Daniel Faria Gallery is pleased to present Now You Don’t, Chris Curreri’s fifth solo exhibition with the gallery. This exhibition is the first presentation of Curreri’s large-scale work Self Portrait with Luis Jacob (2022) in Toronto, previously included in Curreri’s solo exhibitions A Surrogate, A Proxy, A Stand-In at Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, That, There, It at the Contemporary Calgary, and Games That Two Can Play at Occurrence in Montreal as part of Momenta Biennale de l’image.
Curreri’s Self Portrait with Luis Jacob replicates, in life-size sculpture, a 1974 self-portrait by experimental filmmaker Rodney Werden with Jorge Zontal, member of the artist collective General Idea. But, as with all repetitions, there are mutations. Now You Don’t suggests the existence of an opposite, a doubling, a magic trick: another side where now, you do. In the original photograph, Werden is seated on a chair, naked, his eyes covered by the hands of Zontal, who stands behind him, clothed. Zontal stares intently at a mirror that reflects the duo back to the camera sitting on a tripod next to them. The camera’s lens faces the viewer. In Curreri’s re-imagining, Werden’s figure is replaced by a replica of Curreri’s own body, and Zontal’s by artist Luis Jacob, who is also Curreri’s partner. Through this act of citation, Curreri creates, not so much a linear chronology or tracing of Toronto’s queer history, but as Emelie Chhangur writes, “a continuum of intimacy and exchange, of haunting and helping.”
Like Werden, Curreri’s body is relaxed, save for his left arm, which is raised, his finger pressing down on the camera’s shutter release cable. Like Zontal, Jacob’s body is tense; his gaze focused. His hands are pressed firmly over Curreri’s eyes. Around the two of them are signs of domestic life, the blurring of studio and home: house plants surround them and a bottle of alcohol rests on a side table to their left. Even in three-dimensions, everything is rendered in black-and-white. Like a diorama or a camera obscura, the whole scene is contained in a neat eight-foot cube. The mirror that reflected the scene back at Werden’s camera lens for capture, here becomes an enclosure. Unable to see out, the figures inside the cube are surrounded endlessly by their own reflections, the mirrors and lights creating a mise-en-abyme effect. The viewer, however, is granted access to sightlines and angles impossible in the depth of a photograph. We can see behind the image.
At least, this is the scene for two minutes, at which point the light inside the cube switches off and we are faced with our own reflections in the mirrored surface of a sleek, impenetrable cube. In this reversal, we ask, can the figures inside the cube see us? Some seconds later, the light turns on and the reflective surface becomes clear, giving us access again. The figures haven’t moved, the view remains the same. Now you see me. A dynamic is poised here between who is seen and who can see, but there is also a relationship between sight and touch. Eyes and hands appear in a delicate exchange of power. In covering Curreri’s eyes with his hands, Jacob sees for the two of them. Curreri, naked, unseeing, might assume a more vulnerable position, and yet, the ability to capture the image lies in Curreri’s hands – in that finger pressing down on the release cable. He remains the author of the image that he cannot see. In the viewfinder of the camera, we see the scene doubled, upside down. We have come full circle: a photograph becomes a three-dimensional scene which in turn becomes a photograph. The circle, however, may be more like a spiral. We land, not back at the beginning, but somewhere new that only mimics a return.