Critical Text

Extreme interactions. Megan Dickie’s battleground.
jessica berlanga taylor after attending a wrestling match in mexico city

Megan Dickie’s objects and images emerge as sensuous presences that highlight the psychic space between subject and object; a space to be explored and expressed; to play with and configure. These objects are flexible, both physically and conceptually, thus expanding the possibilities of interaction between the artwork and the viewer. Their performative dimensions allow the subject to develop a bodily relationship with the physical reality presented, and allow a sense of how we can never be fully detached viewers or actively involved participants. This is the space between subject and object that Megan Dickie insists upon. Her love of play takes out the solemnity from this position and invites touching, hugging, jiggling, wrestling, flailing oneself at the object, and who knows, maybe even biting, rolling and twirling! By allowing randomness to unfold, the artist’s works provoke events without causes, they are open-ended structures that admit the influence of choice and action.

The indeterminacy of Megan Dickie’s structures remind us that we are experiencing subjects, and it is through our bodies that we gain awareness of the world, a world in constant shift where we learn to improvise and adjust, to be flexible, like our bodies. More than explain the world, aesthetic objects that invite interaction give us a chance to describe the world through our experiences. The fact that these objects seem alien to us, only adds to our fascination for the artificiality humans are capable of creating. One of the ways Megan Dickie tests our ability to respond to newness and strangeness is through the materials she chooses. In sculptures such as The Tangler and The Jiggler, both belonging to the project entitled “Contact Games Sculptures”, leather is selected for its sexual connotations, arousing a tactile response in the viewer, as well as its utilitarian implications, its smell and malleability. To grapple with The Tangler or The Jiggler is to confront our domesticated behaviours and expand our awareness. It is amusement vs. reason. Doing vs. thinking. With each tangle and jiggle come uncontrollable variations in our behaviour, our mood and our body. Our actions in and our views of the world are displaced, and novel meaning can be formed. We find relief through comedy. A great whooooosh passes through us as we jump and land on top of The Tangler, to find ourselves grabbing onto the net before gravity takes its toll and we roll over and under still hangingbreathinintheleather, the coldness of the floor seeping into our backs and with another massive effort we whoooooshbackupandaround, exhilarated, short of breath.

And pulling and tugging at The Jiggler, imitating its bounce, feeling the cool metal and the warm leather spring in our hands. It is extreme phenomenology. These objects have the potential to awaken desire, express meaning and give image to phantasy. They exist as structures to be perceived by the body but not only that. For Megan Dickie, structure, although relative to our human body, does not address human movement. By facing architecture and structure, cerebral domains that withstand time, against the body, where movement is primordial, the artist points out a space for interaction, an affectionate space. The Gleamer, from “New Interactive Sculptures”, is a handcrafted object made from aluminum. The smooth and cool reflections this material provides the geodesic dome with, combined with an interior layer of cloth produce an organic entity, a supple expression of the human body. Surfaces are negotiated: the dry, rigid aluminum rubs the soft, moist skin. Not only is seduction at work here through the reflections the silver surface gives out, but an aha! attitude is in place; the artist humanizes structure by making it flaccid (let us pause for a second to remember that structure has been a male domain).

Although humour is explored through these sculptures, Megan Dickie has found video to be the media through which she inquires into this particular emotional response. In order to get past the object and delve into humour, she has begun to produce videos where one can detect certain areas used in slapstick comedy. Although she does not resort to skits, props play an important role in the creation of open ended situations, of patterns that take the brain by surprise. By setting up two or more different frames of reference, a collision is inevitable. A human being faces a battle, prepares for it, looks it straight in the eye, grimaces and groans, rolls up her sleeves. The great moment comes, sweat pours down her face and then nothing. There is no dire consequence, there is relief. For Megan Dickie humour also relates to inheritance, her family was always willing the world through humour.

The artist’s objects, videos and images are a continual investigation into the realm of experience. Each piece unfolds into the next, transcending any mechanistic notions. There is a lot at stake in Megan Dickie’s work. Intimacy and aggression, labour and commodity, the artist’s continuous wrestling and entanglement with art institutions, thought and body processes where frustration but also exhilaration are expressed. It is the artist with and against the world, both hugging and pushing it as if it were a layer of bricks, sometimes with a leather wrestling mask on. After all, it could be any of us.