a keen sense of awareness can save a life communicate using a secret code
   
gain importance from taking part the team depends on you
   
a spirited debate will strengthen your resolve playing games will help you grow
   
acknowledge the value of choice one person is "it"
   
notice small points and signs demonstrate the value of adapting
   
pretend to be someone else approach the field with caution
   
maintain a suitable balance seek out challenging activities

face your opponent with dignity

 

Rules of the Playground

Each print in this series has a background image and an overlaid image. The two images work together, sometimes amplifying each other, sometimes contradicting each other both in style and content. The underlying images originate from photographs in men's sports and lifestyle magazines while the overlaid images originate from various manuals and diagrams such as those found in First- Aid books. The tension in the images is largely where the content comes from. Through the juxtaposition of images, popular notions of masculinity and socially constructed modes of behaviour are examined.

This work is a part of an ongoing search for representational accuracy. It is a search for cracks in the façade of masculinity and a challenge to the seduction of popular culture. Rules of the Playground hones in on moments of intimacy and "reality" in an arena where such things seem unimaginable. For example, in one print, the background image is close-up of two men hugging in victory during a basketball game. Overlaid on this image are diagrammatic instructions on how to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. This small act of intimacy amidst a wealth of fierce competition acts as a lifesaver. The value of a simple touch or hug becomes elevated when combat and aggression are praised. Two men touching each other during a football game transforms into a small amount of hope when looked at in a different context. Actions normally taken for granted become erotically charged as they are manipulated and scrutinized. An instance becomes electrified as the competitive becomes the sensual. In an instance, lives and fantasies are laid out, freedom is found and ideas are built.

First aid diagrams speak to the ability of particular gestures or instances to save, heal, or comfort a wounded soul. These images are both informative and devoid of emotional attachment. They are to have no resonance aside from their practical nature. They are born out of a sense of innocence and earnest desire to help others. Lifesaving acts are loving and soothing. An image of two men embracing in a wrestling match acts as a sling for a wounded appendage. The idea of sickness or ailment is intended as a metaphor for alienation. In a sense, these moments of intimacy act as a panacea for the disaffected.

While some of the prints capture moments of intimacy, others capture images of various hand gestures. Counting money, smoking a cigarette, carrying a briefcase, act as iconic signifiers of competition, success and wealth. These images are overlaid with simplistic diagram-type images of various science project-like images from children's books. How- to images of batteries, and airplanes point to the constructed nature of the gesture and it's relation to masculinity. Images dealing with construction refer to the idea of male as "handyman," one who can fix anything, one who is competitive, but still able to play fairly, one who can fix, one who can help.

This body of work seeks to find the common humanity in masculine representation, the ordinary person somewhere between the fighter and the breadwinner. The images work both as a critique and homage to the simplicity of the diagram and of popular images of men and their relation to masculinity. The complexities of male identity are explored through the use of overlapping images, irony and humour. Rules of the Playground explores the subtleties of sports and fitness, as well as notions of general well being. I intend to examine notions of sport and fitness in a broader sense than just the physical.

According to the Canadian Scout Handbook in a section on personal fitness, "Fitness, in its true sense, is composed of many parts. It is more than the building of muscles, strength and endurance. It includes how you feel about things, how you think and act and how you get along with others." Similarly, The Cub Book suggests that, "Games and stunts are a wonderful part of life. They allow you to run, jump, wrestle, make noise, test your body skills, get outdoors and take part in exciting chases, treasure hunts and obstacle races. They also help you develop skills in leading and working with others…Games and stunts will help you grow." At the heart of Rules of the Playground is the desire for a sense of wholeness and integrity.

Each print in this series is 15 x 21 inches (38 x 53 cm) on paper that is 22 x 27 inches (55 x 67 cm) and is a three layer screen print on Stonehenge paper. All images are part of an edition ranging from 6-8 prints each. This body of work, was created in 2002. Click here to view an installation shot.

Brian Pronger also wrote an essay about this work.

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