Confusion and attraction are, for some, factors leading to a tawdry one-night stand, but for Katie Bethune-Leamen they form the basis of her latest exhibition at UTMs Blackwood Gallery. The Way I Are is an amalgamation of a number of works that, though possessing individual visual aesthetic in many different mediums, are able to explore and investigate existing artistic vernacular.
The Way I Are arose out a of a sort-of serendipitous moment for Bethune-Leamen, who drew inspiration for her project upon listening to a Timbaland song, also entitled They Way I Are. She enjoyed the song but also found that it was nearly impossible to explain her appreciation of it to others. This difficulty arose mainly from the language, or manipulation of language, that the song employed. The slang in the song was as unfamiliar as it was appealing, and this confusion became a pleasurable, albeit frustrating experience for her. Fittingly, all the works in the exhibition presented this same moment of pleasant perplexity for Bethune-Leamen.
The exhibition is comprised of the work of ten artists including Robert Fones, John Massey, and Tony Romano. Despite the lack of obvious cohesion between the works, it is easy to see how Bethune-Leamen could be captivated by each one. They all seem to posses endearing qualities that stimulate the eye in a way that is, at first unexplainable but soon becomes, enamoring.
Fones Leviathan #5 (2008) is one of the exhibitions more grand (in terms of sheer size) works. The colour photograph, laminated on aluminum, displays one seventh of the complete work, Leviathan, when seen in completeness spells out the beginning lines of Thomas Hobbes text of the same title.
What may be most intriguing about Fones Leviathan #5 is the typography in which the lines are written. Designed and hand-painted by Fones, the letterforms are highly stylized and organic, but visually condensed with no spaces between the words — only between each character.
Seeing only one of the seven panels that make up Fones Leviathan may make it difficult to grasp the overall concept of the work, but there is indeed an immediate, albeit abstract attraction. Is it the skewed play between both form and representation? Or is it because the letterforms have some resemblance to the body of the metaphorical Leviathan that Thomas Hobbes claimed would protect the social compact? Its not easy to answer. Although, what we can see is that the manipulation of language, similar to Timbalands song, is attractive, but hard to delineate.
Tony Romanos video installation, The Last Act, pushes the boundaries of the artistic vernacular as well. The films script is taken from a pornographic film, but the accompanying sex scenes from the original film have been removed, leaving only the usually, for lack of a better word, shitty written dialogue that, lets be serious, no one ever really pays attention to. Romanos film recontextualizes the words of the original script and makes them seem ever more awkward. Once again, the observer is faced with a reworking of language that draws us in.
The Way I Are is an extremely personal exhibition. Although the pieces may, at first, seem scattered and void of a common thread, it is the emotional response to the exhibition as a whole that connects everything together. Inspired by Katie Bethune-Leamens personal reactions to the works, the exhibition allows for ones own personal reactions to infiltrate the walls of the gallery, and allows its viewers to attempt to find their own explanation for their own attraction.