by Stella Hsu
Before entering the gallery space of 221A, I was greeted by a series of colourful texts that evoked a sense of play. The image above is a depiction of Christy Nyiri’s Non-lexical Vocable Windows where seven window panels are covered by words taken from the chorus of seven different songs: Too High, Walk on the Wild Side, You Can Call Me Al, Jeremy, Dreams, How Deep Is Your Love, Tarzan Boy. Because the windows cannot be seen through from the outside, the artwork plays with the idea of transparency where the act of looking through has been redirected to the surface of things. What kinds of messages do the windows bring forth? The artist’s use of windows asks us to look ‘through’ the windows in a different manner.
Once I entered the gallery I was immediately drawn to Andy Chung’s Icons, a video projection of images each representing either a web-based symbol or the flag of a specific country. Whether one is familiar or not with the icons, the images function as a form of language compelling its viewers to make sense of it. Just as I began to digest the images provided, they immediately re-arranged themselves, disrupting my ability to absorb without questioning. Living in an age where information is constantly being processed, Icons reminds me of endless updates on Facebook or Twitter. In many ways, social media and advertisements have trained us to digest compulsively, to swallow without chewing. How then does Icons play with this idea of consumption? Because of this conundrum, Chung’s work is irritating yet comforting at the same time. It makes me wonder if the work mimics our inability to concentrate or is it patronizing our ability to keep up to date? As I began to look for a pattern in the work, the disappearing and reappearing icons made it difficult to process. It is unclear as to where the beginning ends and the end begins. Feeling somewhat annoyed, I cannot help but ask myself, what have I been staring at this whole time? And how much time has passed? Still captivated by the projection, like a moth’s attraction to light, I compel myself to take a step back. Perhaps, the work suggests that the process of discovering and questioning is more important than the answer itself. By taking this into account, the collaborative play present in the exhibition suggests that ‘material arrangement’** is performed not only by the artists but by the viewers as well.
**Material Arrangement is the title of the exhibition featuring the works of Vancouver-based artists, Andy Chung and Christy Nyri, and Berlin-based artists, Annette K Hansen and Easton West.
Andy Chung is a Vancouver- and San Francisco Bay Area-based artist and designer whose work includes a range of activities that negotiate conditions and implications of the Internet. Chung holds a Bachelor of Design from Emily Carr University, developed and released the typeface Neighbourhood (2009), and recently exhibited his work as part of Typecast at Also Known As Studios (2011).
Christy Nyiri is an interdisciplinary artist and designer based in Vancouver. She co-founded the artist collective Norma, which recently received a 2011 Mayor’s Art Award and has performed and exhibited work in Vancouver at Artspeak Gallery (2010), Vancouver Art Gallery (2008), Access Gallery (2005) and PuSh Performing Arts Festival (2005). She holds a Bachelor of Media Arts from Emily Carr University.
Material Arrangement is an exhibition at the 221A Artist Run Centre produced in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut. The exhibition runs from November 18th – December 16th 2011. For more information about the exhibition, go to: http://221a.ca/