exhibitions

Oh right, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

So I went to the VIP Preview exhibition, Seeing Through Light: Selections from the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Collection, a couple weeks ago. It was an exhibition of works on loan from other Guggenheim outposts as well as 19 pieces acquired for the permanent collection of the under construction Abu Dhabi version. I basically remember two things about the show – the long drive from Dubai, and Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room (below). This was the piece that caused all the long lines when a version was presented at David Zwirner Gallery in NYC in 2013.

Although I remember next to nothing of the other works on view (aside from the requisite Dan Flavin piece), Infinity Mirrored Room is definitely worth experiencing if you happen to be in the vicinity of Saadiyat Island. The only potential drawback is if you’re hoping for a moment of pause, wonder and contemplation, you might not get it. When we were there the security guards were yelling at people to keep on moving. Likely a result of it being opening night. My recommendation? Ignore them and soak it it.

 

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India, Buddha and I

So, what do India, Buddha and I have in common? Aside from being Asian and being awesome — a new museum that recently opened in Patna, India. This is actually old news (over two months old), but seeing as my editorial schedule for this blog is haphazard at best (unfortunately personal blogging has had to take a back seat to professional duties), it’s still timely in my world.

Buddha Smriti Museum (Smriti means memory) is one of the projects that I’m most proud of and is also one of the first projects in which I played a lead role from the pre-bid concept stage, to flying out to India to pitch the concept, to winning it, doing the actual planning and then working with my amazing design colleagues to design and implement. All told I started working on this in 2011 so it’s been a slog. But, nobody ever said the museum world was fast and furious.

Buddha Smriti Museum was inaugurated on 13 September 2013 by the Princess of Bhutan. The event apparently coincided with a huge Buddhist conclave that was happening at Bodh Gaya so lots of Buddhist monks from around the world attended. The Museum is the newest addition to the Buddha Smriti Park complex which was inaugurated by the Dalai Lama in 2010.

I found this hilarious video tour of the Museum on YouTube. It’s a bit choppy and the guy barges around like a baby rhino, but at least you get a glimpse of the various exhibits that are in the museum. I’ll admit though, this guy’s museum going style is totally like mine.

You can see more images at this Facebook page.

Directors Collective at Nuit Blanche

Picture Day 651

Nuit Blanche activates. Introducing the Directors Collective – Class of 6:51pm.

  Last night was the 2013 edition of the City of Toronto’s annual contemporary art festival Nuit Blanche. I’ve participated in past Nuits as a curatorial assistant in 2008, researcher in 2008/09, and solo artist in 2010. This time around I participated as 1/5th of The Directors Collective, staging a project at the Gladstone Hotel’s Fly By Night event called, Picture Day. In Room 214 we created a backdrop of an elementary school gymnasium complete with an actual gym bench (kindly lent to us by Ryerson Community School) and cubby holes made from milk crates. Visitors – friends and strangers alike – were invited to come and sit for a class portrait.

We were interested in exploring broad themes of commemoration and nostalgia through a re-staging of the classic annual school picture day which many Canadians can recall with either fondness or dread. I’m personally interested in the topic because for me, picture day was a pointless exercise that we had to go through every year. It was just another photograph to add to the archive of the self. But, I was soon to find out that picture day was actually a really significant event in people’s lives. Although picture day essentially commemorates nothing, the act of going through picture days, the rituals associated with preparing and sitting for the photographs, was what was significant. I’d never really given it much thought until now.

Regardless of my own perspective on the project it turned out to be a really fun night, which is saying a lot considering I didn’t get to see anything this year. The reactions of visitors was extremely positive. I was surprised by how enthusiastic the crowd was. Some couldn’t wait to finally sit on the bench having always been relegated to the back when they were in school because they were too tall. Others recalled the trauma of picture day and preferred to watch as their friends hammed it up for the camera. One of the more memorable conversations I had was with a lady who told me, “Whoa this is awesome! I always skipped picture day to get high.” I was surprised by this comment because I don’t recall school picture day happening beyond sixth grade so skipping picture day to get high really takes badassery to another level.

Picture Day 700

Me looking deranged and ready for bed.

 

Picture Day was the first project I’ve ever done that was participatory and I gotta say, it was real pleasure to watch people perform and to chat with them about their memories of school picture day. It clearly meant a lot to them. For a first project with my fellow Directors, I’d say it was a success.

What do you think of picture day? Pointless? Dreadful? Good fun?

You can view class pictures from Picture Day on twitter at: @DirectorsCo with search terms: #pictureday #snbTO

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.

Dollop of Foucault. Dash of Gramsci.

Wow, haven’t posted in a while. Too many things going on! Top of mind right now — environmental scan of best practices in museum displays of ethnographic collections! YAY!

Here’s a short excerpt from an article called, Exhibiting Indigenous Heritage in the Age of Cultural Property, by professor Michael F. Brown of Williams College. It’s perfectly pithy which really brightens up the whole research process.

“Postcolonial scholarship on museums suffers from exasperating
flaws. Its language is often overblown, depicting curators as foot soldiers
in the trenches of colonial oppression. Its rhetorical strategy is tiresomely
predictable: comb the archives for objectionable, racist declarations by
long-dead museum employees, mix in a bit of authorial hand wringing
about a troubling exhibit label or two, flavor with a dollop of Foucault and
a dash of Gramsci, shake vigorously, serve. From the sinister confines of
the museum and the grasping hands of its expert staff, heritage-everyone’s
heritage, it seems-must be “reclaimed” and “liberated.”

Stay tuned for my next post — which will be beer related. Cheers!

EDIT: The above, taken out of context, may sound a bit snarky, but it’s a thoughtful article and I do recommend it for those interested in the subject at hand.