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Hot Art: Immersive Experiences at MOCCA

An image from Tasman Richardon's haunting Necropolis (photo by Alex Grigorescu)

FEBRUARY 4 TO APRIL 1 The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art kicks off its 2012 season this weekend with a trio of engrossing installations.

Three years in the making, Tasman Richardson‘s Necropolis is an immersive multimedia project that addresses the modern world’s loss of emotional engagement through six audio-visual installations set within a darkened, winding superstructure. Curated by Rhonda Corvese, each installation segment offers scenes from films re-contextualized into themes of narcissism, idolatry and oblivion, and their mounting sense of dread transforms the exhibition into a visceral experience. Richardson conceived the display as a response to what he terms “death culture,” or video and culture as a “false intimacy where moments are becoming emotionally oversimplified.” The use of odd frame rates and interlacing further emphasize real experience over than consumption of life through a screen. “Everything that can be recorded,” says Richardson, “is a kind of pseudo-death.”

As part of MOCCA’s ongoing collaboration with the National Gallery of Canada, the exhibition Spectral Landscape features images by Peter Doig, Tim Gardner and Sarah Anne Johnson that juxtapose natural environments and the influence of humans on those environments. An Arctic expedition is the base of Johnson’s overpainted photographs, meant to evoke the terrible beauty of an ecosystem bombarded by change, while Doig’s hallucinatory settings are playfully offset by unexpected bursts of color.

Sarah Anne Johnson's Explosions, part of MOCCA's Spectral Landscape exhibition

Notions of landscape and death (and also enduring love and life) are taken to their logical end in Daisuke Takeya’s multimedia installation, GOD Loves Japan, inspired by last year’s tsunami and subsequent relief efforts that are now dwindling. A video of people saying “I love you”—which Takeya culled from a previous work—loops from the installation’s entrance while viewers ascend a staircase lined with glass-encased radioactive items from the areas affected by the natural disaster and nuclear meltdown. A makeshift beach lies amidst the rubble: scattered with children’s toys, it’s a reminder that while “adults are pessimistic, the children remain happy.” Shopping carts, suitcases and a crumpled metal bed frame are strewn along the path to the display’s apex: a tree-house structure housing a neon sign that declares “need.”

—Alexandra Grigorescu

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