Leigh-Ann Pahapill:

Rhetorical Situation

January 30 – February 21, 2009


Leigh-Ann Pahapill returns to Chicago for a solo exhibition at DOVA temporary, the new storefront gallery at the University of Chicago. Pahapill creates works that range from deconstructed familiar objects to site interventions, and time-based and two dimensional works concerned with the minutia of knowing and meaning making that informs universalizing epistemologies. Pahapill seeks to dilate the representational moment by studying place, process, objects and experience, dissecting and examining the material, metaphorical, and conceptual components that drive the tendency to move from particular experiences to generalized ideas. Aligning the clichéd object or image and its representational system, her work deconstructs the processes that enable meaning making practices.

Pahapill, a Toronto-based artist and 2007 graduate of the University of Chicago’s MFA program, says this about her work, “These investigations were initiated by a response to an everyday object – a chair, well-used, painted, and rusted. I worked to find ways to put pressure on the chair’s material and metaphorical qualities to chart the relation between ontology and epistemology. I interviewed friends on video about what they saw in the chair. I heard responses to the chair as a stand-in for a person (as anthropomorphic), as referring to its prior use (as nostalgic), as a utilitarian object (as defined by a particular context of use), as resting within a certain design period (as suspended in time). The videos isolate the gestures people used to describe their relationship to this object. Then, I removed the nostalgia-laden surface from the chair (with a paint scraper) in order to study and assess its constituent parts. If the paint chips, once isolated, could be assessed apart from the object – would they still hold their clichéd potential? If not – then it was possible that the ‘meaning’ of the chair was determined independent of the viewer, of the moment, of the viewing relation.”

Brecht argued that too often, meaning merely reflects the ‘mutual attitude’ of the speakers. If this is the case, then our relationship to experienced objects is determined by what we expect to find, rather than what we see and experience. In this project, the work is focused on exploring the mechanisms that frame these expectations and posit them as aesthetic acts. Rhetorical Situation includes video, audio, photographic, sculptural pieces, and drawings. Pahapill also draws on theatre devices– in particular, the material language and spatial determinants associated with the Brechtian stage set that challenge our combined desires to immerse and resolve.

Leigh-Ann Pahapill has shown her work in Toronto, Alberta, New York, and Chicago. The artist gratefully acknowledges the support of the City of Toronto through Toronto Arts Council, and the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Arts Council.