“Heat of a Hand”
The Blinkers exhibition text introduced a subtly studious setting: “accelerating the appearance of things only touched upon by the lens with the heat of your hand,” Carlo Mollino, Message from the Darkroom. This exhibition was visually and audibly compelling. I could not take my eyes away from these collage works, or my ears from the sound collage. There is nothing to be gained by pretending that these works “contain” their own interpretation.
The exhibition on the first floor of Blinkers displayed Irene Bindi’s vivacious colour collages on the far wall, to which I achieved a closer look by walking amidst Rhayne Vermette’s assemblages. Bret Parenteau’s small, reinterpreted splashes of black and white photographic images could also be viewed on walls. Irene Bindi described the sound collage rising from the basement as “a kind of Exquisite Corpse,” because of how the three artists’ compositions linked to each other, “architecturally,” I would say—as if three rooms had been connected in auditory space, yet embodied by three different spatial sensibilities.
In retrospect, my faulty memory elaborated upon Rhayne Vermette’s, Irene Bindi’s and Bret Parenteau’s explorations of photography and architecture by paraphrase of both Aristotle and Wittgenstein, that “sometimes precision is not what is called for.” Of course, “Heat of a Hand” artists have manual dexterity or they could not have constructed these collages in material or audible form. Regarding the creative impetus, however, the exhibition text is eloquent: “Working in collage, the artists use similar processes of image and frame reconstruction, working through trial and error, ultimately creating an object that has little or no tonal relationship with the original, even when the original source is legible. The hand guides the labour … leaves its mark, disinterested in logic or predetermination.”
Irene Bindi manifested this with stunning deconstructions of eight particular buildings in their surround. For example, the Canadian Mint building collage is arrayed in a dramatic spectrum of the colour pink, a lurid emphasis on organized—yet fragmentary— overheated light emanating at a myriad of angles. Each angle is a sliver or small geometric slice of colour glued to the surface of the work. The other unexpected versions of urban buildings are discernible as architecture, yet phenomenologically each scene is visually idiosyncratic; the splinters of colour that reconfigure reflected light defy the functional and ornamental strictures to which architecture ordinarily succumbs. The title of a group of these was “You Will Be Levelled,” to which my imputation of socialist aspiration was irresistible. After all, the buildings are corporate or government institutions. And so I would add, “Is there no end to mediocre, formulaic, dogmatic political ideology?” Or is a less socio-political, a more phenomenological manifesto relevant: “Mediocre, formulaic, dogmatic degradation of perception must end!”
Rhayne Vermette encased delicate, hauntingly pale photographic collages between two transparent Plexiglas rectangles reminiscent of book covers. Images of rooms and facades are extracted from their pragmatic reality and wistfully, enigmatically fused to each other. The images, a deft concatenation of black and white with segments of colour, reconfigure partial interior and exterior views. Perhaps too eagerly I interpreted these assemblages (steadied by their Plexiglas shelters) as defying architectural professionalism and yet poignant in their attachment to the material world. This exhibition does not assert an Oedipal struggle against institutionalized oversimplification of life and thought. The artists in this exhibition enact and construct their recalcitrant vision with extraordinarily subtle humour and meticulous effort. These methods and materializations are, in my terms, amenable: to viewers’ serious visual escapades and to just enough philosophical musing. ❚
“Heat of a Hand” was exhibited at Blinkers, Winnipeg, from September 11, 2020, to November 1, 2020.
Jeanne Randolph’s latest book is My Claustrophobic Happiness, published by ARP.