Villa Toronto transformed Union Station into a public exhibition space with large white walls that reminded of the ones used in my undergraduate year-end show. These white walls created a maze like setting with coves filled with contemporary art from the most prominent galleries in Toronto. The sound of the space is filled with ambient music that reminds me of my mother meditating on her Persia rug in the middle of her bedroom floor. Why does this space make me feel nostalgic?
I am here to see Iris Haussler talk about her work. I know nothing about her practice but it’s the middle of January and I haven’t been to any art-thing since before Christmas. It takes awhile for me to find the location of the reading and when I do I sit and wait. Iris sits down with the mediator and really doesn’t want to use a microphone. The echo of the space is immense and the ambient music continually plays. Every so often a generated voice of a man comes on the overhead speakers telling travelers when the next train leaves. It’s a bit of a mess. She decides that the microphone is necessary. Today she is reading from W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. I have never read anything by this writer. As she begins, I am completely lost. I have no idea what the artist is talking about or what the writer is trying to say. As the reading continues there is this moment when an audience member interjects and I finally understand what is happening. Haussler is interested in creating fictitious characters that she then personifies. As she does this she takes on the life of said individual and creates work as though she is them. She is crazy and I love her. For this work she is presenting Foundation Joseph Wagenbach, where she has selected some of his sculptures cast in bronze and shows a picture of his apartment that she has fabricated, books, sketches and some other objects that represent this now traceless man. She continually reminds us that she is not the mediator between the character and herself but, well it never becomes clear where she stands. Just like with Sebald it can be argued that he is the character or the vehicle between himself and the character. It is actually all quite confusing. Both characters in Sebald and Haussler’s work are created out of World War II and act as memories for both. The conversation becomes almost circuitous and a little stressful for all involved.
This experience was meant to unfold in such a manner because we are truly not meant to fully understand Haussler process or even navigate through her thoughts. She is meant to be void of all responsibility in giving us answers to her work. As we try to push our preconceived notions of the creative process and production to find meaning, we instead ask questions in circles that never have answers.