Channeling the fear imposed on viewers by an ever-aggressive news media, Ziemann premieres Home (In)Security, her series of voyeuristic sinisterisms that date back to 2005. Included in the array of works is her initial reaction in the form of "Bomber Woman," a barbie doll figurine with Ziemann's face dressed up as a suicide bomber. The piece hangs alone, neither contextualized or politically correct, but it is the starting point for how someone far removed from international politics can begin to engage in interwoven issues and identities as filtered through a hyperbolic media.
|Detail From Sylvia Ziemann's Homeland (In)Security|
Fairy tale-like in assemblage, with direct references to folk myths such as Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel, the "beware of strangers" sentiment is turned inside out in Ziemann's worlds, and the looming fear, perpetuated by the media, of our friends and neighbors is here turned towards the mundane. Calling upon our voyeuristic intuition to peer into open windows, each of Ziemann's model houses appear like any house you would find across the prairies, with detailing down to the weathered couch on the front porch to the rubble and garbage bags strewn beneath. It is only upon our own closer inspection, our need to invade past public and into private territory, where we are satisfied with stories of kidnapping, weapons and bomb preparations, and signs of security disturbances.
Playing off the psychology of fear in collapsing the us versus them mentality of how the media portrays good and evil, the terror is here made mundane, injected into each humdrum isolated house, and calls into question our preoccupation with homeland security and personal security as more fear mongering than actual protection.
In contrast to the insecurities of control in Ziemann's main space show, Edmonton-based painter Paul Bernhardt's large-scale paintings play up the folly of control through large-scale impositions across our horizon. Taken from sketches overlooking oil derricks, airport terminals and power stations, Bernhardt finds an internal conflict playing out in three large landscapes that delve into the wretched and the beauty of these overarching mechanics and lifeblood of modern society. Building from earlier works, including his pieces currently in the Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art: Timeland (at the AGA until August 28), Bernhardt's landscapes are saturated with textures bleeding out of architectural spectres. His palette distorts what one sees into an abstraction of smells and taste, conjuring sentiments of cool aqua steels and acidic orange rusts.
As a strange, yet comforting complement to each other's exhibitions, the paired viewing experience of Ziemann and Bernhardt drives home the simple fact that control and security are both decorative illusions.
*First published in Vue Weekly