The exhibit Alternative Histories at Division Gallery brings together artists Nicolas Baier, Patrick Coutu, Manon De Pauw, Miruna Dragan, Alex McLeod, John Monteith and Charles Stankievech, for a captivating show that contemplates what is fact and what is fiction, and the space in between and beyond. The show not only features this discourse, but also shines the light on us – as humans who are merely mediators in this complicated sphere – showing us that what we know to be true and what is true can be two completely different stories.
“Grotte” by Nicolas Baier steals the show with its warm amber glow both radiating out and enticing us in. Its installation is alluring; your gaze falling on the lightbox as you turn the corner into the exhibition space. Baier’s careful placement of light behind his inkjet print of a real grotto is paired with another one of his fascinating real life expedition shots from underwater, superimposed with a geometric element, “Sans titre (Cenote) 2/5.” These pieces not only test the limits of what we imagine to be real, but also stand in contrast with Bair’s “Photons (The World of the Mind),” the result of the artist’s adaptation of a man-made grotto that could easily fool many.
In fact, and fact shouldn’t be used lightly, many of these pieces are not what they seem at first glance. Although deceptively real and familiar looking, Alex McLeod’s 3D renderings, displayed here in one colour video, “Thunder Come,” and one inkjet print, “TILTED,” need a more contemplative look to realize the fabric of their make-up.
Patrick Coutu’s sculpture, “Eruption,” demonstrates his continued interest in the natural and organic. His piece goes beyond its physicality while its story is continued through its shadow on the gallery wall. Here, and in many other cases in this show, you need to adopt to a different perspective. Composed of several pieces of cut brass, “Eruption” speaks to the several particles and DNA that comprises organic material.
The work presented by Charles Stankievech is probably the most captivating as it is a result of his experience at a military base camp on the most northern part of the Earth. His eerily sublime photograph, “The Wreck of Hope (from the series The Soniferous Æther)” challenges our idea of truth. The encapsulated artifacts in “Anbarium: A Transplanetary Comparative History of Metallurgical Exchange” create a reflexive exercise of how we look and treat things that are unbelievably real. The reference to scientific writing in his printed hexagon cards, also a part of this piece, can relate to the genre of writing which is close to the name of the exhibition, “alternate history”, where stories emerge that go against the historical record and create alternative histories.
In Alternative Histories the works come together to demonstrate that fact can extend beyond our most creative imagination, and that fiction can appear deceptively familiar, dissolving the border between fact and fiction.
*Exhibition Information: March 11 – April 17, 2017, Division Gallery, 45 Ernest Avenue, Toronto. Gallery hours: Tue – Sat, 10 – 6 pm.