CURRENT ISSUE | WINTER 2018: CARE AND WELLNESS
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Drifting, Slowly: Four Artists Deep in Labour

Over the past five years, collaborative Vancouver artists Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky have travelled across Canada creating exhibitions with centrepieces of cars “cast” in aluminium foil. During this process, the artists have created embossed impressions of vehicles that they’ve reassembled as surprisingly accurate and somewhat droopy sculptural renditions. They’ve engaged in this labour-intensive process for each exhibition and, once the shows have ended, they’ve had the automotive shells crushed into balls.

For “Drifting, Slowly,” Weppler and Mahovsky brought along a box of bric-a-brac to cast over a five-day period at Pari Nadimi Gallery. Music of Chance 2 is an unbroken piece of aluminum foil that links impressions of an ornate metal box and a number of silver-coloured bits and pieces that the box once contained, such as a hash pipe, a harmonica, a hinge, an Eiffel Tower key fob, a fancy hand-held mirror and so on. A set of 30 or so such items is repeated five times over the 17-foot length of the sculpture. As with the auto casts, the artists’ great industry here offers a paradoxical quandary. These modest objects have been painstakingly reproduced, reconceived as budget-rate silver plating and put on repeat. The title of the work alludes to the 1990 Paul Auster novel that chronicles hidden and pointless labour. Weppler and Mahovsky’s labours, although executed on site prior to the exhibition’s opening, result in a delicate sculpture vulnerably set out on the gallery floor. The artists even foresee keeping this sculpture intact. Where big-ticket cars may fall prey to planned obsolescence, cheap knick-knacks, whether cast for posterity or not, tend to stick around.

Weppler and Mahovsky invited two other artists to participate in “Drifting, Slowly,” Vancouver’s Andrea Nunes and Santa Barbara’s George Legrady. Both of these artists treat the persistence of things in the crush and bustle of time. Nunes’s recent three-crayon drawings depict a splash, a cozy campfire with two lawn chairs, a geodesic dome, a textile surface—all of which float in the middle of the paper and evoke transient, post-1960s moments.

Legrady too is concerned with the mid–20th century: his 1993 work An Anecdoted Archive from the Cold War is an interactive CD-ROM projection that uses a floor plan of the former workers’ movement museum in Budapest as a matrix for viewers to navigate a conflation of authoritative and personal histories. Legrady juxtaposes photographs, home movies and other documents chronicling his family’s life in both Communist-era Budapest and 1950s-and-beyond Montreal. In one slide, we see a 1930s photograph of a family group in a dining room with a decorative ceramic jug on a corner shelf in the background. In an accompanying image, we see the same jug as clinically re-photographed in the 1990s.

The artists in “Drifting, Slowly” all use laborious techniques to marshal the bric-a-brac of everyday life into associative networks—an aluminium-foil chain, a grid of drawings, an endlessly variable digital archive. These entwined workaday things worryingly imitate the way many such phenomena stick to and ensnare us.

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