Artists Marta Gorski and Alana Biffert reimagine the role of the audience in Macromea
The Main Gallery at Harcourt is holding an exhibition that is not only meant to be seen, but questioned. Canadian glass artists Marta Gorski and Alana Biffert show a blueprint of intimacy in an attempt to inspire unfettered views.
A mixed-media installation, Macromea challenges the viewer to investigate and consider what they see and what they don’t. The exhibition is made up of several panels of glass with ‘looking holes’ arranged in certain spots in which prints can be seen from a few feet away. The prints feature various intimate areas of the body in black and white, which aren’t always easy to pinpoint. In the end, the goal is to encourage audiences to leave with newfound self-awareness.
“What we’re presenting from the wall forward is this view of what we want you to see,” Gorski says. “We’ve set up boundaries and we’ve set up barriers and we’ve offered you windows and looking glasses into what we want you to see. But because there’s that other person, the viewer, their responsibility in the relationship is to either surpass and just take a surface look at you or to go in between some of those barriers and take an investigation of what is really there.”
From past exhibitions, the artists find a strong correlation between the viewer’s gender and their behaviour. Male identifying viewers tend to stay near the back of the room and females toward the front, inspecting more thoroughly.
The ladies give their viewers permission to view the body as an unaltered subject. When creating the pieces they were heavily impacted by the often curated or manufactured version of self that we put online, which blocks intimacy and vulnerability. While this detached zone feels safe for us, the lack of substance can hinder our relationships and their strengths.
“Sometimes as a person, you don’t know how many barriers you’re actually putting up,” Gorski says. “There’s a lot of people talking about how they end up in the same relationship position over and over again. And it’s like, at what point are you aware of your common denominators?”
In the same way, the artists hope to break down barriers and challenge the viewer. They too were challenged when first making the pieces over five years ago while at Alberta College of Art and Design.
Growing up in ballet most of her life, Biffert knew body image issues and insecurities well.
“When we decided to tackle this piece, originally, it was only going to be Marta’s body,” Biffert says. “But then our mentors kind of said, ‘Well, what about you Alana? Don’t you want to work on your boundaries?’ And so, it was actually the beginning of an unravelling for me with that.”
She’s still working on self-love in various ways, especially after being in a serious car accident two years ago. That incident affects her self-image, but for Gorski, it’s about learning and being vulnerable.
“There was a long time where Alana would be like, ‘Here, let me help you with that,’ and I’d be like, ‘No, I can do it myself. I don’t need anybody now,’” she says. “I spent the last couple years working on how to have more intimate personal relationships with men and women that allow me to need something.”
Macromea was the duo’s very first collaboration, though they’ve been friends for over 16 years since meeting at a Weezer concert in high school. But somehow, they found their relationship wasn’t ever its deepest until collaborating on Macromea.
“It was kind of like the first time we were meeting each other,” Gorski says. “It was funny because all of a sudden, we were finding things out about each other that we didn’t know yet.”
From a strict conservative background being raised in Malta, Biffert was nervous when her parents first came to see the exhibition and recalls being “beet red the whole time.”
“When my mother [first] came to see it, I lied to her. She’s like, ‘Is this your body up here?’ And I was like, ‘No, no we hired models,’” Biffert laughs. “I actually told her this time around, that these were all images of Marta and I, and I feel like I’ve actually grown a lot from this work.”
On the other side, Gorski comes from a more liberal family that often support her edgy work, though she does admit to being slightly nervous about her father attending as well. With a fresh perspective since the first few exhibitions, the two can now see leaps and bounds of personal growth that they’ve realized in the process of creating Macromea.
The Harcourt exhibition features a few additions since the first exhibition, including images of male bodies as well as their own.
“Because this is about people, no matter they’re orientation,” Gorski says. “Every single person has those fears.”
Thu., Feb. 1 (7 pm)
Until Sat. Mar. 17
Macromea opening reception
Harcourt House Artist Run Centre, The Main Gallery