On Allison Hrabluik’s Abet, by Michael Turner, 2012
Exhibition Text for Abut & Abet, G Gallery, Toronto
9 March – 29 April 2012
“Abet” is a word we are accustomed to experiencing in its transitive form (abetting) and in conjunction with its partner (aiding) which it follows. “Aiding and abetting” is usually uttered by an authority figure – a cop, a prosecutor, a judge – at someone accused of helping – and encouraging (for that is what abetting means – to encourage) – someone to commit a crime. To experience abet without its partner is to consider it with suspicion. Not for the word’s criminal connotations but to ask why a word associated with criminal activity was chosen to stand alone, as if encouragement without assistance is incomplete, irresponsible, all talk/no action; if not criminal then unethical, immoral.
Allison Hrabluik’s Abet (2012) is a two-channel video projection that began with a digital snapshot of a common household object. The image was then uploaded into a computer where its subject was abstracted and animated by the artist with the aid of Final Cut Pro’s “Scale”, “Rotation”, and “Opacity” functions. Accompanying the visual content is a minimal score by electro-acoustic composer Andrea Young.
In experiencing Abet we might wonder how the piece was made. Indeed, much of what we experience in the modern world comes at us through processes we know nothing of, but that has never stopped us from enjoying the outcome. For example, it is only with the advent of ethical commodities (coffee, diamonds) that most of us have begun to wonder if the products we once consumed were the result of criminal acts. What we make of that question – what we do about it or what we do not do about it -- is the world we are living in today.
Which brings us back to this “common household object.” Does it matter that we do not know what that object is, that it is lost to us, a case of habeas corpus? Or is the process by which its image is manipulated of greater interest? Perhaps it is enough to simply settle into the sensation we get when experiencing something enlivened by real time shifts in “Scale”, “Rotation” and “Opacity”, for these are the characters Hrabluik has activated to construct her narrative, a narrative by an artist who has for some years now made narrative a focus of her practice.
What do I feel when experiencing Abet? As a social being conditioned by narrative, I am destined to apply it (consciously or unconsciously) in my daily life. As a child, that meant looking for animals in the paintings of Jackson Pollock, while as an adult it included looking at those same works as a record of activity, the distribution of paint and how it provided clues to the order of colour and volume. As someone barely familiar with software programs, I can at least recognize the “characters” Hrabluik has employed in her narrative -- but it is their behaviour, and how that behaviour is aided? abetted? by Young’s sonic complement, that has my attention. This is the relationship that forms the core of Abet, not the transformation of the lost (and unknown) body.