Booth is an exploration of the time it takes to summarize a life or capture the spirit of an era. The exhibition includes Pierre Tremblay's Portraits in a Sentence and Skawennati Tricia Fragnito's 80 Minutes, 80 Movies, 80s Music, two artworks that use the minute-long video as a framework for self-expression. In each case, the artist has invited friends and acquaintances to use clearly established parameters – the single sentence, the song fragment, the rule of one – to fashion their contribution to the project. As the portraits accumulate, their format seems less and less arbitrary and the brevity of the time allowed perfectly suited to the creation of the condensed and quickly assembled versions of the self that proliferate in the era of digital reproduction.
Fragnito's jukebox-style music video project 80 Minutes, 80 Movies, 80s Music offers the audience an opportunity to sample from a set of one-minute song selections in which her Gen-X friends release their inner Rock Stars. Identifying themselves with a favourite song, the performers bring private (and perhaps even secret) fantasies into public view as they revisit what the artist describes as "that magical era when music videos seemed to be heading in the direction of the short film, rather than the long commercial."
Tremblay's multi-screen installation draws on an archive of single-sentence video portraits in which subjects summarize their personal philosophy, discuss a favourite topic or offer a self-reflection. The impossibility of the task of finding a few words to sum it all up is, of course, precisely the point. The effect of watching the contributors to the Portraits in a Sentence database respond to the artist's challenge is a little like coming across an anonymous image left in a public place. We look around to see who might have forgotten it, then, failing to make that identification, we stare intently to see if we can discover whose essence has been absorbed by the image.
An on-site video booth allows new faces to be added to the freely expanding database of Portraits in a Sentence while the 80 Minutes, 80 Movies, 80s Music playlist also continues to evolve as the artist records and adds new clips until it reaches the magic number of eighty.
In response to the two main artworks in the exhibition, a third project, realized by Heather Corcoran and Charmie Kim, utilizes readily available software to translate photos into text-based ASCII images to playfully raise the question of whether the portrait can do anything other than give life to its own code.
Fragnito is an artist, writer and independent curator whose projects have included CyberPowWow, a virtual gallery and chat space; Imagining Indians in the 25th Century, a web-based paper doll/time-travel journal; and her current obsession, 80 Minutes, 80 Movies, 80s Music. Her articles have appeared in Blackflash, Fuse and Horizon Zero. Learn more about her work at her website.
Tremblay is a multimedia artist who recently joined the faculty at Ryerson University after twelve years in Paris where his work can be found in the collections of the Musée Carnavalet, Bibliothèque Nationale and the Musée Rodin. In France, Tremblay worked commercially for Baynard Presse as an art director for award-winning CD-ROMs. His work as an artist has for sixteen years combined new technology and photography and he has exhibited regularly in Canada and France. He has also taught at the Parsons School of Design in Paris.