January 8th—February 28th, 2015
Evan Tyler, Sanctuary at Last, photo face-mounted on plexiglass, 2010. Image courtesy of the artist.
Quixotic: Susan Bozic and Evan Tyler
by Alex King
quix.ot.ic adjective \kwik-‘sä-tik\
: hopeful or romantic in a way that is not practical
The uncanny, optimistically glossy world of the mannequin is saturated with aspiration. Neat figureheads for the desirable aesthetic and lifestyle of the zeitgeist, their lack of diversity standardizes particular body types and ethnicities. Through their windows, they reflect a limited view of the world, which speaks less about reality than it does about the relationship between cultural attitudes and commerce. They exist somewhere between realism and fakery, but not simply as conspicuous simulacra. They seem to aspire to sexiness but remain coldly unerotic and emblematic of unfulfilled promises. Their destiny to fall short of their ambitions is explored in the work of Susan Bozic and Evan Tyler, who both use store mannequins in their photographic performance works.
Bozic's The Dating Portfolio sees the artist engaged in various romantic situations with Carl, a handsome but stoic mannequin. These images are akin to stock photos: homogenized, staged advertisements of life, where women play women and men play men. We are witness to a series of clichéd dates, but it becomes clear that beyond the veneer of fun, sexiness and glamour, this partnership is wrought with imbalance and inauthenticity. Bozic hints at the propensity to overlook the obvious in pursuit of a ‘good life’, despite the photographs’ inauthentic purported reality.
Susan Bozic, He let me pick the movie, C-print, 2005.Image courtesy of the artist.
At the Spa follows Evan Tyler's mannequins, Ashley and Natalia, during a spa session in Regina. A space intended to create an atmosphere (and sell) dreams of sophistication, health, luxury, mystery and the pursuit of beauty, their presence suggests a level of pretense. In the ritualistic spa environment, Ashley and Natalia act as a reminder of its ceremonial-esque acts of beautification. This worshipful space holds beauty in the highest regard (as do mannequins themselves), attracting women as objects to receive maintenance. Tyler’s lighthearted parody reveals the absurdity in the reverence – borne of hopefulness - we ascribe to beauty. At the Spa suggests its meaningfulness has as much depth as a store window.
As the title of the exhibition suggests, both artists employ the idealistic forms of mannequins to suggest the unattainability of our desires and the commodity of happiness. As Tyler asks: “Are the mannequins set up to mimic us, or are we setting ourselves up to mimic them?”
Susan Bozic has a long-standing relationship with photography and works primarily within conceptual photography. She notes that: "Photography has a complex lineage, and its interrelationship with other visual media, such as painting, cinema and advertising, along with its familiarity in our day-to-day lives, makes it an ideal visual medium for challenging and destabilizing our pre-conceptions and conventional expectations. Photography is a medium that allows us to travel through space and time and all too readily blur historical barriers. In my photographic work, the spaces between truth and fiction, past and present, are vast and at times, decidedly blurred."
Evan Tyler is an artist, curator and writer based in Toronto. Tyler has exhibited and curated nationally and internationally, and ran the contemporary project space gallerywest from 2010-2014. Tyler's practice challenges various tropes, both social and institutional. His work focuses on the voice and performance, using fictional and often tragicomic characters/ personas to create visceral moments that zigzag between confidence and vulnerability.
Curated by Alex King