Cynthia (video artist Shana Moulton) gets skin care help in Whispering Pines, part of Un-home-ly.
UN-HOME-LY at Oakville Galleries (Centennial Square, 120 Navy; Gairloch Gardens, 1306 Lakeshore East, Oakville), to February 20. 905-844-4402. See listing. Rating: NNNN
In the wake of big U.S. exhibits of the past few years exploring the legacy of feminist art, curator Matthew Hyland mounts the excellent Un-home-ly. The title is a literal rendering of Freud's "unheimlich," usually translated as "uncanny," describing something hidden yet familiar that has emerged from repression. The works, primarily videos, turn a female eye on the strangeness lurking within the domestic and the everyday.
Seminal art from the 70s includes Martha Rosler's Semiotics Of The Kitchen, a deadpan cooking demo in which the artist performs odd or threatening actions with pots and pans, and photos from Suzy Lake's Are You Talking To Me?, images of the artist's face seemingly distorted by the effort of communication.
In the irrepressible Pipilotti Rist's I'm Not The Girl Who Misses Much, a video from 86, Rist takes ownership of John Lennon's lyrics, singing at various speeds in jumpy footage of her dancing in a little black dress with breasts exposed. It's a mesmerizing work by an artist who gleefully mines the wild, anarchic aspects of femininity.
Standouts among more recent work: Jin-me Yoon dons a lumpy, inhuman costume of orange garbage bags and crawls around like a worm in a disturbing video. Shana Moulton, in her funny and endearing video series Whispering Pines, plays the housecoat-wearing Cynthia, anxiously seeking salvation through tacky New Age gizmos in a colourful Peewee's Playhouse apartment.
In Paulette Phillips's Homewrecker, a beautiful woman who might be the heroine of a romance novel stares out of a video as her long hair blows straight up and a thunderstorm rages on the soundtrack. On the opposite wall, a magnet holds a wavering handkerchief aloft. It's a strikingly original spin on romantic tropes and sexual attraction as a force of nature.
There's more, all powerfully disconcerting stuff: sculpture by Liz Magor and Luanne Martineau, painting by Nicola Tyson, video by Lucy Gunning, Valérie Mréjen and Mako Idemitsu. And this is just the first of a series of feminist art shows Hyland is planning.