Critical Distance

Flashpoint: Helene Dyck
February 27 – April 4, 1998

a response to the exhibition by Erika MacPherson

chapter one I STEP INTO THE GALLERY
a quick survey. i’m in the reception area. it’s dark. in the background a warm pool of light spills onto a lone narrow shelf. two books on the shelf catch the light. they stand upright. they’re static but windblown, the bottoms of the pages pulling up, weathered. the hinged plywood covers of the book reminiscent of doors, a coffin, a cupboard, the proportions of a human body. i hinge open the doors of the book to the vellum paged rooms inside. the images are sensuous, soft photographic studies; tree bark, mattress, a faintly blurred image of a girl running in the grass… a personal archive, a photographic diary. images to trigger some memory, something that words can’t quite remember, like the smell of your grandmother’s house year after year always taking you back to your childhood. as with most books there is a dedication: for jake flashpoint, the bookwork.

in the foyer of the gallery, in the foreground there is an intimate seating area, a love seat beckons me. sanctuary. i sit down, take it all in. the point of view from where i sit is through the open doorway to the gallery proper. it’s dark in there, i can hear the soft sound of waves or maybe it’s wind.

chapter two MY EYES ADJUST TO THE LIGHT
in the centre of the space, on looking into it from a distance, there is what appears to be a small building, radiant, undulating in the darkness of the gallery. it could be an alien vessel that has passed through a wormhole between the universes resting here in this gallery chamber. i move in closer.

chapter three INVENTORY
i take inventory of the physical elements of the installation, which on closer examination i discover is not a small building at all, but a solid mass. its form is made from a stack of doors piled up one on top of the other, hingeless & knobless, the stack about six and a half feet high. the stack of doors has an outer layer, a skin of sorts made up of six more doors that lean upright against the door-stack. i can see now that the radiance, the undulant quality of the form is reflected light, a video projection on either side projected on to the vertical leaning doors.

on one side the projection is of waves rolling on themselves, a continuum, mesmerizing. on the other side the projection is of a fabric, maybe plastic, waving, blowing in the wind. the footage alternates between the soft lull of slo-motion where the waving is soothing and the frenetic real time, wind yanking at the fabric. there is a gash in the fabric that reveals a darkness behind. i scan the darkness, a mystery, a black hole. beyond my imagination the doors onto which the projection falls are always apparent. my mind wanders in and out of the projections on the surface and the doors underneath.

chapter four APPENDAGES
i’m breathing the whole thing in when the dreamy trance-like state induced by the sound of wind and waves lapping is interrupted by another sound somewhere off in the distance, the faint tinkling from a child’s piano. immediately i’m cognizant of being in a heightened state of awareness, i’m pulled into the present and am experiencing nostalgia. that sound of the child’s piano.

now re-awakened to my environment i realize that off to one side, pooled in a dim warm light is a pile of door-knobs and hinges on the floor. they are the appendages from the doors stacked in front of me. the doors it would seem, have been rendered un-openable.

chapter five TOURIST
in the process of trying to find a place of entrance, exit, somewhere to pass through to access other places, keep out intruders, welcome visitors, barrier the cold or the heat, i’m reminded by the knobs and hinges on the floor that the doors themselves offer no obvious entrance, they are doors with no “ways”. they are at rest, time worn doors. each door a layer, a story with a beginning and an ending. each door completion. time worn life…

when i recognize the doorways as transition, flashpointi ceases to be impenetrable, i pass through the radiant skin of wind, water and wave and am inside.

the map i need to navigate my way through flashpoint is lined only with my experiences.

i get a feel for the geography, the doors as layers of time opening into rooms that exist only in my memory as senses. it is not present time that allows me access to the rooms that are hidden behind these doors, access is through the process of remembering.

i start to peel back layers. the memorable events that i’m seeking are not archived like images in a family album. a smiling family, happy, posed. friends, celebration, events eagerly shared over time. in these darkened rooms are the images that are kept behind. personal places. the undocumented emotions. struggle, sadness. loneliness. the work. day to day. growing. aging. in sickness and in health.

flashpoint becomes a meditation on memory. the elements of the installation provide me with an entry to a subconscious space. water and wind (windy mind my thoughts blowing through) with senses lapping up against themselves. looking into the archive, the museum of emotion, this is the wordless expression of experiencing the world. it’s endurance it’s survival it’s renewal. “it’s about life cycles, it’s all part of what forms us” “life wash”, relationships. (helene)

flashpoint goes beyond what we can express with our limited verbal vocabulary.

it’s that point when the dam breaks an intimate gift.

water rushes through irreparably altering the landscape it is an expression of familiarity.

the point at which a realization, a recognition, an insight becomes so clear that we never go back to the same pattern of thinking an interaction, sensual, sexual, all encompassing.

the point at which we see deeper and are changed, becoming more ourselves than we had ever been before two standing doors sharing the same light projection, two that become one experience over time.

chapter six CRYING
this dark room pulls me under, there is a melancholia that i hit in here that reminds me of places i have already been, visited, lived. i try to remember which direction to go. i recall certain turnoffs, landmarks but the landmarks are always changing (as am i).

there was a storm and the flood waters swelled and then when the storm had passed i kept it alive somehow, it became a story, me retelling it trying to remember the details. every time the story changed a little, the details changed a little. the story became an exercise in memory, became words. right after a storm passes there is a release that occurs, after the work of survival is done at the point when you realize what just happened. at the point of memory.

the door that stands upright at both ends of the stack of doors has a little dusty window in it. the light from the video projections spills out over the edges through these windows catching little flecks of dust in the air. it’s reminiscent of an old movie theatre projection booth, something from my childhood i think or maybe just an image from an old film. in any event, it’s nostalgia. the darkness that the light doesn’t reach lures me in, it is seductive and mysterious and preverbal, memory, birth, death. it is the expression of my fear and my curiosity.

i trust this place that is without the pretense of language and words. where that line between happiness, sadness and release is blurred. here on the shore of this piece where all my tears are absorbed by the waves i look deep into the darkness to see what is on the other side and what i find again and again is the surface onto which the darkness falls.

chapter seven LOVE POEM
flashpoint, O.E.D. definition: temperature at which vapour from oil etc. will ignite.
flashpoint, the artist’s definition: two things interacting that cause change, however infinitesimal.
flashpoint, my experience on entering the installation is that the world therein constructed is a living love poem.

not the kind of poem that is written by young lovers in spring, the fresh innocence of infatuation, but a love poem that comes from years of living, loving, struggling together, the love that comes from witnessing, salving, counseling, emotional efforts, being defeated by the actions of, forgiving and being forgiven by, the challenges of children together, fighting floods together.

now all the fingers of this tree(darling)have
hands, and all the hands have people; and
more each particular person is (my love)
alive than every world can understand

and now you are and I am
now and we’re
a mystery which will never
happen again,
a miracle which has never
happened before-
and shining this our now
must come to then

our then shall be some
darkness during which
fingers are without hands;
and I have no
you: and all trees are (any more than each
leafless) its silent in forevering snow

-but never fear (my own, my beautiful
my blossoming) for also then’s until

e.e. cummings


Erika MacPherson is an media artist living and working in Winnipeg. Her independent collaborative video works have been screened internationally. She is currently producing a new video work entitled Disobediance.