Written by: Anchi Lin
Edited by: Sacha Husband
“Beside Yourself” @AHVA Gallery, October 22, 2014- November 15, 2014
“Beside Yourself” is a group exhibition curated by Marina Roy at AHVA gallery at the University of British Columbia. These artist include: Sean Alward, Lorna Brown, Christina Dixon & Woojae Kim, Evan French, Kristina Fiedrich, Jordy Hamilton, Vanessa Kwan, Randy Lee Cutler, Lyse Lemieux, Kelly Lycan, Elizabeth Milton, Erdem Tasdelen, Howie Tsui and Elizabeth Zvonar. The artists’ work culminates in “Beside Yourself” by collectively proposing how relations between things, objects, beings, and events can potentially spark new relations if we go beyond ourselves. In “Beside Yourself” you see how each artist addresses this topic differently. When considering the exhibition, certain questions are raised by the works: what does it mean to go beyond yourself in order to achieve new levels of relation that others don’t see? What kind of ‘otherness’ will make the experience of art more pure?
The space is quiet with some noise coming from the headphones that are attached to the projector. It is playing the video of Milton’s performance work. To look carefully, some drawings are framed, some don’t as they display as it is. Up to this point, I feel a strong sense of how these artists want to emphasize the material itself, which becomes an obvious statement. I need to be careful about, and also consider further the reasons behind them. I keep navigating through the space from fast to slow, from being completely general to specific. I see some preserved preserved dead rats displaying on a low plinth at the far corner of the gallery space, while giant words ‘AS ONE DOES’ in Helvetica font are cast/materialized into a real space. The two-dimensional words transform to a three-dimensional freestanding object coated with white paint, interrupting through the rigid gallery space diagonally. On the right side of the gallery space, the two glassed archive tables are kept with one of the artists’ research items, which relates to minerals. In the vicinity of the tables, two life-size objects made by Lyse Lemieux catch my attention the most.
The surface of the torsos are painted within the red and green color spectrum, and the organic form of the torsos feeds off different line movements on the surface to create an interesting perspective. They seem primitive, yet futuristic. They are abstract in a way that has some kind of optical illusion a viewer may experience. They are representational of their pre-existing shapes and resemble cocoons; they are not representational, as we may not contextualize them. In this grey zone, it is best to step out any judgment and preconceived ideas.
The overall feeling of the show is that it has a strong sense of sleekness. Howie Tsui’s water colors drawings left a strong impression with me, as to see his skillful drawings have Japanese flavor yet the content of it reminds me of a sentiment from ‘The Metamorphosis’ by Kafka. The mutated creatures in Tsui’s drawings leave an unsettling feeling with me when I look at them. It is interesting to think about how being beside yourself can situate one with an uneasy feeling, just like the salesman in ‘The Metamorphosis’.
Elizabeth Milton’s Falling Down gives a different take on the topic of ‘Beside Yourself’. Milton’s work has feminist flavor in it; it seems to relate to the housewives losing their mind in housework. As the only woman character in her film, she explosively takes feathers out of pillows and splashes them all over while Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake plays in the background. The setting is situated in a princesses-like bedroom; the viewpoint is through the mirror in the bedroom where the viewer can see her taking out feathers out of pillows. The film is edited where some parts have slow motion, which is key to dramatize the person’s actions. The character seems content with such a ridiculous, self-indulgent act of pulling all the feathers out, which later led to the complete filling of the bedroom and her final role as a melodramatic diva. The role of Diva is an ideal place as an excuse to avoid consequences for making a mess. Milton’s work reminds me of the movie ‘Valley of the Dolls’, which has a high emphasis on diva hysteria. Divas are stereotypically associated with personality changes, and this suits the theme of the exhibition well.
Thinking back to the questions I asked previously. I think we tend to create works that are the extension of ourselves with egos, even though we may deny it sometimes. I think as long as an artist’s name is attached to the work, the work can hardly be completely beside itself. I compare my experience with ‘Beside Yourself’ exhibition and being a student in the visiting artist’s class Ricardo Basbaum this semester. He proposes projects that are similar to the concept of beside oneself. His NBP and collective conversation projects can never be made only by himself, but with people who participate in the project. Without audience and participants, art can hardly to beside oneself. It is interesting to see how artists go on different approaches on the idea of beside yourself.