Artful paranoia

Delving into society via pseudo-evidence

One of three compilations of pseudo-evidence make up the installation Superstition.
One of three compilations of pseudo-evidence make up the installation Superstition.
The installations serve as a nod to society’s infatuation with criminal activity.
The installations serve as a nod to society’s infatuation with criminal activity.

The installations in the Knot Knock: Decoy Signs and Occult Operatives exhibit are simple yet the space they occupy is anything but empty. It’s charged with an enigmatic atmosphere.

“Hawk 33” and “Superstition” are the exhibit’s two featured installations. They were given to the school in 2011, through the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (AEAC), by artistic duo Kim Kozzi and Queen’s alumnus Dai Skuse, also known as Fastwürms.

In neat columns and rows, “Hawk 33” is comprised of white banners made of tarp and card panel.

With a wink to their Wiccan traditions, Fastwürms transformed black and blue enamel paint into a kettle of tattooed hawks that seem to have lured many into an hour or two of inescapable fixation and impulsive decoding work.

Furthermore, on the bottom right corner of each of the banners are mysterious hourglasses, the top and bottom of which are in various states of empty and filled. This further confuses the installation, forcing the viewer to attempt to decipher its meaning.

Part of the installation is a bioethics survey about the moral implications of altering the “pigmentation patterns” of birds. Displayed is the Nike logo in return for the company giving “millions of dollars of revenue” for the conservation of bird habitats. The fictional survey offers a light-hearted variation, a step away from superstitions towards science fiction.

Deeper into the Centre is “Superstition.” The installation is made up of three bodies of photographic pseudo-evidence, “Agents, Safe Houses and Lookouts and Getaway Cars,” against a body called The Organization.

The photographs are described by the AEAC as “meticulously clustered and cryptically inscribed.” Whether they are evidence in favour of or against “The Organization” remains to be seen.

The myriad photographs are done in the style of enlarged polaroids, the frames seemingly created with a Sharpie marker and the colours not unlike the ones seen with Instagram filters. The cryptic information that complements the photos were apparently typed on a typewriter.

Walking through the “Superstition” installation feels like defying time and quietly stalking into 1950s United States with the collar on your trench coat popped, your fedora tipped down and your dark shades on. At the far end of the rectangular gallery are the artists’ signatures: a video compilation of cats, the film The Mummy and a lion tamer played to the music of AC/DC.

The photographs are not necessarily a feast for the eyes but the unexpected pictures and the part-brilliant, part-nonsensical informational blurbs have the power to inspire thought.

Displayed is a sheet stating the “Goals of THE ORGANIZATION”, with one of the goals being, “A justice system” and another “A division of power between the temple of Isis and the house of Bast.” A cheeky and intelligent nod to society’s obsession with criminal behaviour, this installation definitely brought a half-smile to my face while asking me to question the overall meaning behind said obsession.

Knot Knock: Decoy Signs and Occult Operatives is styled as an exposé. However, it does not simplify or clarify. It counterintuitively further mystifies and encourages the observer to put together the puzzles.

The exhibit runs at the AEAC until Jan. 12, 2014.

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