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Steffanie Ling
Objects of My Affection at CSA Space
April 26, 2018

Over the past year, CSA Space has presented a diverse string of photography and photo-based exhibitions. Some worked in rhythm with the ongoing influence of local neo-conceptual picture makers, while others performed a sharp material turn towards that which so unsettled former art critic, now art historian, Michael Fried about Minimalism: theatricality. This is the quality he ascribes to artworks that precipitate an “event” (social affect) through the experience of it (rather than a closed system of meaning that Modernist artworks sustain between object and viewer). In the case of the gallery’s current exhibition, Objects of My Affection, that “event” might be love—not necessarily between the art object and the spectator, but between the subject and its display apparatus. The photo-based works by Jeff Downer and Marisa K. Holmes that are on display use unique material to cradle pictures, but are they on the verge of coddling? Is framing a protective gesture? There’s a range of emotional metaphors that take place when artists make mediums mingle.

Marisa K. Holmes

Visitors encounter two works even before they enter the exhibition space. The first is installed as a sign on the street entrance. It reads “Please, PARDON OUR APPEARANCE” layered with a photograph of a graffiti tag. The second work is placed over the door of the gallery. It advertises “MOSTLY OPEN” in a stylized text framed in unpolished steel. Both can be seen and read as a twist on vernacular business signage, but they also resonate as self-deprecating warning signs for fear of intimacy.

All of the exhibited works displace the source of affection for the art object from the viewer to the frame. Their final presentation is the culmination of a layered process of framing. Initially the image would have been framed through a viewfinder. Then, once again, within the artists’ sculptural treatments. Most predominantly in the works by Holmes, the additional layering of shapes, textures, and surfaces references public spaces and public objects. The pictures by Downer also attend to varying degrees of public space, but rather through the lens of a “side street” photographer, the street photographer’s introverted cousin, who waits patiently for the dust to settle before raising his camera.

Jeff Downer

As a Modernist, Fried really went down fighting for the autonomy of the art object and its ability to confront its viewer by accomplishing a kind of direct intimacy with the object. Advocating for this kind of idealized relationship seems naive and reactionary now, when we consider that the production and proliferation of images is tied to ubiquitous access to tools. So how will images be made to appear exceptional now without further emphasizing their loss of magic? None of these works are vying to be emphatically resolved (like Elad Lassry) or clearly referencing the systemics of image production (like Christopher Williams), but they collectively dispatch from an exclusively formal approach to the practice of photography, of being in the world and gathering images. To allude to the surfaces they can’t take with them is an admission of the limitations of photography, but demonstrates a funny foray into the ongoing arrangement of intimacy, confusion, recollection, and inexplicability between object and spectator.

Objects of My Affection continues until May 12.
CSA Space:
The gallery is not accessible.

Steffanie Ling's essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada, the United States, and Europe. She is an editor of Charcuterie and co-curator at VIVO Media Arts Centre. Her books are Nascar (Blank Cheque, 2016) and Cuts of Thin Meat (Spare Room, 2015). She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao.



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