The Globe and Mail - Saturday July 24 1999


Rachelle Viader Knowles
at the Red Head Gallery

Red Head Gallery, 96 Spadina Ave., 8th fl.

Knowles exhibition is called ' We Are Not Who We Were ', a title derived ultimately, according to the gallery director Jenifer Papararo, from a line from Horace:"I am not who I was". As a sort of overture to the show, there is a light box in which the Horatian line is reproduced, in Latin (non sum qualis eram), tattooed across the chest of a naked, nipple pierced male. Inside the gallery proper, which is now as dark as midnight, there are two circular, moonlike video projections at opposite corners of the room. These silvery projections - tightly cropped close ups of the faces of a man and a woman - are beautiful dreamy images. The woman is, apparently, the artist herself: the man is pretty clearly the man with the Horatian chest. His relationship with the woman is unclear. The movement within their expressions - mouths that open slightly and close again, eyes that look out languorously and shut again - is soft and bewitching. Are they dreaming? Drugged? Hypnotized? Then it comes to you. Both of them are masturbating.

Let it immediately be noted that nothing about this revelation seems rude or inappropriate. More dance like than anything (a ballet for the face alone), these lunar presences posses a genuinely unearthly calm and dignity. Because from time to time, they appear to glance at one another across the darkness of the gallery, you begin to wonder what they mean or have meant to one another. And then you give up, because the poetry of the performance keeps you travelling beyond the realm of the merely social.