REVIEW: MAGNITUDE ABSOLUTE: Thoughts on MAN-Size; the exhibition

ARCHIVE: Narrative



MAN-Size; the exhibition
by Harold Alegria Ortiz

"As one enters, a position becomes situation, becomes subject, becomes playground, becomes oneself. " Maurice Marleau-Ponty.

The projections that have occupied the rational subject since the Greeks, point in the direction of total abstraction, a quest for absolutism that has only recently abandoned its claims to an authoritative encapsulation of the noumenal into some equivalent magnitude signifying or encompassing infinity.

Be it through the proportions of a mountain-mausoleum or the erection of a corporate cliff, there has always been in the Building Arts an attempt to bleed human potentiality beyond the boundaries of the bodily and project the will onto the larger scale of numerical power. But No matter how clever the escape artist, or how deep the probe sails emptiness; man's blue prints „his maps of transcendence„ only materialize in sofar as the subject gears its self within the machinery of progress. Having set foot on the techno-hierarchical echelon of time, man scales up his built environment exponentially. The technological adroitness this absolutism has produced, is more evident when modernity and its progeny sign up to the exhilarating ride -In Roland Barthes words to a: "prestigious freewheeling through nature" ethical and environmental trespasses notwithstanding.



If mind equals measure; man is the yardstick. At Man-Size, the exhibition curated by Ken Hayes at a vacant brownstone on King and Spadina, one confronts the unfolding possibilities of that stretch of space the rational subject plays upon and is „ sometimes unwittingly„ played with. Withing the space, the scope of in[habitation] and significance of its ambits range from the arrangement of a solipsistic labyrinth of office partitions and uroburos-like structure of chairs, to the ironic collapse of cemented habits where post-industrial routines and processes, along with the exigencies of the work-place no longer hold, are de-processed or deformed by the precipitating viscousness of a styrofoam shower.

If in the mortality of our flesh we are to find solace. Is death then preserved or still life? Two particular installations seem to point to this metaphisical entreprise. This writer finds himself musing about Houdini and Lenin's mortuary cases, on how they beckon certain reverential posturing similar to the graveness of gallery attendants -undertakers of sorts. But their cerberus-like function is only semantic. There is no one to lead visitors through the passage. One wanders alone, finding the way across the threshold into the passage where one's image becomes one's life multiplied by illusions. The boxy reflections, bounced back and forth from time to self consciousness, seem to denounce rather than enhance the ruse. Perhaps if one didn't look at the mirror walls.... Blindfold the subject, and one would never stop but will walk through the mesh stretched at the hand of the passage. A limit to our projections.

EDUARDO AQUINO: Kinematic Cell

Man-Size is about the fluctuating magnitude of man's physical "built" space, and this space's potential of becoming the hyper dance floor with the bigger disco ball, where the radiance of reflextions becomes one with our pupils „ and the fantasmagoria of phenomena merges with the mind. In more mundane terms, Man Size presents a site for dealing with [archi]tectonics as Playground. A space to inhabit for a while where structures are built to scales that go up or down as lightweight pieces„ legos to ply or fit together not to measure one up or against. but then that's only an idea; and what the projection is, the built object denies. Man -Size represents a dialogue or rather an eulogy about the absence of reason-able spaces in the disproportionate erections the architectonic tradition has left us, its multiplicity of view points vanishing out of any humanist perspective and the frail human body enduring it all passively.

BARRY ISENORE: Shrunken Room: Inflated Room

LAUREN SCHAFFER:If you lived here you'd be home by now

Text by Harold Alegria Ortiz - Digital Photos by Bill Braithwaite

ARCHIVE: Narrative
by David Buller

Archive has arrived in Toronto and the arts community seems to be enthusiastic about this eclectic, enervating digital art library. Unlike a more traditional gallery setting, Archive provides an outlet for artists to expose their work in a digital format to sale or rental to designers, film companies, corporate collections, and individual patrons. There are over 4000 works of art in the Archive library with additions continuing as awareness of Archive spreads. With so many artists represented in Archive, the variety of works is extensive. Monthly exhibits feature the works of established artists along side young artists, perhaps exhibiting for the first time. This is an immensely healthy aspect of these exhibitions.

Michelle Teran: (left) Flower Houses/Body Language
John Massey: (right) Jack Photographs

Case in point is the current group show at Archive. The general theme of the show is Narration but the media, imagery and scale of the works could not be more diverse. John Massey's The Jack Photographs, digital photography is selenium toned silver gelatin prints, are dramatically juxtaposed with Natalie Wallburger's installation, Cannons of Proportion that features rope and paraffin and beeswax. Painting is well represented in this show with unsettling imagery used by both Natalka Hussar in Stop Starting and by Gretchen Sankey in Bobo. In fact, the whole effect of this exhibition is one that intrigues and unsettles which is consistent with post modern imagery and use of media.

