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This article was published 15/6/2011 (2257 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Platform Centre celebrates its 30th anniversary not with a triumphant summing up but with two small, entwined, adorably anxious group shows -- Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time, curated by Kim Nguyen, and So Many Letdowns Before We Get Up..., curated by J.J. Kegan McFadden. Both shows -- together, they're called Haven't We Been Here Before? -- circle around notions of regret, melancholy, anticlimax, frustrated potential, romantic failure, lapsed ideals and lost opportunities.
Hilarious and heartbreaking, this is counterintuitive curating at its best. As a way of reckoning with 30 years -- with the passing of an era, with the dangerous lure of nostalgia, with the rock-strewn road from innocence to experience -- it works. Sure, it's complicated and bittersweet and kind of like running into an old high school boyfriend, but it works.
I'm old enough to remember when Platform was called the Floating Gallery, which might be why I'm particularly susceptible to pieces that mark the mysterious windings of time, age and loss. Take Like/Like, a brilliantly simple work by Aleesa Cohene, a Canadian artist now based in Berlin. Two video loops playing simultaneously on two monitors show female movie characters from the 1980s. What gives this work a layer of 30th-anniversary poignancy is that the women -- Diane Keaton, Debra Winger, Jennifer Gray, Holly Hunter, Kate Nelligan, Anne Archer, Kathleen Quinlan, Kristy McNichol -- were once seen in mainstream Hollywood movies but have now mostly vanished.
Cohene's images are edited so that they subtly echo and respond to each other, as a woman phones or waits for a phone call, rages or mutely despairs, all in the aftermath of love gone wrong. Continuing the theme of misguided romance, London artist Markus Vater contributes absurdly funny line drawings of thwarted desires and erotic impossibilities. Jon Pylypchuk, a former Winnipegger now in L.A., offers the richly titled Picking you on the dating game is second only to the indignity of being the picker on the dating game, a comically humiliating scenario acted out by his deranged little fun-fur creatures.
Meanwhile, the artists in So Many Letdowns look at the edges of adolescent angst and confusion, and the false starts and regrettable decisions on the uncertain path to maturity. I Called Shotgun Infinity When I was Twelve by Toronto artist Kelly Mark and the plaintive Aw, C'mon by Manitoba-born, Montreal-based Jo-Anne Balcaen are junior-high catchphrases given wryly ironical treatment.
Exploring the emotional extremes of youth culture, Balcaen's evocatively silent black-and-white archival footage of girls screaming for now long-gone pop idols documents what seems like a singular moment of erotic ecstasy that is repeated again and again and again. In a Dear Diary-like video work, U.S. artist Ashley Neese tries to recover from a bad breakup by lip-synching in front of a mirror to a pop song, while a wised-up voiceover narrative reflects on what she might have learned from the whole sad experience.
Clearly, Haven't We Been Here Before? is not the usual 30th-birthday bash, dealing as it does with disappointment, crushed hopes, bootless longing, rejection and failure. But that's precisely why this feeling, funny, layered show is a sideways success.
Haven't We Been Here Before?
Platform Centre for Photographic + Digital Arts
121-100 Arthur St.
Until July 23