Entering the Parisian Laundry, I was instantly struck by the sense of having just missed a fantastic communal happening. A line beginning from the first supporting column on the right continues halfway up the mast of Dean Baldwin’s La table de la Méduse (2014), an installation consisting of a sturdily built picnic table covered in shucked oyster shells and accompanying implements.
In tow behind the feasting ship is a cooler surrounded by wine bottles and glasses, and as a final detail, torn sheets like sails blow in the “wind” of two black fans. The whole scene is a record of the vernissage where patrons partook of the spread.
“Stations, People, Eat, Drink” is truly immersive, even though the spacing is quite stark. Flow is the key. After following the line and exploring the ship, my eye is caught by red and green laser dots circling a luscious plant canopy – Radamés “Juni” Figueroa’s Fireflies, watermelons, marihuana on a tropical rainforest (2014). Continuing, I walk along the walls to Annie Descôteaux’s collages, weaving through Figueroa’s ready-made sports ball planters. Bartek Komorowski’s Culinary Propaganda cooking videos feels like a bit of an afterthought, , but the isolated atmosphere is appropriate for the communist-style instructional videos.
The works focus on facets and habits of consumption with a critical but entertaining approach. Descôteaux’s collages, though minimalist in aesthetic, have undertones of excess, and are slightly perturbing: an intestine splayed across the floor, an ejaculating hotdog. Her colours are vibrant, and the scale of the images approachable, using contrast to counterbalance what could be a disturbingly gluttonous scene.
Figueroa’s pieces are playful and seem to speak more to the pure enjoyment of mild degeneracy. Pairs of watermelon slices on top of nuggs of weed look like faces staring out from their tropical backdrop while the lasers dance around the print. The ready-mades keep with the colourful themes of the exhibition. They’re funny because they’re decorative but childish.
Komorowski’s video work is the most critical of the lot, poking fun at our consumption of cooking show food porn and highlighting the absurdity of our obsession, but once again it’s readily eaten up. Satirical, and hey, if you obey his instructions your life will be better! (At least you’ll have some delicious green tomatoes.)
Together, the artists attempt to revitalize our relationship to consumption. Food and drink become once again a thing of enjoyment, frivolity, and community. The viewer is encouraged to shed toxic habits and attitudes to food. The message isn’t eat healthily or responsibly, just eat joyfully and in good company. Cheers to that!
“Stations, People, Eat, Drink” continues at Parisian Laundry, 3550 rue St. Antoine, until October 11th. www.parisianlaundry.com
Ariane Fairlie is a Montreal-based artist and writer.