September 29, 2007 - Rodman Hall Arts Centre - Presents Objects of Affection
September 29, 2007

Presents Objects of Affection

Objects of Affection
featuring work by
Susan Bozic, Meesoo Lee, Jillian McDonald, Maria Legault, Warren Quigley & Tanya Read

October 5 – December 2, 2007

Curated by Gordon Hatt

Rodman Hall Arts Centre,
Brock University
109 St. Paul Crescent
St. Catharines,
Ontario, Canada L2S 1M3

Panel discussion with the artists Friday, October 5 at 2 p.m.

Opening reception Friday, October 5 at 7 p.m.

Opening performance by Maria Legault Friday, October, 5 at 8 p.m.

Music by the band Ethel and the Mermen at 9 p.m.

Objects of Affection is an exhibition about misplaced love. Desire — that intoxicating stirring of affection for someone or something — is a constant throughout our lives. The objects of our affection, however, are constantly changing. What do we desire? Why do we desire, and how do we express this desire?

Desire is of course shaped and channeled by religion, tradition, education, class and culture. We are educated in wants and needs — taught what to hope and wish for and what to disdain. But lurking beneath our educated restraint are subconscious desires — desires motivated by needs other than those determined by culture and society. Our needs may be a striving for personal completion and fulfilment, something which may be little more than a projection of our own narcissism. Never quite satisfied, we are driven to confront a gnawing existential unhappiness, constantly desiring, in an endless search to somehow fill the feeling of an emptiness within.

The six artists in Objects of Affection address this existential longing through their work. Popular culture — that great vehicle for the creation and imaging of desire in the service of the consumer society — is referenced by all of the artists in the exhibition. Romance novels and advertising, Hollywood movies and fan magazines, soap operas and comics are the direct or indirect subjects of these artists. The artefacts of popular culture reflect back to us both our ideal and our comically pathetic selves. We attempt to measure ourselves against these representations but they never seem to fit. Engaging popular culture by appropriating its means — in effect talking back to it — these six artists create spaces for the desiring subject in a culture of publicity and celebrity. They address the inadequacies of popular cultures representations of who we are and what we feel, and confront the feelings of emptiness that these images of popular culture do much to create.

* * *

Vancouver artist Susan Bozic has created the Dating Portfolio, a series of staged photographs depicting a young woman’s romantic fantasies. Her fantasy date in these photographs is a store window mannequin. Together they enact images that recall romance novels, billboard advertising, television commercials and Hollywood films portraying the blissful co-existence of happy couples. Her matinée idol mannequin is a pliant clothes hanger, providing an amenable but insensate partner in the illustration of the young woman’s impossible desire.

Meesoo Lee, also of Vancouver, has produced a series of videos he calls Pop Songs. Working within the genre of music video, Lee samples television and video, selectively editing and adding soundtracks. His resulting modifications tease out the structural relationships of the media and its content, focussing our voyeuristic gaze on televisual images of figure skaters, rodeo riders, actors and the other shooting stars of our media environment. Lee’s Pop Songs reveal video and film as a virtual peep show that feeds false intimacy to an atomized and insatiably desiring public.

New York-based artist Jillian McDonald’s video Me and Billy-Bob is a projection and examination of the obsessional fantasy that fuels our now pervasive celebrity culture. Me and Billy-Bob is a collage of clips from movies starring the actor Billy-Bob Thornton. McDonald digitally inserts herself into existing film clips as the recurring object of actor Billy-Bob Thornton’s affection. They exchange looks of longing, pleasure and pain, yet the desire remains unconsummated, looping infinitely. McDonalds intervention is part of a larger body of work that includes other videos, a web site, a photo series, music, and a participatory tattoo project for fans.

Toronto-based performance artist Maria Legault’s work is based around a life-sized puppet she calls Plus One. As the name implies, “Plus One” is Legault’s imaginary partner — a foil and a projection of her desires and anxieties in being part of a couple. Their marriage and its disintegration is the subject of a performance where intimacy and communication are doomed from the start.

Ridgeway, Ontario artist Warren Quigley creates an installation environment through the arrangement of aspects of a motel room. His Love Motel makes reference to bordellos from New Orleans from the turn of the previous century, to the Love Motels of Asia in the 60s and 70s, to the North American roadside motels spawned by car culture. While other artists attempt to describe the elusiveness of desire through surrogate love objects, Quigley describes desire as a vacant shell of anticipation and regret.

Toronto-based artist Tanya Read created Mr. Nobody in 1998, a black-and-white anthropomorphic animal resembling a cross between a panda bear and a cat. Mr. Nobody is not the ideal integrated self, but the self as fragmented, aimless, confused and desiring. Like his popular television counterpart Homer Simpson, Mr. Nobody is a bottomless well of omnidirectional need and comic pathos.

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