New York, 2014 – 2016.

 

 

IMG_4062Shirts

After washing them and folding them up I counted twenty plaid shirts, all men’s size medium. In addition there was a jean jacket, a baseball jacket, and two golf jackets. Each jacket had a clean stack of paper napkins in the right pocket, like he’d always grab some to take home after his lunchtime meal in the neighborhood.

The medical equipment that was left in the basement showed he’d had difficulty walking in the last months. The books bundled with twine ranged from a complete anthology of opera librettos, a biography of a famous singer, a few fictional books jacketed in covers with gold embossed letters, and some histories of an earlier New York. There were several dvds of blockbuster films, and some good walking shoes.

A couple of people in the building must have remembered who he was, but they never spoke of him. Someone said he’d been president of the co-op, which I now am, which is why I ended up being the one cleaning out the storage area. I imagined him when he was alive, padding around his wood floored apartment, laid out very similarly to mine.

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In my dream I was wandering through the spaces of my old studio building, looking for the corner where I used to work. The entire place was populated by young artists whose production looked contemporary, with their emphasis on found materials, sculpture, and collaborative efforts. I climbed over the clutter, looking for my paints. I was disoriented and preoccupied, as the downstairs door lock seemed to be broken and I was trying to think where the nearest hardware store might be so that I could fix it. Rummaging through a cardboard box where I could see my oil paints buried underneath someone else’s supplies, I mentioned my concerns to a colleague who was walking by. Hadn’t I read the new School Handbook? He asked, with a slightly annoyed look on his face. I realized that the art school had colonized the space for the students, and it was no longer a haven for the teachers to work and hide on their non-teaching days.

In the box I was looking through there were some small vintage plastic figurines, one of a superhero and the other a figure of a dwarf like clown. I stuffed them in my bag as mementos of my time there, and headed out.

 

IMG_9299RachelStuff

Her name was Rachel, pronounced with a hard C. She had been living under the scaffolding of the synagogue next door until the spate of rainy days might come to an end. The synagogue, which was having the wooden frames of its stained glass windows replaced, doubled as a small Off-Broadway theatre. Rachel’s stuff was interfering with the sidewalk, which basically functioned as the theatre lobby. We assumed they’d told her she had to leave. She didn’t go far, just a few feet sideways, to the spot underneath the tree in front of our building.

I’d see her there dressed in her layers and what looked like a giant beekeeping hat, rearranging her pieces of cardboard. She said she wanted to sort through them before she moved again, saving the best pieces. The police would come by daily, and they would have long sensitive debriefings, without trying to move her. Another time I saw some teenagers roughly tossing her stuff around. I confronted them to the extent that any middle-aged woman could act like a bulldog, telling them to leave her alone. She told us she was from the Upper East Side and used to live in a building with a doorman. She had a genteel, mid-Atlantic accent, like Katherine Hepburn. She seemed like a ghost from the twentieth Century.

We were going away for the weekend and she said she’d be gone when we got back. She was going to one of the ‘ministries’ in her former turf. I thought sadly that they wouldn’t let her keep her best things.

A year later she returned, but ensconced further down the street. We asked her how her sojourn had gone, but she said that she could only have wished for a respite like that. Either she’d forgotten she’d told us or she had been telling a story. It seemed busy where she was, closer to Times Square, but she was probably safer there.

Sackville, New Brunswick 1979 (2014)

Sackville Stairs 4WEB

This image was made in 1979 in Sackville, New Brunswick.

In a student critique at the time, my instructor said it was too cliche. Thirty years later I showed it to an art critic, and he said it was too romantic.

Last time I was in Sackville, I looked for the stairs, but couldn’t find them.

Amhearst Car C FLAT WP

Still 1979.

Some days Sackville felt very confining, so I would hitchhike with my Mamiya 2 1/4 and my tripod the eleven miles to Amherst, Nova Scotia. That town was equally quiet, but I rarely ran into anyone I knew.

Sackville Trailers FLAT

Either on upper King St. or Upper York St., Sackville, 1979.

I thought the trailers belonged to gypsies and they were on their way, availing themselves of the softer highway.

Sackville grassWEB

Sackville 1979.

There was a secret path on the edge of the town, where I would imagine I could slip into another wardrobe like zone where everything was unknown and a bit more exciting. Off in the distance you could hear the train horn blowing, bound for Montreal and Toronto.

