Luis Jacob: A Dance”¦ and Other Works
At the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery until December 2
On a chilly day in a snow-covered park, performance artist Keith Cole dances in solitude and silence. Costumed in a fur hat, woollen body suit, and long black skirt, he executes an enigmatic series of movements. He bends, sways, stalks, kneels, sweeps his arms across the snow, and whips a pair of T-shirts around like signal flags. On either side of his image, which is projected onto a wall of the gallery, video monitors show two women signing in different languages of the deaf. Their gesticulations knit into Cole's and, like his, seem to describe a mysterious narrative.
The title of Luis Jacob's recent video installation, A Dance for Those of Us Whose Hearts Have Turned to Ice, Based on the Choreography of Franí§oise Sullivan and the Sculpture of Barbara Hepworth (With Sign-Language Supplement), might well function as the work's story line. So might an accompanying brochure, available in a reading area. This small publication is filled with quotes, mostly dating back to the 1940s, from Quebec dance artist Sullivan, British modernist sculptor Hepworth, British art historian and critic Herbert Read, and revolutionary Quebec painter Paul-Emile Borduas. Their quotes are the words being signed in the three-channel video.
Jacob, a Peruvian-Canadian artist based in Toronto, focuses on these individuals because of their eloquent commitment to anarchism, modernist idealism, and organic expression. Their philosophical positions are similar to those behind his larger body of work, as is revealed in a videotaped conversation between Jacob and Belkin director-curator Scott Watson, which plays on a monitor in a back corner of the gallery.
"Anarchism is very simple," Jacob says. "It's the idea that we're all equal." He also cites modernism's belief in art as a means of personal liberation.
Although idealism deeply informs Jacob's work, which here also includes another performance video and a 159-panel series of engrossing photomontages, passion is largely absent from A Dance”¦. As choreographed and performed by Cole, it is by turns poetic, frenetic, apprehensive, and supplicatory.
Whether costumed or dancing in the nude in a secondary version, Cole appears as a sweet, eccentric performer. The softness of his manner and physique perhaps suits the organic nature of the expression under scrutiny here. Still, you wonder what a sinewy, impassioned dancer such as Noam Gag non might have made of the project.