The task of the art critic is to identify things, so what is one to do when faced with an exhibition about fluidity? My usual recourse to definition, to establishing meaning, to making judgments is flummoxed in the face of a thing that is never simply one thing but a range of possibilities. FEMINISTRY IS HERE, currently on view at Mercer Union, is one such indefinite thing and its ambiguity isn’t even limited to the art on display. It is an exhibition but also a venue for a performance (by Marceline Mandeng that took place on the opening night) and the stage for a fashion presentation (featuring creations by Rebaie by Rebée scheduled for the closing reception). Mercer is the venue, but so are The Round (where a queer party took place last Friday) and The Holy Oak (where FEMINISTRY began as a monthly dance night for all who, in the words of DJ/host/curator Cameron Lee, “mingle fashion, music, art, and space”).
Lido Pimienta, The hand that feeds 1 & 2, 2017, felt and embroidery thread on muslin
Space is a central concern in this exhibition-thing and late local artist Will Munro is invoked in Lee's accompanying text as the progenitor for queer-positive spaces that maintain an ongoing critique of normativity. While they could be said to possess a degree of political rigour, Munro’s parties were also parties and this thing that’s happening at Mercer also has the tinge of chaos that memorable parties generally possess. As the gallery text admits, it’s messy so don’t expect otherwise. At least you can initially anchor your standard art world expectations with Lido Pimienta’s colourful felt wall hangings; they look like art and wield familiar representational tropes to invoke a sense of an infinitely variable self.
After that bit of comfort, things get wild. Mandeng’s metal sculpture of a giant female symbol is decorated with decaying fruit (that was fresh and free for nibbling at their performance) and broken eggs litter the ground elsewhere. Holes hammered into the walls care of Buzz are twinned with vinyl stickers that double the damage. Victoria Cheong adapts the entrance with a hairy yellow curtain and rejects the expected antiseptic white walls of most galleries in favour of peach and purple. A mural of illuminated haze covers one side of the space and suggests both the unnatural atmosphere of a dance club and the gentle sunrise one finds on emerging from said venue.
Jazmine VK Carr, Using TOR to Access Hades (detail), 2017, mixed media
On the floor is a viewing station assembled by Zoe Solomon that matches trippy office-patterned cushions with an ambient video of distorted anime samples and performance excerpts set to the tune of a looped and distorted rhythm pattern. The soft edges of that workstation are set in stark contrast to the dirty messy remains of Jazmine VK Carr’s possibly autobiographical deep web diver. Her obsessive grid of empty cigarette packages and scattering of burnt out devices are simply the detritus left behind by the post-identity being who moves beyond the physical – at least temporarily and with a desperation bound to copious drug use – into the realm of the digital.
These millennial artists shift categories with the ease of kids raised on constant communication and a never-ending flow of information both received and emitted. As they came of age, that flow came to characterize their sexuality, and as they grew into artists, it emerged in their practice. Art has always been somewhat fluid and it became increasingly so over the course of the twentieth century, which is why it has been and continues to be a space for the abnormal, eccentric, unconventional, and queer. FEMINISTRY is but one instance in a long history of momentary zones of identity through difference. It is an experiment and like all such experiments as interesting for the possibilities it entertains as it is for the answers it provides.
Mercer Union: http://www.mercerunion.org/
FEMINISTRY IS HERE continues until March 18.
Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.
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