Regarding the pain of Susan Sontag (notes on camp) at Gallery TPW (80 Spadina, #310), through July 16. 416-504-4242. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
The Fennel Plunger Corporation's declares in its manifesto for their new show: "Let every gesture be an old gesture, preciously antique." They're inspired by two works by the late Susan Sontag - her strangely durable 40-year-old essay Notes On Camp and one of her last pieces, Regarding The Pain Of Others.
It's a challenging and heady show. The members of this corporation (video artist Steve Reinke with guests Jean-Paul Kelly and Anne Walk ) offer images themes like loss, pain, disease, desire, alienated sexuality, death and that modernist chestnut, nihilism.
True to the tenets of camp, however, these themes are all served up in quotation marks. Every gesture is fraught with something that might be irony, deadpan humour or jaded boredom.
Kelly's photos of his parents doing saucy mock stripteases in hospital gowns, for instance, are hilarious and horrifying and stir up a stew of grotesque emotion. Reinke's video Ask The Insects intones that there are "too many species" while phallic blobs burn and writhe onscreen. Walk has Internet chat and a webcam, from which she's printed and tacked up seductive self-portraits, transposing an intensely private interchange to the middle of a public gallery.
The show succeeds in churning up a range of reactions through its oblique and campy surfaces. A useful and very contemporary exercise, but sometimes you long for someone to address you directly, even at the risk of hypocrisy.