STAN DENNISTON and JOHNNIE EISEN at Gallery TPW (80 Spadina, #310), until March 26. 416-504-4242. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
For their first collaboration, acclaimed photographers Stan Denniston and Johnnie Eisen play with narrative by pairing seemingly unrelated minimalist videos.
The strategy of Taking Your Time leaves us wondering why they're screened together. For an added twist, each week the videos and the use of the space change.
In the current incarnation, set up in two adjoining rooms, the pairs of videos are screened on opposite walls so we can't see both at once.
Eisen presents a static shot of a suburban boulevard, fence and three houses. The street sounds are barely audible, and nothing moves except a few blades of grass and the odd leaf.
Facing this, Denniston has a series of blue and hazy shots from the underwater viewing window of a beluga tank. As the peaceful animals swim silently around, Denniston slyly fades between the surreal shots.
Is it a critique of suburban life or a comment on human evolution?
The pairing in the next room is also playfully obscure. Eisen's 10 hours of silent video portraits of 60 different people plays opposite Denniston's repetitive moonrise with sounds of a distant train.
For each portrait, someone sits in a chair for 10 minutes. Instructed to look into the camera, the subjects are left alone to fidget under the lens's gaze. Just as we start to find someone almost familiar, the next person replaces him or her.
Facing the faces, Denniston's moon repeatedly rises across the frame. Re-tracing its arc, it marks the passage of time by the jumps it makes while you're watching Eisen's portraits.
Whether or not the disparate shots fall into subtle dialogues about space and captivity or time and identity, they successfully tease our inclination to spark a narrative arc between two sets of moving images.