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Leisure at the back gallery

(Written 1 August 2007)

Leisure Projects: Brushing Up Against the Wild video installation at the back gallery

Exhibition text – Mike Rattray

There is something mystifying to the act of leisure. It beckons a romanticized pursuit of itself while at the same time is reduced to packages and pre-ordered fabrications of organized time-management. Leisure is where reservations to relaxation, reflection and breaking away from the norms, take precedent. It is a kind of “back to nature” revelation, where those in search of it seek out something to take away from whatever it is an escape is needed from. Leisure is most commonly the time we take for ourselves, our leisurely pursuit at anything in particular.

For their installation, “Brushing Up Against the Wild”, Leisure Projects (Meredith Carruthers and Susannah Wesley) exhibited recent work completed during a residency at the Banff Center for the Arts. One sculpture, a video slide show and a projected video were shown in the gallery. The absence of sound allowed the space to become a place of quiet contemplation, not unlike the contemplation one is expected to pursue during the instances of leisure.

The sculpture sat atop a white pediment in the entrance to the gallery. The piece referenced a local Banff story of the Simpson Sisters, whose father would clear out a space on a nearby glacier for them to figure-skate in the remote area year round. The video, which was a slide show of archival images found by the artists during their residency mixed with new images emulating the activities of the aforementioned, distorted the notion of the archive as keeper of the past. The spectator was left to differentiate when the past had ended and present began. The color photograph acted as the only marker between the authentic and the contrived, leaving in its wake questions relating to expectation and assumption. The projected video, a documentation of local ballet dancers, when combined with the slideshow, mixed and intermingled constructions with artifact, past with present, nature with human-construction, to heighten the imagined acts a place like Banff uses to manufacture its identity as a tourism center.

When seen together, the three pieces became one work, where an interdependence on multiple mediums and levels was used to construct and manipulate a space –not unlike Banff, which is a series of manipulations combined with nature to manufacture an imaginary- of supposed leisure that is in fact a zone of enculturation: the art gallery.

The work of Leisure Projects applies an assiduous re-framing of tourism and culture-based imaginaries. Their work looks to parody and question who is looking, who is participating, and who is manipulating places and acts of leisure.

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