Show & Tell Gallery (1161 Dundas Street West)
Runs May 7-16
By Kerry Freek
It’s the battle of the blogs! Kidding (mostly). Back in March, blogTO announced a Sony-sponsored contest for aspiring photographers to take part in an official Scotiabank CONTACT photo exhibit. The theme was 99 Cents, that ubiquitous sale suffix. The call encouraged the exploration of the concept’s psychological influence. Cool, yes? Unfortunately, the exhibit’s description sounds better than it looks. The result of reader votes and culls from blogTO’s curatorial team is a rather meh collection of photos on display now at Show & Tell.
Keep in mind that any exhibit following our night’s first stop (a titillating and kind of intelligent exhibit at GRASP Erotica Bar), would have been subject to unfair comparison. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that many of 99 Cents‘ winning entries are more stock photography than art.
That being said, the show isn’t all bad, and we’re not specifically attempting to start flame wars. In the interest of keeping peace in the TO blogosphere (and not being a total jerk), here’s a quick rundown of MONDO’s top two of the show.
1. Channeling Andreas Gursky’s 99 Cent II Diptychon (2001), Tanja Tiziana’s Fancy Panties was one of the best shots. Featuring tell-tale Honest Ed’s script and a pile of panties, amplified and multiplied by the store’s sheer size and miles of nearly indistinguishable (but affordable!) goodies, the photo, much like Ed’s itself, feels kind of stuck in a weird 50s-80s time warp. The washed-out colours call to mind the store’s fluourescent glow and practically scream “this material is neither breathable nor comfortable, but gosh darn is it a good deal!” No offense to Tiziana, but my partner in crime for the evening commented that she found it difficult to be interested in the image, especially after our first stop of the night (see above). “It’s just not impressive to me now that I’ve seen someone sniffing them,” she explained.
2. Dmitrijs Belokons’ greywashed tableau 99 Cents features an older gentleman of leisure with an expression of either pain or glee (it’s difficult to tell). With a hammer in one hand and a martini in the other, he sits above a freshly-smashed piggy bank, coins spilled all over a silver serving tray. His wildly-mismatched 90s jumper and sofa are paired with an unexplainable polka-dotted ascot to humourous effect. At the least, it’s an neat composition with lots of narrative possibilities.
Ryan Louis’ Not a Dollar received the highest number of votes of the contest. The tongue-in-cheek image is a grouping of crumpled foil chocolate loonie wrappings, sans choco. We got the joke — very cute. However, with apologies to Sony, blogTO, and the general public, this shot is representative of a democracy fail. It’s safe and boring.
I hate to see a good concept go to waste, so next time, let’s get a good tyrannical curator and a couple of imaginative artists (Life of a Craphead, are you listening?) to make something truly awesome out of 99 Cents. Until then, if you enjoy simple, safe responses to potentially interesting concepts, check out the rest of the exhibit. On the bright side, all prints sold support the photographer’s charity of choice.