Originally published on Akimbo
November 03, 2015



I made it to Andrea Roberts’ The Yolk of Menial Light a week after it opened at aceartinc., but I can’t shake the feeling that I didn’t make it in time. In time for what I couldn’t tell you, mind. An encampment of provisional structures squat in the gallery’s darkened back half. Nearest the entrance, an amplifier sinks into the carpet of a stage-like platform, while a second sits some distance away, roughly swaddled in plastic sheets. A makeshift teleprompter mutters lines to no one in particular while soft lights and a droning soundscape hesitantly bridge the intervening space. A brighter, yellow light beckons toward a rear wall, its source obscured by a signboard made from Coroplast and two-by-fours. Rounding the corner, a lightbox like a bodega sign or beacon reads “SUFFER ANY WRONG THAT CAN BE DONE YOU RATHER THAN COME HERE.” Abandon hope; look ye mighty and so on – a dire warning, too little, too late. 


Some trauma is inescapable here, but it’s never named. We arrive on the scene in the moments after a basement show gone bad, maybe, or a press conference cut off mid-broadcast. We’re left to reorganize our expectations, unsure of how to proceed, where to run, or whether we’ve been cast as the aggressors or aggrieved. 


With stilted grammar and odd substitutions recalling drunk texts or faulty machine translation, the teleprompter conflates different public apologies. Fragments are traceable to Tiger Woods’s 2010 post-infidelity-and-car-crash mea culpa, while others seemingly allude to lip-syncing, drug binges, stolen sexts, and the subprime mortgage crisis. The title of another component name-checks an experimental treatment for PTSD. Linking these is the unresolved question of “saving face,” of how, through various kinds of performance (private and painful, scripted and televised), one might repair the damage done to one’s self image, self-inflicted or otherwise. 


Red, green, and blue-tinted “trouble lights” bleed into one another across one wall; a sour face – lips pursed, nose scrunched, frown lines furrowed – dissolves into blown-up halftone patterns. Whether “healing” is possible in the fragmented image-world we occupy is left an open question. It might be too late, but the stage, forbidding as it is in its abandoned state, is set. 

Andrea Roberts: The Yolk of Menial Light continues until December 1. 

Steven Leyden Cochrane is an artist, writer, and educator based in Winnipeg, where he contributes weekly exhibition reviews to the Free Press. He is Akimbo’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @svlc_ on Twitter.