Cruising the Echoes of Desire

Mat O’Hara


AXENÉO7 artist-run centre, in collaboration with the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa, presents the exhibition Cruising the Echoes of Desire by Mat O’Hara, artist and MFA candidate at the University of Ottawa, as part of the public presentation of his thesis exhibition.

Queer spaces are continually in flux and ephemeral due to patriarchal systems of oppression in late capitalism, technology, gentrification, stronger police presence, and stigma. As such, they are left to hang in the wings while condo developers pave them over, and police/lawmakers’ tactics towards them become frighteningly more strict and corrupt. These spaces are placemakers in queer history and have been sites of desire, protest and resistance in the ongoing process of LGBTQIA2S+ liberation movements. These subversive landscapes/subverted architectures hold stories and histories that echo back to the past, live in the present, and lay framework for the evolution of queer space in the future.

The ephemerality of place is where O’Hara employs a multidisciplinary approach aimed at visualizing queer spaces steeped in desire. Through the use of lens-based media and installation, he documents queer desire and the spaces where these stories resonate; their layouts, structures, histories, and physical elements. As he recalls his own and other collaborators’ personal histories with these spaces, the process culminates loosely as a living archive that aims to add to the history of LGBTQIA2S+ communities as a result. He recognizes that these spaces are on unceded territories of indeginous peoples whose land these sites situation themselves. They have and hold important histories that he cannot stake a claim in, yet can acknowledge, respect and constantly keep in check the settler relationship to the land at the core of his research. 

 Cruising the Echoes of Desire, loosely centres itself around one site specifically - an area known to its local queer men as a cruising zone - yet aims to broaden the site specificity to include a more universal notion of desire. Structured around a love letter written to this location by the artist, the exhibition’s installation aspects make reference to the romanticization of nature. In a time where the majority of the global population is urbanized. It seems that humans have distanced themselves further from the natural world, only allowing oneself (if privileged enough and with the means to escape the city) to take brief sojourns into nature. By inverting exterior with interior elements, O’Hara aims to distort perceptions of public and private realms, as well as investigate the attachment of memory and nostalgia to place and object.

Mat O’Hara is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice and research lie at the intersections of lens-based media and queer theory that involves the investigation of space, place, desire, intimacy and archive. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Concordia University (2014) and is soon to be a graduate of the Masters of Fine Arts program at the University of Ottawa (2019). His work is part of a number of public and private collections, including most recently the City of Ottawa and Loto-Quebec. He has been part of exhibitions at the Audain Gallery (Victoria, BC), Art Mur (Montreal, QC), Eastern Bloc (Montreal, QC) and ProArts Gallery (Oakland, CA). In 2018 and 2019, he received the Louise Perry Award in Photography and will be taking part in a residency at Headlands Art Center (San Francisco, CA) in early 2020.