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Hold On: West-coast Life Preservers

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre…” The opening lines of Yeats’s “The Second Coming” jump to mind when viewing Vancouver artist Kathy Slade’s projection work, Tugboat. The 16-mm film loop pictures a tugboat caught in a seemingly endless spin that, even though it is more a “seafaring doughnut” than a “widening gyre,” still prompts an existential question: is it the boat or the pilot who is rudderless? Consider also that the tugboat is a steadfast symbol of maritime economies and you have in Slade’s film a pointedly ironic and somewhat melancholic commentary on the uncertain future of shipping and trade in the global marketplace, an impact that is intricately tied to the social and cultural vitality of coastal communities.

That wryly critical tone runs through the exhibition “Hold On,” which features Slade’s Tugboat alongside works by Steven Hubert and Aaron Carpenter. For The Dive, Hubert riffs on David Hockney’s iconic 1967 painting A Bigger Splash, which pictures the moment just after a diver has plunged into a perfectly still California pool. Hubert cleverly reverses the dramatic tension of Hockney’s imagery in a staged photo that captures the fully clothed artist at the instant just before he hits the water in a head-first dive.

Carpenter plays on subtle shifts in meaning and modern language in a pair of text-based works. His UM, ER, and UH drawings re-empower the pauses in speech that add natural emphasis to colloquial conversation but are carefully edited out of media reporting and other formal representations of speech, including “the authoritarianism of text-based art.” Similarly, Carpenter’s banner work Rerememberer takes the modes of standardized fluency to task, at the same time cheekily skewering at the current art-world trend of works based on re-enactment and restaging.

A final note: “Hold On” marks the transition of Or Gallery to its new location in the former Belkin Satellite space. (555 Hamilton St, Vancouver BC)

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