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Terence Dick
Hudinilson Jr. at Scrap Metal Gallery
August 08, 2018

There must be a word in German that captures the feeling of nostalgia for a time you experienced indirectly. For me, that would be the 1970s, when my only exposure to the art world came through a black-and-white television screen while I read my comics. Hints of what was out there emerged in trashy movies and news reports on idiosyncratic instances of youth culture. By the time I hit my teens in the eighties, I would scour magazine racks and record stores for clues about the recent past that I had just missed. It was still bubbling up through zines and 45s that documented the output of that transitional decade. Primitive tools of reproduction and distribution were being used to re-evaluate the idealism of the sixties, to reject it outright, or to create new models in its aftermath. Or at least thats how it seemed to an innocent adolescent desperate to escape the mundane existence of his basement bedroom.

Hudinilson Jr., Caderno de Referências No. 43, 1990s, photograph prints, newspaper and magazine cutouts, photocopies, and documents on paper

I recalled that thrill of discovery as I looked at the grainy photographs and fading photocopies in Scrap Metal Gallery’s compact retrospective of the works of the Brazilian artist Hudinilson Jr. His late seventies/early eighties output on his own and with the collective 3NÓS3 provides further evidence that the post-hippie politics and punk rock aesthetics of the time were active in places other than New York and London. Historical guardians like curator Philip Monk with his exhibition Is Toronto Burning? and filmmaker Mike Hoolboom with his book on the Funnel film collective have kept our local version of this era alive. It doesn’t take much digging to see there were innumerable instances of similar scenes across the globe, fueled by a scepticism of commodification combined with a rejection of institutions that would only ever coopt expression. The artists of this age found the tools to make meaning in the public realm, intervening in space and print, documenting actions with photography and distributing the evidence of their work through mass media like newsprint or readily accessible (for those with office jobs or students) photocopiers.

Hudinilson Jr. was particularly enamoured with Xerox technology and used the medium to map his body. He would subvert this hub of bureaucratic surveillance (copying documents to retain documentation) by pushing the machine to its limits. Photocopiers are undone through the beauty of their imperfections. They are a timely metaphor for loss as they add noise with every reproduction. The increasing grain or distortion highlights the fallibility of the medium – undercutting its authority, throwing its permanence into question, tossing any appeal to originality out the window, and opening the door to a serial stream of unique works as each copy degrades the last. Now that pdfs have replaced paper, the art of this moment will be regarded as more and more quaint, except for those who remember the oppressive rhythm of such office equipment and the thrill of exploiting it for rebellious ends.

3NÓS3, Ensacamento, 1979/2003, photography

Resistance is always part of the equation when a new generation of artists comes up against what came before, but Hudinilson Jr. and his Brazilian peers also had to deal with an oppressive military dictatorship. One of the most striking works in this exhibition only remains in the form of photographs and newspaper clippings. The three members of 3NÓS3 spent the night of April 26, 1979 bagging the heads of public monuments in an urban intervention that silently but decisively commented on historical blindness and erasure in both a symbolic and literal way. Hudinilson Jr. would eventually get to enjoy the fall of the dictatorship in 1985 and he would continue to make art until his death in 2013, but he remained resistant to the expectations of the art world. His work doesn’t provide much satisfaction on an individual basis (though some subtle collages in the back of the gallery are politely framed). Instead, his creations carry that sense of something happening – something exciting, potentially dangerous, and outside the spotlight. It might not be for the ages, but it was definitely of the moment. And that feeling of what it was like in that moment is worth savouring.

Hudinilson Jr.: Cut Up The World continues until September 16.
Scrap Metal Gallery:
The gallery is partially 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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