While we might marvel while passing omnipresent infrastructures such as hydro corridors, multi-lane expressways, wind turbines or cellphone towers, few of us slow down to consider them as iconic signposts of modern Canadian identity.
But that’s exactly what artists Daniel Young and Christian Giroux have done for Infrastructure Canada, a new feature-length film work that premieres at Oakville Galleries this fall. Writer and critic John Bentley Mays caught up with the Sobey Art Award–winning duo in Guelph and Berlin earlier this year to unpack this fascination with the binding constructions of modernist nation-building and collective identity, a theme that has run through their films and sculptures for more than a decade.
“The modernity that has long interested Young and Giroux,” he writes in the Fall 2012 magazine feature “Base Lines,” “is popular and mass cultural, a phenomenon in which the most prized characteristic is mechanical functionality, not (as in the fine arts) clever or beautiful appearances.” Yet, Mays continues, “if both Young and Giroux are admirers of hard-hat techniques, processes and materials, their very detached, calculated, formally cool work is uncoloured by nostalgia.”
This selection of images from Infrastructure Canada as well as earlier film works 50 Light Fixtures from Home Depot and Every Building, or Site, that a Building Permit was Issued for a New Building in Toronto in 2006 adds to that observation, revealing Young and Giroux’s ongoing search for beauty in the banal.