Friday, October 17, 2008

Day 76: Two services

The Southwestern Manitoba art gallery is located in downtown Brandon, in the second floor of a mall that also houses the public library. In the morning, I walked in and immediately threw $5 in the donations box, only to be told that the main exhibit didn't open until the evening.

When I returned, the stores of the mall were chained off, and the elevator marked with the logo of the art gallery wasn't operational. There was an adjacent stairwell which I stepped into, and started walking up. Another woman was walking up and found the door locked at top. We tried a lower door, and realized we were locked in the stairwell. Some knocking at the top attracted attention and we entered into the gallery.

The exhibit was featuring the art of aboriginal women. I looked around and I was the only nonnative male there. I helped myself to cheese and crackers, and punch, to have something to do while I waited for the exhibit to open.

I thought to myself if this were a church there would already have been half a dozen people greeting me, introducing me to the fold. And why not? It all comes down to what kind of community you are trying to create.

There was a table littered with reading material: magazines and pamphlets. I picked up one advertising the "Winnipeg garbage museum", which was full of digital images of people viewing refuse placed on pedestals. It was a creative idea, but the text was a kind of review of the exhibit, tying it into other current trends in art. I had the feeling the reviewer was more interested in drawing ties to other work, to demonstrate their knowledge of current art, than in the work itself. The text changed a clever concept to something foreign, elitist.

I wandered around the exhibit hall, and while most of the work was not especially gripping, it was at least reaching, grasping at that thing that art is, that visual experience that can take your breath away. That is the thing you can take down to the masses, if you wanted to. Have greeters, nurseries, and children's services and you can bring art down from the mountain.

A few more white and male people showed up, and we watched and took pictures of a large group of aboriginal women singing. It was a participatory art, with call and response, but we drew an imaginary line around that group of women to exclude ourselves from the art, and so failed to experience it in the way it was meant.

A young woman stood up to give a speech about about the exhibit, and introduced one of thephotographers whose work hung there on the walls. These speeches were very formal and congratulatory, until painter Helen Madeleine was invited up. She offered an unprepared sermon, where she talked about there could be many kinds of salvation in the world; how when she paints she feels the same as how she prays; that art was a salvation of the world.

Across the street was a different denomination. The art in the first room was largely political, and utterly irrelevant. Sometimes a painting is only worth three words: "Bush is bad", and this is the kind of thing which says nothing when hung in an alternative Canadian art gallery in an election year.

The art was worse, but the communion was better. Perhaps because there was real wine. Everyone was talking to each other and were not too thrown off when I mentioned I had been invited by smoe random guy on the street. I guess the art community is fairly ecumenical, though, because people drifted to and fro across the street all night.

I began to feel sick. Before going to the art galleries I had enjoyed a meal at Lady of the Lake. It had been ages since I experienced a sit-in restaurant, and I felt as though I had tasted food for the first time as I savored every bite. But after having a huge meal there and nibbling at the galleries, my stomach was turning and I was worried it would create an unplanned piece of performance art.

I excused myself from my conversation partner, and seeing Helen Madeleine, thanked A young woman stood up to give a speech about about the exhibit, and introduced one of thephotographers whose work hung there on the walls. These speeches were very formal and congratulatory, until painter Helen Madeleine was invited up. She offered an unprepared sermon, where she talked about there could be many kinds of salvation in the world; how when she paints she feels the same as how she prays; that art was a salvation of the world.

Across the street was a different denomination. The art in the first room was largely political, and utterly irrelevant. Sometimes a painting is only worth three words: "Bush is bad", and this is the kind of thing which says nothing when hung in an alternative Canadian art gallery in an election year.

The art was worse, but the communion was better. Perhaps because there was real wine. Everyone was talking to each other and were not too thrown off when I mentioned I had been invited by smoe random guy on the street. I guess the art community is fairly ecumenical, though, because people drifted to and fro across the street all night.

I began to feel sick. Before going to the art galleries I had enjoyed a meal at Lady of the Lake. It had been ages since I experienced a sit-in restaurant, and I felt as though I had tasted food for the first time as I savored every bite. But after having a huge meal there and nibbling at the galleries, my stomach was turning and I was worried it would create an unplanned piece of performance art.

I excused myself from my conversation partner, and seeing Helen Madeleine, thanked her for her speech before I left.

Day 76 ended: 49*51.427N, 099*56.705W

4 comments:

John said...

The "interesting in its own phenomenon" versus "assessed from the point of view of an academic critical community" can be seen very clearly between

"Design Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects"

"Hertzian Tales: Electronic Products, Aesthetic Experience, and Critical Design"

both covering much of the same work, and certainly the same concerns, yet the first is totally more engaging. After reading the second, I was ready to look critically at a certain art community, but after the first, I thought really excellently off-the-wall ideas for a whole month.

Kevin Saff said...

Is "The Secret Life of Electronic Objects" anything like the awesome television program "The Secret Life of Machines"?

John said...

It is the opposite, but is just as awesome: an experimental design group makes objects their users don't understand and then interviews them, after an exciting exploration of electronics already twisted to unexplained uses and needs.

John said...

Before I only replied quickly with what I read first, planning to read later, but there appears to be a problem.

Before I only replied quickly with what I read first, planning to read later, but there appears to be a problem.