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Department of Art History at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design from 1974-1975. Wall returned to Vancouver in 1976, and was engaged as an Associate Professor in the Centre for the Arts, Simon Fraser University until 1987. During his tenure at Simon Fraser University,

Wall actively pursued his own art practice and began to experiment with back-lit Cibrachrome transparencies, creating images such as Faking Death in 1977. The following year, he produced an image that would be a watershed to his mature work, entitled The Destroyed Room (1978). It was exhibited in the window of Nova Gallery in Vancouver, in Wall’s first solo exhibition. As a number of Wall’s photographs have strong connections to classical painting and to art history, this photograph can be viewed as a contemporary tale of the moments following the action in The Death of Sardanapalus (1827) by Euge`ne Delacroix. The image of a bright red room with an overturned, torn mattress, clothes strewn on the floor, and smashed furniture is evocative of an establishing shot in the opening of a film, where the viewer sees the aftermath of events, and later the story is developed through flashbacks. It is clear from the wreckage that something has occurred, but exactly what is left ambiguous. Furthermore, there are clues that the scene is staged, such as the porcelain figure of a woman that is carefully placed on top of the dresser, and the fact that the room is actually part of a set. An equally important work from this early per-

iod is Picture for Women (1979). As Wall had done with The Destroyed Room, this second photograph quotes a painting, in this case, Edouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Berge`res (1882). The painting is held in the collection of the Courtauld, which Wall would have had the opportunity to study in depth while he was a student. The woman in Wall’s photograph echoes the pose of the barmaid in Manet’s painting; however, instead of seeing her back in the mirror behind the bar, the viewer sees Wall and his camera. Wall has figured as the subject in other works such as Double Self-Portrait (1979), but in Picture for Women, he clearly problematises the position of the artist in relation to the model and to the viewer, and furthermore engages with the feminist debate that these positions historically have been gendered. Following his breakthroughs with The Destroyed

Room and Picture for Women, Wall produced a body of large-format ‘‘staged’’ photographs, sumptuously presented in lightboxes. The origins of the staged photograph can be traced to the nineteenthcentury, such as the allegorical subjects employed

by Oscar Gustav Rejlander and Julia Margaret Cameron. The photographic representation of a tableau vivant stems not only from the related traditions in genre and in history painting, but also from the Victorian love of theatrical performances and poetry recitals. Wall’s photographs bear witness to this historical legacy, certainly, but more significantly, his photographs reflect his own investigations of the evocative powers of cinematography, as well as the persuasive authority and pervasiveness of commercial advertisements. The physical scale and luminosity emanating

from Wall’s lightbox photographs is reminiscent of a movie screen. In keeping with this relationship to film, it is interesting to note that Wall’s working method involves hiring a cast of actors or models. While the inspiration for the images is very often something Wall has experienced or witnessed on the street, the finished photograph itself is not documentary in nature. The depicted scenes are carefully scripted and rehearsed. Wall will make the actors run through the actions over and over, until he achieves the desired effect. In this sense, his photographs can be read as even better versions of the ‘‘real’’ sequence of events, because the viewer is given the benefit of Wall’s introspection. This blurring of the lines between fact and fiction is what makes his photographs so compelling, in the same way that one can be completely drawn in to actions that transpire on film. In 1987, Wall returned to his alma mater as a

Professor in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of British Columbia. The end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s saw shifts in Wall’s choices of subject matter. In this period, he would focus less often on incidents from real life, and instead find sources in his own dreams and imagination. At this time, he produced important photographs such as the nightmarish bacchanalia of The Vampires’ Picnic (1991). The theatricality of this image is accentuated by the dramatically lit figures emerging from the darkness of the forest. As with many of Wall’s photographs, the viewer expects to hear sound, and though the moment had been lifted out of time, more like a film still than a photograph, more like a Greek tragedy than an historical painting, or more precisely, a combination of all these things. The Stumbling Block (1991) marks the introduc-

tion of computer-aided imagery in Wall’s photographs. The Stumbling Block is a busy street scene in which a passerby turns to witness a young woman tumbling over an obstacle, in the form of a man dressed in protective padding. A man in business attire, who appears to have already taken

a turn, sits resting on the pavement to the right. For this piece, Wall photographed the sidewalk and people in the distance first and then photographed the foreground action in the studio. The results were then blended together. It is an imagined event that appears to be based on reality because it looks so completely real. It is a postmodern allegory that Wall has described as a ‘‘philosophical comedy’’:

In my fantasy, The Stumbling Block helps people change. He is there so that ambivalent people can express their ambivalence by interrupting themselves in their habitual activities. He is an employee of the city, as you can tell from the badges on his uniform. There are many Stumbling Blocks deployed on the streets of the city, wherever surveys have shown the need for one. He is passive, gentle, and indifferent: this was my image of the perfect ‘‘bureaucrat of therapy.’’