Xtra!

Number 714, March 8, 2012

Not your typical Boy Scout

Daryl Vocat's One Continuous Mistake

by Chris Dupuis

Titling an art exhibition One Continuous Mistake is a potentially hazardous choice, if only because it gives venomous critics a too-easy lead for a scathing review.

But when Toronto artist Daryl Vocat selected this phrase as the moniker for his exhibition at KWT Contemporary (Kristyn Wong-Tam’s west-end gallery) the possibility of negative press hadn’t crossed his mind.

“I feel pretty good about how this show has come together, and that’s not always the case,” says the Regina native in his typically modest manner. “Maybe it’s short-sighted of me not to think of possible repercussions in the media. But honestly, I don’t get very much press, so that’s probably why it hadn’t crossed my mind.”

The exhibition’s title had less to do with the collection of brightly coloured water-jet-cut metal prints Vocat is presenting than his overarching experience of being an artist. Originally a reference to the process of lifelong learning through trial and error in Zen Buddhist practice, he found it an appropriate metaphor for his life’s work.

'In most cases my self-portraits aren't biographical but are more about a type of performance or theatre,' says Daryl Vocat.

“As an artist, you just keep putting stuff out there, trying to make sense of it and hoping it will resonate with other people,” the York University graduate says. “I think if I keep making mistakes and keep carrying on it’s a good thing. I don’t want to pretend I have all the answers about my work. There’s a vulnerability I like in the idea.”

While Vocat has no qualms appearing vulnerable in his images, poking at his naked belly while clothed in pink American Apparel briefs, there’s little that feels accidental here. Coloured hankies denoting various sexual proclivities, Ouija boards for conjuring gay spirits of the past, and implements of queer shamanism and magical practices all spin together in a kaleidoscope of rainbow colours, stamped emphatically with his signature self-effacing humour.

“In most cases my self-portraits aren’t biographical but are more about a type of performance or theatre,” he says. “They’re meant to be read as fairly obviously staged. I work a lot with collage as a form, and so I’m interested in bringing different kinds of images together and manipulating them to create new relationships and understandings. I often borrow clichés, images and ideas from pop culture, trying them on to look for versions of truth within stereotypes.”
 
As with past works, Vocat also makes liberal use of Boy Scout iconography. Often taken directly from the organization’s handbooks, his iconically scarf-necked patch-sleeved boys cavort as they challenge behavioural norms, sexuality and constructs of masculinity. A 12-year Scout veteran himself (that’s Beavers to Ventures for those in the know), much of Vocat’s time growing up was spent within the organization’s fold.

“Once I was away from Scouting for a while I started to rethink what was taught,” he says. “I wanted to be critical of the more militaristic aspects of Scouting, but I am also appreciative of the better parts, like striving to be a good person, being generous and helping other people out.

“Growing up is a pretty loaded and turbulent time, so it only makes sense it’s pretty rich with possibility for art,” he adds. “I remember looking at those Scout handbooks and how pure everyone was. That seemed miles away from my experiences of nearly lighting our leader’s tent on fire and running around in the woods all night in our underwear.”

Daryl Vocat
One Continuous Mistake
On until March 31, 2012
KWT Contemporary
624 Richmond St W
Wednesday to Saturday noon-6pm or by appointment