Reading Room III - The Red Room
Eyelevel Gallery November - December 1992
"Reading Room III. The Red Room" took as its subject the cult of masculinity and its representation in the media. The exhibition was intended to provide the context (and pretext) for the critical examination of the representation of violence, specifically the relationships between male violence and sexuality, the reproduction of masculinist ideologies and their determinations on male behaviour in the social arena. The imagery used for critical reading(s) was obtained from various sites of popular culture including film, advertising, war history and weapons' magazines and various comic books.
Unlike the earlier Reading Rooms the sections and components of Reading Room III were partitioned off as separate rooms within a larger space. Together the various rooms constituted the Red Room.
A wall was constructed to partition off a room from the main body of the gallery. Entrance to this room was obtained by means of a narrow plexiglass revolving door. A two drawer black filing cabinet contained news clippings documenting three months of male violence from three sources, the Globe and Mail, Canada's national daily newspaper and the Halifax dailies the Chronicle Herald and Mail Star. Although male violence directed at women and children constituted the bulk of the material, the collection of cuttings also included violence against men, excluding however state wars and civil strife. Twenty news reports excised from these sources, were photographed, enlarged and pinned to the wall. Bundles of newspapers from which the cuttings were taken were placed on the floor near the filing cabinet which contained dated file folders of cuttings. A chair was placed next to the cabinet. December 6 (Dec 6) the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre in which 14 women studying at the Ecole Polytechnique were murdered was adhered to a pink section of the rear wall matching the dimensions of the Newsroom entrance.
The viewsroom was closed with the exception of a plexiglass screen doorway upon which was projected 71 slides - excised and montaged images, advertisements from G.Q. Soldier of Fortune, Esquire, Penthouse and other male magazines, framed by a French window and the text "We had a Vision".
This was an open room containing chairs, a video monitor and playback deck. A series of violent X rated movies were shown on a continuous basis. An enlargement of a Marvin cartoon satirising male parenting behaviour was pinned to the rear wall behind the T.V. montitor. The cartoon showed father being criticised by feminist mother for spending the weekend with Marvin watching Schwarzenegger reruns.
During the course of the month long exhibition seven movies were available for viewing: Terminator, The Exterminator, Enforcer from Death Row, Death Warrant, Childs Play 2, Total Recall and The Killer Instinct.
Theory/Criticism (Red) Room.
A large selection of male magazines including Soldier of Fortune, Penthouse, Hustler, War Comics, G.Q. Esquire were arranged on long drafting/cutting tables attached to the wall. Six stools were placed at the tables and several Xacto cutting knives were placed at the disposal of the readers. The enlarged list of aphorisms "Excisison, Detournement and Reading the Open Text" was pinned to the wall above the tables.
An 8'x8' enclosed room with a handleless door contained a 2 inch doorscope which provided a 160 degree image of a scale model white castle. Built into the wall adjacent to the doorway a spectraboardflashed on a continuous run pattern the Bertolt Brecht quote "NO MAN IS BORN A BUTCHER". Pinned to the rear wall of the passage was a pair of images, an adult male sailor paired with a child in a sailor's costume.
Body Heat (40x 84" C Print) hung on the wall opposite the Passage and adjacent to the cutting tables.
Several Wall Statements linked the sections of the show.
HISTORY THEORY CRITICISM
The `History Room' contained two works, the triptych Nam II (each doorsized panel 72x36) and a miniature reversal of Nam II accompanied by one bundle of Globe and Mail newspapers documenting the 1991 Gulf war.
A number of anecdotes were placed along walls of the rear rooms
Present: It was his turn next. They placed the blindfold over his eyes, the leather jacket over his back and shoulders and then pushed him towards the log.
"O.K. now...walk and when we say freeze!... freeze!"
"And remember...If you move you could get it in the head." (laughter)
Group masturbation is common.
Past: Man next door took an axe to his wife. No one thought anything of it. Image: Axe
Sisters were fair game.
DEMO 2 was everywhere.
Knuckles and Splits taught us to be tough.
Marching was fun.
Knobby was played with sticks and packs of mud.
Future: Where fear gives way to pleasure.