Gallery a goth’s sci-fi fantasy

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By John Gemmell

If you’re intimidated by the pretentious aura of “hardcore” art-type in downtown galleries then here’s a safe haven: the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, tucked away in the wilds of North York.

Missing are those with inflated egos who are there to be seen; present  are a genuine art lovers or curious suburbanites who have parked in the expansive lot that envelops the Toronto Centre for the Arts, or voyaged up to the top of the Yonge subway line.

The gallery tries to attract city dwellers by advertising the trip as a 15-minute subway ride from Bloor plus a two-minute walk from the North York Centre station. These times are understated, it takes about 25 minutes to get there from Dundas station.

It’s current exhibition – Come Part Mental, by Italian-born Hamilton resident Floria Sigismondi – is a feast for the vitiated senses. It’s also the last place in the which you’d expect to find mister or madam “right,” unless you’re in the market for Marilyn Manson’s offspring.

The cavernous two-level exhibition space is lit up with pure white walls ans fluorescent tube lights, but female mannequins with various deformities on display create an eerie morgue-like ambiance. Sigismondi uses the idea of cloning and body modification as the basis for her work. The exhibit is a sci-fi vision of human enhancement gone terribly wrong.

Visitors are greeted at the entrance by a mannequin who’s been injected with the DNA of a jellyfish. She’s slumped over, developed two more breasts, and horns sprout from her back. Around the corner lies a limbless dummy on a hospital gurney, her face paralyzed with fear. Sixty-four legs protrude from the wall above her, looking as if they’ll come alive at any moment.

A crumpled Subaru hatchback sits in the corner, its windshield smashed on the driver’s side as if it met an unlucky head. Projected onto its buckled hood is one of Sigismondi’s video shorts, 4 Ton Mantis, which focuses on a man’s relationship with machines in New York. (A bittersweet horror: images of the World Trade Center before the attacks are flashed in the film, unintentionally adding to the room’s already spooky mood.)

Large photographs of scenes from various music videos Sigismondi has directed line the upper-level’s walls. Four TVs hang from the ceiling and loop the videos she directed for Marylin Manson, David Bowie, Björk and Robert Plant. It’s not the most calming music and doesn’t encourage conversation between visitors.

Pick-up lines that you could use at this exhibition to catch the attention of its young, gothic visitors range from, “Isn’t it interesting, the way drool is oozing from Marilyn’s mouth?” or “Gosh, that mannequin is well endowed! Check out the size of the horn poking out from her crotch!” That is, if the asexual nature of the show hasn’t already squashed your lustful ambitions.

Come Part Mental shows at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art until Oct. 28. Tues-Sun 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. 5040 Yonge St. 416-395-7430. Admission is free.

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