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Philip Monk curates Filmmaker Mike Hoolboom’s inaugural museum show,


The Invisible Man, at the Art Gallery of York University


Posted by Carla Garnet at Thu Jan 27 09:52:13 2005



Over the past forty-five years video as an art form has expanded to embrace single-


channel videotapes, video sculptures, cinematic installations, plasma screen 


presentations and multi-channel DVD projections. Gallery installations by independent 


film and video producers have precipitated numerous viewing innovations many of which 


are employed by Mike Hoolboom’s 3-part installation entitled The Invisible Man, curated 


by Philip Monk on view at the Art Gallery of York University.



The gallery setting allows this filmmaker’s complex combination of camera images to 


create associations between time and space and the viewer’s body. Hoolboom’s 


exhibition asks that the viewer become involved with content and context, requiring 


visitors to reflect on their precise location in relation to the work’s locus. The Invisible 


Man, illustrates a statement by Margaret Morse (author of Video Installation Art: The 


Body, the Image and the Space-in-Between): “It is the visitor rather than the artist who 


performs the piece in an installation.” For that reason context is critical to Monk’s 


curation of Hoolboom because it is the gallery that allows the filmmaker’s work to 


function more like sculpture than film.



Upon entering the AGYU our attention is drawn to Hoolboom’s black and white DVD-


loop, In the Future, created from a montage of Hollywood film, found footage, and home 


movies. In the Future is presented on a flat, horizontal, plasma screen that is cleanly 


inserted into an otherwise unblemished white wall. The audio component of the first work 


disarms the visitor, who is still struggling to un-encumber their bulk of winter’s necessary 


clothes. It is a child’s voice that breaks through reverie with, “Last night I had a dream: 


that the movies I had seen even in the womb were a prophecy. They were my future.”  


Beleaguered by more layers to be peeled off and then to be later reapplied, gallery-


goers are reminded that while the artist’s bodiless articulation has the power to break 


through private day dreams, as spectators, we will have to take in Philip Monk’s 


curatorial presentation as corporeal beings. Driving the point home an AGYU attendant 


hands out the exhibition map, propelling viewers forward.



Mike Hoolboom is primarily known as an experimental filmmaker  who urgently conveys 


the contemporary relationship between life, death, sex and the movies. In this respect, 


the AGYU’s show of Hoolboom’s oeuvre, The Invisible Man, is no different. Without 


directly saying as much, Monk’s installations of Hoolboom’s projected works ask us to 


reflect on several of Walter Benjamin’s seminal questions. How cinema has altered our 


relationship to life experiences? What are the ramifications of film (and photography) on 


art?  Has mechanized copying freed art from its reliance on the ceremonial? Has the 


purpose of art been inverted? Has cinematic experience impacted on the optical parts of 


the mind that contain memories, thought, feeling, ideas, and the unconscious? Does the 


physical experience of viewing Hoolboom’s filmic work as installation interrupt the dream 


state often associated with the cinema experience and make us conscious of it?



In order to take in the next work, from which the show takes its title, the map tells visitors 


we must walk through a narrow darkened corridor into a sizable room where a projection 


of The Invisible Man competes with a 3-monitor tower for our attention. As spectators we 


are conflicted, which way should we look, at the luminous projection or at the three small 


televisions? Our attention races between the cinematic black and white projection that 


occasionally blooms into living colour, and the phallic television tower. The artist’s voice 


intermittently pierces through the hypnotic passage of images and symphonic 


soundscape. His projections refer to themselves, light projected through windows, 


doorways, rising and setting with the sun, forged in the heat of a volcano, shone from 


lamps, flashlights, nightlights, expunged into darkness and reborn as daylight effectively 


turning the gallery into a giant strobe and beating heart.



Informed by the map, viewers are made aware that there is one more Hoolboom work. 


We read that this cinematic piece is a meditation on living in the fields of the future/past, 


accessed through the shared picture world of movies, where substance dissolves and 


bodies evaporate. It is entitled Imitations of Life. Accordingly, visitors move through an 


institutional door into another dark space. This action functions as a double crossing 


over from a projected threshold through an actual one, the double entrance implies a 


double exit.



A word caption emblazes momentarily across a large flat light-informed surface. It reads, 




Witnesses are keyed to think, “there are so many cinematic versions that already exist.” 


Science, cinema, and art merge on screen and in the synthetic space between the 


viewers and the viewed. The installation is a loop that plunders the body of cinema for 


an epic that contains a dominion of dislocated fears and dreams, a place to imagine a 


future that is already here and that we must pass back through in order to reach the 


end/beginning. In the process of taking in Monk’s presentation of Hoolboom’s 


installation, gallery-goers are transformed; our unconscious thoughts arrive on the 





Video installations on the whole are as much about technological change as they are 


about changes in artistic fashion. As soon as artists became interested in video, they 


tried to work with the image as a sculptural element, but as a filmmaker, Hoolboom has 


been resistant to exhibiting in galleries, so it is important to acknowledge that The 


Invisible Man results as a consequence of Monk’s curatorial intervention. In this 


exhibition, the gallery-going experience functions as a passage. If indeed, we are 


sleepwalkers as the show implies, it is we who have performed Philip Monk’s sculptural 


installation of Mike Hoolboom’s The Invisible Man.

The Invisible Man by Carla Garnet (2005)

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