Photo: Don Hall
Abbas Akhavan and Marina Roy, "No Neighbours," 2010/2016
Abbas Akhavan and Marina Roy, "No Neighbours," 2010/2016, mixed media, installation view
The Regina Public Library had a strange, unsettling “neighbour” this past summer. Book lovers entering the downtown building would see immediately on their right a glass wall looking into a space resembling a primate enclosure. A few logs were on the floor; ropes hung from the ceiling; an apple and orange had been tossed into a corner. Human gallery visitors, rather than apes, wandered in and out of the zoo-like space to stare, often with surprise or embarrassment, at the bookworms staring at them.
This primate enclosure was the first of three segments of an exhibition called Neighbours at the Dunlop Art Gallery, a contemporary space carved out of the library and often home to some of Regina’s most fascinating art. Neighbours was a joint creation by Abbas Akhavan and Marina Roy. The Toronto-based Akhavan is the winner of the 2015 Sobey Art Award. Roy is an art professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Dunlop director Jennifer Matotek curated Neighbours.
Photo: Don Hall
Abbas Akhavan, "Untitled Garden," 2009/2016
Abbas Akhavan, "Untitled Garden," 2009/2016, cedar hedge, installation view
Behind the primate enclosure, a real cedar hedge planted in pots (Untitled Garden by Akhavan) separates the primate enclosure (No Neighbours by both Akhavan and Roy) from the star attraction, Apartment, an animated video by Roy. Apartment was inspired by the 1978 French novel Life A User’s Manual by Georges Perec. The book is a series of mini-novels mainly set in a Paris apartment where anything and everything happens. The book’s complexity and brilliance have been compared to that of James Joyce’s Ulysses, Dante’s The Divine Comedy and Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.
Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Don Hall
Marina Roy, "Apartment," 2009
Marina Roy, "Apartment," 2009, animation, 56 min.
Apartment is like experiencing a series of hallucinations set amid a sprawling, luxurious, vaguely 19th-century domestic environment. Shapes shift. Colours evolve. Mini-dramas are acted out by animated humans, animals and creatures somewhere in between. There’s lust, murder and mayhem. Scatology abounds. It’s like watching an impending train wreck – fascinating, scary and impossible to look away. Its 56 minutes fly by, which can’t be said about most art videos that long.
Collectively, the three segments of Neighbours are meant to leave viewers pondering the roles and interactions of public and private spaces. Apartment, on its own, is brilliant, a revelation for voyeuristic visitors of various aspects of the human experience. The primate enclosure, on its own, works fine as a brainteaser for the contemplative. But together, with the hedge, the works live uncomfortably side-by-side. Linkages are weak. It’s questionable whether the three-part Neighbours collectively conjures up something as profound as either of its two main components.