The Liberal Studies Department at Vancouver Island University collaborated with the Nanaimo Art Gallery to present the work of two Canadian women artists addressing contemporary concerns about domination, violence, and sexuality from Oct 10 to Nov 15, 2008. Entitled Desire and Domination: Imagining the Psyche, and curated by faculty member Lisa MacLean, this exhibition featured the photographic and installation work of Davida Kidd and Diana Thorneycroft, both well-known in the contempoary Canadian art world.
Davida Kidd, based in the Lower Mainland, works in print media and photography. Her artistic practice addresses what she describes as “themes of domination: the psyche by the dream or ideal, the conscience by guilt, the personality by passion”. She uses both dolls and human models to create “types” through which she explores the fragility and ferocity of the contemporary human condition. Elements of childhood violence and perversity, confusion over guidelines for behaviour and the seductive allure of imaginary identities are all addressed in her work. Her gift for visual storytelling is enhanced by the glossy, sleek compositing effects of the computer she employs; in this world, where real and unreal can be seamlessly blended, the ambiguities of life in our digital age are on view.
Diana Thorneycroft, based in Winnipeg, also uses photographic media. Like Kidd, she, too, explores ideas about desire, fantasy, sexuality and violence. Her series “Martyrs Murder” addresses the seeming human fascination with spectacles of violence. Inspired by images of the tortures of Christian martyrs, she has recreated these scenes using dolls as stand-ins. Both goofy and discomfiting, the “tortured” dolls and their tormentors stage a theatre of pain. Accompanying these photographs is an installation of “forensic” evidence purportedly gathered from the scene of the represented “crime”.
This installation asks us to consider our own culture’s ongoing interest in the violent and barbaric.
In Liberal Studies, a multidisciplinary examination of western culture from ancient times to post-modernity, students study works as diverse as the Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity, written by Perpetua herself, martyred in Carthage, North Africa in 203 bce; Sophocles’ Oedipus the King; Sigmund Freud’s ” Mourning and Melancholia”; and Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism. As can be seen by those familiar with these texts, the concerns addressed in “Desire and Domination – Imagining the Psyche” are ones with which western culture has been preoccupied since ancient times, and ones which continue to haunt us today.
Read the catalogue here: Desire and Domination