Natalie Waldburger:Canons of Proportion

Expression and intelligence are well matched at Archive, not only by the artists who created the works but also by Patricia Christie and Johnson Chou who are the partners behind this enterprise. These are times in which diverse activities, media and styles are central to the visual arts. New ways of exhibiting works of art are part of this diversity. Group shows in rented warehouse space, store fronts, restaurants and even on street corners are becoming more reflective of the contemporary art scene. Certainly a concept such as Archive is very timely and provides a new potentially important format in the exhibiting of contemporary art.

Gretchen Sankey:BOBO

Text: David Buller, Digital Photos: Bill Braithwaite

by Harold Alegria Ortiz

The supreme medium for communicating ideas: typography, is suddenly facing the challenge of a new technological revolution that is already dismantling the foundations of the trade and threatening its practitioners with the prospect of absolute obsolescence.

For almost five hundred years typography was considered a learned trade whose arduous training and skills could be compared to that of the watchmaker and the goldsmith. Like no other technological achievement, typography advanced the project of the Enlightenment and its sequel of successes in all fields of human experience.

The end of the twentieth century has ushered in the era of digital information. Thanks to the personal computer, convenient storing and retrieving devices and -most influential of all- the world wide web, typography's very raison d'*tre is being reconsidered within the context of digital information and the new paradigms that cognitive tools present to the interpreting of the printed text.

Eurythmics and legibility are only two of the qualities at stake that since the advent of digital typography are being compromised for the sake of novelty and shock value. The former is a classically-inspired notion of proportion, one that was first applied in Architecture but then extended to the aesthetic of most design products. Originally typography sought the harmonic proportions characteristic of the shapes of Roman monumental carved letter forms whose design and spacing was customized to make them pleasing to the eye. As for legibility, one can only verify the bit-mapped characters of poor resolution fonts on the pages of Emigre to understand what this absence of eurythmia has produced. A total absence of clarity and grace, two formal attributes which would make the experience of reading a profitable, meaningful and intelligible one.

18TH CENTURY COMPOSITOR: Assembling lines of type into wooden trays

Typography made reading enjoyable and that alone had a tremendous impact in the transmission of Ideas -not so much of printed data. That such a feat could be achieved by so modest a medium, can be attested by surveying the evolution of printed matter in the west since Guttemberg's press, up to the period of Eric Gill. During those four centuries typography's preoccupation was not with calling attention to itself, for it was not its intention to be the subject of the message, but typographers understood the advantage of designing unconspicous fonts, and convened in keeping letter-forms subservient to content. Through this modest gesture they managed to make communicable ideas that otherwise would only be transmissible. Type became indistinctly one with the text. This unity of medium and message which managed to survive through most part of the century, has shown no signs of being capable of enduring the profound cognitive revolution digital type has initiated.

At the click of a button on our friendly electronic interface, ideas become information, become sensation, become saturation, become pass*. And with every click of the mouse or the keying of a new URL, the module of time and duration, Telos, the lapse between symbol and concept find each other in the mind, becomes a subliminal operation of reflexive recognition of self conscious typography. Reading becomes scanning; duration subservient to style.

Long before the most venerable foundries such as monotype and bitstream, turned their specimes digital, there were already signs of the impending extinction of stereotype fonts and that even phototypesetting would not last a century. No one anticipated the advent of a new information tool so advanced, and yet so vernacular in matters of design, that would only allow you the option between Courier and Times for everything. The prospect that the venerable custodians of typography be heard are as slim as one's attempt to decipher the digital grafitti on the hippest site of our electronic Babel.

TYPE MEASUREMENTpoints and picas

Toronto's own typographer emeritus Rod McDonald, has warned the advertising community of the disastrous effect the trend of applying distressed digital typography to print advertisement has had on editorial copywriting. The message simply becomes obscured -if not altogether overwhelmed- by flashy lettering and insensible composition. The temptation is hard to resist if one considers the staggering number of faces available. Not even the most conservative designer would renounce to stick his hand in such a deep cookie jar - frequently at the expense of clarity and most importantly, legibility. Layer upon layer of fading lettershapes, blending and merging with each other and the background ad infinitum. The result of all these photoshopian incontinence, which most people admire but cannot start to read, is the flavour of the month school of design, but it can certainly lay no claims to being communication.

Communication is not an idea subject to style but the marriage of content and form, message and type. How many would listen? Typography as a silent art has a long battle ahead to win back the anonymity and status its noble origins once bestowed upon her. Until then, the content of our messages will be as loud as it is illegible.

This article was written by Harold Alegria Ortiz - artist in residence at Year Zero One.