Burrow focuses on the human desire for comfort and escape, and shows us the irony of how it can also breed isolation and paranoia in an impossible search for absolute safety. It investigates our need for shelter while alluding to its potential of becoming a barrier to the outside world. The works in this exhibition speak to the need to reinforce our personal boundaries; to render ourselves invisible, and hence, safe and secure. More importantly, they suggest the vicious cycle of this process and the relative absurdity of believing that we are capable of self-sustainability, particularly within the conditions of contemporary civilization.
The four artists in Burrow are intimately connected to these issues, each pulling out different referential threads. Janice Kerbel's suite of floor plan drawings appear to be created by an obsessive character. The maps contain decisively marked locations for safe passage, suggesting that they might be used for theft and crime, or even perhaps survival and necessity, as well. But from what? Or whom? Despite their quasi-scientific approach and the illusion of utter seriousness and dedication, they are—in reality—decidedly absurd.
Adriana Kuiper constructs sculptures that allude to the fallout shelters of the 1950s, investigating the practicality of human self-survival in the face of disaster. With a wry sense of humour, she explores the act of becoming over-prepared or obsessively concerned with safety. The works draw parallels between the Cold War fears of the 1950s and 60s, Y2K, and the current seclusionary tactics in the fallout from 9/11 and the current war on terrorism.
Liz Magor's focus is on the solitude and refuge of the woods. She challenges their romantic stereotype as an idealistic place of escape. Instead, in her photographs of abandoned shelters and her sculpture of a sleeping bag tucked into a tree trunk (entitled Burrow), we see the strangeness behind the human attempt to integrate into the natural environment. Her sculptures entwine the fake with the real and play with the notion of illusory appearances and disguise.
Samuel Roy-Bois focuses on the conditions of urban living, and the delicate point of transition between the choice of becoming the observer or the observed. His sculpture Ghetto enacts a powerful social condition that creates a state of discomfort between individuals. His work plays on the notion of psychic space and the psychological impact of the enclosures we create in order to define our privacy.
All of the works in Burrow move beyond the specificity of these topics and their referents to contemporary culture, to express a more universal, timeless, and complicated human condition. They point to an individual attempt at refuge in the face of unknown threats. The mindset of Burrow represents a state of ongoing internal conflict at its most basic, human level.
This exhibition celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Canada Council for the Arts.
Janice Kerbel, Adriana Kuiper, Liz Magor, Samuel Roy-Bois