Review of Houses and Whispers at Prefix ICA

April 14, 2017

I want to share this beautiful and respectful review by Terence Dick of the two major works in my show at Prefix ICA in Toronto.

See the review here, or read below:

There are some works of art that trigger – much to the consternation, I imagine, of the creator – only a sliver of the possible interpretations. The artist’s intention could encompass history, philosophy, and physics, but all you see is a something that reminds you of your grandparents or a metaphor for neoliberalism or a picture of a galaxy exploding. And then that’s all you see because it’s sufficient, because it means something to you. Responding to art in this highly personal way does a disservice to the work because it locks the reading down to a singular perception, but it’s also a tribute to the degree to which art can pierce through the noise of all that surrounds us and mark a moment of unambiguous connection. Great literature, according to David Foster Wallace, makes you feel unalone. He was talking intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, but any art has the potential to take you out of yourself, however momentarily, when you recognize something you’ve known or felt or sensed hanging there on the wall in front of you.

Gunilla Josephson’s mini-survey exhibition at Prefix ICA, titled Houses and Whispers and curated by Stuart Reid, contains a couple such moments for me and it is difficult to think of it otherwise – in part because the impressions are so strong, but also because I want to savour those impressions and not dilute them with an impersonal (that is, professional) account of what the exhibition has to offer. The Big Goodbye is a wall-sized video projection shot from a hot air balloon as it travels over Stockholm. Nestled within the half-hour ride are a couple brief angel sightings and a few gentle explosions. It might be the artist’s hometown and the voiceover hints at some kind of reverie, but all I see is the characteristic urban planning of Northern Europe and I’m transported back to the summers I spent with family in Germany when I was a kid. Perhaps it’s the bike paths or the low-rise apartments. Either way, it’s enough to send me down memory lane. Which, serendipitously, is not too far from what the artist wanted to evoke.

There’s more to remember in the expression and skin tone of the crystal-eyed matriarch in Mommy’s Crystal Tears. Something about her cheekbones resembles my own mother and so the die is cast. Once again I’m bound to one vision and it is memory combined with intimacy that compels me. I usually divorce myself from such exclusive readings, but for this show I’ll indulge myself if only to prove a point. I pass over the other works with a cursory glance and return to these two for further reminiscence and reflection.

Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog.

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