Friday, January 19, 2007

Les Newman's Death Of The Party/ Immony Men & Mira Lyn Lu's Taking Care Of Business

Eastern Edge gallery has kicked off 2007 on something of a high note with its first show of the new year featuring Winnipeg's perennial trouble-maker Les Newman and Concordia undergrad students Immony Men and Mira Lyn Lu.

Newman presents four 2D wall works from his series, The Death Of The Party, a collection of text snippets from a plethora of sources set against intense fields of various colour and shape.

Newman's influences run from the Cult of Bacchus with its orgies, drunken frenzies, and obliteration of the senses to the life and writing of Charles Bukowski, a degenerate drunk and problem gambler, whose wry, ironic humour is evidenced in Newman's one-liners. "Irony" as it has been used in the contemporary art-world is nothing more than a code word for being a smart ass, in that artists are generally saying the opposite of what they really mean. The text in Newman's work, however, is truly ironic in that the statements he employs give expression to contradictory emotions that are both felt sincerely.

It's black humour, and in Newman's work, there seems to be a suspicion that life is a meaningless and futile struggle. That we're all fucked, basically, and that one of the meager pleasures of being alive is finding humour and rage in the bowels of our own helplessness and alienation and disillusionment with the (art) world. It also helps to get fucked up. Or once did, anyway. Which, in a way, is the sad part about The Death Of The Party: the realization that, at best, a strategy for dealing with the meaningless of our existence can only be a short term fix. The hangover, and the too bright reality of the day, are always just around the corner.

Men and Lu's installation, Taking Care Of Business, provides an interesting counter-point to Newman's work. A to-scale reproduction of an anonymous office space is printed, post-it note by tiny post-it note on your run-of-the-mill computer printer, and stuck to the gallery wall in a grid format.

The process takes several days to complete, with the artists putting in the regular 9-5 day of an ordinary office employee. The piece puts Men and Yu into the roles of unskilled manual laborers, completing the same small, repetitive, mind-numbingly boring task in a project that once the show ends, will not exist outside of documentation. Equating artistic labour with the mundane paper work of a day job undermines the artist's position as genius or cultural visionary, and emphasizes the notion of artist as worker, subject to the same alienation and exploitation as anyone else who struggles to pay the bills.

As of this writing, the project is still ongoing, and anyone reading this is encouraged to go down to Eastern Edge to check on the progress.

The show runs until February 24th.