push and pull: Bridget Moser, Michael Vickers, Nikki Woolsey

Britt Gallpen
Toronto, Mercer Union,
February 7 – March 22, 2014
81_CR06_Gallpen_I want to believe
Bridget Moser, I Want to Believe, 2014
photo : Toni Hafkenschied, courtesy of Mercer Union, Toronto

[En anglais]

An aura of youth and vitality coupled with a slight precarity is immediately apparent upon entering push and pull, Georgina Jackson’s debut exhibition as director of exhibitions and publications at Mercer Union. This is perhaps due, in part, to the majority of the works having been made specifically for the show. And although the central premise of the exhibition has been contextualized as the interstitial, or the spaces of in-between or almost, the elements of storytelling and concern with time that similarly tie these three young artists together are perhaps more compelling.

Each work sits between at least two practices — Michael Vickers between sculpture and painting; Nikki Woolsey: collage and sculpture; and Bridget Moser: performance, stand-up comedy, and modern dance. However, beyond this oscillation of medium, each has managed to capture a world of narrative within their individual works. Vickers plays with poetry and personal narrative as in his work Vera in the Fields (2014), a grassy green angular steel piece perched dangerously between the floor and wall, a reference to his grandmother who laboured in prairie fields upon immigrating from Switzerland, while Woolsey allows the objects themselves to tell her their stories as in Feel Need Need Feel (2014) whereby the desperate request of an underwear band holds itself, and by extension the sculpture, together.

In essence, Vickers positions himself against his materials via the very physical act of bending and manipulating them, while Woolsey acts as their translator, collecting, arranging and “willingly working with little expertise,” as she recently explained. Both makers also possess an ability to suggest enduring moments beyond those they’ve momentarily captured here. Indeed, each responds to time rather differently. While Woolsey views her arrangements as tenuous and on the verge of being constantly remade, the action of Vickers’ labour, rendered in folds, drapes, or angles depending on the material, stand in testament to discrete and finite moments of work.

Finally, there is Bridget Moser, who stole the show. The main space features I Want to Believe (2014) a two-channel video that repeatedly plays against and in tandem with itself, referencing popular culture, the banalities of office work, and the existential “big questions” of life all to a melancholic, if slightly cheeky, soundtrack of Damien Rice. The piece is aesthetically refined, boasting a palate of khaki, tan, and grey but is nevertheless approachable — there is something instantly familiar and comforting about the objects Moser employs and the way she uses them. It’s the most beautiful piece of improv theatre you’ve ever seen. It is highly affective and completely engaging, strong enough to bring a viewer to pensive pause if it wasn’t so funny, and it’s the kind of piece that anyone who’s been intimidated by performance art should see.

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