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Sackville, New Brunswick, fall 1979.

I’d never been to the South. My only impressions were from watching Gone With the Wind, and hearing the accents of my southern cousins who had visited a few years earlier to bury their northern father’s body, my Uncle Bob. Later I learned that the use of embalming fluids before burial became commercialized during the American Civil War, with so many bodies to be returned to the North.

Sackville’s houses always looked empty in the afternoon, as if their owners had had to leave abruptly after an urgent call.

SackvilleGardenWEB

Sackville, summer 1979.

I started taking some of the pathways through people’s backyards, looking for different vistas. It was an extreme departure to let the camera tilt on its tripod. I can only think that I was looking for parallel structures in the garden itself, like a sailor trying to steady himself on a rocky boat.

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Sackville, 1979.

I was incompetent in the darkroom, so I decided that I could only photograph between the hours of 3 and 5 pm for the distinctive shadows and lower contrast of light. This gave me what for me was the perfect negative to print, but meant I could barely scrape together a portfolio for graduation.

The long shadows always seemed to veer the interpretation in the direction of the elegiac, which wasn’t actually how I felt about anything, at that point.

Sackville Tree FLAT

Sackville, late fall, 1979.

It hadn’t started to snow yet, but the Christmas break was looming. I knew I’d have to think of an indoor project as Sackville became slushy with brown sugar. It seemed to me that all the photographers I’d been channeling only took photographs in the summer, but maybe they were just all southerners.

Sackville Dog 6WEB

Sackville, late summer 1979.

In class they said it was too easy to simply take a picture of a garden ornament.

He’s probably long since been wrested from his cozy spot, languishing in some roadside antique store, or sitting on a carefully restored wooden floor of a collector, amongst the sisal and raw linen furnishings.

A night out at Performa, November 18th, 2013

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Clifford Owens, Photographs with an Audience (Houston), Hold #1 and Hold #2, 2011 (detail) 2 c-prints, 20 by 24 inches (each)

Finding out more about the artist later, I realized my three-minute experience could have been different had I done my homework before, but not necessarily better.

We signed up for the performance, and when we got there we were told we would each have 3 minutes alone in a room with what turned out to be one performer. We signed a waiver which was quite long, the most salient points of it seeming to be that we were not to describe our experience to anyone, after (which is why of course I’m describing it now).

I watched the first two people come in and out intact with no readily interpretable expressions on their faces. I was ushered in, after a loud knock informed the facilitator that the performer was ready. I found myself in a pitch-black room, reminding me of other times I’d been in pitch-black rooms, at other performances.

A voice asked me if I could hear him, and to identify where I thought he was. He then provided some simple directions to navigate around the room, at one point taking my hand, asking me to stand in one corner or the next. In the first corner he asked me to say something, anything I wanted. Realizing he had expectations for me to be more interesting, I immediately became bereft of thought. In the second corner he told me to ask him any question, any question at all. I felt very badly because the only question that came to mind was whether he had any clothes on or not. I countered instead with a position of social nicety, and asked him if his background was in Performance Art. He said, somewhat dramatically, “I have no background”.  I could feel myself being propelled towards what I knew, now that my eyes had adjusted to the light, was the exit. I stifled the impulse to apologize for being so boring. Feeling summarily dismissed, I had the nasty feeling for the rest of the evening that I’d been on a very unsuccessful date, but at least it only lasted three minutes.

New York, 2008 – 2013

 

NEW YORK CITY,  November 14, 2013

(original post for Akimbo)

Lucy Hogg‘s work is on view until December 22 in Quotation, a group exhibition curated by Pan Wendt at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. She currently lives in New York City, after having moved from Vancouver in 2003. Since shifting from a painting practice five years ago, her recent work is photo-based. Her photography examines the contexts in which art is exhibited and made, while relating those situations to the material aspects of everyday life. Her painting projects were also parasitical and looked at the history of 17th, 18th, and 19th Century painting from the point of view of gender. She also has a secret life as a photojournalist.

