Through a variety of media (including photography, embroidered texts, performance, video and painting) The Power Plant’s presentation of Auto Emotion: Autobiography, Emotion and Self-fashioning destabilizes the boundaries between reality and illusion; pleasure and pain. Addressing heartbreak, death, the intersection of politics and religion, and the marked body, the works play with the social codes which demand that one remain in control of both body and emotion. The exhibition features a stellar list of Canadian and international artists, including Marina Abramovic, Reza Afisina, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Sophie Calle, Andrea Fraser, Rodney Graham, Christian Jankowski, Yayoi Kusama, Nikki S. Lee, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Matt Mullican, Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay, Adrian Paci and Johannes Wohnseifer.
Part of the exhibition’s power is its suggestion that confession is meaningless without an audience/spectator. For example, several people viewing Sophie Calle’s piece Exquisite Pain nodded as they progressed through it, perhaps recounting their own experiences with abandonment. Here, Calle’s piece, while about her own romantic loss, gains further meaning through the spectator’s experiences.
Several works (in particular, Reza Afisina’s What and Adrian Paci’s The Mourner) create moments of profound discomfort, where the line between looking and voyeurism are almost imperceptible, and in this sense, one must confront their own ideas of what constitutes appropriate public and private display. The exhibition appears to suggest that perhaps the two are one in the same; that they are a function of perspective, and ultimately, a distinction that is left to the viewer.
Auto Emotion: Autobiography, Emotion and Self-fashioning runs until August 19 at The Power Plant.
Image by Sophie Calle, Exquisite Pain (Count Down – 20), 2000, courtesy of The Power Plant