Curated by: Liz Magor
12 May 1987 - 6 June 1987
Opening Reception 12 May 1987 8pm
nO fiXeD aDdrESs,
This exhibition consists of two separate installations. Central to both is technology familiar to the viewer: cameras, television monitors, telephone answering machines, all equipment easy to acquire and use, yet which serve to represent us in various capacities. Accepting this as a legitimate offer of representation, the artists contrive situations to test the real ability of this technology to deliver an identity.
nO fiXeD aDdrESs, a work by JOEY MORGAN, will unfold over a seven week period as a series of telephone messages. The audience will be informed of the piece from several different sources: art magazine advertisements, classified ads, a video shown on local cable T.V., a short radio spot, direct mail announcements, and the installation at Mercer Union. It is apparent that the telephone situation is contrived and set-up, yet only slowly is it revealed that the caller has unacknowledged expectations of a genuine encounter.
CORRINE CORRY’s Palace of the Queen is founded on two factors: a remarkable family resemblance between the artist and her mother; and the artist’s concern with the means available to record this resemblance. In seeking the identity of her mother in relation to her own, the medium of portrayal imposes itself on the identity of the sitter. It becomes clear that the perceivable differences between the two are not wholly attributable to the ultimate individuality of each person.
In both installations the artists’ pacts with technology are made explicit as they concern the viewer. Underlying this exposure is an admission of involvement on the part of the artists. Each reveals, ln a different way, her own dependence on technology as a means of representation and an expectation that, from this, something of subjective value may be extracted.
CORRINE CORRY lives and works in Montreal. She was a producer for NFB/CBC Nunatsiamiut, Frobisher Bay, NWT from 1974-77. Since 1980 she has worked in performance, video and video-installation. Her video related work includes Mirror Pieces, 1981; Red Lizards, 1982; T.V. Dinner (collaboration with David Dorrance), 1984; MY Mother Died a Year Ago, 1986. Presently Corrine Corry is an instructor in Multi-Media Studio, Concordia University, Montreal.
JOEY MORGAN lives and works in Vancouver and has produced work since 1978, including several, major site-specific works: Tide Catchers, 1982; Fuque, 1984; Souvenir: a Recollection in Several Forms, 1985. She exhibited in Songs of Experience, at the National Gallery of Canada in 1986 and in the spring of 1987 installed a site-specific work, Almost*Dreaming at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
In September, Mercer Union will publish a catalogue representing these installations, containing two bookworks, one by each artist, with an essay by Liz Magor, the exhibition curator.
The PALACE of the QUEEN / nO fiXeD aDdrESs
Published by Mercer Union, 1987
nO fiXeD aDdrESs
Physically speaking, this work is as bodiless as it is homeless. In the gallery we encounter very little: a video monitor, deck and dolly, standard rental issue; a pair of freestanding doors embellished by hand, standard studio issue; an adjustment to a false wall, exposing more of Mercer’s diverting view. Yet, if we accept a taped invitation to place a phone call, we gain access to the most significant part of the work –a recorded confession/seduction engaging enough to make any material in the gallery seem unnecessary. Engaging, that is, insofar as one is interested in being lured into an uncertain relationship with an unnamed, recorded voice. Objectively, this is a relationship with a telephone unit hooked to a complex of answering machines. Psychologically it is more compelling than this fact allows. Perhaps it is our familiarity with the telephone that renders us co-operative. Perhaps we imagine that we are in control; after all, we place the call. But this is an exchange of dubious equity, for in return for our actual time and attention, we receive a repeatable moment and an intimacy addressed to a microphone. Furthermore, there is no attempt to obscure the contrivance.
Still, the signs of an authentic engagement are present: a secluded voice; a dialogue of tangents, seemingly innocent of strategy; and a basket of little things: deference, vulnerability, need. Against the odds, a desire for this quality of contact, like the desire in photography to hold the moment, operates to suspend disbelief. One holds on, lured not so much by the voice as by one’s own expectations.
However, rather than intervene on our behalf, the artist extends the entrapment. At both ends of the tenure of the Mercer installation, suggestions to place the call are made publicly, on broadcast T.V., in magazines and via direct mail an announcements. For many respondents the context of the gallery will not be known. For these callers, the act of placing the call is included in a much larger context of solicitation and submission–the discourse of buy and sell as conducted in the mass media, using the terms of a personal relationship. Allure is the lubricant of the commercial world, used to move into our lives goods and services of no inherent empathetic capability. In the marketplace, the blurring of distinction between two orders of engagement (subject to subject, and subject to object), makes it possible to market material by activating our desire for the non-material.
Using these tactics, the artist, as broker of this particular, small exchange, has withheld her presence. In the gallery, the resurfaced doors represent vestigial evidence of the artist; out of the gallery, she offers no identifying mark. The respondent, in privacy, is free to consume, or attempt to consume, the delicious voice. Ultimately, however, there is nothing to get, have or take, and it is in this negative dimension that the artist finally asserts herself. Rather than slipping us a surrogate –a message, a product–she choreographs a hasty exit for her aural mannequin, leaving us with a void into which we can only drop our own voice. In extending ourselves to swallow a sensation, we surpass it and swallow the machine.
If the announce mode has engaged our credulity, the answer mode engages our critical awareness. Up to this point our power of assessment has attended to the credibility, sanity, identity of the telephone voice. Suddenly, the microphone thrust at the caller, an urgent appraisal of the means of delivery is required, raising questions concerning the ownership, mechanics and intentions of the machine. The technology at hand, prepared now to record our breathing, our hesitation, our response, for a concealed listener, is the same which seconds ago provided us with our own concealment. Once again, the terms of the pact with technology are being exacted .
On reflection, the embrace of the toothed technology is familiar, encountered on a daily basis in the form of equipment projecting human voice or image. The ubiquity of this humanness indicates needs greater than that of simple convenience or utility. It indicates an extensive conflation of our material and non-material needs, sponsored perhaps, by an unwillingness to know or identify things by any process other than self-reference. Our subjective response, considered a deep and private resource, has been tapped and dispersed, squandered by unscrupulous managers with our own naive consent.
That the artist mimics this strategy so well must arouse our suspicion. Is she in fact as unscrupulous as those she would critique? Since nothing has been taken, we can’t accuse her of exploitation. But is this art, or just a clever ruse? Have we ended up the object of her contempt? The balance lies in the voice. In the absence of any substantial sign of the artist, the voice comes to represent her, the identity beneath the persona where director and actor converge. But even in the unity of roles there is no tendency toward authority. The voice fails to identify itself or state its intention. After a series of feints, it retires, having accomplished nothing but a pathetic manipulation of emotions. If this is the artist she doesn’t live up to our expectations and her hegemony doesn’t materialize. She isn’t conning us, she can’t guide us. Having invested everything in the voice, she and her callers arrive at an impasse. In matters of control and submission, it appears the artist is not exempt. In fact, one could interpret this as an admission–that we have all accepted the machine.