Thursday, June 5, 2008

Review: I_WANNA_SEE_YOU_[Y.Y.Z.CA_DE_OVERSLAG.NL] @ YYZ Artists Outlet

Though it may seem like my post title has turned into an errant piece of code, I assure readers it is simply the title of the current group exhibit at YYZ Artists' Outlet. The show is a collaboration between artists from Toronto and artists from the Netherlands, where the show will travel this fall. Today NOW ran my review of their exhibition.

This was a hard show to review. Why? Because the intentions of the show were trying to make a difference, to place the power for the exhibit's final product and look into the hands of its artists rather than those of its curator or administrator.

I can understand this desire, because the art we see in museums and galleries of any kind is highly moderated and shaped by the views of the institution or business in which it rests. This doesn't mean it's better or worse than art seen in a studio environment—just that it's true the setting can be impactful, something many art viewers don't always appreciate.

My problem with this show was that while the discourse and essay for the show posited radicality, the product was, well, pretty standard. The most radical exhibition/installation twist was a series of wall drawings that permeated the space and all its artworks.

On the other hand, I can also see that radical process needn't always beget radical art. For example, programs in making art with marginalized populations, which I think are very important, don't always create work that is foundation-shaking in an art historical sense. But the process still has great value in terms of personal storytelling and understanding. And I'm fine with that.

Still, when I see a power-to-the-artists discourse trumpeted so avidly, and the results are so, well, standard, one wonders how much artists tend to internalize the typical strictures and aesthetic tastes of the institutional system.

There is one exhibit which comes to mind as capturing this radical spirit in installation and process more fully than this show did, and that's the recent Collage Party show at the Justina Barnicke Gallery. Stepping into that space really was like stepping into a collaborative studio, materials and interventions everywhere.

Or maybe my views are overly influenced by a projection of my own personal expectations for artists and curators... after all, why should artists provide all the radicality in a mass culture? So if you've seen the show and you have different views, I'm interested in hearing them.


Gabby said...

I haven't seen the show yet, but it's definitely of interest. I think you make a good point about how much artists (and writers, and curators) often inadvertently internalize institutional or standardized expectations to the point that, even when we're given free reign, we don't totally use it to our advantage. Which sort of begs the question: how do you create something new, unexpected or radical?

Leah Sandals said...

Hey Gabby,
Yeah, I mean I guess you can't regiment radicality. Can you? Sounds kind of Stalinist. I admire Greg for trying to open up the space, I guess that's all you can do, really. And it would of course take time and repetition to loosen those boundaries of possibility in a real way. I think maybe curators sometimes just have overheady expectations? Or maybe critics do ? : )