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Bruce Johnson: Oka
With Making the News, an exhibition at MSVU Art Gallery, 1992, Bruce Johnson hoped to challenge our relationship with TV; to make it active rather than passive. The exhibition was composed of five large photo mosaics, each depicting a commonly-viewed image photographed from a newscast. The mosaics were made of thousands of 1-inch-square colour photographs from television programs such as Star Trek, game shows, childrenís programs and beer commercials. Separated by tone and color, the small squares were carefully selected and combined to recreate the newscast images. This process mimics the arrangement of coloured light-pixels that compose television images.
Johnson noticed that, through televisionís effort to both inform and entertain us, the line between the two is sometimes skewed. In a newspaper article he said,
Iím trying to mimic what TV does. It takes a bunch of images out of context, edits them and puts them all in a new context. Thatís what Iíve done. When youíre watching CNN you can see somebody get shot and immediately after that a Coke commercial and that doesnít bother us. Or if you watch the CTV News and you watch Entertainment Tonight, itís the same format. Entertainment and news formats are blurring. I find that curious. (Bruce Johnson, TV junkieís art imitates news, The Chronicle Herald, Feb. 1992)
Oka depicts a widely circulated image of a confrontation between a Canadian soldier and a Mohawk warrior. The original picture was taken during the Oka, QC 1990 land dispute. It is made up of thousands of photographs of childrenís programs. The link between the images can be understood as the distinction between good and evil, or sometimes the lack-there-of. Childrenís programs often clearly define this distinction while, as in the Oka case, real life is not as simple.
In 2003 Johnson received the Christina Sabat Award for Critical Review in the Arts of Atlantic Canada (Sheila Hugh MacKay Foundation). The manuscript for Firmament, his first novel, was shortlisted for the 2007 Fresh Fish Award (Writerís Alliance of Newfoundland & Labrador) and the 2007 Metcalfe-Rooke Award (Biblioasis). It was published by Gaspereau Press in Fall 2009.
KB and MT