If I have one motto as a journalist/critic, it’s that the more I learn the less I know. That’s because when I take the time to investigate a situation and try to understand the different viewpoints of the individuals/organizations/countries involved, I quickly realize that things aren’t as simple as I was initially led to believe.
Good and bad, right and wrong, white and black. A lot of people are attracted to concrete divisions like that. It helps them make sense of the world, and who doesn’t want to do that? Unfortunately, things are rarely, if ever, as simple as we’d like to believe. And when we, as individuals or a society, take a simplistic approach to addressing a perceived problem, we’ll rarely, if ever, be successful in solving it because we aren’t considering all the complexities.
That’s the underlying theme of this video and sound installation by Saskatoon artist Linda Duvall that’s on at the Dunlop Art Gallery until May 2. Co-produced with the Art Gallery of Mississauga, the show involved Duvall working with professional musicians to help people from Saskatchewan and the Greater Toronto area whose lives have deviated from the cherished norm to compose songs about their mothers.
Every criminal, after all, and every addict, every sex trade worker, every panhandler and other social outcast, is someone’s son or daughter. By focussing on the relationship they had with their mothers, Duvall also confronts our obsession with scapegoating others and blaming them for problems that, as I argue above, are generally way more complex than we’re willing to admit.
When we’re talking about kids who behave inappropriately, schools, social workers, young offenders’ legislation, deadbeat dads and raunchier aspects of pop culture all come in for their share of blame. But it’s usually the moms who are tagged as the biggest failures because, after all, it’s their sacred duty to raise children and ensure they turn out, right?