CAROLEE SCHEEMANN at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (952 Queen West), to April 22. 416-395-0067. Rating NNNN Rating: NNNN
Carolee Schneemann's mastery of still photography and moving images propels her terrifying, tender and poetic Breaking Borders show, now at MOCCA.
A gentle prelude to the show, Infinity Kisses II contains 12 mysteriously erotic self-portraits of the artist kissing a cat. This is the soft beginning of a visually charged tour de force not suitable for people with a history of anxiety.
The installation Devour occupies half of the main space, dramatically hijacking the viewer's attention and turning the show's tone toward fear and destruction.
Amateur footage of the victim of a vicious sniper in Kosovo and American troops parachuting from a helicopter in Haiti is juxtaposed with shots of a baby being breast-fed. Even though the villain of the installation is obviously not the baby but hyper-masculinity's negative social impact, the piece does not come across as stereotypical man hatred. Eerie visual experience and gender politics meld together in the powerful work.
The motorized installation SNAFU provides a poetic intermezzo in which children's clothes are gently made to rise and fall. The opposite wall holds Terminal Velocity, a series of reprinted newspaper photos zooming in on September 11 victims' agonized free fall from the World Trade Center.
Rather than playing on Schneemann's notoriety for the sexually charged, taboo-bashing performances of previous decades, Breaking Borders relies on the often sublime visual experiences in the artist's recent work. The title keeps its promise by cracking open the viewer's cerebral cortex and filling it with images of terror and tenderness.