January 26, 2011

Beyond optical
Two intensely physical and cerebral shows at Latitude 53



Latitude 53’s current exhibitions are stunning examples of how art can provide a profound and satisfying experience of discomfort, and how beauty is possible in the unnerving.


In the ProjEX Room is Brandon A Dalmer’s Too Drunk to Fuck. Dalmer plays upon the human imperative to find pleasure in voyeurism through his series of peep holes, dioramas and prints of mundane and disconcerting neighbourhood life. Like neighbours who become witnesses to the private lives of the people they share fences and alleys with, visitors to the gallery peer down dark streets, into basements and backyards. This feeling of covert looking, even if it is at centimetre-tall plastic people and their tiny wooden homes, is seductive, and creates an intense desire to scour each object and scene to seek out the story.


Dalmer bars viewers from the satisfaction of a clear and singular story in any of his works by refusing to give the spectator enough information to create one. On a wall is a neat assembly of tiny backyard and home dioramas isolated into glass jars and terrariums as if they are samples for scientific study. Cork-topped vials contain trees and lonely figures whose intentions or actions remain unclear. Meanwhile, the careful observation of a tiny house and yard, presented like a collectable figurine (complete with black laquered base) you find a robbery—a stick up—frozen in progress. A wall of prints features the figures one might think of when singing the childhood song, “Who Are the People in your Neighbourhood”: nostalgic images of an elderly woman, a police officer, a little girl. But the comfort of sentimentality is thrown off with the inclusion of a green monster amongst these familiar images. Dalmer plays with these tensions throughout the exhibition, drawing viewers in through voyeurism and nostalgia, only to present the realization that something sinister is going on beneath the veneer of these clean and tidy neighbourhood scenes.


A friend described her experience of viewing the exhibition in Latitude’s main space as similar to being inside a vortex, or as if she had been sucked into some kind of wormhole. Although Gary James Joynes/Clinker’s exhibition, Frequency Painting: 12 Tones does not explicitly have anything to do with outer space or science fiction, it is impossible to avoid feeling like you are having some sort of unearthly experience amidst the all-consuming sound and the graphic shapes on the walls.


To share space with Joynes/Clinker’s 12 sound-images is a profound and moving experience. Each image represents a different frequency of sound and what happens visually when fine particulate sand on a flat black surface is exposed to each sound. The photographs capture how each sound frequency forms an elegant and strange arrangement of familiar-looking shapes and patterns. These images are fascinating to think of as snapshots of sand sculpted by sound. This is where the sense of awe comes in, as you consider that the striking differences in how every sand sculpture was formed is due to a manipulation of hertz. Each image is presented with its inspiring frequency of sound, which in turn fills the space with a loud cacophony of non-musical hums. Experiencing this exhibition is an exercise in endurance. It is more than just visual or aural presentation. It is a visceral encounter to view beautiful images made through a stunning process, and to do so while the sounds reverberate through your body.


Latitude 53 has made inspired choices for its first shows of 2011—contemporary art that is far more than purely optical. These exhibitions provide the opportunity for two intense physical and cerebral art viewing experiences, making for a strong set of exhibitions.


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