Time, People, Money, Crickets
July 10 – August 30, 2015
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents a major solo exhibition by Los Angeles based artist Mungo Thomson. Time, People, Money, Crickets brings together a survey of work produced during the past five years, complemented by an extensive monographic publication. Combined, exhibition and publication provide an expansive opportunity to tease out the nuance and complexity of Thomson’s practice across his many media and forms.
Central to Thomson’s artistic proposition is an embrace of context—be it situational, institutional, mass cultural or art historical—and it is through the intelligent breadth of his individual works that we are prompted to examine the perceptual mechanics of everyday life in relation to a wider historical and cosmic scale. The exhibition includes key works in film, sound, sculpture, performance and publication that approach perception and cultural mediation with economy and wit, often relying on existing forms of recognition and distribution.
The exhibition features several large-scale mirror works from Thomson’s ongoing series TIME: person-sized, silkscreened mirrors bearing the iconic logo and red border of the international weekly news magazine. The mirrors are based on individual covers of the magazine that reference a variety of cultural and cosmological notions of time and history, forming a broad cumulative network of objects. Installed together, they form infinity spaces and kinesthetic configurations in which the viewer, the viewing context and other TIME mirrors are reflected and reversed endlessly, and the viewer finds themselves pictured within that network.
Such associations are further elaborated by a new iteration of Thomson’s ongoing series Negative Space, photographic murals of inverted astronomical imagery sourced from the Hubble Space Telescope, here specially designed for the glass canopy that defines the entrance and exterior of the gallery.
Thomson’s Crickets (2012-13) is an ambitious musical score for orchestra based on the chirping of crickets. Transcribed from a French compilation of field recordings from around the world—France, Cameroon, Senegal, Martinique, Borneo, Thailand and Venezuela—and produced in collaboration with Los Angeles composer Michael Webster, the score contains 25 movements, such as 12. Reunion Island, the Cirque de Cilaos at 1300 m. altitude, February 1998, nightfall in a banana plantation. Seen in an HD video, and shown alongside the sheet music, a 17-player classical ensemble simulates a chorus of crickets in flute, clarinet, violin and percussion. Crickets explores the distinctions between silence, sound, noise and music, using the aural backdrop that crickets represent—so ubiquitous that they have come to stand in for silence, and, in the context of performance, failure. Thomson and Webster have also developed Crickets for solo performers—individual musicians scattered around a park, each simulating the sound of a single cricket with a different instrument. Working with Vancouver New Music, CAG will present a live performance of Cricket Solos for Clarinet, Piccolo, Percussion, and Violin in Emery Barnes Park.
Other works in the exhibition play with the context of the gallery or museum itself. Mail (2013) is the simplest intervention into the CAG’s everyday infrastructure. For the duration of the exhibition, once delivered, the mail remains on the floor, unopened, gradually becoming an obstacle to physical passage as well as to institutional function. Untitled (Margo Leavin Gallery, 1970– ) (2009) is a Super-16mm stop-motion film animation that flips through all the contacts in the business card rolodexes of Los Angeles’ Margo Leavin Gallery, which was founded in 1970 and closed in 2012, and where Thomson showed for over a decade. Consisting of thousands of contacts, each with their own particular relationship to the operation of the gallery – artists, framers, electricians, collectors, customs agents, florists, critics, exterminators – each card gets a single film frame, the film running at 24 frames per second. It is a kinetic portrait, pairing analogue technologies, of a group of people randomly and uniquely brought into orbit together around a single cultural enterprise.
People (2011) is an ongoing series of photographs of visitors to art exhibitions with the art on view removed in Photoshop, leaving only people staring into the voids of empty white rooms. These images are taken from the web as well as privately commissioned by Thomson from professional events photographers. In 2011 Thomson produced a magazine collecting these uncanny images modeled on the American tabloid “People”. Originally distributed unannounced by mail, it is exhibited here as a free takeaway for visitors.
Void and Observer (2013-15) is a series of sculptures modeled on the phenomena of ‘error coins’—rare and collectible coins that result from a production mistake at the US mint, in which a blank coin planchet is mis-struck by the die that carries the coin image. In Thomson’s reworking of the phenomenon, made with 3D printing and jewelry casting, these coins take on a cosmological dimension, as an off-center John F. Kennedy appears to be contemplating the void of the unstruck side of a half-dollar, and as other error coins in other US denominations resemble planetary bodies in phase or eclipse. Kept in the pockets of the staff of the CAG and displayed upon request, the coins will orbit and revolve around each other throughout the day.
Time, People, Money, Crickets is organized by the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver and SITE Santa Fe. A new 200-page monograph of Thomson’s work, Time, People, Money, Crickets, published by CAG with SITE Santa Fe is available for purchase.