Toronto – InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre | esse arts + opinions

Toronto – InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre

  • Niknaz Tavakolian, I Like Girls (phonetic), 2008. photo : courtesy the artist

[Texte en anglais]

Niknaz Tavakolian, Float/Fly
InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, Toronto, May 9-18, 2008

Niknaz Tavakolian’s solo exhibition Float/Fly invites the visitor to participate in and bear witness to the flourishing of amorous intimacies at the interstices of prescribed categories. Comprising two electronic, wall-mounted sculptures and two video projections, Tavakolian’s work opens up liminal spaces between the natural and the manufactured as well as between cultural and racial identities, effectively transforming them into a fertile ground that fosters the growth of inter-subjective relationships.

“Butterfly” and “I Like Girls” present visual metaphors that subvert the functional value of their respective electronic components by both re-contextualizing them in an aesthetic space and re-designing them to mimic natural phenomena. In “Butterfly,” a motion sensor placed above the work causes the step motors’ plastic pieces to flutter, and the piece as a whole calls to mind the outspread wings of a large butterfly. Likewise, in transforming commonplace electrical components into a bouquet of flowers through its spatial arrangement, “I Like Girls” offers a fresh take on still life. Each installation, moreover, generates a form of inter-subjective, dynamic tension. As the most explicitly interactional piece of Float/Fly, “Butterfly” “flirts” with visitors and invites them to share in the pleasure associated with love: the little ridged “wings” react to viewers’movements and validate their presence. Furthermore, the wings’ flapping gives new life to the cliché “butterflies in my stomach” describing one’s visceral sensation when in the presence of a lover in the early stages of infatuation. In “I Like Girls,” the English title’s phonetic rendition in Farsi playfully instigates contact between Persian and western cultures, two contexts currently perceived as antithetical to each other.

The two video projections present a dialectical opposition between the marginalized space of lesbian love explored in “The Liminal Life of Josie Holbrook” and the barring of the masculine from within its precincts manifest in the dual-channel projection “Austin/Vi.” “Josie” illustrates how lesbian affection finds alternate trajectories in inhospitable locales: in spite of the carnivalesque sterility evident in the tacky corporate atmosphere of the Black title character’s hometown, Niagara Falls, she nonetheless enjoys meaningful romantic encounters with a White teenaged girl in the city’s “invisible” spaces uncharted by tourism. If “Josie” underscores the lesbian’s isolation from the mainstream, then “Austin/Vi” reveals how lesbian culture in turn ostracizes the masculine. Accessible only when viewed at night from outside the gallery, the two male figures projected on each window in “Austin/Vi” are spatially and temporally segregated from the visitor’s initial experience of the other three works.

In exploring liminality, Float/Fly’s sculptures compel visitors to rediscover aesthetic beauty in the kind of life-affirming and inter-subjective communication they foster; the videos, however, remind us that the creative act (romantic or artistic) is by necessity a process of exclusion.


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