MICHAEL EUYUNG OH at Pari Nadimi Gallery (254 Niagara), to March 11. 416-591-6464. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Given how we're continually battered about the head by unending reams of information, it's good to have people around like Michael Euyung Oh . For the past few years, the Vancouver-based conceptual artist has been ranking random-seeming lists of things according to his "aesthetic judgment."
The fun comes when we try to understand his criteria for ranking, and why he bothers mining data to rank in the first place. This minimal show offers three captivating pieces, but they don't quite match earlier work like his thoughtful arrangement of mug shots of 200 registered sex offenders.
In the piece The Names Of Extinct Species Hidden, a television monitor on a low plinth in a corner of the gallery scrolls through hundreds of Latin scientific names. To laypeople, it's pure gibberish, from Acalypha rubrinervis to Zosterops strenuous, all as quickly forgotten as the plants and animals themselves.
In Oh's main attraction, 100 little frames in two perfect rows hold girls' and boys' names from the U.S. Social Security Administration's 2004 list of most popular baby names. Oh has carefully put them in order of his own preference. I was pleased to note that Kevin, 34th on the administration's list, was Oh's number five. Michael sits at 13.
Far more enthralling, the National Anthem Favourites installation consists of a discman and a jewel case in a box on a chair. Throw on the headphones to hear Oh's top 20 national anthems recorded by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra. Kenya takes the gold medal with a pompous and optimistic piece, but Turkey's fast-paced, ominous-toned ditty is my personal number one.
Listening away, I realize that the tradition requiring every state to have an anthem composed in the European musical tradition is bizarrely outmoded.
It's these little epiphanies that make Oh's work great.