Thursday, May 15, 2008

Corrections & Recommendations: The CONTACT Fest continues

I'm definitely enjoying the CONTACT photography festival currently on to the end of this month in Toronto.

And I've got some recommendations that don't fit into my usual print slots with NOW and the Post.

But before I get into those here, I just wanted to make corrections to some items that have recently run in NOW (since NOW doesn't have a corrections section, this is my way to get it out there):

>>In the May 8 edition of NOW, I talk about Suzy Lake's public installation Rhythm of a True Space. In the print edition, unfortunately, these works are simply referred to as "Self-portraits." Rhythm of a True Space is the correct title.

>>In the May 15 edition of NOW, my byline appears on a recommendation for the Paul Till show at Industrial Storm. While I appreciate Till's concert pics (much of which has appeared in the pages of NOW), it's really not much to my critical taste and doesn't stand as one of my personal faves of the fest.

So, with that out of the way.... on to the fun stuff! Here's some shows I recommend seeing if you haven't already.

Show 1: 100 Stories about my Grandmother at Gallery TPW

This video installation by Peter Kingstone is one of the sweetest, most compelling shows I have seen in some time. It's very human: rather than making you stand on the hard concrete floor of the gallery, Kingstone provides four nana's-living-room-like viewing stations, complete with slightly worn couches and bowls of scotch mints. Then, he lets you listen to male sex workers talking about their grandmas. The stories range from "she's the only person who ever loved me and supported me" to "she bit my arm once when I was kid," mostly tending towards the former. There's no soundtrack, and you rarely hear the interviewer, which really makes you feel a one-to-one relationship with the speaker/subject on the topic of their granny. Very humanizing of an often-maligned (and invisible) group of people. I hope this one gets to travel.

Show 2: Liz Miller at Mercer Union

I hate it when writers seem to gush over every show a particular gallery does, but I have to say Mercer Union has done it again, this time with a show of work from Minnesota artist Liz Miller. Miller's brightly coloured installations of felt patterns dazzle with the way they seem to bounce and slide in and out of 2-D and 3-D along those boring white-gallery walls. So I loved it in that respect. But there's a weird angle to it as well, the way the designs, though tactile in their feltedness, so strongly resemble flowcharts or video games or communicating-with-aliens-code-language. In any case, it's worth a look. I really enjoyed the straightened shoelaces from Montreal artist Justin Stephens in the back room as well, though it seem like Stephens might be at one of those artistic impasses where it's unclear what way to go, exactly.

Show 3: Robyn Cumming at Xexe

I know Toronto photographer Robyn Cumming has dealt with issues of femininity ably in the past, but every image from this new show "Lady Things" really blows me away. It recalls all that naive illustration that's going on, with people's faces turning into animals and decorative frills, but it's 100% performative-photographic. Really nice and really relevant to the girlification of so much women's fashion these days (another floaty baby-doll dress for work, anyone?).

That's it for now... have fun out there.

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