Volume 93, Issue 38
Friday, November 5, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
London art show questions property value
By Sara Martel
There is always room for a little dissidence even in the face of certain clothing chains glorifying conformity with their ads and identical power centres blemishing landscapes everywhere. All this, with the North American ideal still involving a mega-home in the suburbs with a three car garage and at least one sport utility vehicle.
It appears the current generation is witnessing a kind of cultural backlash, questioning the illusion that security and freedom are inherent in today's consumer lifestyle.
Artists Dermot Wilson and Chris McNamara, who make up Machyderm Inc., have thrown down the gauntlet on a variation of this concept. Their collaborative art exhibit, entitled Big Houses-Putting The Real Back In Realty, is currently showing at The Forest City Gallery.
From the outset of the work, the viewer is struck by an illuminated plastic sign with what looks like a restaurant ad on one side and the words "Machyderm Properties" on the other. This sign immediately sets a commercial tone to the show, ironically heralding one of the very notions the rest of the work challenges. In essence, Machyderm Inc. questions the symbolic value of real estate.
"This work is about what real estate means to us versus what it was in the '50s or even '70s," explains gallery director L.T. Dougherty. "Then, we expected to own a home, to have a family we don't now. We have a transient way of life, in our families, our jobs, our marriages. This is about questioning the last generation's security in light of our own insecurity. Property has always traditionally reflected this kind of safety and many people still hold it up as the ideal, the Holy Grail. But the ideal doesn't work for us anymore, it's not viable for us."
The exhibit addresses this issue directly with two model houses, each with a small screen on the roof. The screens show two different videos, both involving a realty agent who is also a detective. Among other things, the stories look at the notion of social status being incorporated into real estate.
Also featured is a large flashing marquee which shows footage of floating clouds. One interpretation of this abstract element of the show, questions the concept of ownership. Hanging on the wall adjacent to the marquee and model homes, is another illuminated sign spelling the word "Domino." On top of each of the letters are more images of people in their home, which examine how different environments are supposed to illicit certain feelings.
As a whole, the exhibit has a stark, mix-and-match, recycled feel, aptly reflected by the signs, some of which were taken from a 1950s architectural book and others were found in the garbage. Because of the sparse nature of the show, viewers will have to take the time to interpret the pieces in order to fully enjoy Big Houses. The exhibit calls for viewers to challenge their traditional views of real estate.
Anyone who does take this time, however, will no doubt be rewarded with a thought-provoking representation of our time and our culture.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999