Art and the Preservation of Life

Dec 19 2017, 3:38 pm

We are all familiar with the cliché about art imitating life, and we are all tired of hearing it. But what about art preserving life? Can art not only reaffirm the importance of life, but also help us overcome our own mortality? The Or Gallery’s latest exhibition, Death & Objects II, examines these questions and does so by presenting the various works/thesis’ of multiple artists.

Ryan Peter’s Untitled (AUTOGRAM) portrays an abstract arm reaching towards a pair of psychedelic legs, back-dropped against a bleak and hostile looking environment that would make an Eraserhead- era David Lynch proud. Does the work attempt to help us overcome our own mortality? It does not, but it does reaffirm the importance of life. This writer interpreted the arm as belonging to Death, and the psychedelic nature of the legs as a reminder that the cycle of life and death is inherently surreal. We all know we are eventually going to die, but it still seems unbelievable. All the more reasons to enjoy the precious few moments we have with our psychedelic legs.

Neil Goldberg’s My Father Breathing Into a Mirror is the most poignant of all the works, as it tackles the question of whether art can help us overcome our own mortality. The answer is no, but what art can do is preserve the memory of our life, and it is that very memory that can achieve immortality. Goldberg’s piece consists of a one minute silent video loop of his now deceased father breathing onto a small mirror – the breath marks proving that he was alive during the filming. But because he is deceased the breath marks instead symbolize something else: the immortality of his memory. It is beautiful to watch, because a mirror, which is so often associated with vanity, is being used to immortalize the memory of this man. In this writer’s humble opinion, it is the best use of a mirror since Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It is also this writer’s humble opinion that his cap is an improvement on Sabina’s bowler hat.



Death & Objects II runs until July 13. The Or Gallery is located at 555 Hamilton Street. (Website:

Written by Jason Smythe. Connect with Jason on Twitter @JasonSmythe4.

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