MARIANNE CORLESS and BGL at Mercer Union (37 Lisgar) through February 19. 416-536-1519. Rating (both shows): NNNN Rating: NNNN
I originally went to Mercer Union just to see Marianne Corless 's Fur Queen II, but was taken aback by BGL 's mess in the front gallery.
Quebec artists Jasmin Bilodeau , Sébastien Giguère and Nicolas Laverdière (BGL) disrupt our orderly consumer lives right from the front door, where disaster struck the gallery in mid-renovation.
Follow a trail of dilapidated spaces like a detective while yellowish water leaks everywhere from the scrappy dropped ceiling. Lights flicker, and someone has just driven a car through a gallery wall. There you find God, the punch line and narrative keystone of the show, which you should really see for yourself. Typical BGL, and so well put together that a piece of wall actually fell on someone at the opening. No injuries yet.
As for the Queen, Victoria-based Corless works exclusively with real fur from used coats to explore the Canadian identity, and made several portraits of icons like John A. Macdonald before coming to Elizabeth II.
From a distance, this highly realistic oversized bust-length portrait of Her Majesty smiles at us with sparkly eyes from a gilded frame. Up close, her fuzzy face actually looks animal-like.
Using combinations of beaver, muskrat, mink and ermine, Corless deftly captures subtleties like the lines of age on the Queen's face and the silver in her hair.
The significance is just as split as our nation sometimes is. On the one hand, since fur is literally the historical fabric of Canadian society, this fuzzy Queen is an act of adulation, as if our identity coalesces in her visage. On the other hand, Corless has stitched together a picture of the foreign imperial authority with the remains of dead animals.
As she puts it, fur is both "the sensual result of violence and the softest manifestation of power."
Spookily good, both shows.