Humanities at Large

Reading, Again

Submitted by Kim Yates on October 17 2018.
Lillian O'Brien Davis discusses the JHI art exhibition on 14 September 2018

Every year the JHI hosts an exhibition of art. Students in the Masters in Visual Studies program in Curatorial Studies at the University of Toronto propose an art exhibition based on the annual theme, and one of these proposals becomes a practicum. This year’s exhibit, Reading, Again was curated by Lillian O’Brien Davis, who is completing a MVS under the supervision of Barbara Fischer (Executive Director/Chief Curator of the Art Museum at the University of Toronto and cross-appointed to the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design). At the lunch on 14 September, on the day after the official launch of the exhibition, Lillian discussed her choices with the fellows who will be working alongside these pieces in the coming year.

This exhibition seeks to complicate how we think about perception. Works in a diversity of media confront the viewer with perceptual and conceptual disorientation. Some works highlight the way vision is imbued with memory and/or anticipation. Others illuminate the way in which legibility is muddled when something is uncoupled from an original framework or context. There are also works that focus on permeable and delicate structures of looking, such as lenses, filters, and screens. When perceptual fibrillations cause cognition to stall, there is an opportunity to explore looking and the conundrum of sight. With this in mind, the exhibition asks visitors to look, yes, look again, and longer this time.

Reading, Again features the work of six artists: Laurie Kang, Nadia Belerique, Colin Miner, Wanda Koop, Katherine Knight and Henri Vergé-Sarrat—each artist responds to questions of perception and sight by exploring questions of time and material.

Colin Miner, Stalactite sculpture, 2018
Colin Miner, Untitled (Stalactite) (detail) bronze casts and rock, 2018-2019. Courtesy of the artist.
Photo: Lillian O'Brien Davis

Colin Miner’s practice uses photography to investigate the material and conceptual nature of the medium. He works in video, sculpture, and photography, but also as a writer and curator. Comprised of several components, each element in this work was first created as an independent work. The bronze sculpture, which is installed outdoors, is comprised of two distinct elements: the stalactite and the spiral. Both pieces were made during a period of research when the artist used photography to record processes of calcification. The risograph prints displayed inside the JHI refer to the location where the bronze stalactite and spiral were created, as they depict the steam from the pool that aided in the solidification process. The bronze sculpture is exposed to the elements which will cause it to slowly change and, over the next 10 months, register the passage of time through the change of the bronze’s surface. The rocks included in the piece offer an additional indication of the passage of time through shifts in materiality, as they contain specimen fossils, calcified memories suspended in time.

Nadia Belerique, i hate you don't leave me, 2015
Nadia Belerique, i hate you don't leave me, 2015. inkjet photographs, 16.5 x 11.8" Courtesy of Daniel Faria Gallery

Nadia Belerique combines photography and sculptural installation to engage with and explore how the relationship between perception, representation and psychology is always shifting. Pushing the limits of photography, Belerique’s practice often muddles the image/ object distinction, playing with the concept that experience creates meaning. This selection of works by Nadia Belerique is part of a series that puts to the test what can be considered the “real” object or an art work. Made on an uncovered scanner bed, Belerique plays with layers and depth in order to appeal to the viewer’s psychological state, intuition and senses. Using familiar objects and images and presenting them in new contexts produces alternative modes of understanding, prompting new visual awareness and engagement. The rough edges of some of the scanned material conflicts with the slick mounting of the photographs; equally, the presence of the artists fingerprints on the scanner bed speak to the fluid narrative of the life of the work that exceeds the parameters of the frame.

Laurie Kang, In and Out (detail), 2013-18
Laurie Kang, In and Out (detail), 2013-2018.
Unfixed, unprocessed photographic paper, darkroom chemicals (continually sensitive), silicone, duratrans, and magnets. Courtesy of the artist.

Laurie Kang’s practice includes photography, sculpture, video and site-responsive work. She engages with materials in order to engage with their sensitivities to and connections with human and nonhuman matter. For Kang, bodies are situated and political as well as always in a state of process. Her mis-use of mediums and materials simulates relational and unknown affects and produces changes through unexpected collaborations. This work explores the sensitive nature of materials, which is key to its visual presentation. The colours in the work are inherent to the material but are also contingent on the (mis)use of the material. The core of this work is based on what emerges through the pushing and pulling of the materials away from their original structures. The body of the artist is an integral part of the work as another materiality that is constantly evolving and changing and whose boundaries are unfixed. The viewer is implicated in the work through the reflective yet distorting quality of the duratrans surface. This work enacts the experience of both delving into and revelling in an unfamiliar moment.

Overall, these artworks explore the possibility found in the moment between mis-recognition and understanding.