Mike Kelley

1. Mike Kelley at P.S.1

The first time I went to this show I was struck by how Kelley wasn’t exempt from channeling the styles of each succeeding decade: early drawings typical of student work of the early 70s, precocious performance with minimalist props documented by grainy video in the late 70s, bratty large black and white drawings of the 80s (Borofsky and Pettibone come to mind), slacker stuffed-toy installations of the early 90s, and then the pumped up video/stage-set extravaganzas of the last years. Although that is a bare listing of the breadth of his production, his work channeled all possible modes of art production over the last thirty-five years. The second time I went I realized how many of my students over the last twenty years have completely absorbed his gestalt. I felt like I was reliving my entire teaching past.

2. Amie Siegel at Simon Preston Gallery

CorbuChair

This show is down, but Siegel is now on my Google alert list. Provenance traces the path of a 1950s Corbusier chair, originally designed for a government complex in Chandigarh also designed by “Corbu,” in what was then the government capital of the new Indian state of Punjab. Framed in its own modernist aesthetic, the film is a luxurious travelogue of interiors that seem to be continually sliding past as you follow the chair’s trajectory backwards from its final resting place in a chic London loft to the auction house where it was sold to a high end refinishing factory to a shipping container gliding across oceans to moldering in piles in the deteriorating modernist buildings in India where it began life. What we don’t see is any documentation of its first incarnation. That moment is irretrievable.

3. Omer Fast at the Rose Art Museum

OMerfast

I haven’t seen this particular installation, but I saw 5000 Feet is the Best in 2011 at the Venice Biennale and went back twice to take it all in. Off-camera, a former drone operator describes the technical aspects of his job and its psychological difficulties. A re-enactment depicts a lonely alienated figure sequestered in a low-end hotel room sandwiched between glimpses of the outskirts of Las Vegas. This is woven among three other narratives of grifters in casinos, an American suburban family suddenly becoming refugees, and a man impersonating a train operator. Fast’s work is a contemporary version of history painting. It attempts to recall events that otherwise seem to be forgotten, as one failed military intervention replaces memories of the previous one. If digital archiving doesn’t fail us, we’ll be looking at this work fifty years from now to try to make sense of these histories.

4. Sophie Calle at Paula Cooper Gallery

SophieCallesMother

I’ve read about Rachel, Monique before, and reading about it can almost seem like enough, but to spend time among the artifacts of her ruminations on her mother’s life and death is like spending time in someone else’s apartment while they are absent, with instructions that you go through their papers. Her work is too easily written off as sentimental, but the only other place I’ve seen that kind of vulnerability treated is in the typological displays of Mike Kelley’s homemade comfort toys (or “transitional objects”). Compared to the objects in Calle’s installation, Kelley’s seem stuck in emotional stasis, unable to move on.

5. Bagels

bagels

I had a conflicted response when I heard that Montreal bagels could now be bought at the Whole Foods store in Union Square. They will become slightly less exotic, but I will still keep booking flights from NYC to PEI that connect at the Montreal airport where you can buy them fresh, a dozen at time.


Looking Forward

catalogue essay for Annual Report

a solo exhibition by Jim Rieck at Lyons Wier Ortt Gallery, New York, 2008.

Committee-1

Jim Rieck’s paintings are large. Their slices of suited bodies, sourced in annual reports depersonalize their already impersonal sources. Found together in a room, these paintings’ monumental, pristine surfaces make the rest of us feel just a bit smaller and a little too tactile. Maybe even mortal.

The paintings’ cropped compositions remind us of the impersonal capture of the camera’s lens. They focus our attention on the gesture of the body. These are bodies all too aware of the ritual moment at hand, the posed-corporate, post-corporeal moment.

Like all the people in Rieck’s paintings, these headless men and women are trapped in their clothes. Across an adagio of pinstripe, discrete plaid and a dominate matte black, our attention is drawn to a series of hands at rest. The gestures are chaste, hands resting on laps as if not knowing what to do with themselves. One can hear the panty-hosed thighs rubbing together, or the gabardine pant legs crossing and uncrossing at a long board meeting. The climate is controlled, the coffee is predictable, and casual Friday is nowhere in sight.

The history of the commemorative, corporate moment goes back at least to Frans Hals, although his businessmen seemed like they were having more fun. But Hals’ compositions have much in common with the corporate portrait of today. Rieck’s paintings draw our attention to the abstraction that can be found in both: the rhythm of gesture, the angle of pose, the neutral formality of dress and the relation of one body to another. But we can get a little too close to these modern bodies. Replacing their lost heads with our own, we take on their gestures. We are ‘holding’ ourselves for the camera, but the instant of the shutter’s release is extended into the painful posterity of a painting.

