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13 Oct 2023–10 Feb 2024
12 October, 2023
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Karin Bubas, Trevor Mahovsky, Scott Myles
21 November–19 December 1998
Curated by: Reid Shier
Monument Valley, exhibition at Or Gallery, 1998.
Monument Valley brings together the work of three young artists, Karin Bubas, Trevor Mahovsky and Scott Myles. Karin Bubas has developed a body of photographs depicting the interior and exterior of her friends and family’s homes. In the series here, she continues this theme using a three-dimensional collage technique, building multiple layers of individual photographs which replicate the conglomeration of objects which accrue in the apartments and houses of people she knows.
Scott Myles produces conceptual and process-oriented installations, performances, photographs and video. Much of his work is semi-documentary of time based events. In Everything Inbetween, October 02 1996 – March 23, 1998, the two self portraits were taken a year and a half apart. In the earlier image, Myles was photographed crouching on a garage roof in his home town of Dundee, Scotland, in front of a Marlboro cigarette ad depicting Monument Valley Utah. Myles later traveled to Garfield County in Utah, the actual site in the photograph, and restaged this portrait in front of the “real” landscape. In Revolving Upside Down (VAG) Myles breakdances, badly, on the ceiling of an art gallery. Its easy to decipher that the video is upside down, not only because the television is, but that in front of and below Myles is Vancouver artist Rodney Graham’s photograph Tree (panorama) , which for anyone familiar with his work, is wrongly the ‘right’ way up. The scene was shot in the Vancouver Art Gallery while Myles was working as a security guard there, evidenced by his institutional maroon and grey uniform. Myles will also be exhibiting documents of a performance that will start on his arrival in late November back in Dundee. Entitled Seeing Home Again for the First Time, Myles will act as if he is a tourist in his home town, relying on a guidebook to navigate Dundeeês •points of interestê. Rather than see his parents and friends immediately, he will book himself into the local youth hostel and start writing post-cards to friends in Vancouver. These will be displayed at the Or as they arrive.
Trevor Mahovsky’s work combines the hard veneer of minimalist sculpture with a softer, roughly pre-cinematic interior. Animated back-lit dioramas featuring children’s toys are housed within each of the two plywood sculptures. In the L-shaped Lantern for Corner, one branch features a land of dinosaurs, and in the other branch an astronaut carries out an unspecific task on some distant planet or moon. In Four Lanterns a soldier’s voice commands his allies to “back him up” in the battlefield. Abutted almost against the gallery walls, one can only achieve an awkward glimpse of the shadow play cast by the toys by literally sitting or crawling over the plywood sculpture.
The formal dissimilarity between each of these artists contrasts to what I think are some shared themes. All utilize a simple means of crafting illusions, of creating the momentary belief that something else is occurring. Myles’ two photographs initially appear as the same one, while his video seems to suspend the laws of gravity. Mahovsky’s sculptures appear to house an elaborate and very active world within their interior. Bubas brings an illusionistic three-dimensionality to the two-dimensional representation of someone’s home. Each of these illusions is easily defeated under any inspection, and I think it is in this defeat where their work begins.
Myles works revolve around his desired and actual displacement from his home in Scotland, and the fantasy that travel to a new location may allow the development of a new persona. This is brought up short in his video by the fact that boring jobs as security guards are somewhat globally universal. In the photographs of the mesas of Monument Valley, the mythological American frontier which Marlboro utilizes to romanticize its cigarette brands are the backdrop to his fictional and real placement in that landscape. Which depiction of this is “real” becomes secondary to time and distance, and cost, between the geographic points, and is subtly depicted in the infinitesimal differences between the two images. In Seeing Home Again for the First Time, Myles simplifies the history and ties to his hometown, denying the emotional experience one normally associates with home.
Mahovsky’s sculptures infantilize the brute ‘objecthood’ and static monumentality of minimalist sculpture by inserting a looping, kinetic and childlike narrative into its interior and onto the adjacent walls. The pre-modern, and pre-cinematic technique of the magic lantern polarizes the historical moment between the onset of modernism and film technology in the 19th century with its Greenbergian apotheosis in the ’60s and ’70’s, in this case the minimalist sculptures of artists Donald Judd or Robert Morris. The shadow show illicits the child’s world of narrative dissolution within an encompassing world of dinosaurs, war or space, and is a realm of role playing fantasy at odds with the psychic absence that apologists would suggest is the ideal receptive mode for viewing ‘high modernist’ art.
Bubas’ recreation of her friends apartment joins the objective realism of conceptual photography with a desire to make the images more evocatively ‘real’, of crafting a picture that teases at the desire to inhabit a space. The photographs have an eerie resonance their three-dimensionality becomes more pronounced the nearer one approaches them, and like bas-relief sculpture at a certain distance, the apartments and homes become almost stereoscopic. They deteriorate into artifice as one looks minutely at Bubas’ construction method, suddenly evoking the cut out paper worlds that could be assembled as a goofy architecture for toy figurines. Bubas, like Mahovsky and Myles, reflects a desire to imaginatively inhabit a fictive space, of losing oneself in another identity – in this case of her friends living spaces. Her meticulous recreation of their surroundings moves away from a documentary portrayal, and her cut and paste remaking of it physicalizes her relationship to them.
Each artist works with a friction between modes of representation and with ideas of unrealizable fantasies, and each uses the childlike abandon that comes with the suspension of belief as a method of creating friction with a world of monumentalized and abstract representation. This tension points to the illusory mechanics we facilitate in order to acculturate ourselves to the world, and to the necessity of imaginative intervention.