Number XXVII shows an undivided street scene, though a man holds a sign that warns “The End is Near.”
To get a really good sense of what’s on display at the ODD Gallery until August 6, I think there are three things you probably need to do. The first is to visit Dan Starling’s exhibit “Unsettled histories: the transformation of a print” and spend at least 30 minutes working your way around the 28 drypoint prints that make up the installation. It takes a while, if you haven’t read the eight-page brochure (the second thing to do), to realize that you are looking at an evolving landscape. It changes over centuries, between the first open scene with the ghostly image of the Rembrandt print hovering over it, until you get to number XXVIII, in which vestiges of the more recent transformations still linger.
I wanted to know more about where it all started. There is a small 4×3-centimetres image of the original work in the brochure, but I wanted to see more of that, so I Googled “Rembrandt’s Christ crucified between two thieves” and printed out one of the images on regular letter paper to get a better sense of the template.
Starling made a “copper plate of the exact size of Rembrandt’s print through photo-etching” and then began adding images to the original background, imagining what might take place in the same geographic setting over a couple of millennia.
The final image is in the present day “Holy Land,” with the massive security wall bisecting the space between Israel and the Palestinian settlements.
As the artist puts it, “the project uses the print as a departure point to realign the timelessness of (Rembrandt’s) religiously inspired original with the timeliness of contemporary socio-political struggle in the settler-colonial context of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.”
There is a political message embedded in the exhibit: “By drawing on top of Rembrandt’s original work and adding a diversity of imagery, my aim is to show the inherent instability of occupation,” Starling writes.
In the timelapse narrative of the exhibition we see “changes in the landscape both real and fantastical: a pile of dogs, a flood, overgrown nature, metamorphizing buildings, and human activity.”
The ghostly images of Calvary have largely vanished by the fifth print, and other dominant features come and go. Between XXIII and XXVIII an arch-like shape is sometimes atmospheric, sometimes an actual building, and, finally, a memory.
The brochure is a bit wordy and bears reading a couple of times, in spite of being densely crafted in artspeak. It would have been interesting to hear Starling speak to this work. There was to have been a closing reception and artist talk at some point (TBA on the brochure), but with the KIAC/Dënäkär Zho building shut tight by the latest COVID-19 outbreak, that future date is problematic.
Lana Welchman, KIAC’s Executive Director, says the gallery is still open for visitors. They are asked to use the main door of the building rather than the gallery door, as this is where the sign-up sheet and COVID-19 supplies are located.
The show will be on display until August 6.