Mike Bourscheid: Sunny Side Up and other sorrowful stories
Mike Bourscheid, Sunny Side Up and other sorrowful stories, 2021-22, installation view at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin. Photo: Mike Bourscheid. Courtesy of the artist.

Mike Bourscheid: Sunny Side Up and other sorrowful stories

Richmond Art Gallery, Richmond, BC - To Apr 2

by Michael Turner

On the face of it, Sunny Side Up and other sorrowful stories sounds closer to a book of fiction than an art exhibition. But as we’ve seen in recent years, categories are collapsing as quickly as the gates that once maintained them. Changes in museum and retail display account for some of this, but also the way we use language. Nouns like “literature” have given way to adjectives like “literary,” and the author of this exhibition, Mike Bourscheid, is a decidedly literary artist.

As in literature’s oldest genre, Bourscheid begins not with the gallery’s floors and walls but with a theatrical stage – in this case, an immersive one. Thus primed, visitors are encouraged to move among sculptural works and watch a short film, less as reactive audience members than as participant actors. These works comprise of family anecdotes, fictional tales and masculine stereotypes expressed in a range of roles, from clown to cowboy. The affective tone modulates from ludic joy to pathos.

The hearth of the exhibition, the short film Agnes (2021), is the source of many of the sculptural works in the exhibition, most notably its costumes and props. Described by Bourscheid as a “contemporary, auto-fictional video tale,” Agnes is inspired by the artist’s experiences growing up with a single-parent mom and an absent dad. Themes expressed include gender construction, toxic masculinity, parenting and loneliness. The images in the film consist of shots of the artist taken while engaging with the first staging of the installation at Berlin’s Künstlerhaus Bethanien in 2021.


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