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Kelly Mark: Stupid Heaven

January 22, 2011 - April 10, 2011

AWE Gallery

Among the shelves of Kelly Mark’s studio, an old-fashioned punch clock clicks away the minutes and sounds a loud ring every hour. The clock has accompanied Kelly Mark’s life for nearly fifteen years. Every time she goes to work in the studio she punches in with a weekly time card. She has even pledged to continue this practice until her normal retirement age in 2032 — even though In and Out, the monumental archive of time-cards sorted into the growing row of steel racks, already belongs to someone else. If it records nearly all of Kelly Mark’s working life as an artist, here it also marks the time-frame of the majority of works presented in this, her first major survey exhibition.

Stupid Heaven brings together works in diverse media — drawings, sculpture, multiples, signs and videos — that focus on Kelly Mark’s interest in recording and reflecting on time. Her observations are often laced with deadpan humour and self-deprecatory purpose. A large sign spells a looping contradiction Working Hard Hardly Working and another neon betrays the message Hold that Thought with its programmed flicker. Many of her early works are tests of patience and endurance. 33 Minute Stare, for instance, brings the experience of time into sharp focus for the viewer who will be caught by Kelly Mark’s gaze, blankly staring into the exhibition space with not so much as a blink. Other works document obsessive activities, filling time with virtually nonsensical tasks: counting the grains of salt in a salt-shaker or hitting two steel pieces against one another 10,000 times.

Most recently, Kelly Mark has turned her attention to television, the medium which feeds on time as no other. Her perspective on this medium is oblique. For instance, in The Kiss, two televisions face each other; the flickering glow of light captured from a television porn show lights up the space between them like substitute fire. The living-room installation of R.E.M. presents a feature-length video mash-up with segments from over 170 different sources of TV broadcasts. In this tour-de-force, dream-like thriller the main characters lose themselves in others, and time warps wildly as reality turns into a dream and dream back into reality again. If the story started because of the restless impatience that expresses itself in channel surfing (where one finds ‘nothing’ to watch), Kelly Mark’s video has taken the mayhem out of attention-distraction. Immersing the viewer seamlessly into the stream of consciousness that represents the stimulus overload in the Information Age, R.E.M. represents the experience of duration in our time.

With its succinct and straight-shooting style (No Tofu, No Yoga Mat or I have no issues), Kelly Mark’s work propels reflections on our everyday existence. Seeing the quirky or stranger side of things in life — from public disturbances and private conversations, to everyday troubles, leisurely durations, repetitions, and procrastinations — her work ultimately proposes that Everything is Interesting.

Born in 1967, Kelly Mark studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax before moving to Toronto. Her work has been shown in numerous exhibitions across Canada and internationally. She is represented by Diaz Contemporary (Toronto) and Platform Gallery (Seattle).

The exhibition is organized and circulated by the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Hart House, University of Toronto, and has been made possible with the support of The Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.


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