xtra.ca
Friday, June 26, 2009
Ted Kerr

Exhibit juxtaposes boy scouts and cruising spots

Queer, sharp-eyed, street-wise Edmontonians may find that they are already familiar with Toronto-based artist Daryl Vocat's work as they walk into his exhibit at Latitude 53.

Collaborating in 2007 with Edmonton-based print maker Anthea Black, Vocat was part of Black's ongoing Looking For Love in All The Wrong Places project that sees queer-themed posters go up in cities across Canada and the US. For Black's project Vocat created the "Children Be Gay" poster seen around downtown Edmonton that includes two boy scouts that look similar to the boys that are currently populating Vocat's Latitude show.

Entitled The Secret Of The Midnight Shadow, Vocat's show is in the artist-run center's Main Space, an evolution from the work's beginning as a smaller installation at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre.

As you walk in, tucked into three walls are miniaturized screen-printed boy scouts superimposed on cruising spots. As a viewer you may not know that the places are scenes of gay male sex but rather just natural settings for young boys to be fooling around.

Taking up the majority of the space, Vocat has transformed the white box of the gallery into a cavernous night-time hideaway where life-sized drawn boys stand out inches from the wall, making the viewer, hopes Vocat, "implicit in the space."

Costumed and somewhat devilish, the boys are doing all sorts of things: levitating, crawling, smiling, wiping blood of their hands, hiding in the bushes and possibly even bonding and growing up along the way.

By creating, in his own words, "a different place, an environment that is more participatory," Vocat has invited the audience to reconsider the world of boy scouting.

With most of the images and details for the show come from Vocat's fascination with the boy scout manuals from his youth, along with influences like Canadian photographer Evergon, Vocat is trying to "show a parallel narrative to what is going on" different from those that exist in the manuals, one that is closer to his own.

For Vocat his experience was more complex than the ones pictured. Using these images from the manual and blending them with his own truth the work becomes as Vocat describes a "collage — but the chunky way we usually think of collage."

"Cutting, pasting, layered images, internal dialogue — the more I played, the more evolved it has become, the less conflicted and the more confrontational — not aggressive — the work is. It is the content that is jarring. I want people to think about the work, invite people into the work," says Vocat. "There is an underlying darkness to it."

Not falling into traps of cynicism or sensation, Vocat's take on his experience in boy scouts and growing up is more subtle and nuanced, thus making it more universal and relatable.

Todd Janes, executive director of Latitude 53 thinks that Daryl's work is important to be seen by everyone but feels that the work really speaks to an Edmonton audience. "Edmonton is still fairly conservative and many people will appreciate the hidden codes [of Vocat's work]... it is a good summer show that has impact because of its many layers," says Janes. "Daryl's work is mischievous and fun loving. This is the type of show I would bring kids to see."