Utopian Dystopia is obscure and debate-inducing

Over the past few decades, it is no groundbreaking news that our modern, information-led society has become fueled by an endless series of changes, with reverberations felt from cultural to political arenas.

UBC alumnus Jeff Mair’s upcoming exhibition, Utopian Dystopia, opening on September 17 at the Robert Lynds Gallery, showcases the evolution in Mair’s treatment of the themes of information and control, delving deep into the ongoing duel between reality and perception.

“I am specially interested in the themes of data management, natural resources, land usage and commodification and how messages are delivered. I also like occupying that space between perception and reality," said Mair. "I worked in the technology sector for a number of years and I witnessed this rapid rise of technology and the way things can be. Now messages can be disseminated at astounding speeds, and that has been something that has been an interest of mine."

According to Mair, although most of the ideas for the exhibition have fully developed in the past two years, some of them have been in the works for over 10.

“Ideas started percolating quite a bit in advance of when the actual exhibition date was set," he said. "I am always thinking of new concepts and directions, and once you start doing them, one thing leads to another, and it tends to create another body of work that has potential."

Skillfully employing the elements of painting, installation and sculpture in his multimedia works, with familiar materials such as vessels, painting substrata, living plant matter and shredded documents, Mair invites his viewers to question the pieces beyond their seemingly straightforward surface level, therefore navigating the boundary between reality and perception.

“When you walk in, it will at first potentially strike somebody as if there is nothing much going on, but then as you get drawn into the work, the kind of intimate nature of the work, the way that they have been presented, framed, curated and exhibited by myself and the gallery will come through. It's my hope that there will be a creeping realization in the viewer that the immediate thing that they see may not be what originally meets the eye,” said Mair.

With pieces that are intentionally obscure and debate-inducing, Mair’s exhibition prompts viewers to reflect on the information-based society they are immersed in.

Among the works on display are a series of small paintings of shredded documents that are random in the way that they are arranged.

“The pieces offer a little glimpse into somebody’s life, but not enough to glean any kind of story out of it," said Mair. "It's such a small sliver of information that you are asked to form your own story."

The opening reception for Utopian Dystopia will take place on September 17 at 7:30 p.m. at RLG.