Thursday, October 16, 2008

The nature of sleep

The following article appears in this week's edition of Uptown. Thanks for the fantastic review, Whitney!!

The nature of sleep
Joan Scaglione's Regeneration is a meditative exploration of one of our most basic needs
Whitney Light

Regina-based artist Joan Scaglione intuits nature with gusto. An early example is her work as a Master's student. She started collecting, or hoarding, bushels and bags of nature's materials in her studio, including raw sheep's wool. After a time but all of a sudden, she gave in to an inexplicable desire to wrap herself in it: burrow like a vole; cocoon like a caterpillar. That work was called Nascent Beings.

Now, Regeneration is at Gallery 1C03. In it, nature and slumber are together again as part of a meditative installation about creativity, ecology, eternity and the unconscious. A thigh-high mound of dirt, ash, bricks, thick rope and a rusted-out metal bed frame suggest a funeral pyre. But crowning the heap is an object that shows there's nothing as final as death here, but perhaps more to be feared. A TV monitor exhales the sound of sleep around the gallery in a yogic rhythm. A mouth opens and closes, revealing an image of the cosmos in its cavern. Sleep, it seems to say, unites us with the great unknown.

The TV's presence is jarring. Flickering in the dim light, it creates subtle tension. The metaphysical renewal suggested by the other elements diverges from the material world the TV set belongs to. The layered cultural ruins direct our reflection to ceremony, spirituality and the world of myth, while our connection to the slick world of technology and entertainment breaks down. If only temporarily, Scaglione's built a space for an alternative, interior-oriented analysis of human ecology.

What if TV broadcasters really did play this image of breath? Not so far-fetched, considering that we already get turkeys being basted and fires being poked. These are pretty crude examples of the current popular yearning for simplicity and primal experience, but Scaglione's work turns our thoughts onto a similar path, holding up to viewers the basics of human experience and culture-building material. And its presentation is beautiful and sincere in a way that much of today's consumption of eco-conscious goods is not.

Far from rejecting technology, Scaglione embraces it and strikes a balance. The second part of the installation, in fact, is a video projection of a naked female body swimming in sunlit waters. Her movement is slowed to gestational speed and appears as rhythmic as the breath sounds. The high-tech is employed in the masterful capture of the most basic of natural pleasures.

The final part of the exhibition is outside - and is a bit more fanciful. If you view it last, it's a kind of celebratory send-off to making one's own everyday flights of intuitive imagination. Outside the Duckworth Centre, images of the swimming body are suspended in the trees. They float and dive, a mythical painting come to life. Between here and the gallery you may find yourself recalling dives into cold lake water, or perhaps that familiar dream of flying like a bird. Regeneration points the way to living symbiotically with our world.

Until Oct. 22, Gallery 1C03 at the University of Winnipeg

No comments: