Looping Time

The overhead lights are dim in the Yukon Arts Centre Gallery. As you step inside, a flickering tells you you’re entering the realm of video.

All three shows currently in the gallery are video-based. One way to look at video is to see it as a kind of photography or drawing, with time added as another dimension. Aptly enough, all three shows lead the viewer to consider his or her position in time.

In Kelly Richardson’s Twilight Avenger, the viewer encounters a buck in a deciduous forest.

You and the buck size each other up. The buck gets nervous, grazes, but keeps checking you out. It exits, re-enters and crosses the screen. Fog rises. A moth flies by. Then the video sequence starts again.

Entering the space, I wondered if a motion detector was making the buck react to my presence. But I sat there through the loop, and it didn’t seem to respond to my movements.

Although deer are not as common in the Yukon as they might be in other northern forests, most Yukoners will be familiar with the moment when you encounter a wild animal and look at each other, wondering what to do next. It transports you to the present.

In this case the present is altered. The woods are digitally heightened to the point where they resemble video game animation, and a green glow rises around the buck like smoke. Is it radioactive? Is the green smoke a depiction of its scent?

Anyone who’s seen the Harry Potter movies (and that will be many) won’t be able to help noticing that the stag looks a lot like the “Patronus” figures featured in the films. As well, the piece is called Twilight Avenger, which could be read as a reference to another very popular series of teen novels.

Between viewing this show, I happened to have lunch in a restaurant along the Yellowhead Highway west of Saskatoon. There were several mass-produced decorative rugs on the wall, depicting stags in postures almost identical to what I saw here.

It seems to me that Richardson has taken this image from the realm of kitsch to somewhere else, though I find myself confused about what the intended destination may be.

Next door, Kerri Reid transports us to The End of the World. An abstract assembly of shapes turns into a broken snowshoe.

These shapes turn into drawings of shadows of found objects. The objects appear as the light broken by window frames moves across them in an arc, sped up, like window shadows projected by car headlights.

Reading the text I learn that it’s a whole day’s light. Time speeds up to the end of the world.

Reid draws the shadows, showing the negative space around some of the things left behind, after the humans have all gone away.

These shadows of the objects make the objects themselves look almost like something cut out of paper or left out in the snow.

A wall of framed photos and drawings accompanies these animations. They’re all formatted as horizontal rectangles, set into enormous vertical horizontal mattes and framed in plain wood.

The photos depict the found object, and the resultant graphite drawing is hung below. Aha, that J-shaped shadow was a bent spoon… They help decode some of the abstract shapes in the animations.

In Now on Home Video artist Douglas Drake invites you to sit down. A comfortable padded wooden rocking chair sits on a carpet beside a carved end table and ornate-based lamp whose sheer cream shade has a small tear.

The well-worn objects seem to come from the 1970s or ’80s. You’ve been in living rooms like this.

When you sit down you face a group of 13 cathode ray tube TV sets. Their design also speaks of another time, in the not too distant past, but far enough away to be almost another world. They are ranged in an arc in front of your seat.

In each TV a head shot of someone, often with dated hairstyle and makeup, tries very hard to tell you something. Colour quality varies, also evoking a different time.

Their hand gestures, head shakes and nods seem to convey an ardent desire to communicate, all the more so because there is no sound.

I read in the catalogue that these videos came from “home recordings of TV shows and sports games as well as exercise and product instructional videos.”

I can’t help but think of all the home videos people made of themselves and their families, and how the technology has moved on, sealing the bottle those messages were placed in and burying it firmly in the bottom of the sea.

They seem like ghosts. How quickly the past 25 years have gone.

All three shows were curated by Earl Miller, an independent curator and arts writer residing in Toronto. He will also curate a group show at the Yukon Arts Centre, Untrue North, to open next January.

All three of these shows continue till October 29 at the Yukon Arts Centre Gallery.

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