Chopped & Screwed: Remix Redux
Hugh Scott-Douglas’ recent summer show was a keeper for the 2011 year-end highlight lists. A curator, painter and sculptor who recently finished his studies at OCAD, Scott-Douglas put together a show that moved the yardstick forward not only for summer shows, but also for conventional curatorial practices.
Assembling works by eight young international and Toronto artists, Scott-Douglas set in motion an elaborate choreography for the art that literally kept it moving over the term of the exhibition. A wall text laid out instructions for changing up the show over its run: “Wall works move one position right at the start of each day for the first week. * Sculptures move one position to the left at the start of each day for the first week. Wall works move one position right at the start of every other day for the second week. * Sculptures move one position to the left at the start of every other day for the second week. * Wall works move one position right at the start of every third day for the third week. * Sculptures move one position to the left at the start of every third day for the third week. *”
These slowing rotations and counter-rotations of the art tied into a hip-hop remix technique known as “chopped and screwed,” which lent a name to the show and a structure to its experience. As in the music, the chopping and screwing accentuated, in the gallery’s words, “materiality and form” within a changing context of place and position. Certainly it was this imaginary clockwork mechanism ticking through the exhibition that activated any viewing of the quasi-minimalist artworks in the room. They were all in flux, even though nothing moved in the gallery—for that particular day, at least.
The net effect was a new element of mindfulness in the exhibition. This wasn’t just a collection of objects; it was a collection of networked things anchored outside themselves which consequently became more vivid in presence. It was art with a background plot line of calculated change, a plot line that equally seemed a metaphor for all the planning and alteration that goes into the making of a work of art.
While the works were, for the most part, humble things, they seemed eloquently themselves. The brass bars of Elaine Cameron-Weir’s standing floor piece, Column, created a birdcage of sloping angles and delicate uprights. Georgia Dickie’s wheeled piece Plinth (Lazy Baster) nearby was the kind of ad hoc construction that comes to life in art departments around the world, only this one had a growing vinyl mantle that slowly covered the sculpture over the course of the show. Noam Rappaport’s untitled grey painting with red line had the inner life of a Tomma Abts abstract: all cool deliberation and subtle shiftings. Dan Rees’ Titanium White painting was a Robert Ryman–inspired squiggle that had its surface imprinted onto one wall before being hung on another. These delightful pieces were made all the more more delightful by their transience in the overall scheme of things.
Here, Scott-Douglas brought a light touch to situational themes in contemporary art while honouring a renewed interest in making, fitting handmade things to wider rings of circumstance.