Two Steps Back, the eighth emerging artists show at Interaccess opened last week. Interaccess has been on a bit of a roll of late, having just hosted a workshop with Second Front, the premiere performance art troupe of Second Life earlier this week.
This most recent edition of the show playfully orbits the themes of failure and obsolescence. Considering the defining moment of this summer has been an Apple product launch, this mischievous attitude is welcomed with open arms. Curated by Sarah Todd, the show collects a variety of work by Adam Bellavance, Jason de Haan, Kristen Kellar, Derek Liddington, Laura Paolini and Matthew Willamson. Their respective projects could be described as a post cola-war water purification device, mood crystal ambience, a self-sabotaging drawing machine, Jacques Derrida’s Of Gramophonology, an attentive wagging tongue and a concise video analyzer. This work applies guerilla tactics to a number of consumer technologies and the resulting contraptions are a playground for exploration that address the nature of creative practice.
An overriding sense of playfulness permeates Two Steps Back, this even shines through in the exhibition blurb which states that “technology and failure go hand in hand, sometimes with disastrous consequences, though more often with a sadly comic twist.” Curator Sarah Todd equates trial and error with the realities of life as a young artist: “Without romanticizing anything, it is a lifestyle that can be a struggle and being able to laugh and poke fun at those struggles is helpful. In my mind it is extremely important not to take oneself too seriously, especially as an artist.” This notion of play is clearly evident in Kristen Kellar’s help/hinder/neutral (pictured above) in which a group of lo-fi robots are outfitted with distinct tools for distinct tasks: some draw, some erase, and some ‘run interference’ resulting in a rather counter-intuitive drawing machine.
The majority of the technology used in Two Steps Back is simple and outdated. Dilapidated audio and video gear, water filtration equipment, and mobile devices are all used in this work and one can’t help but wonder if the artists involved shop for materials at Home Depot or in a dumpster. Sarah points out this utilization of everyday technology disspells “The slick tech-y illusionism that is stereotypically ‘New Media’…every piece in Two Steps Back makes a failed gesture, but the place in which this gesture originates is genuine. It is not just scathing irony, as each of these pieces approaches failure and technology with the best intentions. The machines in the show really function as underdogs, you really want them to succeed in some way.”
Two Steps Back runs at Interaccess (9 Ossington Avenue) until August 6th.