Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Space Project, Robbins Health Learning Centre, June 20 - July 2, 2008

As a gesture to present works to a general public The Space Project was the most uplifting exhibit I saw affiliated with The Works this year. Not part of the downtown hoopla, but just on the fringe and the only exhibit that made any sense, curated works from Grant MacEwan's pool of talent takes over the new Robbins Health Learning Centre on the corner of 109 St and 104 Ave. Unaware that the building was even complete, as it's not a location I ever walk by and somewhat forgettable as you pass by in vehicles, the opportunity to check out the building was rewarded by a surprisingly diverse presentation of mixed and multimedia work. Not too many public lobbies will handle a 15 meter plus (?) walk-through of cardboard and television sets, but Brittany Baxter and Kurt Gallop's "The Maze" is not so much a maze, but a barrage that screams with urgency. The hum of the entire unit may be lost amongst the day-time crowds, but the interaction of the work with its drawn curtain and flickering lights proves that interactive installations can exist in public spaces outside of gallery spaces.

The floating core foam mounted photographs and poems were maybe too small, but floating throughout and over potential meeting spaces, their presence pressed home that this room was the right place to be in (which is a doubt I often feel with random art in random public spaces). From the 2D works, Nathan Winiskittolmes' photographs were of note, catching moments in between remembering and acknowledging, and of the 3D, the uncredited wooden mobile jigsaw profile rightfully belongs in that lobby of a learning centre. Admittedly, the work seemed far more mature than the rest, and I had to confirm with a security guard whether if this was part of the exhibition or always here, as the work fills the space the best by adding to its structural heights and configuring how you move around and towards it.

Though the theme of space was a loose parameter that didn't consistently justify itself, the show was superior in its presentation of a public art exhibition. Curated by Kim Meiklejohn and Nicole Lemieux and coordinated by Janine Edwards, it's consoling to see the next generation of Edmonton artists engaging with the idea of space and public art with no holds barred. I can only hope this repeats itself--and ideally during the school semester.

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