BGL: New Sellutions

Toronto

BGL: “New Sellutions” installation view, 2009.: Courtesy Diaz Contemporary, Toronto.BGL: “New Sellutions” installation view, 2009: Courtesy Diaz Contemporary, Toronto.

By Carol-Ann Ryan

BGL: New Sellutions
Diaz Contemporary
October 17 - November 14, 2009

For this exhibition, the Montreal-based collective BGL created a fantastical reconstruction of the Canadian woodland experience. The fabricated trees animated by artificial breezes and transparent campfires set up a tension between the manufactured and natural worlds. The members of BGL, Jasmin Bilodeau, Sébastien Giguère and Nicolas Laverdière, titled the works with art-history and pop-culture references synonymous with Canada’s wilderness.

Two ‘campfire’ sculptures made of flame-shaped yellow, orange and pink Plexiglas, named Cauldron/Tribute to the Group of Seven and Meatballs/Tribute to the Group of Seven, anchor BGL’s landscape. In the first, the flames support a large pot filled with melted, burnt marshmallows topped by a blackened and lava-like shell. Would Tom Thompson and the boys have roasted marshmallows while in Algonquin Park? Perhaps, but it is unlikely they would have left behind a plastic package, melted onto a discarded tree branch, found nearby on the gallery floor. This charred debris embodies a careless action imposed by campers upon the once-virgin wilderness that Thompson romanticized with his brush.

The second campfire consists of an oven rack supporting tin cans, which are nestled between the flames. The title Meatballs refers to the 1979 Ivan Reitman film starring Bill Murray that follows the comedic adventures of a group of councillors at a Canadian summer camp. The piece also reminds viewers that cooking food contained in tin cans is a right of passage for young campers learning how to survive in the woods.

BGL: Pinocchio, mixed media, 2009; installation view.: Courtesy Diaz Contemporary, Toronto.BGL: Pinocchio, mixed media, 2009; installation view: Courtesy Diaz Contemporary, Toronto.The most fragile, but strongly symbolic elements of the installation, were two sculptures representing trees. The largest, titled Pinocchio, is constructed from unfinished plywood and plastic green leaves. The bough and branches rest horizontally upon a vertical trunk and were balanced by the weight of a chainsaw. Surrounded by fallen branches and leaves, the tree is turned slowly by a breeze created by electric fans housed in three speaker boxes attached to the walls. The fairytale character Pinocchio, a wooden marionette, wanted desperately to become a real boy and his nose grew when he told lies. BGL’s Pinocchio will never grow and, perhaps, its dangling chainsaw represents the truths of clear-cutting of Canada’s forests. The continuation of this practice requires a thoughtful balance between conservation and sustainability, which seems reflected in the delicate assembly that keeps BGL’s sculpture upright.

The objects in New Sellutions are well-constructed with slick materials, and could easily project the experience of a charming ‘walk in the woods’. However, while BGL’s installations are always pleasing aesthetically, they frequently call into question our feelings of nostalgia.

Carol-Ann M. RyanCarol-Ann M. Ryan is a Toronto-based writer, arts educator and collections manager.  She has written for C Magazine, Border Crossings, and Canadian Art Online.  She is an instructor at the Toronto School of Art, and educator at the Art Gallery of Ontario and Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art.