Helping Yourself

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Installation View © Courtesy of the artist & Southern Alberta Art Gallery
Helping Yourself

601 Third Avenue South
T1J 0H4 Lethbridge
November 19th, 2011 - January 8th, 2012
Opening: November 19th, 2011 8:00 PM - 10:00 PM

403 327 8770
Tue-Wed, Fri-Sat 10-5; Thu 10-7; Sun 1-5


Kyla Mallett works from a diverse archive of second-hand, self-help materials, delving into the history, context, and status of the genre as a popular, academically ‘unsanctioned’ discourse. The artworks in this project highlight promises of enlightenment and well-being, focusing on the cultural interest in the genre as a gesture of hope, tempered by a skepticism about its transformative power. Mallett’s work conflates, rearranges, and reconsiders the sphere of self improvement, and its role as a social convention. As in much of her earlier work, Helping Yourself focuses on marginal and devalued forms of language and communication utilizing pseudo-anthropological and sociological strategies of collecting and archiving.

In How to See and Read the Aura and Have You Experienced the Auric Energy Field? (2010), Mallett creates a body of work from a parapsychology/new-age healing book she collected during her research. Employing UV-sensitive screen printing inks, Mallett creates multicoloured works, which fluctuate with the daylight, causing the viewer to see more or less of the text depending on the time of day they encounter the work. The broad palette of colours and the vacillations in our capacity to see the work, playfully approximate the practice of aura-reading while exploring ideas of belief, and metaphorically alludes to the practice of reading and interpreting works of art.

In addition, Mallett will present a new body of work featuring dozens of diagrams and schematics from her self-help collection installed as a constellation within the gallery. Unlike the aura series, these diagrams will, to varying degrees, be stripped of their accompanying text rendering their instructional value all but useless. What remains are a set of homogenous forms (intersecting and clustering circles, triangles and star-shapes in particular), as floating signifiers – unstable and indistinct. Offering rich, and at times humorous terrain, the blurring of these generic diagrams reinforces the confusion and futility often experienced with self-help books in tandem with a sense of familiarity and comfort in that their appearance of authority conveys a sense of legitimacy.

Kyla Mallett completed her MFA at UBC in 2004 and her BFA at Emily Carr in 2000. She has received critical attention for both national and international exhibits over the past decade, having exhibited at such institutions as the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris, the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Alberta, Presentation House Gallery, Artspeak, ThreeWalls in Chicago, and the Mount St. Vincent University Gallery in Halifax. Mallett is an Assistant Professor in Visual Art and Graduate Studies at Emily Carr University.

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