Birds: A City, Some Rain
BIRDS: A City, Some Rain is published on the occasion of the exhibition Perched, by Toni Latour, which took place at Artspeak between December 6, 2003 and January 24, 2004.
In fables, animals speak and act like humans and this device allows the author to speak more candidly about human society than realism would allow. In her art world fables, Toni Latour looks with a similar candour at the pecking order in her field of operations. From medieval Bestiaries to Disneyworld, animals are invested with human foibles, vices, virtues and motivations and used to stand in for the most idealized and debased human characteristics. Latour reflects this cultural history back upon itself by imitating animal behaviour as an allegory of that curious human habit of art-making.
In the video Robin Red Breast, a stationary camera records Latour as she imitates the display of the male robin seeking a mate. Lacking binocular vision, this artist/bird tilts its head from side to side and puffs up a red-sweatered chest, scuttling and stopping, scuttling and stopping, over a cropped lawn. The preening and posturing makes transparent the inherent exhibitionism and attention-seeking rituals of the act of performance.
Pool Noodle: Honing Survival Skills includes a light box containing an image of the artist balancing on a pool noodle outside the Vancouver Aquatic Centre. An audio loop tells the tale of a bird that, needing to make a migration across an ocean, but too small and weak to fly the entire distance at once, carries a twig in its mouth so that it may drop it in the ocean and rest upon it. Accompanied by artifacts that suggest a 'survival kit' inspired by this story, the installation both satirizes and elaborates our sentimental identification with the lone struggling bird and dashes our metaphoric impulses against Latour's self deprecating humour.
In A City, Some Rain, Stuart Ross deploys a series of darkly humorous characters that embrace the distinguishing features of rare animals as they migrate, loiter or hibernate in their rainy domain. Whether musing on their sense of displacement, touting their entitlement to the head of the queue, or hoping to blend into their surroundings, the subjects of these sketches cling to their identifying attributes - prominent ears, lack of venom - as virtues or marks of individuality. Predatory or passive, their prominent display teases out the unspoken order of self-regulating human society.