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Double Space/Douglas Gordon: Doublethinking and Elephant Tricks

There are often, if not always, two sides to every story. That’s the conventional wisdom, at least. It is also the conceptual position taken up by artists Romeo Gongora, Bettina Hoffmann and Rachelle Viader Knowles in “Double Space,” an exhibition of dual-projection video works currently featured at the MacKenzie Art Gallery.

In his video Fratrie, Montreal artist Romeo Gongora brings together an estranged brother and sister in synchronized projections screened side-by-side to give the effect of adjoining rooms. The siblings seem to motion to one another through the narrow wall that separates them. But it’s a false proximity. In fact, Gongora filmed each in different locations and the estrangement continues. The division between screens, though slight, further frustrates any notion of a happy ending, forming at once a near link and a resolute barrier.

Bettina Hoffmann has long focused on the power of multiple points of view on personal identity in her photo and video works. For Décalage (Shift), the Montreal artist stages a sequence of mysteriously intimate scenarios where static subjects are filmed at close range by two cameras moving in slowly circling loops. Displayed as paired projections, these complementary perspectives merge at times but then drift away with an effect that is strangely hypnotic, leaving any contextual readings intriguingly open-ended.

Regina-based artist and 2006 Sobey Art Award finalist Rachelle Viader Knowles’s contribution to the double-take theme, The Future, depicts the mirrored image of an English back garden where a wandering, solitary boy recounts, in a tumbling stream of consciousness, stories of his life—past, present and future. As he moves from screen to screen, the child’s sincere storytelling takes on an increasingly tense and troubling emotional undertone and the garden itself, hemmed in by the surrounding houses, becomes less of a refuge than an existential trap.

As a neat complement to “Double Space,” the gallery is also presenting a solo installation by Douglas Gordon, organized by the National Gallery of Canada, to December 7. Anyone who has seen Gordon’s work knows that he is the contemporary master of cinema-scale film and video installations, and it’s rare to see his work outside of the major international venues, let alone in a Canadian gallery space. That makes this a must-see opportunity. For the critically acclaimed Play Dead: Real Time, Gordon transported a four-year-old Indian elephant to New York’s Gagosian Gallery where he filmed the massive pachyderm performing a sequence of circus tricks from playing dead to standing still to begging, all preceded by a close-up of one of the elephant’s soulful eyes. Displayed on two large screens and a floor-mounted monitor, the work lends the moving image format a definite sculptural feel; but the truly lasting impact comes from Gordon’s expertly executed visual ode to a monumental living presence. (3475 Albert St, Regina SK)

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