Victoria artist uses wrestling as reference point in new installation

PREVIEW

What: One Way or Another

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Where: Open Space gallery

When: Opens Friday, continues to Feb. 18

Admission: By donation

 

In One Way or Another, her biggest and most ambitious art project to date, Megan Dickie references a number of things.

Wrestling is one of them.

The Victoria artist says her interest in “glam wrestling” (the commercial television entertainment) goes back to her youth. She first became intrigued by wrestlers while exhibiting her calf at the Calgary Stampede as a teenager.

It was a 4-H project for Dickie, who was raised on a small farm north of Calgary. At the Stampede, a gang of wrestlers — hired for a Stampede-related bout — emerged from their dressing room. The wrestlers, apparently animal lovers, petted Dickie’s calf and chatted with her.

“They were in full regalia,” she recalled. “It was a very interesting experience.”

Wrestling is referenced only indirectly in One Way or Another. The installation features a gallery-filling assemblage of objects, including impressively large sculptures resembling a barbell and green mattresses. There are also TV screens projecting what appear to be 1980s-style video games. The characters are female — some sport head-gear reminiscent of Mexican wrestling masks.

In conjunction with One Way or Another, and in keeping with the wrestling theme, Dickie will co-host a workshop with the West Coast League of Lady Wrestlers. It happens Feb. 11, running 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., at Intrepid Theatre Club on 1609 Blanshard St.

Dickie’s previous wrestling-themed art projects include Ready to Rumble, featuring a video in which she grapples with a wall of wax bricks. There was also Tussle With the Tangler, a video in which Dickie dances with a haystack-like sculpture and flings herself upon it like a World Wrestling Entertainment combatant.

Wrestling intrigues her, partly because audiences enjoy it despite its obvious inauthenticity.

“We want to indulge in the artificiality of it. And we don’t care that we know it’s all choreographed and staged and no one’s really getting hurt,” Dickie said.

The barbell and mattress sculptures are the most eye-catching elements of One Way or Another. The giant barbell is made with black leather, with spiralling decorations at each end. Dickie says it’s influenced by Marcel Duchamp’s 1925 kinetic sculpture Rotary Demisphere (Precision Optics) and his Dadist film Anemic Cinema (1926).

Human struggle, and perhaps its futility, is a central theme in One Way or Another. In one of her video-game inspired projections, a character in a dress leaps from one building to another. She ultimately falls down, never ascending to the next level.

“Part of this is inspired by reality television shows where they’d doing activities and failing, like running through courses and stuff,” Dickie said. “There is pleasure in seeing somebody — not fall and hurt themselves — but to go to those limits and not succeed. That’s all in there.”

Dickie says the video game’s buildings are inspired by Manhattan’s New Museum and London’s Tate Modern, both prestigious institutions presenting contemporary art. Her video character’s unsuccessful leaps mirror Dickie’s own struggle to achieve “excellence as an artist.”

She says another part of the show, a series of brass figurines in silhouette, suggests the internal struggles we all wrestle with.

Dickie has exhibited her work across Canada. Now an assistant professor of visual art at the University of Victoria, she has a master’s degree in sculpture from the University of Saskatchewan.

All the characters in One Way or Another represent a female point of view.

However, Dickie stresses her exhibition shouldn’t be viewed only as a statement on women in contemporary society.

“I wouldn’t say this is a feminist exhibition. But I think there’s a subversive feminist element that runs through it,” she said.

achamberlain@timescolonist.com

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