Roy Arden’s Like A Wheel Or The Sun groups images borrowed from the Internet in unusual ways.
ROY ARDEN at Monte Clark Gallery (55 Mill, building 2), to September 7. 416-703-1700. Rating: NNN
Contemporary life requires navigating a sea of images. In street ads, newspapers, TV and the Internet, imagery bombards us.
Vancouver artist Roy Arden's attempt to view these images comprehensively may be impossible. But it is also, in a way, admirable.
Arden made his name as a photo-based artist, but he's shifted from shooting photographs of his own to collecting them off the Internet. His archive of over 32,000 Web-borrowed pictures now provides the raw material for his artwork.
Arden's archive-image groupings might seem puzzling at first, yet with consideration they prove consistent with a photographic practice. Rather than capturing life (and/or trying to make sense of it) through the lens of a camera, Arden uses the Internet as a kind of über-camera for capturing, recording and ultimately comprehending the world.
Granted, the global record that the Internet (and Arden's editing of same) offers can be quite absurd. One video artwork scrolls through every Arden-archive image alphabetically. Flipping from images on "butt" to "butter" to "buttons" and beyond, the vid suggests how little knowledge actually seems to emerge from all the visual info we've amassed.
This overwhelming feeling is underlined in a print title, Staring At The Sun. In trying to apprehend visual representations of our world, we end up blinded. Images of poverty and riches, death and life, culture and crudity are placed side by side. How are humans - let alone photographers - supposed to make sense of it all?
Arden's other prints are more focused, concentrating on images that speak to gender (see Stabat Mater's flowers and sewing machines) and environmental issues (like The Terrible One's views of internal combustion engines).
It's thinky, but worth the cerebral workout.