The show is called “Necropolis,” but there’s nothing dead about Tasman Richardson’s new, immersive multimedia installation. Viewers, after a few moments of warning and instruction about the installation, move into a labyrinthine channel that snakes inventively through the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art‘s large gallery. Along the way, a series of video installations come to seem like so many stations of the cross marking subjection to the daily tidal wave of media-saturated consumer culture. The press release talks about “stages of erosion, narcissism, acceleration, idolatry, self-doubt and oblivion,” and they tally up a psychological decomposition that is mirrored nicely in the experience of sometimes feeling lost inside Richardson’s black, disorienting passage.
Initiated by independent curator Rhonda Corvese, who has a good track record of shaping major installations by overlooked talent (she introduced Toronto to Iris Häussler in The Legacy of Joseph Wagenbach in 2006), “Necropolis” is a coming-out for Richardson, whose career in the Toronto art scene has been more group-show-and-festival underground than solo-show overground in the past decade. “Necropolis” sets him on par with the likes of David Hoffos in creating a commanding and complex installational experience. Not to be missed, too, are the panel texts at the end of the circuit that offer Richardson’s thoughtful commentary on the six video components of the work. They reveal an intense, ambitious artist at the top of his game. Who would have known if Corvese and MOCCA hadn’t stepped in with the confidence to show him off? It’s a hopeful start for the Toronto scene in 2012.