Critics’ Picks

A Dance for Those of Us Whose Hearts Have Turned to Ice, 2007, still from a single-channel color video, 7 minutes 10 seconds.

A Dance for Those of Us Whose Hearts Have Turned to Ice, 2007, still from a single-channel color video, 7 minutes 10 seconds.

Toronto

Luis Jacob

Birch Contemporary
129 Tecumseth Street
September 13–October 13, 2007

A Dance for Those of Us Whose Hearts Have Turned to Ice, 2007, is the companion piece to another video, with a similar title, that was exhibited in this year’s Documenta. In both, the performance artist Keith Cole interprets a silent routine in the icy Canadian wilderness. Choreographed by Cole, who trained in classical dance, the work was inspired by Luis Jacob’s interest in the obscure Canadian choreographer Françoise Sullivan and the sculpture of her British contemporary Barbara Hepworth. The difference between the two videos is minimal, if striking. In the version shown in Documenta, Cole is clothed. In this version he is nude, save for a wooly hat and a few garments on hangers that he uses as flags rather than protection from the elements. Cole’s movements, which range from painfully awkward to vulgar, are riveting, particularly the way in which he acknowledges the camera at moments when the viewer is most unsettled by his physicality.

Jacob’s dual fascination with body manipulation and collaboration reappears in the five photographs on view in the front room. Produced with a fashion photographer using models wrapped in full, colorful body stockings, the glossy photos of the obscured bodies seem to point to the conventional art-world tropes of gender, physical stunts, and group dynamics, which are not necessarily unrelated. Yet they also project other possibilities, like the relationship between the regimentation of dance and of militarism. One of these, Mottled Form, 2007, delivers a quirky and serious turn on the solipsism of modern design and its devotees through a posture that denotes prisoners and captives.