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Four Fantastic

Left: Painting by Julie Bengin, Right: Video still by Justin Wright

By Alan Hindle

Friday February 11, 2005

Stories within stories within stories within stories
The human brain is wired so the subconscious, dreaming mind never ceases churning but the five senses take priority while awake. If this weren’t the case people would spend their lives wandering in a psychosis of imaginary worlds—in fact, folks would never experience conscious lives from which to draw the memories constituting dreams. Instead it’s only when the brain shuts down for sleep that the dream-state intrudes absolutely (also, in daydreams and psychological aberrations), the synaptic spotlight roving seemingly randomly about the memory cells looking for places to store the recent day’s fresh encounters.

Here’s a second little neurological tidbit explaining the current wave of “Porridge Brain” sweeping society: Self-generating light, that is, not reflected but projecting itself into our eyes, actually assists to shut down parts of our brain allowing us to disengage from one experience and move on to the next. That’s why, when you stare into a campfire, or a lightbulb, or the sun— or a television— it can seem mesmerising. Watching TV effectively puts you into a relaxed state of semi-hypnosis, whereas at the cinema you are watching light reflected off a projection screen, allowing you to more consciously, critically, take it in rather than having it spoon-fed into your melon.

Overall, in the television media heavy society of the 21st century, stimulus has overtaken imagination. Dreams, and the ability to creatively tap into their faculties, are being drowned by the sheer volume of flashing whizzing, honking, blaring pixilated crap being shoved down our eyes.

Four Fantastic, a group show curated by Wes Cameron at the Butchershop gallery, features four artists investigating fantasy and inviting viewers to formulate their own from the starting materials provided.

Julie Beugin’s paintings of maquettes— tiny, theatrical stage models— she’s made out of cardboard and construction paper based on descriptions from Isak Dinesen’s Seven Gothic Tales are stories within stories within…For example, one particularly spooky image is a picture of the set of a story about three men telling each other how they have fallen in love with mysterious women only to discover they are the same woman, leading them on a mad chase which ends in a forbidding castle where they discover the woman is actually quite mundane— a story written under the pseudonym of Danish Baroness Karen Blixen.

A video projection shows a man exploring a rubbish skip, and at a certain point, for only a few seconds, one sustained image will match the painting hung on the wall next. Justin Wright, who also collects paint chips from decorating supply stores and invests them with (or draws from them) links to his own memories, is fascinated with the process of memory recollection. For example, he described to me one colour chip entitled “Provincial Park” which reminded him of his father working for the Vancouver Parks Board at a time when he played a tin soldier for the local Christmas parade. “Every time you bring a memory back you reform it, essentially creating a new image or memory which is different depending on how you are looking at it.”
Suzanne Nagy tells me a story about a crazy lady who gave her crazy friends a mad tent with a rubber sheet on one side that actually sucked in rainwater, leaving them drenched and freezing for a whole camping trip, but which they resolutely continued using. She, in turn, has created an installation of a camping scene with a tent rubberized on one side.

“I guess a story has been told to me and I’m retelling it and maybe fixing it, or putting my own take on it.” The tent provides the viewer an opener for their own narrative, like that game where a sliver of a drawing is given and you draw the next section and so on. “It’s also what I do when someone tells me a story, with the clumsiness of language, and I’m recreating the story through my interpretation.”

Gareth Moore was unfortunately not present when I visited, and although presenting the reader a description through the third-hand medium of the curator’s comments— well, while appropriate to the theme it’s not clever journalism. As I’m out of space anyway, I won’t. Sorry Gareth. See the show for yourself, skip my middlemanship, and touch off your personal dream-life directly. Anything else is just lousy tv.

Four Fantastic at the Butchershop ( 195 E. 26, off Main Feb 11 (opening night) —Mar 12, 2005