When my coworker told me that Jim Carrey was next door to us scoping out Montreal’s Phi Centre as a location for a project, I’d be lying if I said my mind didn’t immediately flare with excitement. I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t casually pace outside the entrances of the building, frowning at the presence of VIP security and wondering how hard it would be to pull off a Spider-Man like infiltration to see what Carrey was planning (maybe do a perfectly sub-par impression of The Mask, become best friends, ride off into the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind). So I’m a bit of a fan.
There are certainly a fair number of people who might be surprised that the project Carrey was putting up at the Phi Centre was an exhibition of drawings. Despite his legendary status as a comic actor, his recent dedication to a visual arts practice is less prevalent in the public eye- although one of the key aspects of this practice is a very public platform. The aptly titled “This Light Never Goes Out” collects a selection of Jim Carrey’s political cartoons he has been rigorously creating and sharing with the world through his Twitter account. And while not quite as sharp-witted or enthralling as his performances and standup (or some of his paintings for that matter), these irreverent lampoons offer a viscerally comic humanity that seems so missing from current political cartoons and political discourse at large.
Carrey’s pieces seethe with a sort of adolescent reflex in the face of detestable political villainy, Donald Trump and his satellites making up much of the content. The figures are often caricatured, at times to grotesque levels, that in equal parts shine a foolish light on these individuals and gives an unpleasant weight to these mounting wrongdoings. There is a rawness to it all; not only in terms of Carrey’s style, but also to the physical qualities of the pictures. These torn out notebook pages still have their binding attached in the exhibition’s frames. Everything feels so full of immediacy: the presentation, the subject matter, the publishing through social media, and, above all else, the desperate call for unity to everyone looking on. Because as strong as the social critique is in Carrey’s work, there is an urgent hope that shines through.
Context being a great deal of art’s experience, it seems important to keep in mind how Jim Carrey has been presented and received in our world. A quick and clever comic, brimming with physical energy, a bolt of chaotic humour amidst a serious world. It is the weight of this cultural icon that Carrey has struggled with pulling himself out from under. There is very little that points towards the Jim Carrey fans know from his legendary comedic stylings. Some may be unable to bridge the cognitive dissonance between the art presented here and the perceived figure they adore. As evidenced in the recent documentaries I Needed Colour (a short exploration of Carrey’s visual arts practice) and Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond (an examination of Carrey portraying Andy Kaufman), as well as recent interviews, Carrey has clearly been going through changes. What is present here, though perhaps not as familiar, is the unfiltered opinions of a person who has been grappling with who he is in this world for a long time, and who is trying to grapple the world into understanding their own dire humanity.
In Jim Carrey’s own words when first posting this exhibit’s titular This Light Never Goes Out: “Lately, my concern about the greed and corruption in our world may have you wondering what’s going on inside me. Today I thought I’d give you a glimpse. This light never goes out.”