Vancouver – Lawrence Eng

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Lawrence Eng

Lawrence Eng, Vancouver, May 17 – June 28, 2008

Kelly Mark’s recent video work shows that we have it all wrong: changing the channel on the television is not a lazy, passive activity, unworthy of reflection or critical attention. Instead channel-surfing is a fundamentally creative act; an adaptation and active reorganization of culture through use. In De Certeau’s terms, it is a bricolage. Mark both makes an art of watching television and turns watching television into art.
The centrepiece of the exhibition One Time at Lawrence Eng is REM, a video mash-up, in her words, comprising cable television footage from a huge selection of disparate sources, representing a total of four months of rigorous viewing time. REM is a carefully composed, non-linear, non-narrative compilation of feature films, recorded from the serendipitous collusion of mainstream media’s late-night playback of culture. Imagine 170 movies condensed into two hours of non-stop, commercial-free viewing. It is television-cum-extreme sport-cum-art.
The video is set in an Ikea-style living room, a set-up that is strangely mirrored. Two identical television sets face two sofas set beside two end tables resting on two shag rugs. Two ashtrays on the tables and identical clocks on the wall remind us that time passing in the real is different than time passing on screen.
REM is Mark’s epic. It is pleasure turned into serious, methodical labour. It is as lazy as it is meticulous. It is a record of hours spent watching television, and a fastidious account of that activity.
Two other works were paired with REM: The Kiss and Commercial Space. Both are from the Glow Video Series, a number of videos documenting light cast from different television genres onto the walls of her apartment. The Kiss is a recording of the red-hot, pulsing light cast from pornography. Played back on two small monitors in the corner of the gallery, their screens face each other and gently touch, as if in an embrace. As sculpture, The Kiss is both a wry inversion of the porn genre and an unmistakable reference to Brancusi. Its opposite, Commercial Space, is the cool afterglow of reflected light from television commercials. Set in the gallery’s storefront window space on a busy commercial avenue, a pile of monitors sits directly on the floor, the blue light flickering toward the street both day and night. By directing us to the cast of the screen instead of the content, Mark evokes both the psychological and phenomenological resonance of the medium of television.
Mark’s work embodies, exploits even, a particular kind of pathos and irony one finds in the most repetitive and mundane tasks. No clear distinction is made between work and play, high culture and low, what is valued or discarded. Mark reminds us that all are constructs.

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