Cosmic cool

Artists get spaced out at Power Plant


UNIVERSAL CODE at the Power Plant (231 Queens Quay West), to August 30. 416-973-4949. Rating: NNNN


It’s hard to conceive of a wider or more ambitious scope for a summer exhibit than the cosmos. Power Plant curator Gregory Burke manages to keep his selection of sculpture, installation and video coherent, a change from the sometimes stark and intellectually forbidding conceptualism that has marked the gallery’s past summer shows.

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The international roster of artists play around with heady notions concerning our place in the universe and the effect of technology and cosmology on our ideas of space and time.

Some of the strongest works involve sound. A disc-clavier piano set up by Katie Paterson in her piece Earth-Moon-Earth plays a “moon-altered” transcription of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. The sonata was painstakingly translated into Morse code, bounced off the moon’s surface and re-transcribed as it was reflected back, complete with irregularities and gaps caused by the moon’s uneven surface. Listening to it inspires an existential sense of loneliness, bringing to mind fragments of a distant civilization being picked up from a receding world.

Janet Cardiff records herself talking over the phone about variations in space-time with a male mathematician. Together they conclude that personal experiences of time result from physical variations in space-time: multidimensionality, not uniformity, determines the consistency of the space-time continuum.

Korea’s Kimsooja’s Lotus: Zone Of Zero fuses three jukeboxes into a psychedelic vintage sculptural mandala that plays three types of chants – Tibetan, Gregorian and Islamic – to riveting effect, bringing religious metaphysics into the picture.

Other pieces go for visual and political spectacle. Trevor Paglen’s Active Military And Reconnaissance Satellites Of The United States Of America features an ominously lit globe with dots representing every U.S. military satellite currently in orbit, creating a palpable cloud of paranoia.

Swedish artist Henrik Håkansson’s lyrical film Monarch: The Eternal fills the screen with gorgeously shot clouds of butterflies in a paean to the cosmic cycle of birth and regeneration.

art@nowtoronto.com

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