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Frans Hals, The Regents of Saint Elisabeth Hospital, 1641

Allyson Clay at Leo Kamen Gallery, 2005


(a shorter version of this was published as a review in Canadian Art, Winter, 2005)

The books were all on the shelves in no order, as if the maids had unpacked them and nobody had ever set them in some kind of reasonable sequence.  She wondered how long it would actually take to find the book she was looking for. Maybe it was a different kind of life their owners lived, where they had time to meander over the titles, divagate until the original reason for the search reappeared. The colour of a dust jacket, the thickness or height of a book, a vague memory that it had last been found on an upper or lower shelf would move their eyes over the whole collection.

How did the fish in the bowl know that the small pellet of food was not speck of dirt, a flake of paint from the ceiling, or a mouse dropping?

Several Ideas at Once, color photograph face-mounted on plexiglass, 66cm cm x 1.02m, 2005

The Books

Soon, people will be handling books the way that girls now take up knitting. A nostalgia for the made, stitched, cobbled, painted. Dog eared corners trace a certain history of a book having been read. A handwritten entry on the front page of a vintage copy of Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own”: “This book belongs to Caroline Cowstock Williams, 1939”, seems poignantly tactile. The dried fountain pen ink invokes a reader in a mannish tweed jacket and a wool skirt, stealing a few hours under a tree in homage to Virginia Woolf’s day at Oxbridge.

There is a care to the collection of books. An identity is bound up in the juxtaposition of titles: a history of a life of learning, a pattern of phases. “Yes, this was my Feminist period”, a shelf might say.

No one can talk about feminism these days without cringing or apologizing. We were all sober feminists in the late 80’s and well into the 90’s. But nothing really changed much, barring a few more women getting tenure. At public lectures, in the classroom, you now take the risk of being accused, yet again, of being the feminist wet blanket. In an era of exposed midriffs and visible thongs, why bring it up? Leena-Maija Rossi writes in the catalogue for the Nordic Pavilion for the 50th Venice Biennale (2003): “…the gender issue still arises more frequently in art discourses that deal with women than in those concerning the art world’s male practitioners. In many respects, men still seem to represent the non-gendered norm, and for them gender is rarely such a burning issue as it is for women.” Rossi notes that in the 1999 publication “Art at the Turn of the Millennium”, edited by Burkard Riemschneider and Uta Grosenik, of the 136 artists featured, only 25 percent are women. It is no surprise that the discourse around gender disappears.

Allyson Clay has thrown her books into the water. The act might register as hysterical, although the resulting abstraction is seductive, calm and painterly. The images all touch on tropes of abstract composition; diagonals, grids, repetitions of shape, biomorphic ambiguity. The dominant turquoise ground, a signature colour of modernist painting (Cezanne, Mattise, Diebenkorn), signifies a kind of chemical optimism. Titles mingle promiscuously in some images; others twirl alone in the radiating patterns of light on the surface of the pool. The choice of titles seems arbitrary. At least, they do not form a coherent bibliography. But they are books the artist says she wishes were still on her shelves. They have been sacrificed in what might seem an act of liberation.

Clay’s earlier practice systematically employed revisionism. Trained as a painter, and evolving through the critical discussions of modernism and its assumptions (patriarchal, Eurocentric, capitalistic), her early work cannibalized itself in what could be seen as a kind of self-hate. It distanced itself from the masculinity of the painting studio and the implications of bourgeois subjectivity in the mark of the hand. The term feminist painter had become an oxymoron.

Later, work literally divided itself between painting and photography. Questioning the author, the craft became a process of delegation, with commissioned surfaces and appropriated images. The ‘subjective’ voice then became a fictionalized text on the wall. Its final disembodiment came in the form of video. With no text or dialogue, the artist became simply a seeing eye.

Although the product of an engagement with theory and an intense dialogue within the feminist community, the work always had the feeling of a confessional. Its fictional subject put the viewer in the position of a complicit voyeur. It proposed a point view that was peripheral, surreptitious, and, because it had to be, transgressive. It was a woman’s point of view.

