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Fresh on the heels of staging major retrospectives of Sophie Calle and Christian Marclay, Montreal's DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art has turned its attention this summer to the Israeli multimedia artist Michal Rovner. The resulting show, "Particles of Reality," provides a useful introduction to Rovner's celebrated body of work, which while it has appeared at MoMA and Tate Britain--as well as the 2003 Venice Biennale's Israeli pavilion, where her Against Order? Against Disorder? intrigued many visitors--has yet to reach a wide audience.
Displayed in the foundation's two neighboring venues by Montreal's Vieux-Port, the show has organized the artist's work in three parts. The first area, containing an installation called Data Zone (2003), recalls a laboratory: in containers resembling Petri dishes, scattered on several long tables, groups of red or black abstract figures endlessly sway together and separate, reminding one of the dual meanings of "culture." Above, on the second and third floor, her pieces Stone (2004) and Stones (2006-2009) concern themselves with another field of science, archaeology. Projecting slow moving images of hieroglyph-like figures on stones in display cases, the works confuse the logic of history by merging ancestral matter with contemporary culture. Finally the show ends with a superb sequence of video installations, concluding with Time Left (2002), a mesmerizing projection that bathes an entire room with row after row of miniature human-shaped figures marching ceaselessly against the void of the wall--a vast moving pictograph of meaninglessness, or perhaps the unending wanderings of the diaspora.
The retrospective conveys Rovner's signature aesthetic nicely: the delicate, lyrical digital installations are suffused with ambiguity, raising questions about our processes of historical documentation and scientific logic while reminding the viewer that history, at a certain level, is lived by individuals, alone.