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Joan Kaufman, Toronto (ON, Canada)

Joan Kaufman’s Suspended VideoJoan Kaufman’s Suspended Video 2Using would-be circus performers as subjects, Suspended explores the boundaries between illusion and reality capturing private scenes of performance in which desire for the impossible prevails. Caught in desperate and absurd situations, solitary acts of magic and illusion do not entertain, but instead isolate the characters in a private and unending cycle of performing. Images of suspension conflate opposites: freedom and confinement, determination and futility, bravery and crippling inaction. With references to metaphorical and allegorical principles, Suspended recalls the myth of Icarus who flew too close to the sun and Sisyphus who unwittingly is condemned to an endless purgatory. Like Lucky and Vladamir these individuals are confined to an absurdist reality with no beginning and no end, just endless and determined repetition with darkly amusing results.

Description of Videos

Fly In A Jar On A Wire is a 5:57 minute video projection with sound on a continuous loop. It depicts a high-wire act in which a novice wirewalker is caught on a length of wire confined by the picture frame. While the performer should feel free and in control, trapped like a fly in a sealed jar, she kicks and bangs at the edges unable to escape. Never reaching the end of the wire and never returning to the beginning, she is suspended in an unrelenting predicament. The sound component reflects her struggle at the edges of her confinement.

Houdini and the Red Suspenders is a 1:50 minute video projection with sound on a continuous loop. It begins with an amateur performer studying archival footage of Houdini, once the world’s greatest magician, doing his straightjacket escape of 1923. As the performer watches Houdini, he begins to perform his own escape act that quickly goes awry. Suspended in an absurd situation from which he can’t escape, his failed attempts get repeated over and over while Houdini continuously repeats his escape successfully. The sound component is a recorded piano accompaniment used in silent films of the era.

Joan Kaufman is a Toronto-based artist working in photography, video, sound and sculpture. She works in series producing multi-media installations that blur the boundaries between illusion and reality. By creating constructed realities her work is experienced as moments suspended in a larger unfolding narrative. Kaufman has exhibited both nationally and internationally in public and artist-run galleries; is the recipient of Canada Council, Ontario Arts Council and Manitoba Arts Council grants; and has works in both public and private collections. See for more information and to view the complete Suspended photo and video installation.

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