Allyson Clay’s new work might suggest that the steady progress of years of feminist research has been thrown out with the bath water. In “Garden”, a copy of Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” has met the same fate as its author. The lone book sinks to the bottom of the stream, the disintegrating paper taking on the colour of dead leaves. Ophelia is floating down the river, again.

As an alternative to the powerless picturesque, Woolf proposed an androgynous voice. Imagining what Coleridge must have meant when he wrote about it, she wrote: “He meant, perhaps, that the androgynous mind is resonant and porous: that it transmits emotion without impediments; that it is naturally creative, incandescent and undivided”. She describes a voice that has ‘forgotten she is a woman’. In an ideal world, where the Guerilla Girls wouldn’t have to spell out the imbalanced statistics of gender, it would be a relief to not have to remember.

“Fountain” suggests such a euphoric amnesia. The Dewey Decimal system, flawed in any case, is a distant memory. The books are off the shelves and diving into the pool. Their shapes shift into abstractions from which only fragments of meaning can be discerned. We have to fish for our own beginnings, middles and ends. As photographic stills, the record of the books’ inevitable descent is arrested. The suspension of flight gives us the illusion that there may be time to glean what is necessary.

Private Matters, Public Matters: Allyson Clay, Osman Bozkurt, Milutin Gubash

Strand on Volta Gallery, October 21 – November 6, 2005

Catalogue Essay by Lucy Hogg 

Some of us can remember getting on airplanes in 1960s, when everyone dressed up for the event of flying. In old photographs all the men seem to wear suits, and women’s hair is done. Telephone calls  were also less casual. There were fewer of them, and the minutes cost; party lines demanded decorum.

Public events also had more restraint. A death would have certain rituals, a laying out, a wake, a burial. Grieving had its own formality. Now it can be either very private, with a few comments over a plastic  box of ashes, or very public but still casual; an impromptu pile of flowers, stuffed toys and other sentimental mementos placed at an otherwise banal location (a telephone pole, a parking lot, a median strip) mark an accident or disappearance.

The public park was perhaps the first place where the boundaries of public and private started to blur, but a hundred years earlier. With the invention of the weekend, the “banlieue” of Monet’s boating parties -then newly accessible by suburban trains-  was a place where classes mixed. The mid 19th century was a defining moment of class mobility, as the expanding petite bourgeoisie tried on the attitudes of the leisure class. Domesticated life of all kinds was spilling outside, to the dismay and fascination of contemporary commentators.

In Public Matters, Private Matters, the video works of Allyson Clay, Osman Bozkurt, and Milutin Gubash try to make sense of the blurring of public and private space in the 21st century.

Using a minimalist technique and a static lens, Allyson Clay’s Imaginary Standard Distance: Day/ Night provides a video surveillance of a public telephone booth in Paris. People are observed as they move in and out of a transparent glass structure divided into three telephone stations. They wait, they talk, they get impatient, they adapt to the space inside and outside of the booth while they carry on intimate or transactional conversations. It is a study of private gesture in public space. A man is engaged in what appears to be long, contentious monologue. A younger man shifts his weight from side to side, sorting out social arrangements while his girlfriend looks on, tossing her long blond hair back in boredom. A businesswoman waits impatiently, staring at the fully occupied  booths, as though her glare  could, encourage the occupants to finish their calls.

Originally filmed in 1997,  the video documents what will soon become a redundant structure, as cell phones become  ubiquitous. The body  language is moving out of the phone booth and out onto the streets.  Conversation is no longer contained by the soundproof glass. A person can either have a wire attached to their  head, or be off their medication. We are just now developing etiquette to manage the problem. Quiet cars on trains, warnings at the cinema, signage in restaurants requesting restraint are our inadequate attempts to manage the collapse of the private into the public realm.

Osman Bozkurt’s Auto-Park uses a documentary style to comment on human resilience and a dysfunctional urban infrastructure in Istanbul. Various locals are interviewed about their use of median strips as parks. Grassy areas at the interstices of intercity and commercial traffic in various outskirts of Istanbul are used by family groups picnicking, youth playing sports, unemployed people socializing. The spaces become unlikely sites of contemplation, rest and recreation for their habitues, providing escape from their cramped apartments and the tedium of unskilled labour.

The first frames of the video construct a pastoral of softly waving trees: children running through the grass, women bent over their tatting, men having a smoke. It resembles the idyll found in Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grande Jatte. But the audio gives the game away, and then the frame expands to reveal a stream of large freight trucks and commuter traffic, disturbingly close.

