Word imperfect

Sometimes an idea is a bit too subtle

XIMENA BERECOCHEA at Index G (50 Gladstone) to August 30. 416-535-6957. Rating: NNN

The relationship of words to the things they designate is a source of fascination for linguists and philosophers of language (and I suspect most everybody else).


Ximena Berecochea, who is doing her PhD in Mexican literature at the University of Toronto, transposes the seemingly random relation of words and their designated objects onto the story of Little Red Riding Hood. In this case, the words of the story (presented in 25 tiny diptychs of image and text) correspond faintly or not at all to the photographic images that accompany them.

Just as Little Red Riding Hood “strays from the path” to Grandmother’s house and meets the Big Bad Wolf, Berecochea’s images stray from the path of the narrative, only with less dramatic results. No major derailment of meaning takes place, just mild dislocation and bafflement.

You get whiffs of whimsy from these pairings of image and text, but mostly the intellectual associations are too far-fetched or random to create any resonance or visual tension. More than anything, they bring to mind the hazy photographs that grace the covers of French paperback novels. Next to the strong didactic progression of the story (still a classic after all these years), the images (a chair, a book hovering over a field in mid-air) seem almost inconsequential.

Which I guess is the point. Berecochea wants to explore the fact that her personal associations and process of imagination can appear arbitrary to others, and she succeeds. The idea is compelling and her execution elegant. The result, however, is too clever by half, and almost too subtle.


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