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15 Nov 2009

Parallel Constraint Satisfaction Processes: Leigh-Ann Pahapill at 47

Parallel Constraint Satisfaction Processes: speculations on the excesses of meaning


Nov 13 - Dec 11, 2009

Gallery is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 12-5pm


47 Milky Way
Toronto Ontario
M6K 3L4

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Leigh-Ann Pahapill's 'Parallel Constraint Satisfaction Processes': Speculations on the excesses of meaning

Leigh-Ann Pahapill's installation practice addresses knowledge and meaning as process driven; as an essentially active and dynamic economy in which dismantling and re-contextualization is part of its transformative and ever-changing course. Objects and spaces in Pahapill's practice are treated as sites laden with multiple and competing meanings and realities. The artist explores narrative and metaphor in these interstices, examining the productive instability of the object when opened to the excavations of displacement.

The 'stories' we associate with objects and spaces are always in excess of their immediate function and context. They are imbued with social expectations, narratives and scripts, pedagogies and associations, symbolism and iconographies. Pahapill's sensitive, and highly philosophical exploration of these inferences is informed by her fascination with the phenomenology of materials, and the lived material life of objects as socially imbricated phenomena. Just as language relies on a phatic function to convey meaning, the 'meaning' of objects, as posited in Pahapill's work, exists as the complex end result of shared human projections, interventions, and perceptions. The phatic function in linguistics is understood as an utterance or speech act that performs a social task in excess of what is said, rather than solely conveying objective information. Similarly, objects and spaces accrue a valence of human history, subjectivity, affect, and material change through use and experiential proximity, and perform socially. They are meaningful in as much as they are activated and transformed by human responses, and are recognized through a shared body of knowledge and assumptions.

At 47, Pahapill takes the remnant of a skid row from within the project space, formerly a bank storage facility, as a point of departure and explores the ways in which these markings function materially and metaphorically as traces. They invoke an organization imperative, and suggestions of classification and controlled activity. Their 'caution yellow' colour is in itself evocative of meaning. It summons associations in excess of, but deeply rooted in, language and shared social experience. In this project, colour is presented as something equally subject to categorization, classification, and systems of meaning. When these remnants are re-staged within the gallery space; itself a space of organization, classification, and representations, the found artifacts of the site are re-temporalized vis a vis related, and emergent metaphors, resulting in a dissonant set of associations and the dynamic shifting work of meaning.

The cognitive processes of perception, inference, and synthesis are central to Pahapill's interest in the constructed nature of environments, objects, and their meanings. Parallel Constraint Satisfaction Processes works to stage a mode of meaning making that is both malleable and context specific; an evolving process of inference and juxtaposition, synthesis and projection. The installation enacts a cognitive model that draws attention to the way in which one's attitudes, beliefs, and awareness of behavior and facts can shift in response to a dissonant set of objects, histories, and metaphors. Inviting this dynamism, Pahapill calls upon the viewer not only to act upon the objects and the space, but also to draw abstractions from the experience of cognitively processing 'meaning'. Her interventions are as much about what is actively 'shown' and disclosed, as they are about what remains unseen, that which lacks iteration, and that which is being cognized and experienced in a shifting possibility of meanings. As poignantly articulated by Erving Goffman: 'The gestures which we sometimes call empty are perhaps in fact the fullest things of all'.