Sadness is the Fifth State of Matter (La tristesse est le cinquième état de la matière)
La Maison des artistes visuels francophones
Winnipeg, April 30 to June 6, 2015
By Sarah Swan
"I could still go there"
Steven Leyden Cochrane, "I could still go there," 2008, video loop with audio, 40 min.
The conceptual artist’s objective, Sol LeWitt wrote in 1967, is to make work that’s “mentally interesting” and “emotionally dry.” At the time, conceptual art was relatively new. LeWitt was attempting a brass-tacks description: “There is no reason to suppose that the conceptual artist is out to bore the viewer.”
Although we’re now accustomed to conceptual art, it still has a tendency to bore. On a cursory glance,Sadness is the Fifth State of Matter looks like other conceptual shows – a handful of underwhelming objects along with a couple of monitors showing video art that emit ubiquitous gurgles of ambient noise. But as the saying might go, don’t judge the art by its conceptual cover. The show – sorry, Sol – is anything but dry.
Two videos by Steven Leyden Cochrane are about longing. I could still go there, made in 2008 and remade in 2012, show the artist almost disappearing into a subtropical seascape. Cochrane tries to trick Photo Booth, a program that detects moving objects, by sitting very still. As he doesn’t quite succeed, traces of his body remain on the screen. Cochrane is from Florida, but now lives in Winnipeg. The works lament that he can’t go home again, but more than that, become an unorthodox version of Paradise Lost. Despite repeated and insistent efforts, it’s impossible to make our own heaven.
Alberta artist Sarah Ciurysek’s work, Steve Ciurysek (1941-1997), is an inkjet photograph of her father’s gravesite. A second piece, Sarah Ciurysek (1975- ), is a photograph of the artist’s own reserved plot. Mounted on coffin-sized wooden plinths on the floor, the twinned graves are about personal loss, but also allow viewers, eerily, to imagine their own deaths.
Shane Krepakevich, "Approximate Drawings," 2006-2009, digital prints, 8" x 8".
Toronto’s Shane Krepakevich measures relationships and life events in relation to space and time, recording the results in pie charts and diagrams. His art would have more impact if fewer artists these days were making clever ‘measuring-the-infinite’ pieces, but he still manages to elicit a few poignant moments. His first kiss, for example, is marked on the North Saskatchewan River.
"Tablecloth cut as a way of marking sadness then crocheted back into equal time that I spent with my grandmother"
Installation view showing Corrie Peters, "Tablecloth cut as a way of marking sadness then crocheted back into equal time that I spent with my grandmother," 2012-2013, found tablecloth, thread and scissors and Sarah Ciurysek, Steve Ciurysek (1941-1997), Sarah Ciurysek (1975- ), 2007, inkjet prints and wood platforms.
Suspended in a doorway is a vintage crocheted tablecloth by Winnipeg’s Corrie Peters. CalledTablecloth cut as a way of marking sadness then crocheted back into equal time that I spent with my grandmother, its holes represent memories her grandmother has lost to dementia. The threads of Peters’ attempted repairs are too frail to fill the gaps.
All four artists have made work about loss, but there’s no messy anguish here. Rather, curator Ufuk Gueray has assembled a nuanced show in which art is shown to be a coping strategy, a way to control leaky margins. Grief is mitigated by turning a real grave into a false copy. The feeling of being lost in the cosmos is eased by mapping. In Gueray’s words: “The show may look sterile but it is really not.”