It Is What It Is, It Was What It Was, 2008
15 mm white neon tubing
91.5 x 449.6 cm installed
National Gallery of Canada (no. 42908)
Ron Terada employs language as his readymade. His interest lies, not so much in the specific meaning embedded "within" the text he uses, but rather in the discursive space - economic, social, and political - that "surrounds" it. Here, he nods to conceptual art in his choice of medium, while also referencing an expression made infamous by the Canadian hockey player Todd Bertuzzi. This "nonresponse" has come to represent the general cultural malaise of the last decade, a passive acceptance of situations one cannot change. The artist's inversion of the statement is just as pointed and ambiguous. At once imbued with a sense of history and equally void of all meaning, this sculptural call and response has the ability to transcend the specificities of time, shifting continuously with each new context in which it is displayed, all the while illuminating the contradictions inherent within contemporary life.