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Toronto
Terence Dick
Mark Lewis at Daniel Faria Gallery
November 15, 2017

The extra-dimensional realm where evil lies in the Netflix series Stranger Things is called the Upside Down. It’s not actually upside down and its bad reputation is predominantly due to the resident predatory monsters, but part of its fear factor relies on it being an inversion of the everyday world. (If the main characters were nerdy grad students as opposed to nerdy teenagers, they might have dubbed it the Uncanny.) Artists have often evoked this experience in less graphically violent ways to heighten our perception of how alien(ating) the world we inhabit actually is. Rodney Graham took upside down pictures of right side up trees and Paul McCarthy flipped photos of empty rooms. Mark Lewis turns things up a notch with a high definition car ride through a city where the sky gapes below you and cracked asphalt forms a ceiling from which telephone poles and tenement housing hang precariously over the void.



Mark Lewis, Lounge, 2017, film/video

Other than highlighting the things we miss when we pass through a familiar space in a routine fashion, the video also elicits the sense of vertigo (ably abetted by the opening sequence that drops from high above a tall building down to street level) that accompanies the disorientation of travelling through a strange city. Travel is the motif that links all three videos at Daniel Faria Gallery – specifically the travel that happens through immigration. These works and the three still on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario comprise an extended reflection on Canada by the artist. He’s interested in particular with the politics of identity, be it patriotism or changing seasons or asserting sovereignty at the AGO, or the sense of self in transition that is inevitably felt by waves and waves of new Canadians over the years at Faria’s space. The location of two of the latter three videos is Gander, Newfoundland, home to an airport that had long been a rest stop in transatlantic flights back in the day (which isn’t actually that long ago if you consider the still living seniors who might have made those stops).



Mark Lewis, Arrival, 2017, film/video

Travellers are featured in Lounge and Arrival, but they aren’t the subjects of the work. Each of the three videos is instead a landscape piece focused on the built environment: one is exterior, one interior, and the third depicts a transition between the two. Lewis is best understood as an artist concerned with space and time. He draws us in and through and over and around a location in order to highlight its historic particulars and generate a reflection on the ways in which it instantiates a certain understanding of the world. Unlike the works at the AGO, which rely on individuals whose singular presence draws the viewer away from the camera’s panorama, the videos at Faria are all about place. They happen to be Canadian places, and there are a lot of reasons why, but they are also generic modern sites not tied to any one geographical location. This is because the videos are about travel, that no place between here and wherever. When you finally land, depending on how far you’ve come, the world might just feel upside down.


Mark Lewis: Anniversary continues until January 13.
Daniel Faria Gallery: http://danielfariagallery.com/
The gallery is accessible.


Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.

 

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