July 24 – September 5, 2015

Phantom Limb was an installation by Calgary-based, interdisciplinary artist, Shyra De Souza. The installation as a whole resembles a mythical body or skeleton –organic and fluid– undulating through the gallery space. But upon closer inspection, the “bones” reveal themselves as altered and reconfigured thrift store finds; they are discarded mass produced, trinkets, ceramics, and knickknacks, with which we are all familiar.

  • Shyra De Souza: Phantom Limb July 24 - September 5, 2015

Secondhand Luster Interpretive Essay
By Emily Geen

While scrolling one’s gaze along Shyra De Souza’s Phantom Limb, one cannot help but be guided through an organically unfolding sequence of forms that appear to evolve from one to the next. This string of apparent mutations gives us a sense of a natural continuum that feels whole, like the complete spinal column of a now dead creature. Meanwhile, logic and a closer consideration of the individual forms tells us that in fact the entire piece is a construction of discrete and disparate objects from our material culture. As viewers, we can sense logic in the piece that is familiar, yet strange. This sensation is not unlike that of a phantom limb: the feeling that an appendage of the body is existent and functioning, though it is actually not.

This liminal space between knowing and not fully knowing is a highly seductive zone in the experience of art – one that De Souza invites us into through the representational power of alluring forms. They suggest meaning without precisely naming it. Mahogany cabinetry with ornate brass things and the glossy milk-white curves of swan necks indulge the viewer in nostalgia for fading traditions of decoration and display. One might begin to wonder who these objects belonged to, and how the narrative of their acquisition, possession and abandonment unfolded. The individual identities and memories embedded in these objects point us in multiple directions. Yet the neutrality imposed by their white-washed surface treatment and symmetrical organization points us toward a conclusion, without fully getting us there.

Without security in conceptual or metaphorical meaning to firmly sink our teeth into, we are free to indulge in an appreciation of form, which arguably holds its own sense of value and meaning. In De Souza’s work, our attention is redirected to the aesthetic potential of these once-loved objects, as well as to the experiential potential of the piece in its entirety. By orchestrating these found objects into a theatrical form that sweeps through the gallery, we are reminded of how our bodies experience the work (not just our minds). De Souza suspends us with our thoughts and our bodies in a space of personalized meaning, where we can oscillate between being mentally and emotionally critical and simply being aesthetically seduced. We swing between metaphor and pure form, and suspicion and curiosity. Ultimately, we are perhaps left thinking about our role in the cycle of material consumption.

Phantom Limb Interpretive Essay (PDF)

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