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Steve Bates: On the Sound of Time

Amid the many distractions of an information-saturated, ultra-plugged-in modern world, where even the most routine tasks can border on sensory overload, a quiet moment of reflection may seem rare, and even slightly disorienting. Montreal artist Steve Bates taps into this awkward balance between the speed of everyday life and our ability to absorb its often-chaotic signals in “For me the noise of time is not sad,” currently on view at Maison de la culture Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. Produced in conjunction with artist-run centres Dazibao and PRIM (Productions et Réalisations Indépendentes de Montréal), the exhibition features a pair of sound-and-video works designed to isolate the fundamentals of listening, looking and remembering.

For the show’s title work, a set of three projections fills the darkened gallery with a sequence of random snapshots taken from a cross-continental journey by car to the home of a grandfather suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Timed to flash intermittently at 1/8 to 1/16 of a second (roughly the time taken to record them) these images offer no more than a narrative glimpse. That fleeting visual impact is countered by the accompanying click of an analog camera shutter that has been slowed down and distorted—a measure of what Bates, in a related text, calls the “sound of time.” As the photographic instant and its afterimage fade in tandem with the echoing shutter sound, the rapid-fire mechanics of memory are revealed, leaving viewers to quietly contemplate the lasting connections between what they’ve seen and what they’ve heard. That questioning of how memory is formed and fashioned continues in the exhibition’s second work, Roadmovie, which weaves an elaborate narrative grounded by eerily ambiguous footage of an empty country road at night.

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