Double takes at UWaterloo Art Gallery

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The University of Waterloo Art Gallery has started off the season with <em>Inventory </em>and <em>108 Leyton Ave</em>, a compelling double feature which pairs the works of Roula Partheniou and Kelly Mark.&nbsp;</p>

Installed in the main gallery, Partheniou’s Inventory appears at first like a jumble of everyday objects in the process of being packed or unpacked. A familiar sight to many students, boxes are strewn about with stacks of books, office supplies, kitchenware, and other miscellany. The brilliance of Partheniou’s work, however, lies in the epiphanous double take that occurs when one realizes that something’s off about these objects: they’re all 1:1 scale replicas. 

Cleverly constructed with simple materials like wood, clay, and paint, the shape of each object has been simplified to a basic yet still recognizable form. These familiar items make use of the way the human mind simplifies sensory input, manipulating this process in a playful way. 

“I’m interested in the replica for its ability to bring up this experience and perception, so it’s not so much about replicating a roll of tape as it is to invoke this strange relationship to these familiar objects, or draw attention to the way that we see and perceive things,” said Partheniou. 

To further enhance the deceptive element of her practice, each individual piece has been meticulously positioned to appear natural and unassuming. One of the more confounding works in Inventory’s collection makes use of a double-sided mirror placed between two symmetrical sets of identical objects. As one set is painted in colour and the other in grey-scale, the colour appears to drain from the objects as the viewer walks between them. 

Partheniou commented, “I play with including or removing key pieces of information to see how that changes the way we relate to the object …. I think I’ll always kind of draw back to the real world and try to interpret it in a new way. I don’t know how it will manifest in the future. There’s always opportunities to respond to a space and that will lead the work and the direction.”

As a refreshing contrast to Partheniou’s stockpile, Kelly Mark’s 108 Leyton Ave is a spartan video installation, nested in the second room of the gallery. Filmed in the artist’s old suburban home, the video acts as a portrait of the artist during a time of personal isolation.

The work depicts two versions of Mark playing cards across from one another while arguing, smoking, and drinking. Each speaks in absolutes, with every statement respectively containing the word “everything” or “nothing.” 

“Look, don’t worry. Everything will be all right.” 

“But nothing will be as it was.”

Originally intended to be a gender-based performance using a man and a woman, 108 Leyton Ave took on many forms throughout its development before manifesting as a solo split-screen performance. 

“I came up with a hundred quotes and was originally going to have a man and woman come to my studio.…  I was sitting there one day and I thought ‘maybe I could just do this by myself.’ My generation of television is split-screen, which you don’t see on TV anymore; the old Fonzy and Wonder Woman … they used to do it all the time and it was always really badly done. So I ran to the computer, and some 13-year-old boy taught me how to do it on iMovie in like 10 seconds [laughs] …. I took out the gender — I made it more personal,” said Mark. 

The synchronicity of the performance is astonishing, more so when considering that each channel of the 10-minute work was filmed as a single, continuous shot. “There’s no post-editing. In the part where I put my cigarette down, I shot that at least 60 times,” said Mark. “It took four months to make this, every day for 10 hours.” 

Inventory and 108 Leyton Ave are on display at UWAG inside East Campus Hall until Oct. 31. 

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