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Calgary
Lindsay Sorell
Jason de Haan at Esker Foundation
August 09, 2017

I look up, up, neck craned, straining my eyes to see. Jason de Haan’s staggering mid-career retrospective at Esker Foundationtitled Oh for eyes! At night we dream of eyes! – bemoans true sight just as speculative fiction novelist Olaf Stapledon’s genius dog bemoaned his pawed clumsiness, crying: “Oh, for hands! At night I dream of hands!”



Jason de Haan, Salt Shroud, 2017, 3D polyester printed digital scan, salt (photo: John Dean)

A speculative fictionist in his own right, de Haan uses poetry as a tenderizer for time. Poetic texts – titles, didactic panels, captions – throughout the exhibition enable us to envision both the present and mythical as similarly material. A series of collages propose to install organ pipes on a “foreboding” cliffside, place a gargantuan foot sculpture on a beach, build a monument to a meteorite dwarfing the tallest buildings in the world, cast a gothic cathedral in concrete. One work captures a century in some acrylic ink and variegated gold foil, titled: Set of ten books, each containing notation of each second of each minute of each hour of each day of each week of each month of each year, for the next century, the countdown begins when you read this.

Images of disfigured and decaying bodies repeat throughout, some made holy in their state of disrepair. A vintage Kodak Ektagraphic III projector flicks through slides of Shelly, a soft shell turtle. A now-archaic CD player plays tones of Hope, Love, Peace, Generosity, Purpose, Harmony through crystal-encrusted car speakers arranged in a circle. The instances of decay and growth occur simultaneously, as hotwired humidifiers blow mist through shells into the gallery space. We breathe the shells’ decay into our bodies, while the resulting humidity grows a salty beard on the Salt Shroud in the next room. Inside this ecosystem, I look for the 14-carat gold band placed on an upper branch of de Haan’s Green Gem Ficus tree – part of his Future Age series. I need to glimpse it quick, quick, like a ghost in a mirror, before it is engulfed in rings of tree.


Esker Foundation: http://eskerfoundation.com/
Jason de Haan: Oh for eyes! At night we dream of eyes! continues until August 27


Lindsay Sorell is an artist and writer living in Calgary. She recently collaborated with the Advanced Toastmasters of Calgary for the IKG Live 1 performance festival and completed two solo exhibitions of new work: Exercises in Healing at Contemporary Calgary and Buddha, Why Am I Alone? at AVALANCHE! Institute of Contemporary Art. She is currently working on a large-scale watercolour painting of food and is the editor of Luma Quarterly.

 

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