Friday, March 11, 2011

New Power Plant Reviews: Hirschhorn, Manglano-Ovalle & More

The Power Plant reopened yesterday with a new lobby, new logo and--perhaps most importantly--new website. Oh yeah, it's got some new shows too! My reviews of same are now up at Posted Toronto, and will be out in the Toronto section of tomorrow's National Post. An excerpt:

Thomas Hirschhorn at the Power Plant
231 Queens Quay W., to May 29
Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn’s installation is both painful and powerful. At first glance, his array of lo-fi sculptural materials — lawn chairs, plush toys, papier mâché, styrofoam, packing tape, mannequins, etc. — overwhelms. But it’s the small photographs Hirschhorn affixes to these sculptures that stand out. They document instances of man’s inhumanity to man: people beating each other with sticks; grotesquely severed limbs and heads; and the bodies of innumerable babies, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers lying dead and violated. Above it all, a massive eye — which provides the installation’s title, Das Auge (The Eye) — watches, with dozens of smaller ocular models scattered throughout. Two questions rise to the surface: What’s the good of being able to see if we block out everything that’s disturbing? Do we choose to look rather than participate because of spectatorship’s seeming safety? Granted, Hirschhorn throws much into the mix that complicates these questions and his perspective on them. His treatment of the seal hunt and fur trade makes it unclear whether he’s trying to critique these industries or the people who protest them. It’s also uncertain whether Hirschhorn’s in situ righteousness is matched by any non-art actions on his part. Ultimately, however, I felt grateful to the artist for making me aware of some of many atrocities I shut out daily. Though this exhibition is ostensibly about the opening of the eye, it is also, quite palpably, about the opening of the heart as well.

Read on here for some more pain and power--and a little (welcome) preciousness.

On an access front, I also noticed something interesting. The Power Plant has had free Wednesday-evening hours for a while, but those hours are now branded "BMO Free Wednesday Evenings." While the invasion of corporatespeak into daily life can be troubling, I'm glad for a continuation of the free hours, and I hope other institutions in town no longer use the excuse that "donors don't want to support free hours or access" when explaining lack of same.

And on the online access front, it's great to see the gallery putting videos of some of its lectures online, at last! scroll down to the "Switch On" section on the homepage to find them, or check out their Vimeo channel.

(Image of Thomas Hirschhorn's Das Auge (The Eye) at the Power Plant courtesy the Power Plant. Photo Steve Payne. Via the National Post)

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