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Kelly Mark: Stupid Heaven

TV on stand in front of two armchairs

Kelly Mark: Stupid Heaven

September 13–October 28, 2007

Curated by Barbara Fischer

Presented in collaboration with the Blackwood Gallery

Justina M. Barnicke Gallery

The Justina M. Barnicke Gallery (Hart House, University of Toronto), in collaboration with the Blackwood Gallery (University of Toronto at Mississauga), presents the first major survey of works by Kelly Mark in Toronto. Bringing together key works from the last ten years, the exhibition includes drawing, sculpture, video, performance, audio work, as well as multiples and recent, television-based projects.

Among the shelves of Mark’s studio, filled with CDs, books, and other things, a punch clock clicks every minute and sounds with a loud clang in one-hour intervals. For over ten years now, Mark has diligently punched time cards, signing in and out for the time she spends making art. The time cards are part of In and Out, a monumental work she has pledged to continue until “normal retirement age”—even though it is already in a private collection. This matter-of-fact diary of labour, combined with Mark’s self-proscribed persona as a worker, and the evidence of work as repetitious task, have all earned her the reputation of a working-class hero in Toronto’s art community.

An interest in everyday moments and monotonous activity is mixed in Mark’s work with deadpan humour and self-deprecatory purpose. In some of her earliest works she focused on obsessive collecting and filling time with virtually nonsensical tasks like counting the grains of salt in a salt-shaker. More recently, her focus has shifted away from filling time with her own activity to making her work or her own presence the frame by which to observe the flux of time, of repetition and events, and of ritual endeavour in the world. One series of photographs records the same mannequin in a changing window display over the period of a year; another series documents the multifarious improvisations by which people have managed to attach notes to broken parking meters. In Hiccup, a multi-channel video-recorded performance, the artist is seen spending an identical amount of time doing exactly the same thing in the same location over several days, thereby highlighting the constancy of change around her— the weather, the light, traffic, people.

The current exhibition brings together works from the late-1990s with Mark’s recent interest in television, the medium which feeds on time as no other. Rather than taking issue with the content of television, however, she has been interested in the more oblique aspects of its presence, such as making installations that consist simply in the glow of the flickering light that it casts, specific to program genre—porn, romance, and so on. The exhibition culminates in the four-room installation of the new feature-length video mash-up REM. The work has been culled from over 170 different sources broadcast on TV and painstakingly edited together into a tour-de-force, dream-like narrative, where characters lose themselves in others, where time warps, reality turns into dream and back again. The story is shaped as if to wrest meaning out of the experience of channel surfing, including attention-span disorder, which might be the temporal condition of television watching.

Opening Reception

Thursday September 13, 2007, 7pm
Justina M. Barnicke Gallery

Curator’s Tour

Saturday September 22, 2007, 2pm
Canadian Art Gallery Hop
Featuring Barbara Fischer
Justina M. Barnicke Gallery

Contemporary Art Bus Tour

Sunday September 23, 2007, 12–4pm
University of Toronto Art Centre
Doris McCarthy Gallery (UofT Scarborough)
Blackwood Gallery (UofT Mississauga)
Justina M. Barnicke Gallery


Media Coverage

Our Supporters

We gratefully acknowledge the project support from the Canada Council for the Arts. The circulating exhibition and forthcoming catalogue is a joint production of the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, the Blackwood Gallery, and the Mount St. Vincent University Art Gallery in Halifax.

Title Image: Installation view of Kelly Mark: Stupid Heaven, 2007.

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