David Hoffos

David Hoffos brings his surreal scenes to MOCCA

"Take it slowly, let your eyes adjust," the gallery attendant advised me as I entered the exhibition at MOCCA. "It's a dark show." After stepping through the black curtains into Scenes from the House Dream, David Hoffos' latest mixed-media exhibition, I did need to pause for a few minutes before really trying to look at anything. Aside from a few dim red spotlights, the room was nearly pitch-black.

David Hoffos

But as my eyes got used to the dark room, I was able to look at the scenes: little dioramas and models, behind glass, with ghostly figures magically appearing, moving, and loitering around the spaces. A zeppelin floating over an expanse of city lights (Airships), a boy skateboarding in fits and starts alongside an endless suburban houses (Circle Street), a woman in a bathrobe pacing and sipping a drink in a hotel room (Airport Hotel). The scenes are eerie and lonely; I had the guilty sensation of spying, simultaneously with the jolt of seeing something move, unexpectedly, out of the corner of my eye.

David Hoffos

Watching the short scenes continuously, there was a feeling of limbo-- there is never a resolution, just an action, repeated. In Bachelor's Bluff (above), a man stands at the edge of a seaside cliff by a barrier, car parked off to the side. He shuffles along aimlessly, squats down to pick up a stone, and hurls it off the edge like a baseball pitcher. But instead of gaining any satisfaction, he continues to shuffle and pace. The surf continues to roar (Hoffos' use of sound is very evocative, and important throughout the installation).

David Hoffos

One of the most intriguing aspects of the exhibition, and certainly a point of uniqueness, is the visual wizardry that Hoffos uses to create the apparitions in his models. There are televisions around the room, set at precise angles, and the glass in front of the dioramas reflects the image, creating the illusions. It's relevant that Hoffos reveals the illusory technique. On the way around the exhibition, one could peer around edges to see more of the tricks. I believe this is done to induce different questions; after the initial moments of awe and delight, the secrets are revealed and viewers can stop focusing on "How did he do that?", and begin to think "Why did he do that?"

MOCCA also shared some installation progress photos on Flickr-- yet another insight into the "how?" of the exhibition.

David Hoffos InstallationDavid Hoffos installation

Although Hoffos posits the work as a "meandering journey," and the press release describes it as "a more personal examination of the human psyche," I tend to take a more literal route in my interpretation of this work. How much of our reality is an illusion, created simply through perception tricks, tunnel vision, darkness, opposite viewpoints? What can we truly perceive about our contemporary society? In the world of Scenes from the House Dream, it's all illusion, with characters, not unlike ourselves, wandering through these transitory spaces.

I had seen this work before, on my visit to the National Gallery of Canada last winter, and couldn't stop talking about it. Here's your chance to go and see it! Scenes from the House Dream continues until December 31st, 2010, at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, 952 Queen St W. Gallery hours are Tuesday - Sunday 11 - 6 PM.

Writing by Elena Potter. Installation shots (with the exception of the one that depicts Bachelor's Bluff) courtesy of MOCCA. All other images from the artist's collection.

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