May 24 – July 6, 2019

Night Comes On is a video installation comprised of sixty 8” LED screens housed in and among ninety-nine black wooden boxes.  Each screen contains a looping video of human presence captured within the confines of a domestic window frame. To create this work, building exteriors in downtown Vancouver were candidly recorded during a firework festival, which prompted residents to peer out of their private apartment windows. The cityscape footage was then magnified and dissected in order to isolate individual windows and assign each one its own screen within a ‘building block’, which was then stacked up in the exhibition space. The screens are fashioned with motion sensors, so it is the viewers themselves who activate the urbanscape environment as they move around the work.

            Night Comes On is a meditation on the process of looking, and being looked at.  The installation allows the viewer to become a voyeur, peering into private spaces while navigating around imposing structures of flickering, hypnotic light.  There is an undercurrent of scopophilia, while at the same time the viewer is kept aware that their own presence has not gone unnoticed by the very devices through which they are spying.   The voyeurism becomes a self-conscious act, one to which the looker is both implicated and subjected.  Night comes on as we move around this city of windows.

            The window is a symbol of liminal space – a threshold between here and there, inside and outside, public and private, light and dark.  These large-scale photographic lightboxes depict low detail images of windows as captured from the exterior of distant apartment buildings.  Windows are essentially holes, we understand them as an absence in some larger structure and we think about them in relation to what lies beyond.  In these images, that absence is given a physical presence.  The light is made palpable and opaque, spilling out from beyond the borders of the window frame, casting a subtle hue of colour in the surrounding space. Through a process that involved printing, scanning and reprinting, these pictures begin to lay bare their own construction by revealing an ink dot pattern reminiscent of pointillism.  They speak to the materiality of photographs, confronting the viewer with what it is made of, rather than what it is of. The referent here has been forced through a deterioration process by way of light, ink, light, and then ink once more.  Despite this bending, folding and collapsing of light over a duration of time, its seductive qualities remain.

Laura Dutton is a Victoria-based visual artist working with video installation and photography.  She holds a BFA in photography from Concordia University and an MFA from the University of Victoria, where she currently teaches in the Visual Arts Department.  Her work has been exhibited nationally in solo exhibitions at Deluge Contemporary in Victoria, Esker Foundation Project Space in Calgary, PAVED Arts in Saskatoon, and VU Photo in Quebec City, as well as part of numerous group exhibitions such as Ensuing Pictures which opened the inaugural year of the Capture Photography Festival in Vancouver, and most recently in Site Unseen at the Vancouver Art Gallery.  She has been the recipient of two Canada Council Project Grants, a BC Arts Council Grant, the Canwest Global Scholarship in Film and Video, and she represented Quebec in the 2006 BMO First Art! competition.  Her work recently entered the Vancouver Art Gallery’s permanent collection.

Seeing Laura Dutton’s Art

Interpretive essay by Will Hoffman

Night Comes On is a fascinating exhibition that Laura Dutton has created. Black boxes, many black boxes scatter outwardly positioned like speakers as if they are projecting something. They are stacked in a way that many will face you from different angles. The black boxes are like a model of an ambitious architectural building, each box like a room, a unit. In this vast array of boxes many of them contain screens playing out scenes.

In these scenes contained within the box within a window frame there are figures moving, some moving closer, another turning on a light, there is a branch moving with the wind. You can look at what people in one frame are up to and then move onto another. It’s like you are interested in these people and these people in the videos are interested in you or you are apart
of it somehow. It would feel creepy to be looking in on these figures but the fact that they are darkened to where you cannot make out their faces gives them some anonymity. The silhouetted figures paired with muted tropical coloured light sources and their arrangement with others remove many social taboos with observing and instead create interest.

Taking in this exhibition made me feel a subdued presence combined with a genuine curiosity with these lives on display. With the changing of everyday technology people are sharing more and more of their personal lives.

Seeing an Instagram story of what a person is up to brings a directed viewpoint that is measured. In this exhibition, the people in the windows won’t get to see the analytics data that @username_611 has viewed their story, for how long, and when he exited the story. In the same way I don’t know if @emily.cats.life wants to share this moment with the public other than we are able view in her window and if she required more privacy could close the blinds. Maybe the interest to see something removes the self-consciousness of oneself being seen.

Breaking up the space in this exhibition are also window-like pictures within steel frames. They are window-like in that they appear like a window but are not the window themselves. Looking at these illuminated windows closer, a moiré pattern (an unwanted artifact that can appear when overlapping dots) is blown up to such a large degree that the dots exude their own beauty.

These dots almost create a type of sacred geometry and dance over each other. From afar these large light boxes show windows in an abstracted way with washes of colour that create forms, some of which appear stuttered or rippled. This exhibition is a window to a lot of questions but it also sprinkles some resolve about watching, peeking, and being seen.