JEREMY DELLER at Mercer Union (37 Lisgar), to November 25. 416-536-1519. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Enter mercer union and you're greeted by the sweet smell of sage. The burning weed accompanies Jeremy Deller's slide show entitled After The Gold Rush, about a place dear to my heart, the California desert.
After The Gold Rush includes a soundtrack based on field recordings created in collaboration with local residents. Like the rest of the exhibition, it's sensitive without being sentimental and tender without being corny.
Mercer Union director Dave Dyment sees Deller's recordings as extensions of the work of folk musicologists Harry Everett Smith and Alan Lomax; Smith compiled the Anthology Of American Folk Music.
Deller shares with Smith and Lomax a love of music and other forms of cultural heritage. In the sound- and photo-based installation This Is Us, he uses field recordings of residents of Red Hook, in Brooklyn. These recordings (like Smith's and Lomax's) seek to archive a culture that is usually overlooked.
Memory Bucket: A Film About Texas looks at two politically loaded locales in the Lone Star State, Waco and Crawford. Deller interviews survivors of the Branch Davidian clan who faced off against the FBI in Waco in 1993, and the manager of the Crawford coffee shop where President Bush "enjoys hamburgers and onion rings."
Memory Bucket then moves to anti-war demonstrations, where Deller's camera carefully studies his subjects. The video ends with a 10-minute storm of bats flying from a cave. It's a remarkably honest and poetic piece.