he worked at the University of Regina Library, Dakota McFadzean often
stumbled across porn magazines sandwiched between academic books. He was
fascinated by the weird juxtaposition: private texts hidden among public
ones; oozing libido contaminating the dry brain food. Were these fugitives
jokes? The act of a sex maniac hoping to shock and pervert? An act of
generosity? Whatever the reason, the surprising gesture became a source of
Dakota's hollow books are one-of-a-kind artist books with comically racy
drawings on the dust jackets. Little Red Riding Hood, for instance, enters
her grandmother's house on the front cover and shares a post-coital smoke
with the Big Bad Wolf on the back. The excavated interiors hold items
related to the covers, for example, cigarette butts for the taboo couple.
The books were properly catalogued and sent into circulation by the
University of Regina Library! Patrons could enjoy them on site or check them
out and take them home. Some added to or replaced the secreted items.
Someone even provided a condom for Little and Big.
Dakota's naughty behaviour has recently extended to altering thrift store
art. He takes these second hand images of third rate art and adds a perverse
touch: a giant octopus sinks a ship; a rabbit-headed patrician plays chess
with an perturbed (and unaltered guest) as a panda-headed observer smiles
idiotically; bleeding men in top hats and frock coats haunt the streets of
postcard villages; deformed changlings replace babies in otherwise sweet
In both operations, Dakota makes small subversions into the routine world
and our habitual imaginaries. He scratches the thin surface of the real to
allow the dream and nightmare realms to leak into the daylight. Creeping
fears and pleasures populate his pictures with forbidden and desired
possibilities. His nonsense is delightful, but it is his sense keeps me
coming back. While some pieces are absurdities, many are jokes, irruptions
from the unconscious, symptoms seeking resolution.
The porn in the library is funny because a library is supposed to be a place
of the mind, not the bawdy. Deformed babies elicit anxious laughter because
that possibility is every parent's anxiety. The fables we read to children
are bowdlerized versions of much more frank and instructive folk tales.
Still, despite the cleansing, Little Red Riding Hood endures because there
is something vaguely sexy and taboo going on between Little Red and Big Bad.
In his twisted drawings, Dakota returns some of the repressed for our
elucidation, edification and general delight.
Copyright © 2006, David Garneau