A white real estate agent and and Asian Canadian home-buyer make small talk as they travel to visit prospective homes for sale. They drive from a suburban neighbourhood of tract housing in Markham, Ontario to Forest Hill, an affluent district in Toronto of primarily white homeowners (according to the 2011 Canadian census). Through their conversation, divergent mental landscapes of the real estate agent and her client unfold incongruent-and at times absurd-images as they strive to reconcile the identity, expectations and motivations of the other.
If All You Have is a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail is a newly commissioned three-channel video installation by artist Will Kwan. The piece responds to a canonical piece of Canadian video art – an early multi-channel video installation by the Toronto artist John Massey titled, As the Hammer Strikes. Produced in 1982, Massey’s work consists of three screens presenting a staged conversation between the artist and hitchhiker as they drive down a stretch of highway between rural towns north of Toronto. The central screen is intercut with images depicting disparate mental impressions each subject holds arising from their conversation, capturing the instability of language and meaning.
Re-making this work and replacing Massey and his hitchhiker with the agent and home-buying, the artist complicates concerns and themes rooted in the aspirations of and East Asian diasporic community that is often cast as the “model minority.” Through a cinematic visual mapping of our desires of our images and desires of success and the good life, Kwan offers a refractive mirror for how perceptions of self, other, and community are culturally interpolated, emphasizing their interactions and collisions. – MT
Gallery Dates and Hours:
November 6 – December 12, 2014
Monday – Friday from 12pm – 6pm
If All You Have is a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail is presented a part of the exhibition of the same name at Trinity Square Video and is supported by the Canadian Council for the Arts and the Toronto Arts Council.