Amanda Nedham

January 16th, 2010

Chains, Garden Hoses and Brute Loveliness

Jannick Deslauriers and Amanda Nedham at Whippersnapper Gallery

The Deslauriers works range from $700 to $23,000; the price of the Nedham installation is available on request. Until Jan. 30, 587A College St., Toronto; 416-887-7483, http://www.whippersnapper.ca

Montreal-based artist Jannick Deslauriers has created an ephemeral marvel with her gallery-filling installation What Is Left. To put it as simply as possible, the work consists of an enormous tank, which seems poised – at one end of the gallery – to roll headlong over a gallery full of waving poppies. Now if the tank were a heavy, cumbersome, fearsome thing, made of wood or steel or anything solid, the whole tableau might seem a trifle sentimental and heavy-handed (the adage “breaking a butterfly on a wheel” comes to mind). But the tank, which seems to be life-size, is made of – well, I’m not sure what (it’s listed as a “textile installation”) – something wispy and white and gossamer. It looks, to tell you the truth, like a tank made of frost. It looks like frozen breath. It’s like a dream, like a vision, in other words. So it can’t really be a threat to the gallery full of tall, trembling poppies (made of silk and things delicately suspended by threads from the ceiling). This is no Tiananmen Square for poppies, then. But the sense of threat – and of the memorial (poppies being so evocative of remembrance) – is engulfing and profound, as if this tank is a tank of your own mind, poised to create havoc. In the back gallery – tucked away darkly as if in a cave – is Amanda Nedham’s sepulchral, operatic installation, Generals Always Die in Bed. Here, in a room that is both crude and brutal (it is roughly constructed of wood) and, at the same time, oddly ornate (the artist describes it as “Versaillesesque”), there is a massive wooden bed which is also, so it would appear (with restraints etc.), a torture machine. The “torture element” lies (as Nedham puts it in her artist’s statement), in “the manipulation of a bed which holds the person in place for a period of reflection before they die.” The implication is that for “generals,” with their “grand egos,” such a period of enforced reflection would indeed be a nightmarish trial.