Jim Breukelman: Altered States
West Vancouver Art Museum, West Vancouver, BC
Capture Photography Festival
WEST VANCOUVER ART MUSEUM, West Vancouver BC - To May 11
by Michael Turner
For some, the words “altered states” will always bring to mind the 1981 film by Ken Russell, where a scientist submits himself to sensory deprivation experiments while under the influence of psychoactive drugs. In Jim Breukelman’s current photo exhibition, alteration is expressed not through the altered artist (à la the “action paintings” of Jackson Pollock), but through changes observed within the paradox of the closed external system. Breukelman includes at least three examples: the mesocosm, the natural landscape and the taxidermy shop.
The relationship between the three settings requires some adjustment on the part of the viewer. Initially, the unity of the three worlds lies in Breukelman’s technical brilliance; but for those prone to narrative, the settings align like acts in an opera. Breukelman’s mesocosm is not a tabletop terrarium but a park-sized ark. In consideration of that, we are reminded of our world in its “natural” state, an Eden that includes the interior and exterior realities of its higher living forms (in the case of taxidermy, with those interior parts removed).
A fourth element of the exhibition is a conceptual project that began in 1966, when Breukelman was an art student in Rhode Island. While printing photographs taken at a local diner, Breukelman had a darkroom revelation: he noticed how factory line workers were present during the earlier part of the day, and their bosses after them. In 1999 Breukelman revisited this work and made from it an artist’s book whose pages are contained within a case that resembles the diner’s Formica counter.