Review: Cerebral Arena at Xpace.

March 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

Currently displayed in the Main Space of Xpace Cultural Centre’s three exhibition areas are the video-based projects of three OCADU students: Brianna Lowe, Lauren Pelc-McArthur and Graham Ruddy. Entitled Cerebral Arena, this collaborative exhibit transforms our common understanding of digital media and foregrounds its beauty and the artistic potential.

‘A Hall of Mirrors’ is how the exhibit is described in the accompanying leaflet by Philippe Blanchard, Assistant Professor at OCADU, and judging by the way in which the works bend and distort digital media to create new realities, I would have to agree. The notion of virtual space and its relationship to the viewer is taken up by Lowe in her video painting “Background Scenery,” and then mirrored in the three other video-paintings on display. The three artist’s collective choice of works for display made for a reflexive conversation between the pieces.

Lowe’s piece is like a slideshow of landscapes blurring into one another filmed by a wandering camera. The images that flash across the screen are actually taken from movies, digitally reworked to remove all human presence. A background scene from the original “Where the Wild Things Are,” minus the monsters, is just one of the many landscapes that flash along her video. In his turn, Ruddy animates space through his hand-drawn images that jump and glide across a white background, multiplying and disappearing before our eyes.

“Skinshot Prison Circuit 1&2” is a very complex collaboration by Lowe and Pelc-McArthur. They establish 3D spaces in their videos that are at once present and vanishing. Their work transforms the somewhat familiar footage that might be drawn from an outdated security camera into a heavily pixellated kaleidoscope digital universe on the TV screen. What overwhelms this exhibit is the emotive capacity of colour. While Ruddy strips his piece down to black and white, Lowe and Pelc-McArthur really explore the potential of color through digitalized imaging, and infuse an otherwise sterile technology with beauty.

Although it is virtually impossible to avoid technology in our day and age, we don’t often find it in a form like those gathered in Cerebral Arena. A visit to Xpace confounds what we understand to be real, and what we expect in the virtual. Cerebral Arena at once reproduces and transforms familiar digital spaces, and gives the viewer a lot to reflect upon.

Cerebral Arena runs at Xpace until March 17.

– Anne Deck

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