Gillian Wearing, Drunk (1999), video still
[Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC, thru Oct 27]
Vancouver Art Gallery
Vancouver BC thru Oct 27
Gillian Wearing, a British photographer and videographer, takes on as her subject matter the difficult public lives and depressing emotional upheavals of alcoholics in the deepest stages of their disease. She simultaneously acts as a participant, friend, voyeur and chronicler.
Viewers confronted by the shock appeal of her work might ask, Is it art or life? Like many of her contemporaries who work on that razor edge, Wearing's approach seems dispassionate. Drunk, for example, is a large piece employing three white panels on which are cleanly projected simple but brutal black-and-white photos of very drunk people.
But if not for the intervention of Wearing with her own presence and existence and will to take these photographs, these ugly scenes would not have been captured and formalized in the gallery setting. And despite the cool presentation, they are massively, emotionally powerful. Ultimately she forces the question in the viewer's mind to be re-phrased: Why would an artist create art from anything less?