The Normal Condition of Any Communication

Claire Fontaine: Foreigners Everywhere (2011): Neon. Installation at Gallery TPW, Toronto. Photo: Magenta.

Ayreen Anastas + Rene Gabri, Neil Beloufa, Keren Cytter, Claire Fontaine and Reza Haeri. Curated by cheyanne turions

Gallery TPW, Toronto June 23 – July 30, 2011

By Rosemary Heather

This exhibition begins with a quote from Rancière: “The normal condition of any communication is distance.” Distance is arguably the first principle of any art exhibition. Visual art has indirection built into it; witness the tendency to glance sideways from artwork to wall label in search of clues to its meaning. Curator cheyanne turions finds different ways to foreground this process of translation. Ayreen Anastas + Rene Gabri present notebooks of their collaborative texts and drawings. Ostensibly a project to make sense of things, the artists’ meanderings are curiously written in miniature. Their texts are then made almost illegible by the notebooks presentation in a vitrine. Claire Fontaine’s Foreigners Everywhere (2011), is an ongoing neon project that translates the eponymous into languages other than English, depending on where it is shown. In Toronto, the phrase is translated into Ojibway to highlight gallery’s location, on the territory of a disputed land claim the tribe has with the Canadian government. Godard once famously spoke of the Children of Marx and Coca Cola. The three video works that make up the remainder of the show are by artists who could easily be called the Children of Jean Luc Godard. Neil Baloufa’s Untitled (2010) displaces cinematic verisimilitude onto its facsimile: artifice. Flimsy paper constructions set the scene in an Algerian villa, while actors, their backs mostly to the camera, talk about the time unnamed terrorists came to visit. Strategies of storytelling mirror shifting subjectivities of understanding. Iranian Reza Haeri’s All Restrictions End (2009) a cinematic essay in the manner of JLG’s Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988-98), looks at fashion as a mode of desire, one that has been made particularly acute by the Islamic Republic’s injunctions against Western dress. Finally, Keren Cytter’s The Hottest Day of the Year (2010) makes audacious use of montage to cleave together seemingly unrelated stories about a fictional French nurse in Africa and female Israeli soldiers. Of all the works in the show, Cytter’s shares most in common with Clare Fontaine in exploiting the art context to produce canny meta-contextual meanings.

This review appears in the October 2011 issue of Flash Art #110