Sunday, January 9, 2011

While killing time before yesterday’s Artspeak panel I stumbled upon the Eye Level Gallery on West Cordova Street, just west of the Woodward’s complex.

Not your traditional white cube, the Eye Level is a north facing wall outside a building just east of the Cambie Hotel, affixed to which is a series of photo-based works depicting people from all walks by the artist Andrew Owen, entitled A Photo-Cubic Tableau (though “Tableaux” is more accurate, given that there is more than one).

Rather than single photographs, the “actors” in Owen’s works are represented through a series of photos taken over a period of time. Where they differ from the Stan Douglas mural that greets you fifty metres west as you enter Woodward’s is in composition. Though also composed of numerous photos taken over a period of time, Douglas’s mural (depicting a police incident that took place in Gastown some forty years earlier) is seamless in its construction, while Owen’s work retains, for the most part, the camera’s framing format, giving the impression of fragmentation, or as Owen insists, the “Cubic.”

Animating Owen’s tableaux are the following texts:


The fractured authenticity of Here and Now as compared to Seamless Fiction in the Guise of Historical Representation

A Photo-Cubic Tableau by:
Andrew Owen [A01]

And then to the east:

Re. Photo. Cubic
People. Solos.

Celebrating Real People who Activate This Area While Foregrounding the Limitations of Photographic Representation

Owen’s exhibition, now scarred from Sharpies, is clearly in response to Douglas’s mural -- but also to the photo-based practices that have Vancouver amongst the most photographed cities in contemporary art. Had Owen done his homework, he would have seen instances of the “fractured authenticity” in the almost-fifty year oeuvre of Vancouver-based photo artist Henri Robideau, or the early photographic work of Ian Wallace, but especially of Douglas, whose looping film Le Detroit draws attention to its seam, comprised as it is of two projectors projecting the same film onto a single surface -- two frames apart. As for Jeff Wall, he has been quoted as saying (on the topic of his photomontage The Flooded Grave) “If you can see the seams, I have failed.”

There is much to object to in Owen’s statement. (Undefined terms like “authenticity” and “Real People” don’t help, nor does willful ignorance.) But I remain open to his response, as I too am a respondent to what I see and hear.

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