Rebecca Belmore at the Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas West) to August 3. 416-979-6648. Rating: NNNN
Rebecca Belmore at Pari Nadimi (80 Spadina) to June 28. 416-591-6464. Rating: NNN
Gabrielle de Montmollin at Propeller (984 Queen West) to May 24. 416-504-7142. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNN
The first activists to protest violence against women took to the streets nearly 30 years ago, but the threat and realization of violence remain painful realities for many women. In The Named And The Unnamed, currently at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Rebecca Belmore fuses performance and sculpture to create a series of sober memorials to the more than four dozen women who went missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside during the past two decades.
There's an agitation and restlessness to Bellmore's work, as though it's reflecting on souls who have yet to find peace.
The centrepiece is a video of a performance Belmore did in Vancouver in front of a very modest crowd. She lights a series of candles and yells out in turn the names of each of the missing women while she tears the leaves and petals off a rose with her mouth.
She's often left gagging and spitting out the remains of the battered flower.
Belmore then dons a red dress that she aggressively nails again and again to wooden posts and boards, ripping it to escape the trap.
She repeats this action over and over until the dress is no more, at which point she stands quietly next to a car while the wistful tune It's A Man's World plays.
Four dozen glowing light bulbs make white circles on the screen on which the video plays. The work is disquieting.
On the other side of the wall that supports the screen, another performance/sculpture contains roses plastered to the wall with gauze and white paste. A bucket of paste sitting on the floor spills white from its circumference. A series of exposed light bulbs forms a moat dividing the work from the rest of the gallery space.
Perhaps the simplest expression, and also the most disturbing, is a large square of pure white quilted material resembling a fresh coat of snow. It stretches across the floor of the room, rising up in the middle to follow the shape of a single chair. At the top of that chair the quilt is stained with a bright red patch of paint resembling blood drained into the snow.
A simple piece that forms a bridge between this show and her concurrent one at Pari Nadimi is a photograph of Belmore sleeping peacefully in a bed, surrounded by white sheets. The sinister element here emerges from the fact that the image has been divided into small sections, as if it was run through a large paper shredder.
At Pari Nadimi, Belmore's photographs evoke less violence but retain the feeling of struggle. In one, she's curled and hidden beneath a white sheet, while in another she's not fully wrapped in red material, crouched over and tottering. Into photos of arms she makes incisions of threads. A plexiglass tube contains a photo of clothes and bunches of thread.
At Propeller, Gabrielle de Montmollin's black-and-white works are eerie, matching doll bodies with animal heads to create sinister perversions. Using photocopies and negatives, she creates dancing, writhing images that remind us of the disgusting actions ascribed by prosecutors to the BC farmer who couldn't tell the difference between women and pigs.