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Milena Placentile
Glen Johnson & Leslie Supnet at Gallery 1C03
September 11, 2012

A small sense of superiority washes over me when I'm on an airplane. No, no, I'm not in first class – far from it! I have a book. A book with pages made out of paper, and I'm not asked to power it down as the pilot prepares for take off. I watch the iKimNookBo-whatever users fidget like addicts, some sneaking a fix when they think the flight attendant isn't looking. I casually turn the page.

Glen Johnson & Leslie Supnet, Try reading a book, 2012, digital print

Relishing in the delight that comes from a good tale, Storytime at Gallery 1C03 is the first of what is sure to be many collaborations between Winnipeg-born artists Glen Johnson and Leslie Supnet. In fact, it's a wonder this co-production didn't happen sooner as both artists have long shared a strategic use of seemingly child-friendly narrative approaches to generate more layers for already nuanced reflections on the sources of human melancholy including, for example, alienation within the rubric of bureaucratic capitalism, social anxiety culminating in unrequited love, mediocrity, and various other failures.

Featuring a collection of artist books, two animated videos, and posters, this exhibition of their work demonstrates the power of stories as routes to self-recognition. Supnet's whimsical illustration style compliments Johnson's carefully crafted texts through expertly selected visual detail, allowing broader entry into the lives and struggles of very relatable characters, whether they be squirrels, naive students, or people creeped out by weird babies. Both artists pare down to the essentials when storytelling, giving just enough information to elicit active imagining, such that we suddenly see ourselves, right down to our mundane frustrations and awkward desires.

Glen Johnson & Leslie Supnet, Storytime, 2012, installation view

The exhibition space, divided into areas evoking primary school libraries and afternoon cartoon watching, creates a mini-retreat comfy enough for thinking about how life sometimes kind of sucks, but will probably turn out all right in the end. However, it is here that I have one small reservation about the show, which arises as a consequence of knowing Johnson's installation capabilities from his previous work. Storytime, as an environment, seems to be holding back. With a little more budget and perhaps a great deal more institutional freedom, I can imagine Johnson and Supnet whisking adult audiences off to a romanticized "simpler" time and place (even though it's probably just as complicated), minus the life skills, experience, and other stuff that make it easier. All the same, Storytime reminds us that life is generally a series of miscalculations and other disappointments, so it's okay to relax and enjoy it whenever we can.

Gallery 1C03:
Glen Johnson & Leslie Supnet: Storytime continues until October 6.

Milena Placentile is a curator and writer living in Winnipeg. She co-runs Atomic Centre and is Akimblog's Winnipeg correspondent.



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