Quiet please, art in progress

Joan Sullivan
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"Disruptions," a solo exhibition by Juan Otiz-Apuy, is a kind of multimedia, multi-platform, open-ended library. The works include photographs, wall-mounted sculpture and a short, looped film, composed in split screen and featuring some dialogue.
A library can be defined as a collection of books, arranged and displayed for access for readers. The photographs and film show an institutional space, like a university library, the shelves and bookends made of metal, the books hard-cover, coloured in primary yellows and blues and reds, and arranged by the typed Dewey Decimal system labels on their spines.

At least that is supposedly their original arrangement. In the moving film and the static photos this is shown as subject to change.

On the dual screen, a "librarian" can be seen shifting the books around, sorting them by colour or thesis.

Otiz-Apuy, who was born in Costa Rica, earned a BFA from Concordia and MFA from NASCAD, and currently lives and works in Montreal, is influenced by writers and thinkers such as Jorge Luis Borges and Edward Said.

Both saw culture, and culture as represented by the hived configurations of libraries, as multi-faceted, thematically slippery and political.

The split screen shows what is essentially the same sight, but from a different angle and tempo.

This splices the space and the temporal realism.

The actual library, familiar, even bland, becomes something imaginary, all fragments and fractals.

The frequent fade-ins and fade-outs add to the uneasy, unsettled scenarios. As the title suggests, the viewing, and the assumptions of the viewer, are consistently disrupted.

At one point, the "librarian" opens and reads from Borges' short story "The Library of Babel," which posits the survival of the library even as the figure chooses and replaces books apparently haphazardly and seemingly disappears into the middle of the frame.

The works mounted on the wall include four large (50" x 34") colour photographs (inkjet on paper), such as "Species of Spaces (Sentence)," with a stack of books arranged so their titles can flow linguistically upwards or downwards; "Species of Spaces (Group of Eight)," an assemblage of bilingual dictionaries, and "Species of Space (The Void)," with a scattered handful of keyboard keys - all "E"s - waiting on a shelf bearing the text "Please Leave Material Here For Re-Shelving."

A diptych, "Untitled (Mass 1)" and "Untitled (Mass 2)," shows stacks and stacks of books awaiting stocking.

There are also a half-dozen "Fugues," like "Fugue in C Minor for String Quartet (J.S. Bach)" and "The Art of Fugue, Contrapunctus XIV (J.S. Bach) (ink on graph paper) which transform fluid musical notations into solid graphscapes, like a city skyline.

The African mahogany sculpture "Little Fugue in G Minor for Piano (JS Bach)" is set beside them. The juxtaposition and criss-cross punctuation of the film is distilled and realized and held steady for the beat of a frame.

And, to help you find your way through all this, there's "A Map of the Empire of Language as a Place of Struggle" (folded offset lithograph), which situates the provinces of "System," "Things," "Representation" and "Violence" within their currents and intersections of barriers and borders, towns and cities, gates and abysses. Borges would no doubt approve of these wound balls and mazes of meaning.

"Disruptions" continues at Eastern Edge Gallery until Feb. 1.


Organizations: Library of Babel, Empire of Language

Geographic location: Costa Rica, Montreal

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