1. Kevin Schmidt at Catriona Jeffries Gallery
A large white tent—part Arctic research facility, part evangelical church, with makeshift pews of pristine black camping chairs—served as a screening room for Epic Journey, Kevin Schmidt’s new 11-and-a-half-hour film, which debuted at Catriona Jeffries Gallery in September. On the big screen, a fisherman in a small boat implausibly rigged with a large flat-screen TV watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy as the boat meandered past a twinkly urban nightscape. Oh no! The wake of a passing tugboat set the boat rocking perilously. Could this preposterous man-cave-like rig capsize? Partly, I craved a comeuppance for the follies and romantic conceits of yesterday’s explorers and today’s artist navigators as well as for the full-tilt lunacy of humanity’s tech- and entertainment-obsessed ways. Yet, oddly, the TV screen acted as a ballast or sail, and I also experienced a platonic rush of hopeful tenderness for the fisherman, seen only from behind, awash in the hypnotic blue light. Shot by the artist and his makeshift crew on the Fraser River over a two-night period, but appearing as a seamless record of a long night’s journey into day, Schmidt once again deftly ferried us through a multi-layered chicanery, a spectacle of his own making, then abandoned us to the sublime, brute wilderness of open water.
2. Elizabeth Zvonar: On Time at the Contemporary Art Gallery
Vancouver-based artist Elizabeth Zvonar’s solo exhibition “On Time” at the Contemporary Art Gallery was a meditation on the space-time continuum, so the cedar hand with a long, flaccid rubber band draped over its thumb and spilling down to the floor seemed like a catapult meant to fling you into the fourth dimension. A nearby tipping wall, barely propped up by 12 black mannequin arms, effected a mesmerizing optical illusion of synchronized dancers, but it was titled Legs, which heightened the discombobulation. Here was a conflation of objects, including a time machine in the form of a minimalist bike frame and a tower of glass cubes acting as portal into multiple dimensions. Alongside were inkjet collages of pop cultural images, such as Double Double, which melded Jackson Pollock, topless hippies, futurist noise machines and a rainbow-hued yoga mantra, and Bird in Space, starring Ziggy Stardust’s sparkly-nailed, dove-shaped hands overlapping a deep-space nebula. For 15 years, Zvonar has cultivated a fascination for the mixed meanings of cultural gestures, and with “On Time,” she saluted history’s inventive movements (big, small, timely or otherwise) and beckoned us to raise our collective consciousness while warning against blind utopianism. Indeed, with her rubber band, you could lose your eye—or your entire head!
3. Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time at Or Gallery
By opening the group show “Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time,” a meditation on broken hearts and failed love, at the annual Swarm art crawl, Or Gallery functioned as this year’s ideal pickup joint. The room was packed with people hum-hawing, nodding, snickering and laughing over some great conversation starters. These included Jon Pylypchuk’s send-up of the TV show The Dating Game, which used his small, chimeric, ragtag sculptural assemblages constructed with cast-off materials that appear at once crudely constructed by louts and painstakingly crafted by cherubs who break to suck on their creatures, adding to their soiled, abused, biohazardous charm. I carried my torch for this LA-based, Royal Art Lodge–spawned artist over to Like Like, a two-channel film by Aleesa Cohene, another Canadian transplant to elsewhere (in this case, Germany). “They’re all women masturbating,” explained a bespectacled dude about the snippets from Hollywood movies. No, they’re actually about a failed lesbian relationship, but dude’s misreading nicely underlined the theme of communication breakdown. I was tempted to return on a quiet day to puzzle and note-take, but decided it best to leave the encounter as a one-night stand.
Danielle Egan is a journalist and fiction writer living in Vancouver.