Speedwalking Through the VAG’s Grand Hotel

If you know me then you’ll know I’m not good at sitting still. You’ll also know what a relief it was to finally deplane after 5ish hours of sitting in the middle seat from YYZ to YVR. The saving grace of yesterday’s journey, aside from the ramen and izakaya eats, was my whirlwind visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG).

For a museum planner I’m notorious for getting museum fatigue really really easily. Maybe this makes me super sympathetic to museum-goers, especially the 5 year-old kid who’s bored to tears at any given moment at any given museum in this wide world. My capacity for boredom and fatigue also accords with my inability to sit through a plane ride. Anyways, I had 30 minutes to breeze through the permanent galleries which is often plenty of time. Needless to say I was astonished when I found myself wanting more time to explore the Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life exhibition that is currently showing.

Road Trip Gallery detail

Road Trip Gallery detail

Road Trip Gallery Detail

Road Trip Gallery Detail

 

I won’t go into details here (though I really want to) simply because, as I said, I breezed through the show and it really deserves a proper write-up. However, it’s a super engaging theme and the curators were pretty expansive in their approach to the topic touching on such sub-themes as culture, the social, travel and design. I’d say the show broadly addresses the question: How is modern life understood differently through the phenomenon of the modern hotel?

I found the ‘culture’ exhibits particularly interesting — it’s a lot of text and poring over documents, mixed with screen-based experiences of movie clips and music from the period. For me it was super interesting because it explores the hotel as hub or retreat for cultural creation (think Ginsberg and the Beat Hotel in Paris). Normally the amount of reading involved would be a deal-breaker (it’s really not that much text, but it’s me), but everything in the show is assembled with care and purpose so I want to give it a proper go.

If I can swing it in between meetings and client dinners I will definitely go back and take my time.

Sitting in my hotel room right now, trying to deal with a fit of insomnia, I feel a tinge of regret. Regret because I didn’t have more time at the VAG to immerse myself in the world of modern hotels. Even more regret because the the hotel room I’m sitting in as I write is bland and it’s doubtful any sudden bursts of creativity will be forthcoming.

Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life runs from April 13 to September 15, 2013.

Getting Lost in the Memory Palace

Friday and Saturday was spent gawking at art. I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario to attend the opening of Janet Cardiff’s and George Bures Miller’s exhibition Lost in the Memory Palace on Friday night and then went back for more on Saturday.

Lost in the Memory Palace is the perfect title for this survey exhibition as it really does feel like your going on a journey. After swooning for a while at “The Forty Part Motet” I roamed round and around on the forth floor checking out each installation multiple times. The new piece they created for the AGO, “Experiment in F# Minor” was pretty awesome. If it’s packed, I’d recommend just lingering in the room until it empties out so you can play with it on your own or with a few friends.

One of the oddest things I saw a little girl activate “The Killing Machine”…so weird, and it turns out it was Janet’s and George’s daughter which made the experience even more strange.

If you’ve not seen it yet all I’ve gotta say is get your ass down there NOW! It runs until August 18th.

Cardiff & Miller: Media Art Magic

Long lost University of Alberta alumni meet for the first time!

Long lost University of Alberta alumni meet for the first time!

 

“We’re getting old, so there’s a lot of work”, said George Bures Miller. This opening line was the start of what was a great talk by two of my favourite contemporary artists last night at the Art Gallery of Ontario. For a bit over an hour they walked us through the body of work they created over the years.

What I love about their work is how intensely personal so much it feels. And yet, when an audience member asked about their relationship to the viewer and whether they create with the viewer in mind? Janet‘s response was simple, “Not really, if we’re really into it, then we’re ok”. This simple and truthful answer comes through in the work. I think if artists create for themselves in an open and honest way then the works will connect to viewers. This is particularly true of Cardiff & Miller’s work because our bodies, our senses and how we perceive and know the world is ultimately what makes their creations so so compelling. The starting point of much of what they make is the body (their own bodies and sense perceptions), and as Maurice Merleau-Ponty noted, “The body is our general medium for having a world.”

 

Cardiff & Miller during question period.

Cardiff & Miller during question period.

 

It was really great to hear them talk about their creative process and you realize just how long they’ve been doing this. The two of them on stage together seems to make perfect sense. It’s hard to imagine one without the other and the audience sighed in satisfaction when they agreed, “We make each other’s art better”. If you’re familiar with their work then you know that we were all chomping at the collective bit for more, More, MORE! MORE Cardiff & Miller!

Luckily, a survey exhibition of their installation work, Lost in the Memory Palace, opens tomorrow night at the Art Gallery of Ontario. More info here.