DYSCORPIA, the multi-artist, multi-disciplinary art exhibit was originally scheduled run until mid-May, has been extended to the end of June, and has been added to The Works Art and Design Festival.

This is great news, as I’ve had time to see only half of this sprawling show, with pieces in almost all of the display space in Enterprise Square Galleries. (These interconnected galleries comprise a space large enough to temporarily house the Art Gallery of Alberta when it was waiting for its new (current) building to be completed.)

DYSCORPIA’s subtitle is “Future Intersections of the Body and Technology”. I saw the show before I read the didactic (aka the printed program). I felt that the work fulfills the curators’ stated goals: “DYSCORPIA is an exhibition gathering artists and thinkers in visual art, design, contemporary dance, medical humanities, virtual reality, sound creation, computer science, and creative writing in order to question what it means not to know the limits of our bodies in the face of new technologies.”

All of the work in the exhibit was designed to ask questions, mull over possibilities, and allow people to feel either good or uneasy, or something in between, about technologized bodies.

Here are a few of the highlights of the East Galleries from the visit I made on May 25, 2019:

Work: Deep Connection / Body Invader
Artists: Marilene Oliver and Gary James Joynes

Volunteer with a facsimile of DYSCORPIA head curator Marilène Oliver.

This work is behind a partial wall. You hear it before you see it. A full-bodied score by Gary James Joynes alerts you to the fact that something interesting is going on back there. I have to admit, when I turned the corner, the life-sized 3D-printed figures standing there scared the bejeezus out of me! I was not expecting to see a crowd of “people” in that space. The room is actually made of two complementary pieces of work. The first component is physical: the “crowd” that startled me was a group of 3D laser-cut coroplast figures. The second component is a virtual reality experience. When I visited, a volunteer, was there to help with the VR equipment. Once he fit me with the goggles at one end of the exhibit, he explained that it should seem like I was standing in the middle of a prone body. I was able to use a joystick to hold the person’s “hand” and see her heart beating. It was neat, but also a little creepy! At the other end of the display, the VR experience made it seem like you were standing much too closely to some very tall people (based on the people who modelled for the coroplast figures). My discomfort with these virtual reality entities just brought home how “real” they were.

ETA (June 28, 2019) This complicated work was the result of a collaboration between many individuals across disciplines. Here are the full credits:

Work: Solastalgia
Artists: Brad Necyk and Dan Harvey

Side-by-side video work by Brad Necyk and Dan Harvey about one’s placement in the world.

There are videos everywhere in this large room. It’s projected directly onto the gallery walls, displayed on wall monitors mounted on the wall, or on monitors leaning on walls awaiting to be mounted, or laying flat on the floor, like those virtual displays that you can walk on (but you can’t walk on these monitors). Ironically, The the sound design, which reminded me of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s musical score for the movie Arrival, amplified the feeling that the images were alien. However, instead of being from outer space, these images are on earth, an altered Earth, a hyper-real Earth, a possible future Earth.

Work: Barrier
Artist: Xi Jin

Part of an installation by Xi Jin, guest-starring my shadow.

This piece is made up of a collection of text fragments, cast in bas relief in plastic, some of which also have an image embedded in them. To read the text, you had to stand at certain angles. You couldn’t help but cast a shadow, which meant becoming part of the artwork. A barrier breached! I thought about how membranes that can be as little cell-width thin can be both very strong, yet very fragile, and how changes in the state of a membrane can have drastic consequences on our physicality.

Work: Anticipated Alliterations (Body Talk)
Artists: Kasie Campbell and Gary James Joynes

Soft sculpture set to hard music by Kasie Campbell and Gary James Joynes.

This was fun to experience! Kasie Campbell’s soft sculpture look almost like faces or bodily organs. They’re connected with cords and wire, but the day I went, the volume and force of Gary James Joynes’s soundscape had shaken the connections loose. It was like an audio-visual version of Claes Oldenburg’s slowly disintegrating soft sculptures of hamburgers and other consumables. Campbell and Joynes’s piece challenges the idea that art should be permanent and unchanging, and serves as a memento mori of our own mortal bodies. No matter how much we augment them, they will break down. It’s part of our design.

Work: There’s Something Inside Me / My Medicine / PRN
Artist: Blair Brennan

Long view of Blair Brennan’s printed and painted pieces on paper.

I’ve known Blair Brennan for many moons. He recently had major surgery to mitigate a serious condition. His physical abilities are now very different than he had even just a few years ago. His medical journey is documented through the pieces that make up “his” wall in DYSCORPIA. If you “read” the display from left to right, you might start thinking about the aesthetics of medical imagery. There are more transformative pieces, art that is not a facsimile of the medical record, but that clearly references, and then there are pieces that reference the reference. If you start in the middle of the display, you might feel surrounded by iterations and impressions of how the medical view of one person’s body changes how he thinks about his physical self, and about your own reactions. On a less personal scale, you might think about how technology helps us live, and how we live with technology.

Work: Eve 2050
Artist: Van Grimde Corps

Still from Isabelle van Grimde’s film Eve 2050.

Also included in DYSCORPIA is the film that inspired it: Eve 2050, by the Montreal troupe Van Grimde Corps. Isabelle van Grimde is the dancer and choreographer who conceived of the piece, which incorporates sculpture by Marilène Oliver, the head curator of DYSCORPIA. The film is a beautiful exploration of possible future evolutions. At DYSCORPIA, it plays as one continuous movie which takes you through four chapters: Origin, Transform, Hybrid, and Sapien. It’s also available on the internet as a webseries, but I appreciated the opportunity to see it as a singular piece of work, in a theatre setting in the gallery.

I had a quick run through the work in the West Galleries. There was some very neat stuff there, including some interactive displays. I’m adding them to my to-do list for The Works.

DYSCORPIA is open to the public at Enterprise Square Thursdays to Sundays from 12 noon to 5 pm until June 30, 2019. Admission is free.

3 thoughts on “DYSCORPIA: The Body in Trouble

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