David Hoffos is a wizard. After walking through the darkened corridors containing the completed Scenes from the House Dream (a series spanning five years of dreams and construction), after becoming implicit in the master illusionist’s reflective theatrics, I can only surmise that Hoffos is nothing short of a man in touch with a wholly other realm of being and consciousness.
In the perpetual night time of Hoffos’ world, in the recesses of dream time, abbreviated narratives unfold and repeat in estranged landscapes and familiar actions. A young man wheels his bicycle down a deserted suburban street, away from the distant fireworks that loom and dissipate over this sleepy hamlet of a town.
Framed within tiny enclosures, the narrative within the scene are the boy and the fireworks, which both are projected onto the elaborate 3D infinite diorama from monitors just behind the viewing audience. The projection of light, or arguably the carefully measured refraction of light, creates a ghostly holographic effect. Only the strangest and most confounding illusion is the containment of light within the double-sided mirrors within most of the dioramas. In the ship dock scene, where a handful of docks turn into an endless mirage, a single yacht appears floating in an endless lap of water, while a man (coming from another screen) appears restless on the deck of the vessel. The overall affect creates a terrible soothing rhythm of awe and speculation -- a tumble down the rabbit hole of optical logic and finding yourself beyond the comfort of anything you know.
Revealing nothing by revealing all, there is one frame that lets you see the man behind the curtain, so to speak. The back of all the dioramas are revealed with each of their specific sound and light set ups. That in itself is already a stellar peek into the workings of the illusion, but down on the ground directly opposite of the space, there lies a subtle hologram cutout of a white cat. Resting on all fours with a slight turning of its head and swish of its tail, it can only be presumed that the cat is Hoffos' own, a fixture behind all of illusions and a constant mate in the studio. Cutouts of a woman also appear throughout the show, often in corners, appearing as a life size shadow with sporadic movements that perpetually startle the passing viewer.
Turning the concept of a voyeur inside out, the highlight for me personally was the live feed at work in one of the last scenes. Peering into a decadent house, with a slightly ajar bedroom door that makes you crane your neck to see more (and what you find is a another door with a mysterious stair case leading elsewhere), you look through this highly decorative room only to see moving figures milling about outside its large French window. They are standing in a small group, huddled to see into something, and suddenly you recognize one of their jackets as something you recently saw within this very space. Is it one of the artist’s friends who wore the same jacket and came for the opening night? Only being there with a friend, who turned around to look, I could see her face behind the French window. I ask her to wave away from the scene, and she is suddenly waving at me through the window. In this Lynchian moment of time collapsing space, or space collapsing time, there is only a horror-fueled glee running through my veins in this darkness.
Revolving around the intimate dream-filled nooks of a house, a Bachelardian concept of the poetics of space, particularly of the house and home, this presentation is a feat of decentering both the viewer and the work of art until they are fully realized as one participatory interaction of being.
As a practicing artist for over 17 years and a graduate of the University of Lethbridge’s BFA program, Hoffos’ world premiere in his home town marks a significant moment in his career. Scenes from a House Dream will begin a national tour starting next fall at the National Art Gallery in Ottawa.
All images from David Hoffos Scenes From a House Dream, 2008
Amy Fung is the author of www.prairieartsters.com