Elizabeth Dunbar reviews the Transept Interface exhibition.
The last three years of our lives have been full of undesired, inflicted boundaries – masks, screens, time limits, bookings, cancellations, lockdowns. Yes, most of us have survived it but we have all been changed by it. We have questioned the meaning of connection and the importance of embodiment. At the opening event for Interface, Transept’s 2022 exhibition, I was struck by the occurrence of mistakes and their effect on my experience of the exhibition as a whole. Mistakes are a reminder of our limited human capacities, a natural part of living in an imperfect, albeit beautiful world.
When a poet forgets a line, I commiserate with them because I have also forgotten what to say (or worse, said the wrong thing at the wrong time). I lean forward in anticipation because I want them to succeed. When an actor gets tangled in the yarn strewn on the floor, I laugh because I have been there. We all know the awkwardness of these little moments that often feel longer than they are. We have each had experiences that remind us of our smallness. These moments and experiences provide easy ways to relate to one another. Many of these mistakes made in the opening night could only be seen in an in-person event. When I am living behind filters, edited tag lines, scripted responses, am I truly accessible? Screens, to me, can be a barrier to what is real. They provide a false sense of protection and perfection. I can curate a photo and a caption, but there is only so much I can do to curate a live event. Yes, technology fails, and people can make mistakes over a Zoom meeting, but these types of failure do not seem to hold the same humanizing effect.
As I type this review, knowing that I can endlessly edit out my mistakes, knowing that it will exist on the web in perpetuity, I am reminded of Magda Andrews-Hoke’s tactile poem Throughline, which exists in the form of a delicate paper loop, the words imprinted by a typewriter, some smudged, fudged, or otherwise mistaken. I wonder in what form this artwork will exist in ten years when my words about it remain digital, uncorrupted, but somehow unreal.
For the opening night of the exhibition, artist Dan Drage drew lines of charcoal throughout the room. As the night wore on, his piece Inhabiting This Place slowly wore out as it was trodden upon. Not only was this a commentary on our collective sharing of the space, but it was also a reminder of the ephemeral nature of this event. The opening night was not going to last forever, and if you were not in attendance, you missed it. There will be no repeats. That is the beauty of time and space, and our small place in this big world. We are each unique stories — interwoven in some way like the mycelium or fibre optic cables beneath our feet — which will one day fade from this space. For me, Interface became a form of memento mori, calling me to recognize that time is passing, and I must enjoy the opportunity I have to live an embodied existence connected to the larger world of people and things. I am reminded of Half-smile and Pinch-face, a charming and poignant illustrated story by Karlee Rene and Ewan Bowlby, made all the more poignant to those in our little community who know and love the artists and are interwoven in their lives. I am reminded of my littleness in so many ways — including the mistakes I make — for these are the things which connect me to others. So, as Matthew Nelson encouraged us in V Day (un)censored, let’s fess up to our own farts. (You had to be there.)
The Interface exhibition can be viewed online here.