knock on wood
Jeremy Pavka and Sean Procyk
As we continue to evolve as human beings, perceptions and misconceptions professed as truth in the past begin to slowly give way to reality. Our relationship with nature and the land — one in which we declared ourselves the superior being a long time ago — is now experiencing significant corrections to help change our arrogant ideas. This shift is explored in Jeremy Pavka and Sean Procyk’s knock on wood at Latitude 53.
The aesthetic of the exhibition creates the illusion of one being out in nature. The tied wood stems and branches placed in the center of the room displace the viewer from his position of power — man and nature are in the same room. Even the soundscape filling the room supports nature’s interruption by using recordings of the wild interspersed with tension-filled classical pieces. The icing on the cake is provided by the visual aesthetic of the exhibition, which is a short video showing the confrontation between both entities.
Pavka and Procyk utilize our predisposition to fear, employing “Bigfoot culture” to relate the dynamics of our behaviour with the land (nature). Both entities engage in a sort of game of tag with each other, one-upping each other with the use of hunter-orange spray paint, marking trees, pizza boxes, a barn, and even each other. The colour of the spray paint is quite significant, as it harkens to scenes of bloodshed. This is quite powerful in its visual symbolism — it can be compared to the visible markers of the violent nature of man’s relationship with the land. Thus even the action of Bigfoot tagging man in the video is powerful, as it visualizes a snippet of what it could look like if the roles of both nature and man were reversed, evoking a vulnerable emotion from the audience.
Another major component of this exhibition is the sound – there is no human sound present save for the occasional revving of man-made equipment (chainsaws, boats, etc). This presents an interesting dynamic as man is forcibly pushed to the background. Nature is effectively loud here and acts of its own accord – this is especially prominent in a scene from the visual accompaniment where the Bigfoot character is seen languishing nonchalantly in a boat moving down the river as two men converse on the bridge above.
Throughout the exhibition, we are continually confronted with the presence of the land and are forced to reflect on our relationship with it. Masking the complexity and difficulty of this introspection with comedy, Pavka and Procyk are able to ease the audience into the critical conversation they are trying to highlight.