JOHN GREYSON AND DAVE WALL at Paul Petro Gallery (980 Queen West), part of Images Festival Of Independent Film, Video And New Media. To May 15. 416-979-7874. Rating: Rating: NNN
Since when has being "an unmotivated student" been grounds for arrest and deportation? It must be pretty recent or they would have locked me away in 1989. Last August, 21 students from South Asia (mostly Pakistan) were arrested and held in an RCMP anti-terrorist investigation called Project Thread. The list of reasons for the arrests (which includes the aforementioned lack of student motivation) would be simply hilarious if it weren't ruining these people's lives.
Toronto artists John Greyson and Dave Wall have taken up the Mountie document containing these justifications and turned it into His Instructors Have Described Him As An Unmotivated Student, an eerie musical video projection and installation for the Images festival.
The work's central idea, and also its greatest strength, is the reinterpretation of the RCMP document as a piece of music. Greyson and Wall first select the most ridiculous lines from the document. Then they assign each different letter appearing in those lines to a particular note on the musical scale and arrange them in a choral ensemble.
This way the artists merely write the code to interpret the document. The composer of the creepy music is actually the RCMP.
Along with the music there is an odd motif of T-shirts and stairs that appears in both the video and the installation. While the video is an interesting mix of image and text neatly projected onto the floor, at times the installation comes across as simply a visual aid to the complex code.
However, the show does work very well as a whole. Art as social activism risks being bad art in the name of fighting for justice, but clearly Greyson and Wall don't have that problem here.
To help defend the students, check out www.projecthreadbare.tyo.ca.