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Lies That Tell the Truth: Reenactment as Artistic Strategy 

Electronic and new media genres focus on reimagining

Adad Hannah
  • Adad Hannah
When artist Alison S. M. Kobayashi found some discarded answering machine tapes in a secondhand store, she saw not only a voyeur’s delight, a but a ready-made script waiting to be acted out. Her impersonations of the characters on the tapes, including a divorce lawyer and a fiancée, give a second life to the collection of disembodied voices. Kobayashi’s film is just one of the intriguing works included in Lies That Tell the Truth: Reenactment as Artistic Strategy, which opens Friday at the Khyber. Curators Suzanne Caines and Claire Hodge were the recipients of the Centre for Art Tapes’ (CFAT) Local Curatorial Residency in 2010, enabling them to bring together a variety of works in electronic and new media genres from artists across the country. Before taking on this project, both Caines and Hodge had explored ideas of reenactment in their own artistic practices. They decided to flip the coin and seek out similar themes from the point of view of curators. The pieces in the resulting exhibit riff on a range of source materials, including optical illusions, fake flowers, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The featured re-imaginings are frequently playful, interested less in presenting faithful duplicates, and more in exploring the gap that exists between a copy and an original. In some cases, digital media allows the artists to contemporize material with historical relevance. In Adad Hannah’s update of Charles Allen Gilbert’s famous 1892 illusion, All is Vanity, what initially appears to be a photographic still slowly reveals itself to be a video, with identical twins playing the part of a mirror image. As the actresses introduce tiny movements, a photo comes to life. Yam Lau pulls the past into the present, using video and computer-generated animation to produce a mirage-like vision of a traditional courtyard house in Beijing.

The portraits in Jeanne Ju’s Constructed Families look authentic, but none of the subjects are genetically related. Aoife Collins unravels her artificial flowers thread by thread and then carefully reconstructs them, but the blossoms don’t look quite the same in their second incarnations. Johanna Householder and b.h. Yael recreate a classic Kubrick scene, switching up an astronaut’s gender and trading a space station for a washing machine.

In each of these diverse artistic experiments, the trace of a previous source remains, while new truths emerge. As Caines and Hodge observe in their artistic statement, “artists pay homage to the original and create a space for possible, and as yet unthinkable, performances.”

The Centre for Art Tapes Local Curatorial Residency program will be accepting the next round of submissions until September 1. Applications will be available at www.centreforarttapes.ca

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