The interviewees, often recent arrivals from the rural areas of eastern Anatolia, have an amazing optimism and resistance as they speak of the advantages the spaces bring. Their sense of pride and ownership is countered by wistful pleas for simple things like garbage bins, toilet facilities and safer passages across the highways. Officially forbidden, the use of the parks is not acknowledged by a city that offers no alternatives for an under-housed working poor.  Gaps in fences show that the sudden  intrusion of a ton  of hurtling metal is a constant threat to the peoples’ fragile  serenity.

Milutin Gubash’s  Near  and Far uses a more filmic approach. Gubash creates dramatic scenarios based on odd incidents he found reported in the Calgary newspapers, usually involving an abject or banal death. He restages the events with himself as the victim, and his parents as witnesses. His dramatic vignettes act as weird  memorials for anonymous people whose fate would otherwise barely register. Wearing a generic black suit that seems to anticipate his funeral, the victim seems to be perpetually re-enacting his demise. His parents make pilgrimages to a series of sites where the crimes have taken place: an abandoned drive-in theatre, a quiet riverside, a local city park. His parents take the tour dressed in the casual well pressed  clothes of retirees, equipped with a camera, folding chairs, a radio to pass the time.

Nobody is overwrought or particularly perturbed. The parents could just as easily be tourists visiting the Eiffel  tower. The play acting is a cover for the real drama of the difficulty of acknowledging, between family members, mortality and disappointment. In one scene the victim hides guiltily in the bushes, as his parents try to whistle him out. In another he returns  from the dead, rising up from the water,  his  wet  impassive  gaze suggesting it was their fault. Finally addressing them in an angry soliloquy, he asks them to name his dilemma. It’s the end, they say, smiling.

What these works all depict is a transitional space where you are neither here nor there. It is the  new  suburbs of the mind, where  people of today’s compressed urban space create a fiction of  privacy. Callers imagine they are in a private zone when they  place their cellular calls, however much their private  selves are unwittingly on display. The people in the park don’t acknowledge the  incessant traffic, that ironic frame to their bucolic idyll, in the  same way that their government doesn’t acknowledge them. And strange re-enactments of anonymous tragedy in public places becomes a private forum for the conversations a family might never have.

(My) Identity Crisis: The Work of Jin-me Yoon

Review published in “Last Call”, Vancouver,  2002

Jin-Me Yoon, “Touring Away from Home”, lifochrome, 32″ x 26″, 1998-99

 

 

It’s summer, and Jin-me Yoon sits on the grass, legs stuck straight out like a Chatty Cathy Doll. Looming behind her at least twice her size is a large wooden sculpture that seems to be mimicking her pose; its red painted braids, straw hat, and early 20th-Century sailor dress say (she’s) Anne of Green Gables, although the reductio ad absurdum of the signifiers probably have L.M. Montgomery rolling over in her grave.

Growing up in Prince Edward Island, I spent my pre-pubescent years puzzling over why some Toronto talent scout had never spotted my reddish braids and spunky attitude, thus precipitating my meteoric rise on the musical stage as “Anne.” I imagined turning cartwheels alongside Jeff Hyslop (who played Gilbert, Anne’s romantic interest) and smashing imitation school slates over my astonished antagonist’s head. I was perfect for the part. Many years later while visiting Japan, my interpreter, upon discovering where I was from (I was reluctant to admit it), reassured me that “Anne” was seen as a proto-feminist role model for young Japanese woman in quest of independence.

Mounted as a string of nine suspended 23″ x 30″ sized light boxes, spanning the widest axis of the Presentation House Gallery with a Cibachrome print installed on either end wall, Yoon’s current show Touring Home from Away depicts Yoon’s family’s explorations of Prince Edward Island as they make their way through the tourist gift shops, convenience stores, bed and breakfast lighthouses, golf courses, and potato fields. The conventions of the images vacillate between the casual family snap and the more composed material of a tourist brochure. In tourist high season the family doesn’t necessarily stand out as one of mixed cultural heritage, but like any tourist they distinguish themselves as they pose as a family group in front of tourist attractions, visit with the locals, or get caught in the cranky moments of family pit stops. Some of the images however, give away the ruse of this conceit, where the conventions of the family album are stretched by mannered intervention. A disruption which might provoke reflection on the assumptions of cultural identity in transit, or misfire as a bad Brechtian distanciation device.

