Art ad hoc

The latest instalment from Modern Fuel combines two disparate themes

Modern Fuel main gallery.
Image by: Tyler Ball
Modern Fuel main gallery.

Contributor Nothing captures one’s attention more than a particularly unique and interesting name. The right name, such as Ad Hoc, sparks interest and creates a desire to learn more.

Ad Hoc is a free exhibit being shown at the Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre. It combines the work of two modern photographers: Noel Bullock, a graduate of St. Lawrence College and the founding director of Modern Fuel’s Artist-Run Centre; and Jocelyn Purdie, director of the Union Gallery at Queen’s.

After talking to Modern Fuel’s Artistic Director Michael Davidge I learned Ad Hoc means “for this purpose” in Latin. The expression is used as the basis for uniting Bullock and Purdie’s work.

The show’s comprised of two different photo series, but the connection between the two isn’t apparent, even after extensive explanation.

Bullock’s “Wheeltown” consists of a group of photos taken in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood in response to the homelessness created by the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. It uses shopping carts filled with personal belongings to represent the displaced residents of the urban environment.

Purdie’s “Habitus,” on the other hand, focuses on a more rural topic. The digital images, as well as the model set up in the centre of the room, depict duck blinds—wooden structures used to hide or disguise duck hunters.

They each stand alone as significant exhibits, but together these series only leave the viewer feeing confused about their relationship with each other.

Davidge said both artists used local materials to address local concerns. Although they address important issues, their portrayal would have been more effective if the photos were arranged as separate exhibits. Together their meanings get lost.

The Ad Hoc pamphlet, provided by the gallery, gives insight into the connection between the two works. Both photo series expose the things people would rather not see. One exposes the harsh results that come from a world-uniting event and the other demonstrates the sport of duck hunting. This is a meaningful way to bring these artists’ work together, but is not all that apparent without some sort of explanation.

The photos also demonstrate peoples’ ability to control the appearance of things they may or may not want to see; to make something appear or disappear. The use of camouflage applies to both Bullock and Purdie’s images, but it isn’t a strong enough reason to connect them.

Homelessness, especially as it is addressed in Bullock’s portraits of shopping carts, is something people choose not to see. The duck blinds, though, are buildings camouflaged within nature in order to hunt ducks more stealthily.

The images used by both artists are very interesting and thought-provoking; Bullock’s images are particularly moving and evoke quite a bit of emotion.

The pictures, though they are few in number, are worth spending time with. The structure that accompanied Purdie’s photos was a nice touch as well. I did, however, find myself drawn to look around the exhibit in the adjoining room instead of spending more time in the main gallery.

Not as interesting as its name, Ad Hoc may leave you underwhelmed even though the talent of the two artists is obvious—the thematic concerns of the pieces are weakened by the decision to combine the two exhibits.

Ad Hoc is open now to Feb. 3 at The Modern Fuel Artist Run Centre. The centre is open Tuesday to Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. A reception for the exhibition will take place on Saturday Feb. 6 at 7 p.m.

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