Alvin Balkind Gallery
As a Hammer Strikes (A Partial Illustration) by John Massey is a groundbreaking video installation that uses three visual fields to convey the minutiae of communication, portraying misunderstandings, tangential thought processes and shared cultural experiences. Originally produced in 1982 in 16mm film, this complex triptych details a conversation between the artist and a hitchhiker, who Massey picked up while driving from one small southern Ontario town to another. As the two struggle to find common ground, they reveal their intense desire to connect with each other, if even for a brief moment. ln As the Hammer Strikes, Massey plays with the underlying assumptions of the documentary form. Using the conventions of investigative journalism, such as hidden cameras and hand held tape recorders, the voyeuristic scenario is called into question as Massey overtly points to the subterfuges used to stage this seemingly serendipitous event.
Through a wide variety of media including photography, film and sculpture, Massey's work often plays with the ambiguity between reality and fiction. His work has been widely exhibited, with shows in Germany, the US, the UK, France, Australia, as well as in Canada; and is held in many collections including the Art Gallery of Ontario; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Fonds National d'Art Contemporain, Paris; and the Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation, Toronto. John Massey received the 2001 Gershon lskowitz Award for lifetime achievement. He currently teaches in the Visual Studies Program at the University of Toronto.