Habits of Care, an exhibition hosted by The Blackwood Gallery, is one in a series of gallery exhibitions addressing cultural visibility and attitudes toward the notion of care. The art reception featured pieces highlighting where care in our society is most invested and where it falls short, as well as how we can develop new habits of care in a contemporary context for individuals and groups who often feel overlooked.
The first thing I notice upon entering the gallery is the disarray of colorful balls scattered on the concrete floor in front of me; the bright colors vividly contrast against the clean, minimalistic aesthetic of the rest of the exhibit. Immediately, I am reminded of the playdough I used to love molding into different shapes as a child. The name of the display is “Corps Étrangers”, by Claire Fontaine, directly translates to “foreign bodies.”
From the program pamphlet, I learn that the balls are actually mini balloons filled with whole oats and canary seeds, meant to imitate props used in gymnastics. These props initially cause discomfort to the body, but when used, also help release tension in certain muscles. The idea of these props connects with the theme of the exhibit as they represent foreigners first entering a society: initially neglected and uncomfortable with their new surroundings, they can add diversity and richness to a community.
As I walk further into the gallery, an overwhelming scent of eucalyptus and citrus fills the air. One of the main pieces of the exhibit is Laura Yuile’s sculpture entitled “Mother Figure #4”, which she was maintaining—or constantly revising—throughout the reception by moisturizing and shaping with fragrance oils and glass wax. Her sculpture appears to be the figure of a woman with a missing left leg. She explained how her crumbling soap mannequin will degrade over the course of the exhibition, no matter her attempts to maintain it. Yuile stated that this is an attempt to showcase the “contrast between worship of the female form and women’s labour to maintain their youthfully attractive bodies.” She hopes to highlight the notion of how women feel pressure to prevent inevitable signs of aging in their appearance as well as call to action a change in societal norms and gender inequality.
As patrons of the gallery are still shuffling in, Paul Maheke emerges into the room. He is dressed in a green sweatshirt and basketball shorts, wearing dirtied black sneakers and crisp white socks. He shares that he will be dancing an improvisational piece with no music, to portray the “authenticity of his movement and a little bit of his soul.” Without speaking anymore, he drops to the ground and starts to roll around, utilizing every part of his body to travel across the room. His eyes are closed shut as he feels his way across the floor. Audience members call out “table” or “ball” when he gets too close to the furniture or artwork around. Abruptly he stands up, eyes still closed, but proceeds to move in slow and free, with stiff and staccato movements.
“I’m trying to show you myself, my identity, without fear of your judgement or expectations of me,” he tells us, still moving through the space.
I approached Maheke afterwards and spoke to him about his performance. Maheke explains that he emphasizes the theme of finding one’s identity.
Take Care currently has an on-going exhibition called Labor of Curation which runs until September 30. The other four parts of the exhibition series will debut later this year and into 2018.