TRUCK has been Calgary’s most spot-hitting, artist-centred, collaborative, contemporary art gallery since 1983 and, this month, it will host José Luis Torres’ exhibit, Mutations. A Quebecer since 2003, though originally from Argentina, Torres has exhibited his architecturally integrative, artistic vision in 30 Canadian cities and nearly a dozen countries around the world.
“Mutations is a site-specific installation that was inspired by the permanent ‘construction site’ of our everyday lives. I create fragments of history via the use of personal items,” Torres explains succinctly, while elaborating freely. “The installation is created from objects found in everyday life, symbolizing the ensemble of possessions that we acquire in a lifetime.”
Indeed, questions of time, memory, and the intergenerational acquisition of objects is referenced, as truly poignant matters of inquiry for Canadians, as for everyone alive today, as concerns the constructivist and waste-stream models of dominant Western ecology. Torres clarifies, “The question of time is explored in this accumulation of cumbersome pieces that have lost their sense of importance and that we cease to see because we hide them away in storage.
“Evidently” influenced by Marcel Duchamp, says Torres, Mutations expands upon Duchamp’s notion that “art is not about itself but the attention we bring to it.” A staunch proponent of such active principles as the role of creative observer in artistic continuum, Torres invites public participation. “The entire creative process is an invitation to reflect on the time that has passed and the time that remains. A community approach to the installation will be favoured. I will invite the public to leave their personal items, creating a legacy from their donations.
“Usually the mounting an exhibit is in relation to these questions: do we not feel, at times, prisoner to all of the things that surround us – the things that we don’t dare get rid of? Does getting rid of something mean renouncing a part of our own history?” Torres exposes the vision of history as purely literary, or academic, a filter through which to oppress and/or distort lived experience. It is lived experience that artists such as Torres so often dare to respect, through every known medium, and with unbridled intimacy, albeit sometimes irreverently.
“Snow shovel, step ladder, used clothing, stroller, chairs, night tables, old magazines, ironing boards, lamps; all of these objects brought together highlight personal stories. The search for a home and the concept of exile are both conditions of existence, the work attests that our constant displacements obliges us to rebuild our universe many times over,” Torres adeptly muses on the modern experience of international migration from a strikingly original, and critical, perspective. “My pieces are also a critique on today’s consumer society where people hide behind private property. The accumulation of ostentatious possessions is a way of avoiding exposing the emptiness and inadequateness of those people.”
For all considering a visit to the Main Space & Parkade of the TRUCK gallery this month, a viscerally eye-opening experience awaits. Torres shares his thoughts on the hopeful creative-observer at the Mutations exhibit; that, ideally, his work will “Generate a reflection… for the pathological pack rat, it is difficult to let go. There is an intimate relationship with objects from the past. It is through keeping the collected objects that the pack rat manages the passing of time. It is a way of mastering time.”
Visitors to Mutations are invited to share in a resurgent vision of modern civilization. As Torres envisions, with a discriminating eye, “It is as though our way of life has become a constant construction site in a society of consumers and abundance.”
Check out Mutations at TRUCK April 4 – May 3.
By Matt Hanson