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Barry Isenor’s XXX Video

Posted by Janet Payne on

It is noteworthy that the concurrent exhibition to Isenor’s, Luanne Martineau’s Ryan’s Arcade, shares his concern with evoking memories of architectural space lying outside the gallery site. Martineau refers to suburban home interiors through sculpted figures recalling the Dickensian revival figurines that were so popular in homes of the seventies. Simple mantelpiece-sized sculpted figures and portrait busts mounted on little shelves and scattered on the floor, these wizened caricatures are made from a hobby craft material called Super Sculpey that is actually sensuously buttery in texture. Through them, the gallery becomes a signifier of domestic architectural memory, but in contrast to XXX Video, the signified – the suburban home – is implied not recreated. Included as well are collages and watercolours, some with Victorian age figures similar to the sculptures. Others form fractured narrative elements which are difficult for the viewer to enter or connect; for instance, a gnome with hands cupped in front of him runs past a pair of stone, medievallooking houses. Images from obscure, out of print sources like Little Black Sambo or The Yellow Kid are politically disturbing enough to create a strong reaction, but they have no grounding in the installation. The user-friendly openness offered by Isenor would have been an appropriate addition in building this compelling but disparately arranged exhibition into a cohesive recollection of retro and earlier historic imagery.

Barry Isenor’s XXX Video is certainly significant for its opening of personal memory to a public domain. Of equal importance, though, is its critical intervention of the still sanctimonious postmodern gallery space by way of hedonistic utopianism. By inciting in viewers the hope of sexual interaction, Isenor offers a solution to the problematics of viewing art and, yes, pornography that seems rather practical: turn the representation into the real.

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