• English
  • Français
  • Brandon Brookbank
    Brandon Brookbank

This exhibition is also presented as part of Art Pop (September 26 to 30, 2018). 


Portable Closets
 is a room full of sculptural objects, most of which resemble garments—although in strange scales and configurations. These might be visual puns masquerading as art, with sexual innuendos veiled flimsily as cheap diary locks. Socks are filled with birdseed, and a wallpaper of tiny turtleneck sweaters is hung like flaccid, uncut dicks. More enigmatic are the miniature garments embed into one of several pairs of wooden sandals standing on daises. These shoes are each odd games, with surfaces resembling old-school wooden sorting puzzles.

The son of a Pentecostal Saskatchewanian carpenter and seamstress, Alden Martens has crafted these things masterfully. And, evidently, the sculptures have been used. We can tell as much from the light scuffing on each object, and also from a video shown in the space. The video portrays young men wearing simple garments and playing with these objects—a homosocial scene that brings to mind those ‘character-select’ screens at the beginning of certain video games. Likewise, at select moments, designated people engage the sculptures live on their platforms, and follow a loosely-formalized set of instructions to ‘play’ each of the games. Their own garments are generic, nearly anodyne—clean and medical as compulsory spa attire. These are not seemly and staged performances, but rather more intimate acts presented by the players.

Both in person and in the video, these performing non-performers enact some strange form of togetherness—some peculiar social game generated as a live-fiction in real-time. They are quiet in these performances, as muted as the clothing they wear. Neither they nor their actions reveal much of the interior world of these individuals: no expression of desire, and few signs of identity. Rather, we see multiple and compound presentments that only hint at the identities of these players, hidden between the known, seen and heard— and obscured behind closet doors. These scenes might be something superficial, but are also as intimate as home movies.

One might consider Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s thirty-year old description of ‘the closet,’ that unavoidable threshold faced by those of us at the sexual margins of society. Kosofsky Sedgwick identified the double bind of the closet: one is obliged to ‘come out’ and reveal one’s ‘true’ self, and in so doing one codes oneself as socially deviant, in a “disclosure at once compulsory and forbidden.”[*] ‘Portable closets,’ à la Alden Martens, might more accurately describe the tools Queers use to navigate the social world—alternately withholding and disclosing ourselves variably. As with the strange sculptures in this room, codes of identity may be either pieced together or taken apart, like those unstable signifiers defining simplistic and arbitrary divides between man and woman, and homo and hetero.

Don’t look for fixed meanings here, you won’t find them.

- Mikhel Proulx


[*] Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990): 70.

Kyle Alden Martens (b.1989) is an interdisciplinary artist based in Montréal. He graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University in 2015 with a BFA in Intermedia. He has worked as an Arts Administrator (NS Centre for Craft and Design), Installer (Anna Leonowens Gallery), and Gallery Assistant (Art Gallery of Swift Current). Martens has presented work with the Khyber Centre for the Arts, Eyelevel Gallery, and the Centre for Art Tapes in Halifax, NS and Stride Gallery in Calgary, AB. You can find him online, studying french, or working in his studio preparing for an upcoming solo show at Eastern Edge Gallery in St. John’s, NL.

I would like to thank my partner Brandon Brookbank for his continued and guiding support, for producing the promotional images, performing in the video piece, and helping to install. Cason Sharpe and Cameron Cummings for also performing in the video and Maddie Mcneely for her technical assistance during shooting. Thank-you to Arts Nova Scotia for funding the production of the sandals and clothing in this exhibition. Thanks to Emploi-Quebec, specifically the program Jeunes Volontaires, for funding the video. Thanks to my mentor Anna Hawkins for her gentle and uplifting guidance. Thank you to Atelier Clark for putting together lovely plinths for my work. Thank-you to the Centre Clark team for seeing potential in my work and granting me this opportunity.

Room 2
Portable Closets