Magazine article Artforum International

Michelle Gay: Oakville Galleries

Magazine article Artforum International

Michelle Gay: Oakville Galleries

Article excerpt

"Interfaces and Operating Systems," the title of this exhibition--a survey of recent work by Michelle Gay, elegantly arranged by curator Marnie Fleming--may at first seem a reference to the digital technology present in most of the pieces. But such a coldly literal interpretation actually misses the point. The subject of a work like timer (swat), 2004, for example, is not computers, per se, but how we modern subjects interface with the world--the cultural systems by means of which we operate. A surprisingly intimate piece, the work features a collage-like digitally animated image of the artist displayed on a desktop monitor hung on the wall. Her elongated legs move back and forth like the pendulum of a grandfather clock. While swaying, she repeatedly reaches upward to swat from her body, as if they were pesky insects, live digital readouts of the time, which then float away and fade into space. Three strands of hair extend vertically, like electrical wires, from her head, suggesting she is hooked up, perhaps painfully, to the regimented temporalities of conventional society.

For the installation stretchpoem (promises), 2008-2009, Gay again employs her software expertise, this time to tackle the subject of language. A pressure-sensitive touch pad located at the center of a darkened gallery allows audiences to activate projections of 3-D texts; they consist of assurances such as I PROMISE YOU A BETTER DAY WILL COME or I PROMISE I WILL NOT LET YOU DOWN. At first imperceptibly small, the statements inflate and rush toward the beholder, a juggernaut of cliches, suggesting the onslaught of talking points associated with politicians, preachers, or real estate developers. As one grows more adept at manipulating the touch pad, it becomes possible to slow the words' rapid movement; one feels as though one were actually touching and caressing these age-old platitudes of rhetorical persuasion. …

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