NOT QUITE HOW I REMEMBER IT at the Power Plant (231 Queens Quay West), to September 1. 416-973-4949. Rating: NNNNN
In our media-saturated world where original ideas are harder and harder to come by, recycling and commenting on Modernism seems to be the main postmodern project.
Such commentary can come across as academic or impersonal, but this big show, bristling with historical and cultural references, presents some very effective statements on the recent past.
Some artists focus on changing political realities. Walid Raad, who documents the history of Lebanon as the Atlas Group, exhibits recently developed photos of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Beirut, taken when he was 14. Each pair of scratchy prints occupies the bottom half of a frame as if weighted down by memory.
A slide projection shows performance artist Sharon Hayes in public places around New York holding placards with slogans from the history of 20th-century activism, poignantly contrasting then and now.
Michael Stevenson reconstructs a broken version of a fellow New Zealander's bizarre yet fascinating 50s invention that circulated red water to demonstrate macroeconomic theories, the artist's rusty contraption testifying to the failure of capitalism.
Particularly moving are works by German artist Felix Gmelin and Texas-based Dario Robleto. Gmelin's Tools And Grammar installation, shown at the last Venice Biennale, is inspired by a 1926 German documentary about a sensory education program for blind children. Using clay and paint, he recreates the model of a graveyard the children made in the film, pulling in references to the fate of the disabled under the Nazis and ideas about art and perception.
Robleto's touching small assemblages take us into an almost Victorian memento mori territory. His lists of materials are as poetic as his titles: She Can't Dream For Us All contains casts of the bones of the Australopithecus Lucy made from dust from every bone in a human body and, among other things, melted recordings of Sylvia Plath reading, on a doily made of letters from soldiers who died in war.
Curator Helena Reckitt should be commended for the informative and not overwhelmingly long or jargony written material on the walls, and for putting together this fine thought-provoking show.