Sean Sprague is a photographer from Toronto who now lives in Los Angeles. His work—large-scale singular tableau photographs—stage moments he observes in daily life, then recasts and reconstructs. These are spaces of in-betweenness aggrandized. Questions of labour and class drift through his work, tensions between the real and unreal, yet evidence is always withheld, faces turned away, details guarded, while maintaining that everything appears in piercing focus. Sprague, like many of his references and predecessors, is preoccupied with the gaps around truth. In describing his work he states, “Through staging of documentary scenes, these works seek to challenge the authority of the documentary traction in photography and its narrow definition of truth that excludes so much.”
I surprised Zoe Koke at an exhibition of hers in an East Vancouver multipurpose space. She didn’t notice me immediately, so I watched as she remedied an unwanted peekaboo of wood and canvas behind a piece of tapestry that was a part of her installation. Her movements reminded me how long it had been since we last occupied the same place—during a Montreal winter in a repurposed basement that smelled of Dove soap. Her practice became suddenly present and I half-visibly paced between her photographs occupied with thoughts on wellness, the physical materiality of being, and how a practice of writing images embodies resolution but retains layers of distortion. Days after the opening, she and I walked the Boundary Bay shoreline of the Tsawwassen First Nation with our eyes peeled for fragments of shell burnished by the water and sand.
In 2018, artist Mat O’Hara modified an adjoined section of his MFA grad studio into an ad-hoc project space called PS311. The space opened with Untitled (eyelids), a video installation by Jordan Loeppky-Kolesnik. eyelids was created in the throes of Jordan’s final MFA year, and it bears the marks of this experience—its talk of poison, its intense introspective focus, its peculiar saturninity illustrated by a bubbling cauldron of slime. If you theorize something like MFA aesthetics, I’m sure it would include a healthy dose of suffering. But eyelids doesn’t stop at suffering; it moves through its own breed of catharsis, and from that surfaces the potential for something else. It plays with internal anguish, following a wave until the feeling changes. This is why I’m drawn to it, why I wanted to write this. Jordan and I—long-term friends and new collaborators—share a desire to make something heartfelt. We often ask ourselves why this seems so inane in the current art climate. Or just in our culture, where oversharing or letting your guard down isn’t palatable, it’s to be avoided, ironically mainly in the realm of making. The awkward uncoolness of intuition and sincerity (and a privileging of distancing tactics) is enforced by context cues, groupthink, but never explicitly, for that would be too insensitive.Read More