Sunday, June 24, 2007

First Impressions: The Works Art & Design Festival, June 22 - July 4, 2007

On Friday at noon, the anticipated Ken Rinaldo kinetic robotic sculpture was suffering from technical difficulties. Only the 2D Dee Fontain wearable art pieces were up and the other interactive art shows on Churchill Square were not yet ready to go. Crossing the square, one could see Ted Kerr's pieces hanging across the 3 Banana's cafe, though we had only hoped to see the pieces larger, and higher, giving them more presence akin to their subject matter. Steered towards the library glass exhibition, it was surprisingly the upstairs exhibit by Leila Armstrong that held my attention. Kitschy and filled with just enough subtext, the dioramas surpassed the poorly laid out floor plan of the downstairs glass show. Although impressive in skill and technique, there was no overall flow to the sprawling show. It was back to the office and I had visited the festival as one of the many downtown business lunch crowds that only has 50 minutes to grab a bite and walk within a 5km radius.

Later that day at 5pm, a group of arts-related individuals, with no time and distance restrictions, had gathered to "do the works". Hitting up the square to see the now functioning Rinaldo and to be slightly disappointed. Navigating through the gauntlet of robotic sensory arms, the projection shot askew elsewhere, taking you away and out of the space and accompanied by a few 2D images that did not relate very well to the rest of the exhibition.
Other spots visited were the two library shows and Kerr again, Manulife Place with Val Nelson's impressions, Ric Kokotovich's work in Scotia Place and the "Out is In Project" inside City Hall. The group had scattered on the square to freely peruse the craft and food tents--some of which still remained closed at 6pm.

Although none of the art pieces made any lasting impressions on any members of the group, we regardless sat in the beer garden listening to free music, drinking beer and watching the Churchill square regulars boogey up the dance floor. Once again, I am confused as to what the festival presents in theory and in practice, as I felt I had experienced neither. A ruddy carnivalesque atmosphere on the square, another cheeky ad campaign that this time appears to alienate and offend, along with semi-alternative spaces for art, I must propose the ever-remaining question: Who is the festival trying to reach?

6 comments:

MC said...

A: The downtown business community...

Tam said...

or perhaps tourists and the many that would normally never enter an art gallery.

I was not disappointed by the Rinaldo kinetic piece. I thought it was captivating and engaging. Especially the way he melded natural elements with clunky technology. The projection shot gave the arms more agency, like you're not inspecting them, but visa versa. I agree about the 2-D images, at first I thought a different artist had made them.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate how you don't pull any punches.

Rodrigo said...

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threedeeglasses said...

The robotic installation was the only thing that I was really excited to see. But it's really lame.

The statement suggests that it is an attempt to create an interaction between viewer and the robots, as well as a kind of language used by the robots to communicate. But it does neither: the interactions seem limited to the robots twitching a little bit and making noises as you approach, and the communication seems to just be a bunch of noise to accompany said twitching. It reacts to your presence, yes, but there is no feedback loop to take it from being reactive to interactive. This is emphasized by the fact that the robots continue to move and make noise when there is no one within range - they don't care if they have viewers or not.

The best part, I think, and the only real feedback loop, was not planned by the artist as far as I can tell. When I visited, one of the robotic arms failed twice and each time the whole system had to be shut off by the attendant.

ahab said...

I'm not sure I could walk 10k in 50 minutes. I definitely couldn't if I also had to eat lunch and take in the works.