Touring the rest of Yoon’s exhibition at Presentation House I was confronted with the all too familiar landscapes of my youth; the Space Ship at Rainbow Valley; site of ruinous children’s’ birthday parties. Woodleigh Replicas, a park full of miniature English castles which my father, an anglophile, relished for the annual family trip (later as a sullen teenager I would refuse to go). The War Memorial in the centre of town, in front of which every November 11th we felt obliged to affect some melancholic contemplation in exchange for a day off school in almost always horrible weather.

Some of the images seem forced; Yoon and her family, crouched beside a potato field (Although depicted often in postcards, potato fields are not usually targeted destinations, even for the locals, unless they are farming them). The group standing to attention in the middle of another potato field, gazing off to the horizon, their matching set of t-shirts promoting Anne of Green Gables and the Lobster Crawl. A little boy (Yoon’s son) standing in front of some scaffolding near a small historic church undergoing restoration, looking uncomfortable in his red yarn wig (Anne again) . No less disturbing a sight, I had to remind myself, than that sombrero my parents let me bring back from Expo ’67; I could be spotted wearing it all over town, it’s two foot peak bobbing over the crowds of tourists’ heads—as complete an image of Mexico as Yoon gives of PEI.

Yoon was invited as an artist in residence at the Confederation Centre, tied into the programming of Curator Terry Graff. Residencies can have their arbitrary effect, as the artist tries to recontextualize their thinking in a place they might never have thought of going to otherwise. This work records the most obvious signifiers of place, the bathetic aspect of which one might encounter on any touristic venture. Access to any more complicated sense of community could only come with the vested interest of becoming a member. With the exception of one pair of images where Yoon appears to be thoughtfully in discussion with a Mi’kmaq leader in front of what used to be traditional lands, or in another pair, where Yoon seems to chatting with the red-haired tourist guide, the visiting family seem quite isolated, the way families can be when they travel. Previous work by Yoon had prepared me to read this exhibition in terms of a discussion of perception of race in the particularized Canadian context of tourism and immigration, or a feminist analysis of the conflicted roles of the professional and maternal woman. In this exhibition it is all mixed up. As I try to filter out my assorted subjective memories associated with the location, I wonder how a viewer who doesn’t have them might make sense of the work. They will see a family group presenting themselves at a series of generic tourist destinations, posing in varying degrees of ironic self-consciousness, with props whose significance may not seem obvious or important. The irony cross-fires, flattening the intended cultural dissonance by its misappropriation of signs, signs which hint at the conflicts of a denuded rural economy that has to rely on tourism.

My unease at seeing my place of origin reduced to the promotional material of the provincial bureau, might be the same unease of finding oneself a visible minority in a population that is predominately white. This is a point similar to one Yoon made in an earlier work, Souvenirs the Self, a series of images where Yoon inserted herself in front of popular mountain views of Banff and Lake Louise (That work’s format as a set of unfolding, perforated of postcards, was playful in its possibilities of distribution and was clearly justified by its subject matter. In the current exhibition, the light boxes qua light boxes in a Vancouver context always raise the question, why light boxes? Conjuring up as they do in the low-lit peaked ceilings of the gallery space, the Stations of the Cross, or Jeff Wall). For the viewer from “Away,” the collapse of what could constitute an Island identity to the bare bones of potatoes, lobsters, and red-haired girls might not be all that poignant a loss. So the point of comparing that paraphrased identity to the dilemma of the visible minority falls flat.

Projecting myself as the only viewer who might “get it,” I swing between embarrassment and dismay, like a teenager spotted by friends out on an expedition with her parents. No one will give you the time to explain how these things actually do have something to do with who you are, and you are left with the harrowing knowledge that it is these things by which you will be misunderstood.

This is a hazard of making art. As I struggle with my conflicted emotions I wander away from the narrative, back over to the image of Jin-me Yoon and the giant Anne, whose sheer weirdness transcends the didactic panels the viewer from “Away” might otherwise need.

Jin-Me Yoon
TOURING HOME FROM AWAY
Presentation House Gallery, North Vancouver
January 5 through February 10, 2002

Jin-Me Yoon, Touring Away from Home, lifochrome, 32" x 26", 1998-99