Sunday, March 14, 2010

burrows is probably going to change the juicy bits

so ima post some of the original parts of my article this week. mostly cuz its gay and i like it.

The Secret of the Midnight Shadow

Believe it or not, I was a boy scout. I'm sure its coed and stuff now, but back in the day (circa Jes at 13 - think keen times a trillion) it was boys-only boy scouts. The only non-penises were me and the scout leader's daughter. We tied knots, went camping in all four seasons, shoved each other, told ghost stories, ate smores...and played dodgeball a lot in the school gymnasium. Yes, tucked away with my decorated sash are fond memories of getting my 'culture' badge by making shnitzel for my troop, in honour of the mother(deutsch)land (believe it or not, Sachse is German and pronounced 'zook-sah' ).

But where was I? Hardy boys, Dick and Jane, boy scoutery; this imagery is the homoerotic rascal infantry of the pre-pubescent boychild. With his own sprinkle of life-sized Never Neverland magic, artist Daryl Vocat has created a world for us in full street view at Artspace. 

With a coat of near-nighttime cerulean covering the four walls of the main space, Vocat takes us to the nigthmarish whimsy of these small cops, robbers, and twilight mischiefs. Creator of Edmonton-planted poster project 'Children Be Gay', depicting other characters of boyhood, this show encompasses a body of work at the core of Vocat's artist passion, which he has been moulding since 2006. Before its unveiling in our city, the show was shown in both Edmonton and Toronto. Intrigued by the detail of the background work, I inquired about Vocat's installation-labour. "I use projectors in order to map out the trees and background details. The show at Latitude 53 (in Edmonton) was much less minimalist than this show though. I just found the background to be too busy, and detracting from the figures," Vocat shares.

Introduced to the artist by Dahn, who's calf is now sporting a pair of Vocat's figures, I share his excitement for the spectacular 'finished' work. Of course, its not really finished. Over the next month it will be there for us to invite us into a rabbit hole realm of slingshots, shade and glances. The subtlety of the visual reference to the secrecy of gay male experiences, both growing up and in their adult lives (undercover bars, sneaky rendevous, hook ups in alleys and other sexy dark places...) is powerful and an important aspect of the work. The work reminds me greatly of Uxbridge painter Daniel Colby and his series 'Collegiate'. Pouting about the prospect of spending 6 months in my slow, hick, and twenty-something repellent hometown, I grumbled trailing behind my mother and her man pal as we went on the artist studio tour last October. Our first stop was a father and son duo - dad makes furniture, son paints pictures of houses. They were good paintings, but houses are boring to me. 

After being interrupted from holding up the wall with my tough guy look when a woman asked cheerily 'are you the artist?' (what? cuz i'm covered in tattoos, look gay and out of place? probably more because i was grimacing for so long), I wander into a small back room. There, before my eyes, was not paintings of houses, but boys. Young and adolescent boys, posed with each other in such a strikingly covert way, many of the bustling country bumpkins didn't seem to pick up on the cues. One older woman sure did, and got out of that room pretty fast. But not me. I stayed and stared and stared. It got me through those months, lemme tell you.

Opening this past Friday, Dary Vocat's work, along with two other works will be exhibited until April 24th. A short film entitled 'Labyrinth'  portrays a surrealist private eye afterlife tale employing stop animation through a retouched painting storyboard, a groovy film noir sound, and in decipherable mutter-dialogue.

In the Mudroom (the gallery's back space), Montreal-based artist Sayeh Sarfarez features a multi-media installation entitled 'Magic Never Ends: Iran of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Well coupled with the theme of Vocat's work, this exhibit tells a story of a war zone struggle and dissent through lego men, a helium balloon, chicken wire, and a looped soundtrack (a song of inspiration to Iranian resistors). The live-streaming video surveilled show-patrons interaction with the work, scrawled across the walls in at times purposefully micro-sized handwriting. The devastation of armed conflict is told in arrows, paragraphs and miniature playtoys. 

Standing 4'9" and looming over the lego-daisy grave of a man whose experience and struggle is unfathomable to me, I can't help but feel the ineffability of his donut-size chicken coop graveyard seeping into my boots traypsing clumsily across the artist-marked concrete-landscape floor. And I suppose thats the point. I walked out of the room feeling less the superficial 'well, all this is so much bigger than me', and more the unknowing passport holder in solidarity with a struggle I can't understand any more in lego literature than press releases.

Between The Secret of the Midnight Shadow and the Magic Never [Ending], this childlike world created for grown-ups welcomes us with tender terror, into inverted worlds between words.

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