Mark Soo is a Vancouver based artist. His work, which often undertakes a humorous post-institutional critique, has been exhibited in New York, Manchester, Melbourne, Toronto, and Vancouver.
Monika Szewczyk is a writer, curator, and educator. Since 2008, she has been head of publications at Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art and a tutor at the Piet Zwart Institute, both in Rotterdam. She has contributed essays to numerous catalogues as well as journals such as Afterall, A Prior, Camera Austria, Canadian Art, F.R. David, C Magazine, Mousse, and e-flux journal, which has published installments of her ongoing project, Art of Conversation.
Director/Curator of Artspeak 2004–2010.
Is It Any Wonder (1600 Kelvin)
September 9–October 14, 2006
Mark Soo’s installation, Monochrome Sunset (English Bay – Oppenheimer Park), uses colour as an indexical marker to explore aesthetic and socio-cultural experience. Engaging the properties of vision in general, and the history of Vancouver’s representation more specifically, Soo’s project reflects on the relationship between urban experience and the psychological and physiological aspects of light and colour.
Realized in the form of a freestanding, translucent photographic sculpture backlit by city streetlights, Soo has photographed the setting sun over picturesque English Bay at the same colour temperature as the yellow-orange sodium streetlights found in the inner city’s Oppenheimer Park. Utilized by the City of Vancouver for their unique characteristic of disrupting colour perception, the lights discourage intravenous drug use and crime. When the sunset image is lit by the streetlights in the gallery, it is rendered ashen and the picturesque disintegrates. Soo’s installation is constructed to bisect the physical space of the gallery and posits uneasy dialogues between inside and outside, mainstream and marginal, nature and city. Echoing social divisions and highlighting the gallery’s relationship to its surroundings, Soo continues this spatialization by installing filters on the gallery windows to suggest the conditions of twilight.
While the scenic image of Vancouver’s waterfront parks remains a central trope of Vancouver’s civic identity, the inner city is also renowned. Soo connects these social spaces with the formal elements of light and colour, while juxtaposing notions of the picturesque with urban planning and control. Further complicating these perspectives, one might consider the use of colour film in entertainment and advertising images that project Vancouver’s beauty, while black and white film has traditionally been associated with the documentary and thus might be considered more apt in the portrayal of the social landscape. Soo’s installation questions these modes of representation and draws attention to their construction to examine perspective, modes of looking, colour theory, and the principles of light itself. Considering the context and placement of the gallery (between English Bay and Oppenheimer Park), Soo suggests a complex transitional relationship between aesthetic convention and the narratives of place.
Postscript 23: Monika Szewczyk on Is It Any Wonder (1600 Kelvin) (PDF)
September 9, 2006
Artist talk presented in conjunction with the exhibition, Is It Any Wonder (1600 Kelvin).