I thought for a second I had stumbled into a dentist’s waiting room, what with the jaunty but characterless piped-in music and the colourful but meaningless framed paintings on the walls, but I double-checked the door and it was definitely Susan Hobbs Gallery and the card on the door said Krista Buecking’s work was on display, so I sauntered in. The absence of chairs actually gave the space more of an investment firm lobby feel and the music was familiar but difficult to place. The overall tone of the tunes was optimistic and incomplete – just a selection of fragments that sweetened the air but didn’t leave me feeling anything in particular. I was beginning to realize that this hollowed out sensation – both in the objects and their meaning – was the point.
The eternal now and fragmentary forms of contemporary art don’t leave a lot of room for history paintings or their post-medium equivalents. That said, work that concerns itself with our collective past does arise (Stan Douglas is a good example) and, as is inevitable, plays a political role in framing those lost moments. Buecking’s era is that of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century’s dismantling of financial regulations. The real world consequences of such actions were felt up to and include the collapse of 2008, but the route to such bubble bursting went straight through the fantasy of unencumbered profiteering unmoored from actual stuff (you know, all those things Marx was obsessed with like labour, commodities, and the means of production). Her images on view hint at corporate graphs or profit charts but are stripped of any referents and merely decorate the sunsetting colours that sit behind them. They could serve as a movie set for the heady days of free floating capitalism that inflated during the eighties. However, they rely only on formal elements and a colour scheme; the truth of their matter is nowhere to be found. All you have are empty promises, simplified schemes, and the appearance of substance, which is as good a description of what went wrong as you’re going to get.
For another take on our recent economic history it's worth the stroll over to Pari Nadimi Gallery where Felix Kalmenson is, among other things, tormenting his gallerist with a ceaseless cacophony of unholy proportions. His multiscreen installation sets dozens of identical celebrations of initial public offerings on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in a dense grid that multiplies the frantic cheering and noise of commerce to generate phantom whistling and unexpected droning tones that suggest the uncontrollable epiphenomena created by an overloaded financial system on overdrive. The uniform tableaus that play out in miniature across the screens can be distinguished through unique details like individual logos, colour schemes and company mascots, but the celebrants cheering, particularly amidst a sea of equally referenceless employees and generic board members, rings hollow (again!) and the overall effect is nothing less than hellish and alone worth the trip.
In contrast to the din, Kalmenson's replicas of exchange floor platforms are mere props. On their own they might have carried some weight as minimal sculptures from a bygone age, but the theatre of spectacle and hierarchy they once represented is now overshadowed by the onslaught of electronics. They are also historical works in their own way and allude to a time and place where money was still anchored in time and places, but as artefacts their true purpose is to emphasize the inescapable truth that every history is a story of loss.
Susan Hobbs: http://www.susanhobbs.com/
Krista Buecking: Matters of Fact continues until April 4.
Pari Nadimi Gallery: http://parinadimigallery.com/Site/index.php
Felix Kalmenson: A Year in Review continues until March 28.
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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