The Drawers - Dakota McFadzean   Commentary written by David Garneau

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When 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 inspiration.

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 domestic scenes.

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