La tristesse est le cinquième état de la matière
Sadness is the fifth state of matter
Maison des artistes visuels francophones
219 Provencher Boulevard, Winnipeg
April 30 - June 6, 2015
Click here for a review by Sarah Swan
Matter can take the form of solid, liquid, gas, or plasma. But as things and people pass in and out of our lives, they leave behind traces, not only of dust or tears, but of melancholy. Objects become aches. The fifth state of matter is sadness.
Sadness is the fifth state of matter groups together works by four artists that deal with different kinds of loss. A recurring theme in this exhibition is the desire to preserve memory, time, and fleeting experiences, coupled with a suspicion that “going back” is never really possible.
In Steven Leyden Cochrane’s video pieces I could still go there and I could still go there 2012 we see the artist trying to fade—and indeed disappear—into the background of his Floridian youth. The videos were created using Photo Booth, a program that detects moving objects and layers them over top of a static background. Cochrane tricks the program by turning himself into a static object for the duration of the video loop (40 min. and 12 min. respectively), thus finding a way back in time and into a tropical past. However, the artist never quite disappears, making the title of the work read more as anxious insistence rather than a statement of fact. In Cochrane’s piece Ooo-ooo, ooo-ooo, the haunted past returns as slapstick: a photograph shows Cochrane with a sweater over his head, a makeshift ghost. Presented with the photograph is a mirror of the same dimensions and with an identical frame. The artist leaves it up to us whether we read it as a portal, a haunted mirror, or an opportunity to “ghostify” oneself. It’s an invitation, perhaps, to change your state and dissolve into goofy melancholia. The disappearing act recurs in Untitled (Nauseous from a broken heart). A grid of black photo squares leaves intact the most important thing about the absent photographs: the loss that they represent. The longer we live, the more we lose.
Loss and absence are also pivotal notions in Sarah Ciurysek’s piece Steve Ciurysek (1941-1997), Sarah Ciurysek (1975- ). Here, the artist presents us with a set of sculptures that assume the role of graves within the gallery setting. The piece was made by photographing the sites of her father’s grave as well as her own reserved plot, and mounting the resulting inkjet prints onto two coffin-sized plinths edged in black. These objects seem surgically sliced from the earth with unnatural precision in a gesture that combines personal feeling with cold mechanical process. These twinned ersatz graves invokes presence and absence, “here” and “not here,” in equal measure. As viewers, we can contemplate what our own final resting place might look like, allowing our living minds to engage in the impossible act of imagining our own absence.
Shane Krepakevich’s pieces use relationships as a measure of space and time. His Approximate Drawings quantify and map out his intimacies, creating surprising equivalencies that both neutralize and amplify emotion. The location of his first kiss is marked on the North Saskatchewan River; the time taken to complete his undergraduate degree in geology (4 years) is put in relation to the approximate age of the earth (4 567 000 000 years). The futility of quantification, its inability to grasp the passage of time, is the underlying message. We feel in his work how hard it is to express what really matters, how imperfect our attempts to measure our presence in the world.
Corrie Peters’ Tablecloth cut as a way of marking sadness then crocheted back into equal time that I spent with my grandmother is a work that, like Krepakavich’s drawings, uses art as a method for measuring emotion. Peters’ primary medium is relationships themselves, and she considers the objects she creates to be documentation of an artistic practice that happens with people over time. She gravitates towards quiet moments that are both beautiful and heavy with sadness; this piece is part of a series of work that Peters created during the final year of her grandmother’s life. As her grandmother lost memories to dementia, Peters spent time with her, and made art objects that gave shape to both memory and its absence.
The works in this exhibition are objects but also feelings. They couldn’t exist without the hurt of living with others and losing what we love. They are made to externalize grief, to cope with it, but also to re-animate it, to make an image of sadness that feels real and true. The fifth state of matter is both present and absent. It fills our hearts with the feeling of what isn’t there.