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Review: Scott Massey's A Marker to Measure Drift, at the KAG

A Marker to Measure Drift confronts us with our place in the universe and our responsibility to the celestial body we call home. In the world of ever-advancing personal device technology, Massey reminds us to, every so often, look up.
Scott Massey’s A Marker to Measure Drift
Scott Massey’s A Marker to Measure Drift is at the Kamloops Art Gallery through April 3.

In the modern world, where we regularly look at the face of another person hundreds of miles away through a screen in real time, it is remarkable that something as ancient and regular as the full moon on a clear night in January can be awe-inspiring.

The day after such a night, I attended Scott Massey’s solo show A Marker To Measure Drift.

Curated by Charo Neville, it is at the Kamloops Art Gallery through April 3.

Looking at Massey’s work feels like plucking the moon from the sky in order to examine it under a microscope.

However, his ambition is not to rule the cosmos as science tries to do, but rather to understand our place within this larger context. He uses light as a medium in photographic, video, installation and performance works to examine everyday cosmological phenomena and make the invisible visible.

“The sun was born in darkness, to shine for a time, only to return to darkness” introduces the show.

As the title suggests, this piece points to the ever-present fact that the sun, the very thing that sustains our existence, is temporary. A video of an unexposed transparency slide being incinerated by a hot point of light is projected on a large scale. As the thin black plastic burns, it changes to purple, then orange, then blue, until only the charred remains are left. The click of a rotary projector is heard and the process begins again.

Creating an unending repetition of birth, life, death and rebirth, the effect is mesmerizing.

Massey makes visible the destruction and formation of the many suns that will replace ours.

In the centre of the main gallery, Rememoration Piece (Grass Ring) anchors the space with a large industrial lamp hanging close to the floor.

Surrounding it is a circular planter with lawn grass that appears neon green against the pine floor of the gallery. The grass arcs dramatically inward toward the light at the centre.

Referring to the centre of the ring, my partner remarks, “I feel like I’ve been in that space.”

Indeed, the vivid greenery, confined in the shape of a ring, recalls the familiar manufactured green spaces of urban environments.

Everything about the piece is a man-made: the industrial lamp mimics the sun with a full spectrum light bulb and a mechanical timer that mimics sunrise and sunset, while the grass is grown from genetically modified seed.

The goal may be to create an idealized green space, but the final product is made surreal by the grass leaning toward the centre.

Rememoration works to remind us that when we try to master nature, we alter it in unnatural ways.

Showing works that force contemplation of the cosmos like “The sun was born in dark-ness, to shine for a time, only to return to darkness” along with works that remind us we have influence in our terrestrial existence like Rememoration Piece (Grass Ring) calls attention to humanity as being small and insignificant, but nevertheless influential.

A Marker to Measure Drift confronts us with our place in the universe and our responsibility to the celestial body we call home. In the world of ever-advancing personal device technology, Massey reminds us to, every so often, look up.