ESKER FOUNDATION, Calgary AB – To Dec 19
by Michael Turner
Toronto-based “Romantic conceptualist” Jon Sasaki is a multidisciplinary artist working in video, photography, performance and installation. His current exhibition, comprised of works produced over the past 10 years, provides examples of the artist’s long-standing interest in failure and futility – only now, in our Covidian moment, works that once evoked feelings of poignant hopelessness are reframed through a societal re-interest in improvisation and resourcefulness.
Among the earliest works in the exhibition is Ladder Stack (2009). In this 2:05-minute video loop the artist is seen scaling the gallery’s white wall using a succession of four-step aluminum ladders, stacking one atop another. To Change a Lightbulb (2017) is motivated by a similar impulse: rather than simply replace a burned-out bulb (or, in the case of Ladder Stack, purchase a longer ladder), the artist opens the fi xture and reconnects the broken filament – a gesture that does not recirculate the bulb as a source of household illumination but reminds us, albeit briefly, of the life it once possessed.
Sasaki’s most recent work is Improvised Travel Adapters (2018-present), an ongoing project that has the artist MacGyvering international electrical sockets with conducive materials such as safety pins, paper clips and nail fi les to meet the needs of North American power supplies. These works, produced as digital photographs, function as still lifes, and as such suggest a context that allowed for their arrangement. That this context relates to the life of the globe-trotting artist is further suggestive of a life that, like the life of the incandescent light bulb, decreases with each passing day – not through the planned obsolescence of its manufacturer, but through mounting travel restrictions brought on by our global pandemic.