Art Review

EAT YOUR TAIL

author
Krystal Paraboo
photography
Sophie Janus

The latest exhibition at Access Gallery, EAT YOUR TAIL, offers bewildering multi-media works by four local artists; Maya Gauvin, Chrome Destroyer, Teresa Holly, and Evan Sproat. The exhibition’s title pays homage to the ancient Egyptian ouroboros, a dragon or serpent eating its own tail, symbolically presenting a cyclical interpretation of death and rebirth. Through a single object both eternal sequences of life that are impossible to co-exist are presented, drawing equal criticism to both human downfall and its contrasting renaissance. The artists in EAT YOUR TAIL mimic this iconography and present their own paradoxical juxtapositions within self-portraits.This in turn urges viewers to partake in the process of confronting meditations on both self-deprecation and approbation, all through the lens of ritual. 

Gauvin and Destroyer begin by successfully creating a realm that ritualizes interconnectedness. The display of Gauvin’s ceramics on the floor, mounted on the wall and hung from the ceiling, set the tone for a sacred space — heavily reminiscent of esotericisms and monuments such as Stonehenge, both in display and  medium. The multi-coloured stained glass in “Salt Range” confronts viewers with their multi-dimensional reflection within this single object. Chrome Destroyer playfully displays the interconnections between generational objects of significance — both historical and contemporary — enhancing the spiritual realm of Gauvin’s work. The beauty in Chrome Destroyer’s photographs is in their deconstruction of certain eras, whilst criticizing their chronological effects. Audiences are forced to question the impact and influence of these objects; to what extent do they collectively play a role in shaping and harming our identities?

 A highlight of the exhibition was Sprout’s pink, hand-made, performative sculptures. Juxtaposed with Holly’s scattered display of papier mache bodily parts — indicative of a suppressed creature attempting to either escape or return to an unknown realm — both artists suddenly have us wearing costumes that elicit self-criticism through the unseemly display of mythological anatomy. All components of the metamorphosis are  fostered in these works — the grotesque is simultaneously graced with the ethereal in materials combined with soft shades of pastel.

This exhibition challenges notions of conceptualizing one’s identity. The experience becomes an expansive analysis of the self, as opposed to a compartmentalized interpretation. Although I was the sole viewer during my visit, I pondered how my experience would have been altered had I been with a handful of viewers — whether the shared experience would have created another layer of interconnectedness to be challenged and accepted.

Choreography for Carrot

author
Clara Dubber
photography
Shizen Jambor
illustration
Bre McDaniel

“Choreography for Carrot” by Shizen Jambor opened at Ground Floor Art Centre, 735 Gore Avenue, Vancouver, on November 15, 2019.

 

Everyone wants to believe they’re self-aware; that they are conscious of the concessions they’ve made to play whatever games they have committed to. Choreography for Carrot, a video installation piece by Shizen Jambor, forces artists to recognize their own complacency within myths and norms of the art world. The exhibition was short-lived but immersive. It was made up of two videos centered around a fictional artist (played by Jess Waters) and ran from November 15 to 20 at Ground Floor Art Center.

One video depicts an interview with the fictional artist speaking about their art practice. The other video, which Jambor attributes to the fictional artist, shows an art piece Jambor and Waters actually executed. It was only viewable through a peephole, and in it Waters is seated on a mounted bench wearing long blonde wigs on their head and waist. They hold a pole tipped with an inflated glove, and interact with a suspended carrot in their studio, following the instructions in the show’s literature:

Stretch

Inch forward, inch forward, inch forward

Gather (collect self)

Drive hand forward

glide towards goal, feeding inches at a time

full extension

reach for it

r e e e a a a a a a c  h h h h for it

swipe, swat, swat

strain, put everything into it

relax and reset 

 

One of the most effective and endearing parts of Choreography for Carrot is the unobvious satire. Jambor knows how to be exaggerative, their recent show, High Performance Object at Charles Clark Gallery, was explicit and intentional in its exaggeration and crudeness. It was self-definedly campy. However, with Carrot there is no winking at the camera — Waters’ earnest delivery of “We live in a society,” is with sincere conviction, does not waver. It is past deadpan; it makes us sit in reality-as-ridiculousness until we realize how ridiculous it is. 

In Carrot, Jambor explored the “contextualization of art on display.” Carrot’s structure was intentionally layered and implicit, contorting standard routes of interacting with pieces. The reality of the humor, the facility of the show itself, the intentionally mimicking-to-mock, forced the audience to eschew certain standards of contextualization yet made the show more dependent on others. Without the show’s literature, without being told that it is satire, you would not know. You might think the work is bad, but not intentionally. This satire is explicit in the literature accompanying the show, but the pieces themselves don’t have embedded points of entry.  

 

The opening was simultaneous with the Eastside Culture Crawl, and the Crawler audience often takes work at face value. This transient demographic, en route to participating Crawl events, magnified those elements of inaccessible humour in Carrot The layers of reality in Jambor’s work successfully created a whole and believable world, so whole that the messages became almost over-coded. In challenging art contextualization conventions, the show also demonstrated how standardizing art-interaction allows for concise communication to a broader audience. 

Still, Choreography for Carrot was not necessarily made for a broader audience. What makes it relatively inaccessible to those outside the art world made its communication to those within it more effective. Ground Floor is run by Emily Carr students and alumni, and acts as a community cornerstone for young, emerging artists who were hoping for an obvious or heightened silliness — Carrot’s satirical sincerity was not comforting. At the opening reception the interview’s audio was played off the monitor speakers and the audience watched it together, reacted together, and where Waters did not wink at the camera we winked to each other. The hyper-closeness to reality was proximal to the ways in which audience members interact with, or perpetuate myths around art production. There was a comradery in these emerging artists, collectively recognizing the goofiness of these behaviors. That comradery was comforting where the pieces were not.

Carrot’s interrogation of the conceptions of art production indicates their contradictions. Such as when Jambor and Waters’ unnamed artist claims, “if making art is difficult for someone then maybe it’s not for them,” despite the fact their own art practice focuses on struggle and striving.

The “peeped performance” is the kind of art culminated by these art-production myths. It is filmed in a large white room, the fictional artist is intent, they “put everything into it”. It alludes to the Lady Godiva legend, but is too dependent on the associations it expects its audience to already have made and does not say much itself.  

Jambor seriously and steadily holds a mirror up to the art world and tells it that it is silly —  providing itself as a negative for how artists can approach their practice.