A man performs while on the job in Alana Riley’s Songs Of Love, at Red Bull. Photo Courtesy of Alana Riley/ Red Bull 381 Projects
YOU DON’T REALLY CARE FOR MUSIC, DO YOU? at Red Bull 381 Projects (381 Queen West), to December 20. 416-593-1629. Rating: NNNN
I've long wondered which side would win in an art vs. music smackdown.
Mostly I lean toward music. There's very little art that can (a) induce one to grind, pogo or watusi, (b) unite thousands in an arena or (c) music claims the edge biologically - after all, babies hear before they can see.
However, art, on its side, can riff on anything in its own quiet, eccentric way. It needn't cut off at four minutes, target tween markets or appear on The Hills soundtrack to gain power.
Both sides get play in You Don't Really Care for Music, Do You?, a four-artist exhibition curated by Catherine Dean. Best is Montrealer Alana Riley, whose video shows workers singing fave love songs on the job. A suit-and-tied car rental rep belts In Your Eyes behind a desk, a white-jacketed dentist trills The Marriage Of Figaro during a teeth cleaning, a freezer-framed fish store clerk sings a passionate homeland song, and more. All affirm music's universal appeal while revealing individual desires, constraints and talents in an utterly appealing way.
Also strong is Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay's tribute to Bronski Beat singer and queer icon Jimmy Somerville. Three Somerville-inspired tartans are projected onto a flag while Small Town Boy plays softly, and context is key: last year Ramsay ran through his own "small town" of Winnipeg carrying a Somerville flag. Next year he's hoping to get Somerville knighted. (Talk about fervent fandom!)
In drier work, Tony Romano recalls science fairs past by playing music to potted plants, and Dave Dyment gets literal with the "questions music raises," projecting song-lyric queries as unadorned text. Though valid and often successful, their conceptual approaches come across as a bit of a buzzkill.
Ultimately, they just can't stop the music.