Robert Wiens

27 January to 5 March 2011


Robert Wiens’ The Rip (1986) describes a hole that is “impossible to ignore” but cannot be seen. The main component of the work, a model of a movie theatre’s interior with a pristine white screen, is inconsistent with the accompanying anecdote viewable in a frame nearby. Though the tear is physically absent, its presence in words opens up more significant socio-political concerns in its allusions to tenuous—yet rhetorically invisible—race relations observed by the artist.

Wiens’ use of models and dioramas explores their instructive and immersive potential, while also appropriating their ability to suspend disbelief in order to question the unreliability of images elsewhere in the world. Primarily employed as didactic displays, these stalwarts of the museum place the viewer within a physical or imagined reality, or here as a method of displacement.

Maquette is a model of a monument that will never be built. Composed of a seated figure that appears to be reading, its side is cut away to reveal an architectural interior comprised of flights of stairs moving from the floor up into its head. It is a stark, Brutalist dwelling for a genuine homunculus, potentially commenting on interior states or generating further allegorical meaning. Taking up a much larger footprint is Dam, which is concealed behind a false wall on the gallery’s main floor. Peering through a hole reveals another dam situated in a boreal forest—a habitat that makes up more than a third of Canada’s land mass but is increasingly inaccessible from urban centres. Through their small holes, both Maquette and Dam permit views of locations that convey a sense of remoteness and distance from reality.