Pretty Vacancy, 2010
Kingston-based artist Michael Davidge’s Pretty Vacancy, directly references two things: the 1977 song, “Pretty Vacant” by seminal punk rock band, the Sex Pistols, and the ubiquitous neon (NO)VACANCY signs of roadside motels. While the former inflicts raucous snarls about political unease, recessionary poverty, and youthful unrest, the latter symbolizes a safe place for physical relief from the stress of the highway, and a temporary vacation from the realities of home and working life. Both, however, contain an underlying current of anxiety. The kind of cultural anxiety that has become apparent with the past few decades worth of rapid growth in spectacular capitalism – some might say at the expense of spiritual or intellectual reflection. And the kind of personal anxiety that is present when facing the uncanny strangeness of a blank motel room – like a mixture of the Bates Motel from Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) and the sterile luxury of a Hilton. Residing somewhere between these two currents, lies Davidge’s desire to captivate and confuse us with his puzzling – and pulsing – textual game.
Davidge’s use of neon is certainly not without precedent. In fact, it has proven to be an attractive and compelling medium for a substantially large number of contemporary artists (including Bruce Nauman and Ron Terada among many others). Perhaps it is that neon is a surprisingly complicated and dialectical substance, which makes it so artistically seductive. Indeed, it can appear both retro and futuristic, it can be tongue-in-cheek but it can serve as a serious mode of communication, it is impossible to ignore and yet it is also an invisible part of our everyday urban-scape. When placed in the context of this otherwise quiet, residential neighborhood in Kingston’s Swamp Ward, is neon an obnoxious imposition or an amusing curiosity?
Michael Davidge is an artist, art critic, and curator, who lived in Kingston until 2012 and currently lives in Ottawa. A practicing post-conceptual artist with Master’s degrees in both Visual Arts and English Literature, Michael creates work that evidences his depth of knowledge in the field of contemporary art and art history. His writing has been published in national publications including Parachute, Blackflash, and Front Magazine. Increasingly, Michael views his text-based work as “improvisations on theme,” situating his practice in a musical idiom as explored by his free-jazz punk-disco outfit, SouB?.
For up to date information on the artist visit: http://michaeldavidge.blogspot.com/