Jo-Anne Balcaen, "Screaming Girls," 2005
video, black-and-white, no sound 2 minutes, 28 seconds Courtesy of the Artist
Jo-Anne Balcaen // Sarah Febbraro // Kerri Flannigan // Emmanuelle Léonard // Kyla Mallett // Helen Reed // Guillaume Simoneau
In contemporary North America, youth is commonly understood as the period after childhood when young people learn life skills and explore their identities in preparation for impending adulthood, within the formative, protective structures of family and school. This view of youth, however, is a relatively recent one and stands as a distinguishing feature of modernity in the Western world. Many pervasive ideas about youth come from psychology, anthropology and sociology—fields that came to the fore in the twentieth century. Within the social sciences, young people became a category to be studied, understood and conceptualized. In the wake of such theorizing, notions of youth have become persistently linked to wildness, authenticity, freedom and idealism—seductive qualities that have been cast as both dangerous and desirable.
Kids these days focuses on a selection of recent photographs, videos, drawings and prints by Canadian artists. In their examinations of youth and youth cultures within a North American context, the artists employ strategies that echo methodologies used in the social sciences. They document and study the physicality, expressivity and behaviour of young people, concentrating on their tastes, thoughts, communication methods and leisure activities. The works suggest an underlying desire on the part of the artists to capture and comprehend the essence of youth or to affiliate themselves with its attributed characteristics. Popular ideas around youth are also present in the books on display, in the artists’ reflections on their works and in written responses by Gallery visitors.Concentrating primarily on representations of girlhood, Kids these days offers various views on youth and gender as social and cultural constructs that are also experienced as intersecting lived processes. In other words, youth, like gender, is constructed not only by those who study it but also by young people themselves who, in various ways, actively perform, physically embody and acutely feel it. Kids these daysaims to explore this phenomenon as it is articulated within a selection of recent Canadian contemporary art practices.