By Romas Astrauskas
March 10 - April 20, 2012
The rather Cartesian title of Georgia Dickie's recent installation Six Hundred and Eighty Feet is, in fact, an exact description of the distance from the artist's studio to the front door of the gallery. As such, it acts as a wholly non-descriptive, yet decidedly rational, entry point into the work and the systems that surround its making. Like much of Dickie's recent work, the outcome or finished result depends heavily on the element of chance. Chance encounters between objects, as well as encounters between people and objects, are left to influence and inform the outcome. However, it must be noted that these elements of chance, which are used so deftly, are also ones that are contained and defined by the parameters in which they exist. These parameters, of course, are determined by the rules that the artist (in a sort of authorial role) creates to govern the project itself. When chaos and chance are given free reign, rarely is something meaningful produced; but, when corralled to operate within a system, outcomes and results are given a context in which they can be seen, measured and considered.
So it is with Six Hundred and Eighty Feet, where a set of rules determines a performance of sorts; a play of objects where humans and things interact to create a physical consequence. To begin the piece, Dickie had five assistants move the contents of her studio into the gallery space where the objects were arbitrarily placed in positions on the floor. After all the objects had been moved in, their locations on the floor were outlined in randomly coloured pieces of gaffer tape, creating a series of abstract silhouettes throughout the room. The individual objects were then removed from their positions and clumped together into a pile where they were then restrained together with shipping wrap, leaving the colourful tape outlines and profiles behind.
By stepping back and allowing the assistants to “make” most of the work, Dickie brings into question the historical significance associated with the model of the artist as a singular and subjective creator – a social democratization of the creative process if you will. It’s an idea that, in this circumstance, was perhaps more interesting than the physical product itself. Being familiar with much of the artist's past work, including beautiful riff s on the tropes of Modernist sculpture, I felt a little underwhelmed by the shrink-wrapped pile of detritus. This is probably not the point, however, and in an age where beauty, value and freedom are being strictly scrutinized and reassessed, it becomes obvious that these forms of statements have become increasingly relevant and meaningful, if not important.
Georgia Dickie's work is on view in the exhibitions trans/FORM at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto until August 12, 2012 and Freedom of Assembly at the Oakville Galleries in Oakville until September 1, 2012.
Romas Astrauskas is a Toronto-based artist and writer. His paintings, sculptures and collages have been exhibited widely throughout the city, including shows at Greener Pastures, Clark & Faria, Clint Roenisch, LE Gallery and Ruins. His work was most recently included in Like-Minded, a group show at Plug-In ICA in Winnipeg.