Magazine article Artforum International

Damian Moppett: Catriona Jeffries Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

Damian Moppett: Catriona Jeffries Gallery

Article excerpt

Since the late '70s countless Canadian schoolchildren have drifted off during in-class screenings of National Film Board historical vignettes, those humdrum dramas populated by blacksmiths, traders, and voyageurs in spirit-gum beards. Damian Moppett's installation 1815/1962, 2003, made up of a video in which a nine-teenth-century trapper played by the artist fabricates a bizarre animal trap in the Canadian West Coast rainforest; two maquettes on a plinth; and a large photographic poster, recalls these low-key meditations on pioneer pragmatism and self-reliance. This is familiar territory for Moppett, in whose work narratives of creative production often emerge from a mythological site and/or a nexus of art history. (The wilderness is one of many contexts--the indulgent courtly society portrayed by Peter Paul Rubens, the pastoral village, the urban skatepark, the rec-room tabletop are others--that Moppett takes as starting points from which to pursue activities in multiple guises, often playing the part of other artists.)

Survivalist theme notwithstanding, it seems this trapper's needs are less than pressing; he stands and ponders light filtering through the tree canopy as lingering shots of the forest coalesce and dissolve. Seemingly self-sufficient amid the benevolent wild, he nevertheless gazes broodingly out of the frame: possibly pondering the sublime, but probably listening for the unseen creature the trap awaits. No animal arrives, however, and the completion of the story is left to the two maquettes on a plinth near the entrance to the gallery. One we recognize as the trap in the video; the other is a card-stock reproduction in miniature of Anthony Caro's 1962 sculpture Early One Morning. On close inspection, however, the trap turns out to be an approximation in twigs of the Caro (a fact that's difficult to discern in the video). …

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