Volume 91, Issue 59

Wednesday, January 14, 1998



Television as a drug art

By Carey Weinberg
Gazette Staff

The apple in the middle of Western has some sweet stuff at its core. Machyderm – the name given to the blended talents of artists Christopher McNamara and Dermot Wilson – is responsible for Meet Jenna Downtown, one of the latest installation pieces in the McIntosh Gallery.

Walking down the stairs of the McIntosh, I encountered a fluorescent sign at the bottom. I turned the corner and kind of lost my perception for a moment. There is a film running on a screen which made me feel as if the moving pictures were real. I wasn't moving the same way my eyes were telling me.

When reality returned, I was able to have a moment of lucidity, but then a record player turned on automatically and hit me with Petula Clark's "Downtown."

In the room there's a couch with digitally-enhanced photographs of two men projected onto it. They are projected through slides which change every 15 seconds. This gives the effect that characters are watching you like a television and shifting.

Perspectives change where the viewer is now the viewed; the art objects appear to scrutinize the audience. Two televisions face each other with mirrors attached to them where again the lines between the art object and the viewer are skewed.

The images of altered store signs face each other from across the room. They seem derivative of cheap motel lights. A kind of mocking of television and the sense of voyeurism can be gathered from the piece.

Televisions facing each other, while simultaneously containing my image as a spectator, made me think that the Machyderm successfully conveys the idea of how we become inextricably connected to what we watch. What we experience becomes a part of our make-up and perhaps we should pay close attention to what we consider entertainment.

The one confusing thing is in the artists' statement when they discuss how the piece called Meet Jenna Downtown exposes the construction and deconstruction of gender and ideology through the pervasive influence of talk show television in the home. Perhaps the televisions were supposed to be on and I might have missed a large part of the installation.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998