Review: MKG127’s “vast, constant, irreversible” by Sylvia Matas & “What Box?” by Laura Kikauka

October 18-November 15, 2014
MKG127 – 1445 Dundas Street West – Wednesday to Saturday 12-6 (or by appointment)

As I’ve mentioned in this previous review of Ken Nicol’s-every3point65, I frequently see, and am intrigued by MKG127’s exhibits when the gallery is closed. The same is the case for their current exhibit. In their front space is a series of twelve, white cards, which appear to be blank when you’re looking in from the outside, until your eyes focus more and it’s clear that the pages each have five lines of embossed text on them with varying lengths and themes. They invite you to pause, look closer, and to quietly consider the objects, sensations, and situations that are listed.

“Like all of these things hovering between appearance and disappearance, the words fade in and out of view while observed.”

Matas' vast, constant, irreversible (1)

vast, constant, irreversible – by Sylvia Matas

With sixty lines of text to meditate upon, I obviously encourage you to visit the exhibit yourself, but here are my two favourite sets:

Matas' vast, constant, irreversible (2)

“mind / rain or being rained on / crystal or glass…”

Matas' vast, constant, irreversible (3)

“dizziness or whirlpools / white / being seen or stared at / spirits”

I frequently appreciate the way that this gallery has a striking contrast between their front space and their back space, and this was the case today. As you make your way through the small archway, you’re bombarded with”What Box?” by Laura Kikauka.

Kikauka's what box (5)

At first glance, the exhibit is daunting. You might say to yourself, ‘what is all this crap?,’ but as you delve into it, you start to recognize elements of each of the dioramas that are a part of your own history, or your current daily existence. I felt quite drawn to the second from the left in this first  photo, “Princess Awakes” because of its use of a plastic fruit basket as habitat for the idea. I have a number of these in my kitchen, which I collect after grocery shopping, because there’s something beautiful about them, and I reuse them for draining things. I recently found out from a vendor at the Junction Farmer’s Market that he would gladly take some off my hands, but I digress. Kikauka playfully examines our attachment to such trinkets and decoration, using a wide variety of materials.

Here are my four favourites from this section:

The work in the exhibition was created at Kikauka’s Funny Farm, a living installation located near Meaford in rural Ontario.  The dioramas are sculptural collages created from Kikauka’s collections of ephemera gathered locally as well as during her years based in Berlin. …

Kikauka’s work is inspired and derived from decades of on-going collecting of found objects. Employing the formal strategy of meticulously sorting and organizing these objects, as well as modifying or transforming them, she then creates specifically themed and coded installations that transform gallery and exhibition spaces into densely packed, highly detailed installations.

Kikauka's what box (11)

You’ll notice in this photo of a mannequin, looking at itself in a mirror, where its blazer, hat and many of the other pieces in the installation are visible as well. This piece is called “Who are you wearing?” and it mocks the very notion of asking such a question on red carpet galas (or in this case magenta). I appreciated the nod of the hat to the old styles of labelling of well-made clothes, with delicately embroidered logos and care instructions. Many of these stores and brands are long gone, taking with them that attention to detail.

Kikauka’s installations establish a highly specific visual (and often audio) language that blends the increasingly overlapping worlds of high and low art forms. In general Laura’s ‘excessive aesthetic’ is comparable to urban archeology and addresses issues of consumer culture, and the question of good and bad taste. It also celebrates failure in a humourous and ironic manner.

This next piece “NEW MATERIALS ONLY” was in motion, slowly turning on an electric sort of lazy susan.

Laura’s categorization speaks of similarities and differences. The Funny Farm studios in rural Meaford and former ones in Berlin & NY are living and working spaces treated as on-going installations that exemplify, through a density of detail her interest in low class consumer culture. It is with a sense of sarcasm and empathy that she explores this reoccurring theme.

Strata Variants

Strata Variants

Kikauka's what box (17)For fear of not being able to represent it accurately, I didn’t take any photos of the video installation, which was created in collaboration with designer and software developer, Carl Hamfelt, but I highly recommend spending some time with it. It’s an elevated square, filled with nine square cubic spaces, each with a diorama on one side and a video projection on the other side, which is visible through. It wasn’t clear to me whether the projections were meant to highlight or contrast with the pieces within it, but it’s beautiful. Two of the cubes showcased a diagonal line of white dominoes with writing on the backs of them. I noticed that one of the dominoes had been knocked over, and I asked the gallery attendant (is that an appropriate term?) whether that was intentional. She said that there were so many elements of this exhibition that she had trouble keeping track, but that the artist, Laura, tended to take the stance that if it happens, it might be meant to be in that particular installation. This lead us to a new discussion of our favourite pieces, and she pointed out this:

One of the box pieces had a fly attached to the dust on one of its components. It wasn’t intentional, but Laura loved it and insisted that it stay.

When we were there, I also showed her my favourite piece, which I first photographed on a perpendicular angle, by bending down. Upon re-examination, I realized I had missed a whole portion of this tiny little 4.5×4.5 inch piece! There was a coaster on the top surface of it that I used to own when I was a little girl. I had already been incredibly attracted to the use of the plastic mold that holds and protects wedding cake top figurines in their packaging to be the focal element “Direction Unknown,” but this made me love it even more:

Despite the bright colours that permeate this exhibit, there’s a dark, gloominess to it, and for me, “Domino Effect” illustrated this best.

Domino Effect Domino Effect

I’m not sure if it’s because I was already experiencing a deep sensation of nostalgia in the space, but I was brought back to that scene in Empire Records where they fake Deb’s funeral, so that she can hear, out loud, the kinds of loving things they’d have said about her if she’d actually taken her own life.

I didn’t realize how tired I had been until I captured “Favorite DJ”. Normally I wouldn’t keep a photo of myself in a review, but something tells me that the artist wants us to consider whether or not we ourselves are our favourite djs. I still took a second shot without me in the frame, which ended up being one of my favourite ones I captured in the whole visit:

These last four images illustrate how much I enjoyed the titling, naming, and labelling in this exhibit. All of the pieces in the gallery, on their own, are fascinating and visually appealing, but the titles are what make them accessible, memorable and memory-inducing.

Well done, Laura Kikauka. I had only expected to go grab some groceries on this outing, but you took me on a journey into my childhood, through my awkward teenagehood and back to the present to think about the ways I live my life with ‘stuff’ in my current… hood.

What Box? by Laura Kikauka with Carl Hamfelt

(Fantastic, concise, well-written review of What Box? by @TerenceDick is available on the Akimbo Blog HERE)

Front Space: vast, constant, irreversible by Sylvia Matas
October 18-November 15, 2014
MKG127 – 1445 Dundas Street West – Wednesday to Saturday 12-6 (or by appointment)
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