Levin Haegele and Daniel Olson
“...time is just the stuff it is made of.” i- Henri Bergson
In the text Creative Evolution Henri Bergson discusses various perspectives related to the idea of duration. Bergson’s understanding of duration is based on an assumption that the world has only a past, an accumulated history which continuously evolves and expands. This idea is at odds with many of our common perceptions of time as a linear continuum. For Bergson time is a thing, an object, a life-form; it grows, evolves and foremost endures. So too does time become a thing in the works of Levin Haegele and Daniel Olson, the artist’s featured in Smokescreens at TRUCK Gallery. For both of these artists time has a presence, a resonance that propels mysterious and profoundly simple investigations into material, site, perception and thought.
The title of the exhibition implies a ruse, a subtle subterfuge intended to misdirect. In Daniel Olson’s two single-channel works Illumination and Smoky Haze the feeling of a mysterious agenda is tangible. In both works there is a Noir, filmic quality suggesting fragmented narrative arcs. In Smoky Haze Olson smokes a cigarette off camera, exhaling puffs into the frame while a wind-like sound track plays. The audio is actually a slowed down recording of the artist whistling a series of random notes. In the second piece, Illumination Olson lights a matchbook in a dark space, allows it to burn, and then blows it out. What is common in both of these videos is a sense of intuitive cinematic alchemy where fragments and props become more than just passing details. Rather, the objects and materials are imbued with a sense of secret importance through the artist’s mediation. Ultimately, Olson encourages us to spend time unraveling his little mysteries. Only after careful consideration do we find that the pieces have more to do with the construction of meaning itself than any specific story or idea.
Levin Haegele’s work similarly investigates the various tensions and levels of suspended disbelief inherent to the ephemeral, but whereas Olson’s work is somewhat secretive and seductive, Haegele’s two videos utilize the openly ambiguous space between recognition and illusion. In Fuse Piece (Calgary) Haegele uses Visco (a fireworks wick) to create a looped video around the area of Truck Gallery. This fuse constantly burns, but never reaches its destination, provoking a feeling of anticipation that is ultimately unfulfilled. His second work Cigarette Piece films the red embers of a cigarette as they fall through a dark space onto the floor. The effect is reminiscent of a fireworks display, albeit without the pomp and festivity. Alternatively, we are induced into a more contemplative reading that defers from violent spectacle. Like Olson, Haegele suggests that within everyday materials resides a complexity that can be revealed through juxtaposition, re-contextualization and protracted consideration. Haegele’s two videos smack of a humble engagement with the world that is both mesmerizing and sensitive, coaxing us to further evaluate common places and objects.
Of course Smokescreens also makes reference to the generally combustible content that dominates the exhibition. Because both artist’s share commonalities of media, theme and intent the show could at once seem an easy fit and a dangerous conflagration of the artist’s work and ideas. In actuality the impact of this similarity opens up dialogue surrounding each of the artist’s individual projects. Effectively the
four videos establish an environment with an overall emphasis on brevity, understatement and contemplation. Consequently, the videos taken as a whole or in part are indicators of a larger set of concerns that feed and augment each other. Olson and Haegele’s videos become fuel for each other’s fire, igniting new trajectories while extinguishing old ones, all the while guiding a subtle investigation of the fleeting and enduring aspects of life.
i Creative Evolution, Henri Bergson, Dover Publications Inc., Mineola, New York, USA. 1998. P. 4.
Scott Rogers is a visual artist and writer based in Calgary. As a youth he was a part-time arsonist.