In 1998, a devastating ice storm crippled much of Ontario and Quebec, leaving cities like Ottawa and Montreal literally and metaphorically frozen. The devastation that the storm left in its wake was massive. More than thirty fatalities occurred and industrial structures heaved under their yoke of ice.
A group of artists going by the collective name of TH&B have long been fascinated by the images of hydroelectric towers crumpled under the weight of so much ice, and have recently begun a stunning exhibit at Modern Fuel Gallery downtown titled “Resurrection.” Though the exhibit is sparse, the effect is tremendous.
In the centre of the room stands a geometric tower shape of forged metal, with several arms of steel yawing down at a steep angle to meet the ground. “The collapsed towers are an image they have long been drawn to,” says artistic director of the gallery, Kevin Rogers, about the piece’s obvious real-life influences. Yet the piece is unique in that it was installed and completed on site at the gallery with one surprising addition: puddles of hardened syrupy candy that spill beneath the tower like so much hydroelectric blood. According to Rogers, TH&B imagined the structure as a sort of creature, and wondered what it might have flowing through its veins. Candy syrup is no coincidence – it references the maple industry that is a Quebecois icon. With this installation, TH&B lends an organic sort of lifeblood to the piece. Hanging on the wall near the oozing tower is a bucket with a sugar tap. The bucket is likewise filled with hardened syrup. Startling, though, is the substance’s sickly appearance, like crude oil about to boil over. Much of the exhibit, then, blurs the line between the organic and the industrial, the beautiful and the horrific. Even the artists’ moniker – TH&B – is a double entendre. The initials originally were used to designate a rail line; now, they signify creators. Tangible industrialism becomes reinterpreted. Standing in stark contrast to these to pieces is an almost comical video of the artists schlepping one of the towers around a neighbourhood, sped up in silent movie style. The dissonance is unexpected, and the viewer of the exhibit is left to wonder, is the collapsed tower a symbol of destruction, or of reimagination? TH&B leaves it up to you to decide.
This show will be on display until February 23 at Modern Fuel Gallery. For more information about the artists and their works, please visit TH&B.