Wylie: KAG hosts social commentary in video installation

Melanie Daniel, still from  Jerome, 2007.  - Contributed
Melanie Daniel, still from Jerome, 2007.
— image credit: Contributed

Emerging artist Melanie Daniel has been spending time visiting Kelowna this year away from her adopted home of Israel. Daniel regularly works as a painter, but when the opportunity arose to show her work at the Kelowna Art Gallery, she was keen to exhibit two works in video rather than her canvases.

While her longer video piece, Jerome, has been screened internationally, neither of these works in video have ever been shown in Kelowna.

Inside the Kelowna Art Gallery’s small, darkened Mardell G. Reynolds gallery the two complementary works in video are being displayed concurrently. One is a short, silent loop on a TV monitor, of a back hoe fitted with toothed jaws demolishing a condemned crack house in Kelowna. Daniel shot the video one day as she just happened to come upon it. Its title is Crack Shack and it was made earlier this year.

The longer piece, titled Jerome, was completed in 2007. Projected on a wall in the space it runs for about nine minutes. It centres on one man and his monologue about the illegal drug culture in Kelowna.

While the footage was shot by Daniel five years ago, viewers will quickly come to the conclusion that it is not a dated work, and if anything, the situation in this city has escalated, just as Jerome outlines and predicts on camera

Daniel’s paintings also deal with social/political issues, particularly those relevant to Israel, where Daniel has lived since 1995. But the references in her paintings are made more obliquely and through the vocabulary of visual form.

The videos are utterly direct and Jerome’s thoughts are pretty hard hitting. He delivers these ideas in an engaging, almost entertaining manner, which serves to disarm the viewer and have us more readily take in and consider his ideas. This might not be the case with another format, for example, a lecture from a law enforcement officer. Indeed, Jerome is eminently watchable, and at nine minutes, it does not require a huge time commitment from a gallery visitor to sit through its entirety.

The footage of the Jerome character speaking is cut in with still images shot by Daniel showing us the underside of Kelowna—graffiti, trash and other random urban detritus without a winery or lake panorama in sight.

Jerome opens with footage of a young man cutting his lawn on a summer day. He finishes up with a smile, and moves inside his house, the camera following him. Sitting in his front room, he shows the viewer an ankle monitor—he is under house arrest for allegedly participating in a grow op in Kelowna. He seems to have given a great deal of thought to his own situation and that of the city in which he lives. He is also articulate and well spoken, which makes for strong viewer interest.

Ultimately, what will gallery visitors take away from this exhibition?

There are no solutions suggested in the Jerome video to the social problems that plaque Kelowna and include a gang presence and activity in illegal drug sales.

But there is certainly ample food for thought presented and hopefully the show will provoke some discussion at various community levels.

Daniel’s exhibition is accompanied by a black-and-white publication that is free to visitors. The show runs at the Kelowna Art Gallery until Sunday, May 27.

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