RHONDA WEPPLER AND TREVOR MAHOVSKY: ALL NIGHT CONVENIENCE Bay Adelaide Centre, 333 Bay. See listing.
Despite geographical separations - she's currently based in San Francisco, he's relocating here from Vancouver - Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky have made art together since 2004. They met at a factory job and art school in Vancouver in 1996.
Though they employ low-tech techniques involving tinfoil, papier mâché and wood veneer - described by Weppler as "making stuff out of almost nothing" - to make sculptures representing objects like beer bottles that we might think of as garbage, they reject the "consumer-critical" label sometimes applied to their work.
At their opening earlier this month at Pari Nadimi Gallery (What Leaf? What Mushroom?, on to October 27), Weppler calls that term a "quick reading."
Mahovsky, via Skype from Vancouver, concurs: "Our work is trying to make problems about making that kind of judgment. I was never interested in making art that had that kind of moral."
Despite a playful, childlike glee that sometimes comes through, he adds, "we're also not trying to say ‘Look how wonderful all these things are.' We're trying to think critically about our relationship to the objects and the relationship between these things as artworks and other objects in the world."
When they got the Nuit Blanche commission, the duo, who'd never attended the event, drew on Vancouver's Illuminaires lantern festival and Basel's Fasnacht to come up with the concept of a big lantern whose light would gradually disperse out into the night. The all-night time frame brought to mind a convenience store.
The idea of a translucent structure serving as a "store" that holds smaller luminous "goods" (which are LED-lit lanterns people can "shop" for and take away) fits in, says Mahovsky, with what their work is about - "documenting what's on the planet at this moment, collecting objects and arranging them, as well as our work with skins and membranes."
Convenience stores that pass unnoticed in the downtown are part of your life, says Weppler. "It's almost like a snapshot of the here and now. They're something you take for granted, but you wonder if someday they'll all be gone. In a way, the piece is nostalgic for the present."
"It's an homage to these kinds of small businesses," adds Mahovsky, "but it's also a gigantic still life. In a lot of our work we start from the idea of a still life, representing objects aesthetically, but we make them so large or unruly that they become environments you can move in. They become part of the world, so you just understand them as contiguous with reality and not as art."
All Night Convenience offers a variety of experiences.
"From outside, you'll be watching people choosing their lanterns, and watching them becomes the artwork," he says. "You'll see them disperse. You could be somewhere else in the city and see this weird lantern come through, and then another, and you start to understand it's part of an artwork, too."