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Iris Haussler: Villa Toronto - No Reading After the Internet

Villa Toronto transformed Union Station
into a public exhibition space with large white walls that reminded of
the ones used in my undergraduate year-end show. These white walls
created a maze like setting with coves filled with contemporary art
from the most prominent galleries in Toronto. The sound of the space is
filled with ambient music that reminds me of my mother meditating on
her Persia rug in the middle of her bedroom floor. Why does this space
make me feel nostalgic?

I am here to see Iris Haussler talk about her work. I know nothing about
her practice but it’s the middle of January and I haven’t been to any
art-thing since before Christmas. It takes awhile for me to find the
location of the reading and when I do I sit and wait. Iris sits down
with the mediator and really doesn’t want to use a microphone. The echo
of the space is immense and the ambient music continually plays. Every
so often a generated voice of a man comes on the overhead speakers
telling travelers when the next train leaves. It’s a bit of a mess. She
decides that the microphone is necessary. Today she is reading from W.
G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. I have never read anything by this
writer. As she begins, I am completely lost. I have no idea what the
artist is talking about or what the writer is trying to say. As the
reading continues there is this moment when an audience member
interjects and I finally understand what is happening. Haussler is
interested in creating fictitious characters that she then personifies.
As she does this she takes on the life of said individual and creates
work as though she is them. She is crazy and I love her. For this work
she is presenting Foundation Joseph Wagenbach, where she has selected
some of his sculptures cast in bronze and shows a picture of his
apartment that she has fabricated, books, sketches and some other
objects that represent this now traceless man. She continually reminds
us that she is not the mediator between the character and herself but,
well it never becomes clear where she stands. Just like with Sebald it
can be argued that he is the character or the vehicle between himself
and the character. It is actually all quite confusing. Both characters
in Sebald and Haussler’s work are created out of World War II and act as
memories for both. The conversation becomes almost circuitous and a
little stressful for all involved.

This experience was meant to unfold in such a manner because we are
truly not meant to fully understand Haussler process or even navigate
through her thoughts. She is meant to be void of all responsibility in
giving us answers to her work. As we try to push our preconceived
notions of the creative process and production to find meaning, we
instead ask questions in circles that never have answers.