An exploration of space through found objects


"Being This," by Liz Magor (2012).

Walking into Liz Magor’s Surrender exhibit at the AGO, you are welcomed into an open room with a low ceiling. The art pieces are shown in rooms with stark white walls, small titles and descriptions printed in black. All the pieces in this exhibit are highlighted by angled spotlights, casting shadow against walls and floors that create abstracted spaces within the gallery. Magor often teases the viewers with her use of space, particularly in the two pieces: “Being This,” and “One Bedroom Apartment.”

These pieces beg to be explored, dug into and pushed aside to find more. You have the urge to crouch down and look at the pieces from every angle to see what's hidden behind fabrics and layers. The pieces tell stories through what they don’t show, like the gutter between two comic panels and the viewer uses suggestion to put the pieces together and make sense of them. The art pieces themselves have large amounts of space separating them. This space is heavy. It’s physical. This forces the viewer to wander around for a longer time, connecting space with time and not allowing us to forget that the two are ever connected.

“Being This” is found in a bright room and opens to a scene of ordered chaos: minimalist white boxes stuffed with tissue paper folded around found garments embellished with sticker and stitched interventions. They are arranged in a balanced, evenly-spaced pattern with the garments folded neatly within the boxes like a coffin. There’s mostly white tissue, creating a sense of unity and harmony amongst the pieces of unique clothing. The boxes convey minimalist luxury and class, yet inside, the boxes contain thrifted clothing with cigarette stains and bursts of color and contrasting textures. Each is personal and distinct, unlike the boxes, ranging from a tweed coat with a fake beige flower from the ’50s to a loud leopard coat from the ’80s with mesh layered on.

The corner of the next room is much darker than the rest of the exhibit and features the piece “One Bedroom Apartment.” The space is packed tightly with boxes stacked up against each other with found objects, boxes, wrapped furniture and blankets, as if someone was either moving or hoarding an apartment’s worth of possessions. In the center is a table and below it sits a small white sculpture of a greyhound dog, appearing as if it were either hiding under the table, or poised to protect the possessions that surround it. This cramped space reminds me of the feminist piece “My Bed” by Tracey Emin. They both create artificial environments using found objects, forming a space where the viewer wants to look at it from all sides and explore it. Viewing a space that is so intimate in such a public way, the viewer feels like a voyeur.

Coming out of “Surrender” you are left to reconsider your own role as the viewer. In both installments, it is your gaze that is in many ways the focus of the art itself.  Whether elements are being concealed from view, or laid uncomfortably bare, the work offers a truly unique  point of view.


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