David Bobier and Dani Crosby showcase their Body Language exhibit from Sept. 21 until Jan. 5 at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery with an opening reception set for Oct. 5 from 2 to 4 p.m.

Body language is comprised of all that is not said during a conversation. It is the intangible and subjective understanding of the expressions, gestures, intonations, temperaments, spatial configurations and feelings during an encounter with another that allow us to make sense of the experience. In much the same way, the works in this exhibition are about an intuitive understanding of another person’s experience and a desire for connection that exceeds the limits of language. Working collaboratively, Oshawa-based illustrator and artist Dani Crosby and London-based multi-media artist David Bobier each produced a new body of work that responds to personal stories of Durham residents.

Collected anonymously through an online survey, participants were prompted with questions intended to inspire personal reflection such as: “What challenges you most on a daily basis?” and “When you first meet people, what do you wish they understood about you that is not immediately noticeable?” The artists then selected twelve stories from the diverse group of participants to translate and represent in different ways through their work.

For Crosby, understanding and visually interpreting these stories of struggle is an important way to build connection and resilience. For each of the twelve selected participants she has created larger-than-life illustrated portraits that capture elements of their stories through vibrant and evocative visual iconography. In one portrait, a female figure is presented with an anvil on her protruding tongue, which curls into knots. Various elements appear almost psychedelic: an open book reveals a passageway lined with bricks and a witch hat sits on top of a poisonous mushroom. Beside them, a swaddled infant is resting against an anthill and a series of ghoulish figures climb up her knee. Although the imagery may not directly represent the stories collected, it clearly articulates the urgency of the emotions and the sensitivity Crosby brings to them.

Bobier’s practice is similarly invested in forging new ways to build connection and understanding. Developing and integrating what he describes as “inclusive technologies,” his interactive sculptural works use multi-sensory experiences to share ideas. To create the sculptures, Bobier began with a line of text or element that stuck out to him from the collected stories, which he would then translate into different forms. In the work vibro-projector, a modified film projector and music box are mounted on top of an antique wooden school desk. Through turning the handle of the music box, a score in braille transcript is converted into vibration and sound as well as dancing visuals from the shadows cast on the wall. Here, the transformation of language from one modality to another opens up new possibilities for communicating in more inclusive and holistic ways, and where one method of understanding is not privileged above another.

Together the works reframe personal stories into sensuous and participatory experiences, allowing for a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the challenges and desires that exist just below the surface.

Image Left: David Bobier, Transcommunicator I & II, mixed media installation, 4’x4’x2’, 2019. Courtesy of the artist. Image Right: Dani Crosby, Portrait 3, Durham Region Portrait Project, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

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