Edward Maloney: virtually Montreal

Figments of Reality, by Edward Maloney

The question is like a zen koan. When generating reality using a new technology, is it necessarily a virtual reality?

Montreal artist Edward Maloney’s latest work makes it all the more difficult to decide. Figments of Reality, on display at pfoac221 (the Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain gallery’s project space) uses video and computer-generated imagery to create a project that is as immersive as it is familiar.

The work features a life-sized video of Little Italy’s Dinette Triple Crown in its final seven minutes of the day. Patrons return picnic baskets and interact with the staff. The kitchen crew puts glasses through the wash in the background. However, using a discrete camera pointed at the entrance, Maloney projects viewers’ own images on top of the video. The resulting effect recreates the experience of looking through the restaurant’s glass window, complete with reflection.

Maloney says, ”It’s not a new world. It’s not virtual reality, either, in the sense it’s not reconstructed. It is a representation of something real that happened and happens, a real phenomenon.”

“I filmed the restaurant during an impromptu visit,” he adds. “There is no acting. Nothing is staged. It is a realistic depiction of what happens.”

The work is very down to earth and captures the friendly, laid-back atmosphere of Montreal. He wanted something that was “emblematic of neighbourhood restaurants.” Maloney says, “You can tell it’s a close neighbourhood biome.”

This little bit of Little Italy went across the Atlantic to Nottingham’s World Event Young Artists 2012 during the Cultural Olympiad. Maloney was invited to show the project alongside 1000 artists who worked in different media from around the world.

While there, Maloney developed a deeper understanding of the work as a representation of Montreal. “It’s not a restaurant you would find in Nottingham,” he says. “Many people involved in the video are people recognizable from other restaurants. They worked everywhere in the city, from Dusty’s to Au Pied de Couchon.”

The accessibility and familiarity of the work is deceptively charming. Maloney delights in using technology to create something natural and un-natural at the same time. “All these things come together to replicate everyday life. I’m taking new and available technology and using it that to create something that is very natural and normal: a reflection. The result is non-technological.”

He sees the combination as ideal, each providing what the other lacks. “The nice outcome is that the familiarity or element of realism is the missing key that you were waiting for. It’s the thing that lets you get a little bit closer to the artwork, or lets you see a little bit more about technology and how we interact with it.”

“There is something beautiful about coming to a level of realism and using this technology to do that.”

“It’s an intimate experience, more intimate than watching a work of video art,” he says. And as for Dinette Triple Crown, he adds, “Fried chicken is their specialty, and I can vouch for it.” ■

Fragments of Reality, on through March 9. Vernissage Wednesday, Jan. 23, pfoac221 (Belgo Building, 372 Ste-Catherine W., # 221), 6-8 p.m., free, where Cult MTL contributor Yaniya Lee will be reading a critical text on Maloney’s work and interactive art.

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