Michael Buckland, Jill Henderson, Marc Streifling, John Veenema, Shannon Wadsworth

Curated by: Jennifer McMackon & Max Streicher

12 January 1995 - 4 February 1995
Opening Reception 12 January 1995 8pm

Project Room:

White Lily Presents Brown Spot, an association of artists, some of whom were more recently based in Glasgow.

Their project, The John Veenema Memorial Exhibition includes individual as well as collaborative works and promises candy, commerce and daily change of batteries.

White Lily presents is the curatorial initiative of Jennifer McMackon and Max Streicher, six exhibitions in Mercer Union’s Project Room. The site is proposed as a forum for experimentation and risk, focusing on the dynamics of flux and process.

Flux and fries supreme with Brown Spot

Oliver Girling

Eye Weekly, February 1995

Last Friday evening Brown Spot took Jennifer McMackon, Laura Teneyche, Jin Han Ko, Donna Creed and me to dinner at the Taco Bell in Parkdale, waiting on us hand and foot (Max Striecher sent his regrets, inexplicably choosing to be in New York on the same evening).

But before this event could unfold, I braved the crush at Mercer Union, observed the top of some one’s head spin like a dervish, hung around inside the picture window/boutique hearing recent news from Berlin, retreated through a minefield of flame throwers, squeezed the last bottle of Mercer white wine, heard a guy prattle in Swedish under the blue video glow of Mao Zedong’s head, discovered the Mockingbird (King St.’s latest art bar) got cruised by a non-practising cellist, didn’t arbitrate a spat between an ex-Torontonian praising Montreal and an ex-Montrealer praising Toronto, found a table peopled by Winnipeg and Chicago artists and was nearly demolished by a necrotizing, nut-brown ale.

The occasion: Mercer’s first opening of the year. There were three shows: One Work, the start of an ongoing series of individual artworks in odd spaces around the galley, featuring David Blatherwick’s Everyday; in the project room and window, The John Veenema Memorial Exhibition by the artists’ association Brown Spot, presented by Lily White; and in the main gallery, Wake, by Chicago artist Doug Ischar.

Blatherwick is the ex-Torontonian, whose been living in Montreal for 10 years at least. His “can’t move to Toronto cuz it sucks,” is in some Anglo-Montreal circles a conventional opening gambit for conversation; for me, it’s conversational Prozac. Doesn’t matter — he makes quirky, amusing paintings that track the passage of time.

For this show, he’s mounted a wig of synthetic red hair on the wall facing the front door of the gallery (he is a roux himself), attached to a motor that spins it, off-centre, at 60 rotations a minute. I find less panic than dance in these frantic revolutions — like the way kids whirl to get happy and dizzy.

White Lily is six exhibitions initiated by McMackon and Streicher “focusing on the dynamics of flux and process.” In the Memorial show, there’s more than a hint of old Fluxus itself (with its emphasis on multiples, kinetic elements and laughs) grandfathering the art. Brown Spot is loosely associated with Glasgow, in which some of it’s members hail; John Veenema himself, far from being the late, is still there, called to memory by his colleagues Michael Buckland, Jill Henderson, Marc Streifling and Shannon Wadsworth.

In the boutique they’d set up in Mercer Union’s window, his soul was for sale for 99c, in a neat glass bottle (with more than passing resemblance to a hip flask) to the person who could demonstrably provide it the best home.

Also for sale were mildly insulting cakes à la Portuguese bakery (”Nobo,” “Bonehead,” etc.), T-shirts featuring a prone stick-figure, a gun and a word balloon that says “Fuck” (for your next Tarantino movie), CDs made of pancakes in plexiglass boxes and a beautifully plaited $7 bill (for $14). And dinner with the trimmin’s at Taco Bell, which in the course of a long chat with John Massey, I fell for.

The artists were represented individually in the Project Room: Streifling’s self-propelling orange ball chased me across the floor, through Buckland’s spray cans with lighters strapped to them, the Domestic flame throwers. What brings these artists together is play, and a pointed indifference to the self-righteousness and moral posturing that dogs some contemporary art production in Canada.

Then the main gallery and Ischar’s Wake. Using various video technologies, the artist explores relationships between political actions and sexual desires, with juxtapositions hardly seen since the New Wave films or the ’60s. The famous picture of Mao swimming in the Yangtse (faked at the time to convince the masses that the maximum leader was healthy) is projected huge; Che Guevara is photographed disguised as a journalist/nerd, beside a cat with it’s eyes electronically scrambled, called “Hound”; a guy’s head from a porno film, looped and endlessly beckoning, is projected on a belt buckle.

Ischar calls them “hypnagogic images,” typically exciting just before or after sleep: short in length, yet affective, arousing. And they are signs that can carry a gay subtext; the construction of gay identity is central to the work.

At Taco Bell, the tacos were indigestible, the yellow “health drink” was at least not Pepsi and the fries supreme had hot spices stuck to them.

But you couldn’t beat it: resplendent in $10 tuxes, high-heeled sneakers and enough orange to put the sanitation department to shame, Brown Spot offered French, formal wait-service, looking for all the world like . . . artists. Long may they run.