Review – Daniel Barrow’s Everytime I See Your Picture I Cry at the PUSH Festival, Vancouver, Feb 7 2009
– by Gina Tessaro
You know what’s wrong with the Winnipeg art scene these days? Actually, neither do I. The city has been steadily making a name for itself as a place where art production is indifferent to trends in the art market, instead offering the consumer new and totally inventive terms of engagement.
A case in point is the media artist Daniel Barrow’s performance of his piece Every Time I See Your Picture I Cry during the PuSh Festival last Friday, Feb 7, at Performance Works on Granville Island. Situated in the centre of the darkened room behind an antiquated overhead projector, Barrow presented the character of an introspective civil servant, a trash collector who sifts through history, memory, and the details of other lives in order to create something of enduring artistic value for his community.
The object of the trash man’s creation is a phone book chronicling the lives of those around him, with information gathered from their trash bins and by peering through their bedroom windows in the dead of night. He’s anything but a pervert, though. His aim is to aestheticize the pain of the world around him, while applying “profound and intimate insights” from his own suffering to the lives of those in his collection.
Barrow presents the garbage man’s story through a series of mylar transparencies, which he layers on the projector and then manipulates to create a simple form of animation. Although the cast of characters are drawn in candy shop colours, the images are often disturbing, owing to the theme that the narrator’s sharpened social awareness comes from his observation of human suffering.
Barrow’s nameless janitor is an outsider, lonely and out of step with the world. “I rarely see movies on television,” he tells us, “I don’t even own a VCR. I see a movie on its last leg of distribution—late night TV.” His solitude is piercing, especially given his determination to connect. “I want to be able to express the things that people in their daily lives want to express,” he confides, and as mylar snowflakes blanket their world he quietly tells us, “I give a damn.”
The performance relates to the medium of comics, which have long maintained a foothold in the art world (albeit mainly through the appropriation of its imagery). Barrow stays close to the essence of the medium, but his gift for story and his original presentation takes him well beyond our expectations of the form.
“Ideally, I just like to make people cry,” the garbage collector forlornly tells us. As I glanced across the room at the end of the piece, it was apparent that he got his way.