Beth Stuart “Length, Breadth, Thickness and—Duration” at The Power Plant, Toronto
Length, Breadth, Thickness and—Duration by Toronto-based artist Beth Stuart presents a body of new work that expands from the inside of the gallery towards Lake Ontario. At the core of the exhibition is a critical engagement with the Victorian-era bathing machine, which emerged as members of the European gentry began to take to the seaside. The placement of Stuart’s Bathing Machine (2018) next to Lake Ontario not only refers to its original purpose, it also speaks to Stuart’s interest in the reclamation of public space by unruly bodies and ideas that push back against established norms. Whereas the Victorian bathing machine represents an oppressive architecture of control and exclusion, the artist’s Bathing Machine becomes a reflexive, self-critical structure open to new uses and interpretations.
Inside the gallery, the bathing machine is further deconstructed and placed in dialogue with the garment patterns of twentieth century French fashion designer Madeleine Vionnet. Most famous for the invention of the bias cut, Vionnet’s clothes were designed to cling to, rather than squeeze, the body. She was also responsible for developing some of the first transitional beach fashion for women, referred to as pyjamas de plage. In conjunction with the Bathing Machine, Stuart’s plaster sculptures recalling Vionnet’s patterns ask us to reconsider the aesthetic and moral codes from the past and how they persist in the spaces we inhabit today.
Curator: Justine Kohleal, RBC Curatorial Fellow
at The Power Plant, Toronto
until 30 December 2018