“Strange Victory” challenges expectations

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Photograph by Matthew Bakkom

Artist Matthew Bakkom isn’t one to lay it all out for his public.

“We’re a really highly educated audience now,” he said in conversation earlier this week at Chambers Hotel in Minneapolis, “and we don’t suffer lightly being told what to think.”

Chambers’ Burnet Gallery is presenting an installation Bakkom designed specifically for the space. It mixes together pieces from previous his bodies of work, along with new material, to create a setting that’s both elegant and unsettling. The installation is called “Strange Victory.”

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Photograph by Matthew Bakkom

The inspiration for the installation comes in part from a 1961 surreal French film called “Last Year at Marianbad,” but you wouldn’t necessarily pick that up from walking through the room. The biggest clue comes from a panel on which is written a summary of the film’s plot.

Bakkom says he thinks there’s a constant tension at play between an artist, the artist’s audience, and each of their own expectations about what art should be. Bakkom says he’s a follower of DuChamp in that he believes he only does half the work when he creates a piece of art – it’s up to the viewer to do the rest.

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The room is dotted with images of a baroque chair, a slide of an old painting, and hand gestures. They’re each quite suggestive, but suggestive of what? Curator Jennifer Phelps says of Bakkom’s work:

I am drawn to work that is composed of various levels… that does not reveal itself to the viewer at first glance. Work that twists and surprises me. I feel Matthew’s show does all of this for me. I want to spend time in the gallery trying to absorb his stories and the stories that are generated within me by his artwork. I also find his images quite serene, though they involve a scanner and gestures and information that can not be clearly deciphered.

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Photograph by Matthew Bakkom

Bakkom says he has many ideas, trains of thought, and sources of inspiration that go into his work, but ultimately that background information shouldn’t be necessary for the viewer to enjoy the work. What is necessary is an open mind, and a willingness to explore some foreign terrain. The story you come up with will be all your own.

“Strange Victory” will be on display at the Burnet Gallery through November 8th – the opening reception is tonight from 6-9pm.

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