Jeremy Shaw: Phase Shifting Index

Jeremy Shaw: Phase Shifting Index

December 12, 2023 – February 25, 2024
MAC at Fonderie Darling, Montréal
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On December 12, 2023, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) will be taking over the Fonderie Darling with a new exhibition: Phase Shifting Index (2020), the culmination of recent work by Canadian artist Jeremy Shaw.

This video, sound, and light installation is an exhilarating reverie of enormous intellectual and artistic ambition. On seven large screens, it presents depictions of seven autonomous groups of people – or “subcultures” – performing various movement-based exercises, therapies, or dances.

They appear to be in archival documentaries dating from the 1960s to the 1990s, captured in their corresponding twentieth-century media formats, from 16 mm film to VHS and Hi-8 videotape. They are, however, presented as being in the future, in a narrative anticipation of social developments to come. Cognitive dissonance ensues as time and space, imagination and reality are scrambled.

The cathartic and ritualized movements performed on each of the independent but simultaneously playing screens – which can be experienced either individually or more collectively from a raised platform – suggest unique cultures, with belief systems formed around their aspirations of inducing parallel realities through movement.

In interviews with some of the participants, their responses are mostly indecipherable, and we must read the subtitles to gain insight into their possible wishes for transcendence and yearning for community. Meanwhile, an ethnographic voiceover reads out a report from a time beyond theirs, retrospectively commenting on the emergence of the first recorded evidence of these baffling groups who were able to physically alter their realities via movement and belief.

Beautifully combining staged documentary, choreography, evocations of spiritual practices, neuroscientific research, drug-induced psychedelic revelations, club subcultures, visual effects, music, and alternative movement therapies, the intensely immersive installation plunges us into a vortex of frenzied movement and altered mental states.

The screens conspire in an intriguing narrative that unfolds skillfully and inexorably, culminating in a strobing “trans-temporal” sync in which all the subjects come together in a collective catharsis. For a time, we experience oneness and rapture, as Shaw subverts our trust in the authority conferred by documentary strategies – or, conversely, underscores our distrust of these same strategies.

The exhibition is presented in partnership with The Polygon Gallery, Vancouver.

Image credits: Jeremy Shaw, Phase Shifting Index (video still), 2020. Seven-channel video installation, colour and black-and-white, with multi-channel sound and lights, 35 min 17 s. Courtesy of the artist and Bradley Ertaskiran.


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