Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Office Show, May 21-25, 2009, REVIEWED by Pam Baergen

“Office art” has never particularly excited me, especially when art exists in an office solely to mask the sterility and conformity of the space. No one goes to an office to check out its art. But what if the office space is the art?

The Office Show re-presents office space to the public through mixed media installation and performance in a way that is current, poignant, and refreshingly unique. Curated by Tiffany Shaw-Collinge and installed on the main floor of an office building on 10341-124 St., The Office Show is a conscious continuation of the notion of “public art” that The Apartment Show introduced in March of '07. I find myself drawn to art that comments on aspects of the everyday, so naturally I found the subject of this exhibition fascinating, but it was the space itself that really brought the artists' ideas about this subject to life. Being set in an office eliminated the need to translate space, or “pretend,” that is necessary when experiencing many gallery installations. Interacting with cubicles in an office rather than a gallery constructed to feel like an office greatly deepened The Office Show's impact on me.

Image credit: Detail from Amie Rangel, 2009

Within the confines of the office space, artists from Edmonton and beyond were allotted their own cubicle (or cubicle-sized section) to work with, mimicing the space allotted to an actual office worker. Shaw-Collinge's curatorial statement explains: “Although cubicles are partitioned, they are not completely separate from each other. By placing 15 artists together within cubicles, their ideas, like those of office workers, will inevitably permeate into each other.” From Tim Rechner and Craig Talbot's string web of spontaneous drawings and collages to Kenneth Doren's ominous and reflective audio installation, the works presented are radically different, yet their ideas do permeate and play off of each other in challenging, intriguing ways.

Out of all of the installations featured in this exhibition I found the more heavily interactive works to be the most intriguing- maybe because I am a tactile person, or maybe because being in an office makes me feel like I should be “doing something.” Regardless, two works in particular resonated with me. The first was Lindsay MacDonald's “It's not in my Outlook;” an average-looking workspace with a desk, chair, and computer. Exploring the work involved selecting different tasks from a Microsoft Outlook calendar that brought up different videos displaying all but “office appropriate” tasks. The second work was by Amie Rangel, which involved peering through surveillance windows into an organized, generic, model-sized office space. Being set in the same office building not only allowed the ideas of these two works to permeate eachother (as well as the rest of the works), but it also blurred the line between reality and the artist-created environment.

Invading a public space gives the installation art featured in The Office Show a way to successfully connect with and expand upon people's experiences of a common reality. Offices; apartments; I have even seen pictures of an exhibition in a Calgary motel room-- these spaces are redefining “public art,” and I look forward with anticipation to see which spaces prairie artists will be taking over next.

Blair Brennan, Kenneth Doren, Robert Harpin, David Janzen, Jon Lawson, Lindsay MacDonald, Royden Mills, Gerry Morita, aAron munson, Christopher Payne, Jan Peacock, Amie Rangel, Tim Rechner, Patrick J. Reed and Craig Talbot

- P.B. Edmonton

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