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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Curator’s View: Diverse Art Experiences

Curator Linda Jansma discusses some recent art experiences and how their diverse natures created three unique experiences.

I’ve had three distinct art experiences over the past four days. The first was this past Friday when I attended the 12th annual Toronto International Art Fair at the Metro Convention Centre.

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Art fairs are primarily about selling art, its commoditization. From $600 8cm square paintings to large works closing in on $200,000 this is much more about business than what happens in a public gallery setting such as the RMG. Past art fairs are compared with this one; dealers woo both experienced and new collectors; lectures help the novice into the world of buying art for both pleasure and investment. Toronto-based artist, Kent Monkman’s installation maze spoke to the life of the artist: grants, dealers, curators, biennales, etc. Words were linked by four tableau rooms representing the artist, curator/museum director, collector, and galleriest, all with actors playing roles. Art imitating life right outside of the walls of the maze.

 

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The second experience was the grand finale of the Office of Identity Collects on Saturday afternoon. Two Saskatoon-based artists, Heather Cline and Michele Sereda, spent a week at 16 King Street East, just east of Oshawa’s four corners. The 27 people who attended the “Citizenship Ceremony” were some of the people who had participated, earlier in the week, in Cline and Sereda’s art performance where they were photographed and interviewed as part of a piece that will result in an exhibition of Cline’s paintings and video work in September, 2012. Saturday’s group was sworn in and then asked to walk up and down King Street while Cline recorded the events from the opposite side of the street. As artists—for whom this was their first Oshawa visit—they revealed as much about Oshawa and those of us who live or work here, as they learned from us. I’m very much looking forward to September’s exhibition.

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Monday morning’s experience was diametrically opposed to Friday afternoon’s. I came into work with my gardening gloves, tools and a tarp taken from my garage. And then I, along with other gallery staff and Sympathetic Hunting Magic’s curator, Gil McElroy, began to strike the exhibition. Striking usually implies wrapping and crating works of art to be returned to the artist or sent on to the next gallery. This was true in the case of Niall Donaghy’s sculpture, but Shelly Rahme’s work was disassembled and will be hauled to a landfill later this week. Shelly spent a week earlier in September assembling/creating three sculptures, primarily with twigs, roots, branches, and clay. They were powerful works that related to consumerism and longing. But they will never end up at Toronto’s Convention Centre, or in anyone’s collection. They are site specific work, meant to exist for the moment and only live on in the catalogue and installation photographs of the exhibition.

For three very different reasons, this has been a good four days.