I wandered around 401 Richmond in Toronto today (for the first time in a while), looking through the shows at Open Studio, Redhead Gallery and the rest (on the main floor… I’m terrible for not going upstairs).
Two shows really stood out to me, however, Existing in Costume, by Chan-Hyo Bae at Gallery 44 and Dry Spell by Sau Wai Tai at WARC Gallery.
Existing in Costume – Chan-Hyo Bae Gallery 44
This show was a series of photographs of the (male) artist dressed up as unidentified English queens – although many of the portraits seem fairly recognisable and likely are easy to identify with very little effort.
The literature that goes with the show states that “One is readily reminded of Yasumasa Morimura, the Japanese artist who casts himself in Western art’s biggest roles, and also, perhaps, of the phenomenon of cosplay – the subculture of dressing up like fictional or historical characters … Bae seems to be performing a blatant paradox: that of the outsider gleefully destabilizing the hierarchies of a culture about which he has admittedly fantasized, but which has forbade him full entrance because of an unalterable ethnicity”. The colonial aspects of this show were interesting, and I’m sure could be used to fill many essays.
I was more interested in the gender-switches. I suppose I could write an essay that fuses together post-colonial theory with gender theory but… hey, I’m not going to.
What I enjoyed about these cross-dressing images was that they looked very honest. Like they lacked the sarcasm and over-the-top foof that generally comes with male cross-dressing. (Fuck, can’t believe I just said that… I don’t think that cross-dressing should even be a word… in my ideal world, everyone just wears whatever the fuck they want, regardless of gender norms). In fact, one of the things that I liked about these photographs was that even though proportionally Bae’s body looked a little… off… to be female, I could have believed him to be a European Renaissance queen, because regardless of the humour of the project, it also has a very stirring sincerity to it. It felt as though Bae was attempting (or, rather, succeeding?) to either understand or empathise with the English Queens he is portraying.
Dry Spell – Sau Wai Tai WARC Gallery
Now, Revista has already left an entry about this show about two days ago, so I’m not going to talk about it too much. I am still writing this because it was, in my opinion, one of the best shows I have seen in recent times.
It was well put together, and seemed all very appropriate. The artist’s concerns were amazingly (and unfortunately) appropriate, and I enjoyed the opportunity to add my own “thoughts or stories” to the wall. The privatization of fresh water is something that I find, personally, very disturbing – even a fairly revolting trend of capitalism as we continuously allow necessities of life to be bought and sold.
The show doesn’t really mention some things that have happened in recent years – like the way the World Bank forced a South American country to privatize its water system, selling it off to an American corporation. When the corporation wanted more money for the water than most could afford, they repeatedly forced laws into effect, making it illegal to even collect rainwater. Eventually this led to revolution…
That’s all that I’m planning to really add… Revista’s entry has the description included. What the description of the show doesn’t mention, is the way the scattered bottles reflect (to me at least) evoke a message about the waste involved in bottling water – not only through the waste and privatization of water resources, but the garbage created by cheap, plastic non-reusable bottles.