. In the end, it was a strange monument, commemorating an experience the artist could only allude to at the time in a cryptic statement written for the show. It was a monument to a remarkable act that went on to become central to the artist’s own oral history.