Culture  Complementary collisions

Concordia MFA candidate exhibit comments on pop culture and consumerism

From now until March 7, Parisian Laundry, an art gallery located in St. Henri, is hosting Collision 5, an exhibit made up of the work of six Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) Candidates from Concordia. An “exhibition of collaborative solos,” Collision 5 attempts to give the MFA candidates unique practical experience through participating in group showings and working in galleries. The art featured in the exhibit is decidedly varied, given the almost complete freedom the artists were allowed, and includes everything from drawing to sculpture.

Jeanie Riddle, director of Parisian Laundry and an artist herself, graduated from Concordia with an MFA in 2005. Her thesis work was also shown at Parisian Laundry and she quickly became its director, strongly believing in the location’s traditions. In her eyes, it is Parisian Laundry’s outstanding reputation that contributes to the MFA candidates’ experience: the exhibit allows them to “disseminate their works to a broad, diverse, and captive viewership,” and in addition gives them the benefit of Riddle’s professional advice.

According to Riddle, although the pieces shown in the exhibit all deal with different subject matter, “one still has the sense that profound research about consumerism and pop culture is at play.”

Shown alone in the basement of Parisian Laundry, the work of the Douglas Moffat can be quite hard to get to, but the climb down the stairs and walk through the low-hanging tunnel are well worth the effort, and contribute to the dramatic entrance into a room where light and sound are key elements of the installations. The most impressive of Moffat’s pieces is “The Love Song Effect,” a mix of recorded sound and video. Occupying an entire side of the room, a small speaker sits on a stool against a white backdrop reminiscent of headshots and old school photographs. From the speaker comes an eerie mix of words and music that fades in and out. Across the room is the same display, this time shown on an LCD screen supported by cinder blocks. The dual images, one real and one digital, are identical except for subtitles of the song shown on the LCD screen, demonstrating how the media through which the image is presented filters our understanding of it.

While at first Moffat’s showing doesn’t seem to be one cohesive work, he explains how the other three pieces in the room complement “The Love Song Effect,” as they all explore the “experience of a love song in a public place.” Even though there is commercial employment of love songs “toward predetermined purposes,” Moffat likes to think that “occasionally there can still be a momentary connection with a love song that undermines this structure. After all, isn’t that what love songs are for?” The love song’s triumph over mass media is amplified by the striking yet intimate structure of the room, and also seems in line with Riddle’s opinion on the artists’ concern with pop culture.

Tia Halliday’s cutout paintings also deal with the topic of love. The pieces show various bedroom scenes with a woman replacing a male partner with hot water bottles, a radiator with a man’s shirt on it, or a dog with an image of a naked man taped to it. These works spoke to me of how very false our lives have become, and how we are continually replacing reality with artificial substitutes. Interspersed within and in contrast to the ersatz love scenes were unbeautiful and asymmetrical close-up portraits, all the more real for their imperfection.

Amidst the wide variety of installations, other pieces that immediately attract attention are Dominic Papillon’s sculptures and Amélie Guérin-Simard’s mixed-media pieces, which offer several colours, textures, and concepts that will keep you fascinated and occupied. My favourites were Papillon’s giant cloaked mouse, “Geist,” and Guérin-Simard’s three-dimensional mosaic, complete with a fake moustache.

Clement Yeh and Meghan Price add other media to the already diverse exhibit. Yeh’s most striking pieces are four large inlaid woodworks named after various local institutions: Nettoyeur, Delicatessen, Restaurant, and Club de Danseuses. Together, the sculptures give the impressive appearance of three-dimensional neon signs that would be hung above the businesses they were named after. Meghan Price’s “Imitative Systems Analysis: Acting like starlings” uses copper wire, knitting, weaving, and needle lace to create beautiful designs that spiderweb across the white wall.

Whether you would like to support the work of fellow students or would just like to see some quirky, thought-provoking art dealing with such topics as love, reality, urbanity, and the media’s influence on the public, Collision 5 will not disappoint. Between Price’s wire birds, Guérin-Simard’s masterful recycling of beautiful, disused objects, and Moffat’s comments on romance, Collision 5 brings the best of contemporary art to the table.