Spaghetti Junction offers food for thought

April 8, 2010

Last Friday, the DeLeon White Gallery opened its doors for Spaghetti Junction, an exhibit showcasing the thesis projects of thirteen art students studying at York University.

Allen Matrosov’s "Petrifying Education" critiques education by allowing desk materials to break apart under the indifferent force of dripping pipe water.

Allen Matrosov’s “Petrifying Education” critiques education by allowing desk materials to break apart under the indifferent force of dripping pipe water.

While the display at Spaghetti Junction offers visually craving epicures a luscious plethora of priceless ocular stimuli, let it be known that this is no bourgeois art buffet: there is not a red velvet rope barrier in sight at the DeLeon White Gallery, and – more affordably – no entry fee.  Hosting fifteen sculpture and installation pieces made of everything from grass to jock cups, Spaghetti Junction is composed of pieces based on ideas pursuing the intersection between natural and artificial environments, gender performance, the body and its relationship to personal and social spaces, artificial culture, consumption, stereotypes, as well as the nature of identity.

Margaret Papadatos’s piece at Spaghetti Junction requires viewers to don a blindfold.

Margaret Papadatos’s piece at Spaghetti Junction requires viewers to don a blindfold.

As mentioned, Spaghetti Junction does cater to the visually peckish, but Margaret Papadatos’ untitled contribution will only feed that hunger for so long – it’s got a different agenda.  Papadatos’ piece has the outward appearance of a basic fort constructed by the industry and ken of a (perhaps rather tall) child – complete with all the essential blankets and clothespins that allow such a structure to qualify for that category – but pinned to the opening is a caution to the visually dependent: “Do not enter without first […] placing on the blindfold.”

On the outside deceptively simple and a product of nostalgia, Papadatos’s work is inspired by a parable that Longinus tells in his only attributed work, On the Sublime, wherein Herodotus (one of the first writers of history) says that Cleomenes (a Greek king) went mad, got captured, and then “in his madness cut his own flesh into little pieces with a knife ’til he had sliced himself to death.” Papadatos finds this interesting, saying it characterizes her work, engaged with “the isolation of the senses and playing with that idea and sort of ripping yourself into these tiny components.”

Brittney Katula’s "Fa’afafine" celebrates liberation from the male/female dichotomy with the interesting incorporation of a decorative chastity belt

Brittney Katula’s “Fa’afafine” celebrates liberation from the male/female dichotomy with the interesting incorporation of a decorative chastity belt

The show is not only concerned with how things are perceived, but also with what spaces and objects individuals encounter on daily bases.

Kailey Bryan chews over the effects of the spread of brutalist architecture in Surroundings, a steel weaved seedpod/cocoon inspired sculpture proposing a return to incorporating organic shapes and forms into architecture.  Bryan reflects on the history of architecture, saying, “when you walk into an old building and look at the degree of craftsmanship on a moulding or the carving on a door – even just things like a little misstep of the carpenter’s hand when carving a pew or something like that – you understand that you have a relationship on a human level with the person that crafted the thing, so it imbues all of these places with this warm humanness.”

Simon Black aims to liberate things that are taken for granted from their overlooked condition by making their accumulation a sublime affair.

Simon Black aims to liberate things that are taken for granted from their overlooked condition by making their accumulation a sublime affair.

Like Bryan’s Surroundings, Alexa MacKenzie’s A Culture for People Who Don’t Live There – a sculpture of Niagara Falls’s famous Horseshoe Falls fabricated out of tourist paraphernalia – pursues the nature of what’s often encountered.  Having grown up in Niagara Falls, MacKenzie finds some disturbing irony in the fact that the quintessential piece of Canadiana that is often celebrated as a natural wonder has become something that is essentially constructed, “[where] all the businesses and all the culture there is aimed towards people who don’t actually live there, to draw people in for commerce and to make money.”

Alexa MacKenzie’s "A Culture for People Who Don’t Live There" sculpts Niagara Falls’s Horseshoe Falls out of tourist paraphernalia.

Alexa MacKenzie’s “A Culture for People Who Don’t Live There” sculpts Niagara Falls’s Horseshoe Falls out of tourist paraphernalia.

Her own construction of the Horseshoe Falls a piece that allows viewers a perspective from behind the cascade, MacKenzie’s piece is revealed to be supported by a typical wooden frame, hinting at a contrived nature underlying both the town and the Falls themselves.  According to MacKenzie, “in the ’50s, they rock-blasted away some of the falls because [the redirection of the water flow] was considered more aesthetically pleasing.”  MacKenzie continues, “Today they only have about 20 per cent of the water going over the falls in peak tourist season.”

Appropriate among other pieces that challenge normalized perceptions, Allen Matrosov’s contribution, Petrifying Education, is a piece that Matrosov hopes will make viewers reconsider their conceptions of the education system, which is ultimately an institution that has great control over the way people comprehend things in everyday life.  For Matrosov, education becomes futile in the sense that “by the time a student graduates high school, in twelve years technology [changes] so much that everything they … have learned from … their elementary years [will] be obsolete,” and he illustrates this by placing three school desks made of basic desk materials slowly breaking apart under the indifferent force of water dripping from pipes.

Kailey Bryan's "Surroundings," a steel weaved seedpod/cocoon inspired sculpture, is her response to brutalist architecture.

Kailey Bryan’s “Surroundings,” a steel weaved seedpod/cocoon inspired sculpture, is her response to brutalist architecture.

Also focusing on issues to do with education, Meghan Scott’s Making the Maker zeroes in on the physically moulding effects of the education system, where several identical 21st-century desk/chair hybrids are presented and deconstructed, forcing the viewer to consider how education shapes perceptions as well as bodies. The piece is particularly significant in that it not only urges viewers to consider what education produces, but also how education shapes what is produced to be perceived.

Other artists featured at the gallery are Robert Clements, Couzyn van Heuvelen, Jeannette Hicks, Phoebe Lo, and Joe Phillips.

Challenging the methods of perception and also things that are perceived, making use of everything as a unified collection, Spaghetti Junction is a thirteen-course meal of brainfood.

Open Wednesday to Friday from noon ’til 8, Saturday from noon ’til 5, and Sunday from 1 ’til 5, Spaghetti Junction runs until April 14.  The DeLeon White Gallery is located at 1139 College Street.

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