1 min

Space: The final frontier

Nina Levitt's field of gravity

BOLDLY GO. Video art by Nina Levitt. Credit: Xtra files

Nina Levitt’s extraordinary work first came to public attention in Toronto in 1987 with the photographic series, Conspiracy Of Silence. Part of Sight Specific: Lesbians And Representation, a group exhibition curated by local filmmaker Lynne Fernie, it was the first show in Toronto explicitly billed as lesbian.

Levitt’s first solo exhibition in Toronto in 1994, an acclaimed photographic series called Critical Details, was at Gallery TPW – where she is currently exhibiting her two recent video installations, Gravity and Duet.

Compelling and hypnotic, Levitt’s work is a consideration upon themes of isolation, loss and the constructions of gender and identity. “Wave,” a segment in the five part Gravity installation, is a small and intimate projection of Russian astronaut Valentina Tereshkova, the “first woman in space.” Here, Levitt makes reference to outer space as a key to the other territories explored in these works – the spaces (internal and external, imagined and created) that are occupied and transformed by the self and by others.

Gravity repeatedly identifies and challenges women’s spaces: “Nostalgia,” is a segment with a slowly revolving image of couples dancing in a crowded lesbian bar, and “Spin” contains a sequence of female divers continually spiraling towards sparkling blue water, but never breaking the surface.

“Sonar” and “Aria,” the two aural elements of Gravity, provide a constantly shifting soundscape; a continuous sonar echo and the intermittent and faint strains of an aria, intermingle. While the sonar connects us to the realm of the subconscious, the quiet culmination of the aria is tragic, yet it suggests exhilaration at what might be found.

The Duet installation is a profoundly moving memorial piece, with the simple and poetic image of a white shirt being buttoned and unbuttoned. The soundtrack outlines the lives of six men (including Brandon Teena and Billy Tipton, who, either shortly before or after their deaths, were discovered to have been biologically female).

Levitt’s beautiful and resonating work creates a longing to have a space of one’s own creation, a space where rigid constructions of identity and purpose can be transgressed and transcended.

Gravity/Duet: Two Video Installations by Nina Levitt, are exhibiting till Sat, Nov 20 at Gallery TPW (80 Spadina Ave, Suite 310). Call (416) 504-4242.