OCTOBER 8 – OCTOBER 30, 1999




LEE GOREAS lives in Toronto, Ontario. He has had several solo exhibitions across Canada, as well as site installations in Germany and Poland. Recently, Goreas had an exhibition at Open Space Gallery in Victoria and the Robert Birch Gallery in Toronto, Ontario.




…the present instant is the plane upon which the signals of all beings are projected. No other plane of duration gathers us up universally into the same instant of becoming…The clues to guide us are few indeed: perhaps the jottings and sketches of architects and artists, put down in the heat of imagining a form, or the manuscript brouillons of poets and musicians, crisscrossed with erasures and corrections, are the hazy coast lines of this dark continent of the

Sometimes you don’t realize what a great ride it was until it’s over. So I have to work backwards.
It is a surprisingly jarring moment, the end of this video. There are no orgies or explosions. Nothing happens. Through the windshield perspective of the video, we are left facing a paved road, a couple of parked cars, a row of smart brick houses and, briefly, a mother and child passing through an otherwise still urban street scene. It becomes a denouement for the
title credit: “RING OF FIRE LEE GOREAS 1999.” As the graphic fades, there is a strange sensation, a muted regret that it’s over, that you should have paid more attention, even if you did all along.

The few minutes preceding feature the same windshield point of view as the car winds its way counterclockwise down a spiral parking arcade, scored with a recording of the famous Johnny Cash song (written by June Carter and Merle Kilgore) from which the work is titled. Within the
architectural confines of the parkade’s path, there is an expected tableaux of banality, a repetition of similar parapets of concrete and parked cars. Set against a loping, sing-along soundtrack, there is an allusion to the cheap effect of countless cartoons which cut and paste
identical sections of landscapes and interiors. Goreas toys with the viewer’s reasonable expectation that the parkade will eventually end at street level by looping both his visuals and the
accompanying song. Despite any attempt to locate our position by way of views outside —
fleeting glimpses of sunshine and rooftops — we can no longer say for certain when the ride will
be done.

Goreas maintains this suspension of the moment for only as long as it’s necessary to recognize. By the end, though the linearity of both video and audio have been disrupted, the work lasts only
as long as a hit single. Three minutes and forty seconds. But during this time, there are sufficient pockets of brightness interrupting the plodding descent to focus our sense of entrapment. With certain segments of repeating exterior views outside the parkade shining with a slight overexposure, we are literally falling through a ring of fire. There is the lure of something “out there” that we cannot quite access.

It is a lure that Goreas sets up with his establishing shot. Poised at the top of the car park, facing a mundane but multifarious panorama of buildings and a bright but overcast sky, the shot holds for a moment, as though steeling itself up for the journey, then begins to roll forward. It is a gentle beginning and, while there are obvious edits, we curl to the bottom with no braking. When the vehicle finally comes to a gentle halt at the end of the piece, we are left with a vague
dissatisfaction, but one which has been contrived from first shot to last.

Recalling a visual/philosophical pun from a previous work — where Goreas had drawn a triumvirate of Bluto, Pluto and Plato — it occurs that Ring of Fire could be the artist’s b-side to The
Myth of Sisyphus, in which the victim’s fate was to roll a monstrous rock up a hill for all eternity,
only to see it endlessly roll back down. Sisyphus’ labour illustrates a need to recognize the merit of existence itself, the struggle of it all. Goreas’ myth also contains a gigantic incline, but he has twisted it like a pull of licorice. He sees merit in the thrill of it all. The Sisyphian slope as amusement park slide. And rather than emphasize the kind of onerous upward march endured by the greedy king of Corinth, Goreas is riding the rock all the way down. It is no guarantee to satisfaction, as the video’s anticlimactic finale illustrates, but it is a cue to pay more attention to the ride.

Ring of Fire is a deceptively simple video. While its ride lasts, it is an emphatic description of the
present instant — and the desire we imbue it with — as the impetus that fuels us forward through time. It collapses into a single work a duality illustrated separately in other recent works in Goreas’ exhibition Time Machine. Anticipation and dissatisfaction. A mundane environment with a thrill ride blasting through.
Like the still shots that bookend the video, Goreas’ drawings of motel room interiors emit the same quotidian stillness. Each similar in scale and rendition, they are depictions which are true only to the artist’s suppositions — What would this room be like in Cabo San Lucas? What would it look like in New York? They are distinguished largely by subtle differences: where New York is utilitarian, with one flat ceiling light, Cabo San Lucas is slightly more festive, with hanging lamps and a stuffed swordfish on the wall. They all have tvs, with the exception of Hank Williams’ Suite, which instead has an air conditioner and bar fridge.

We cannot even suggest they are endpoints of a journey. They are intermediate points at best, placid locations within which to refuel for the journey. And placid as they are, they are also the site of a million dreams lost, hearts broken, treacheries devised, souls redeemed. One of Goreas’ motel rooms can no doubt be found somewhere in every pulp novel ever written. Their plainness may be what you get when you mix sites imbued with both hope and pathos and it is more than fitting, in this respect, that they are pock-marked with lines and smudges of correction fluid, an absurd and beautiful gesture.

The journey itself — beter, the sensation of the journey — is evident in a series of large colour photographs detailing the sides of various models of cars. The details offer only the car’s model name and panoramas of paint. There is a smooth flow — a range of visceral effect — from the background for Falcon, which is a flat beige; and Futura, with random sparkles of relfected light; to the tableaux for Continental, where the car’s name is backgrounded by a lush pastoral that fades up through darkness into a soft green landscape and then a quiet blue sky. The burnished red that backgrounds El Grande contains a sweeping bend of light, a row of houses stretched and reflected on the car’s surface. The source of the works have, in each case, been trimmed to a painterly scale and composition, a manoeuvre which pays off especially well in Marathon. A photographic image like all the others, it appears convincingly painted until one stands within a few feet. An unintentional optical accident, Marathon plays perfectly into Goreas’ various scenarios of the “now”.

When you stop and notice the moment, pay attention to the ride, it’s often just like this. Quivering and fluid, bound by wild desire, an instant in time that suddenly fills and elongates with possibility.

John Massier

(1) George Kubler, “The Nature of Actuality,” from The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962), pp 17-18.

/JOHN MASSIER is a curator and writer living in Toronto. His latest exhibition, Compulsion, exhibited at the Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts in Montreal during the summer of 1999.

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