The search for descent is not the erecting of foundations: on the contrary, it disturbs what was previously considered immobile; it fragments what was thought unified; it shows the heterogeneity of what was imagined consistent with itself.
– Michel Foucault
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Photo credit: Toni Hafkenscheid.
Fall In follows Fall Out, literally. For Fall In, nine artists have been invited to produce works in response to the works presented in Fall Out. The works will be featured alongside the ‘original’ works. The two exhibitions are thus entwined in a chain reaction. As the dominos fall, an immediate genealogy emerges. Causation is repeatedly retriggered and thus the components combine to form the basic ingredients of a history: a word is added to the preceding one and by cumulative inertia both soon become a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter, a book. To fall, and then to fall farther. But also to fall in, as in inward, inside the Fall Out works. To actualize and further the linkages, the Fall In works employ a plethora of strategies, some subtle and delicate, others loud and invasive. They integrate the work by disintegrating its imagined consistency (Foucault). Thereby each of the works is forced to extend beyond itself. The exhibitions respond to each other and consequently aggregate. They suggest a conversation that will go on and on, Fall Out to Fall In to Fall Through to Fall From to Fall To to Fall With to Fall Under, and on.
Annie Onyi Cheung will respond to the work of Simone Jones Sophie Bélair Clément will respond to the work of Tom Sherman Gillian Collyer will respond to the work of Kristiina Lahde Zev Farber will respond to the work of Valerian Maly Alison S.M. Kobayashi will respond to the work of Paul Litherland Ryan Park will respond to the work of Erika Keirulf Roula Partheniou will respond to the work of Zilvinas Kempinas Josh Schwebel will respond to the work of Robyn Cumming Josh Thorpe will respond to the work of Don Simmons
• Globe and Mail (November 7, 2009, R12), pdf, review of Fall Out and Fall In by Leah Sandals.
With trees putting on their yearly show of vibrant golds, scarlets and oranges, one might think the ideal point of departure for a seasonally themed exhibition would be colour and hue. Not so at the Blackwood Gallery, a rigorous academic space housed on the leafy campus of the University of Toronto at Mississauga. Its two-part autumn show, Fall Out and Fall In, was sparked not by fall colour but by the tumbling, mulch-ward destiny of that foliage, bringing together works that riff on gravity and downward motion. “I like themes that are somewhat redundant, like falling in the fall,” explains Christof Migone, director and curator of the Blackwood. “Everyone has an image of falling. But how to amplify that and make it more complex, that was the challenge.” The strongest works from the first half of the show,Fall Out , which opened earlier this fall, well exploit those tensions between simple and complex. Torontonian Simone Jones’s film, Perfect Vehicle, shows a futuristic, speedy-looking machine advancing at a funereal pace across desolate salt flats. With observation, it’s revealed that the machine is moved forward by the rise and fall of the passenger’s chest as she breathes. It’s an absurd, yet humane, gesture – sci-fi light-speed fantasy on a slo-mo bio-dynamic timetable. Zilvinas Kempinas’s O Between Fans, like similar works by this Lithuanian-born New York-based artist, is a desligh, with two fans keeping a plastic loop perpetually dancing in the air, seemingly freed from gravity. Kempinas’s installations are as direct and naked as a science-museum set-up, but are also oddly spiritual and poetic. Montrealer Paul Litherland is represented by two remarkable skydiving videos, Force of Attraction and Freefall Fighters – films that marry macho adrenalin with sobering intimations of mortality and fear. Force of Attraction in particular yields this uncanny mix, as the camera focuses on Litherland’s face as it morphs during a few minutes of the free fall. Seeing the artist’s skin and cartilage turn to mere putty in the atmosphere’s hands is by turns amusing and anxiety-provoking – Cindy Sherman-esque self-portraiture meets extreme-sports risk. Interestingly, the second half of the exhibition, Fall In, which opened in late October, courts risk in a different, rather self-reflexive way. For it, nine new artists were matched to respond to the nine original Fall In artists. “A recurring thing in stuff I do is this element of failure,” explains Migone, “not failure in a derogatory way, but more in being vulnerable. I was also thinking of dominoes, of cause and effect, of one thing or fall triggering another.” Indeed, some of the Fall in artists undermine the works they were ostensibly inspired by – albeit in a witty, open-ended fashion. Roula Partheniou brings a slapstick to Kempinas’s science with a well-placed replica of a banana peel, suggesting there’s more than one way to become airborne. More pointedly, Josh Thorpe adds a viewer-activated on-off switch to Don Simmon’s Bachelor Forever, a fascinating verticle-line-tracing robot that Simmons initially argued was completed self-contained. With the flick of a finger, Thorpe’s addition converts Bachelor’s proclaimed solitude into something intrinsically relational. Unfortunately, experiments in failure sometimes turn out to be just that. Some viewers may have been put off, for instance, by the exhibition’s installation procedure, which continued a couple of weeks into each half of the show. The result: ladders and power-drill noise that interrupted and obscured viewer experience. Migone explains that what some might see as poor planning was actually intended as pedagogy, “I wanted to focus on the installation as a process,” he says. “We’re a university, so I also saw it as a way for students who come by the gallery regularly to see how an exhibition goes up, to demystify it.” Migone admits that in the future he might make that choice more clear. Installation quibbles aside, the Blackwood’s current project delivers a stand-up effort – even if it is about falling down. With eclectic program events like astronomy lectures and breakdancing sessions, Fall In and Fall Out rejects autumnal cravings for conceptual comfort food. The result is uncertain yet enjoyable: a walk through a different kind of changing autumn woodland.