Knut Åsdam/John Wood and Paul Harrison at Mercer Union (37 Lisgar) to April 5. 416-536-1519. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Norwegian artist Knut Åsdam's work is very subtle. Stare and you might miss it. A slide projector is anchored between two long dark blankets to create a viewing space for the work in the otherwise bright Mercer Union space. The projector's carousel slowly rotates, bringing up a series of slides showing two young women standing on the street corner of a fairly nondescript intersection. Each slide reveals the scene from a different angle.
It's easy to yawn and move on, but if you pay close attention you can pick up on the subtle interactions between people and architectural space.
In one slide the large concrete support beams of a building blend into the bland brick walls, giving a flattened effect. The space seems welcoming here. Another slide with a different perspective makes the support feel looming and threatening.
The space also influences how you view the interaction of the girls. In one shot they look like friends chatting. In another, where the lighting isn't as good, the scene resembles a drug deal.
In the back room at Mercer, a film shows British artists Paul Harrison and John Wood occupying the space inside a white cube van. As the truck drives around the city of London, the two artists sit resignedly in rolling office chairs. The truck's fits and starts in that city's notorious traffic send them careening around the cube -- smashing forward, reeling backward and crashing into one another with regularity. It's kind of like watching reality TV travel to its most absurd destination yet.