Requiring 5000 square feet of open space and spanning 25 separate works consisting of 40-channel installation, audio and mixed-media dioramas, soundscapes, projections, mirrors, false walls, windows, lighting, surprise cut outs, and every other semblance of dreams brought to life, David Hoffos’ sprawling installation Scenes from a House Dream (2003 - 2008) challenges the viewer at every turn, and as it turns out, is an even greater challenge to tour.
Before its first opening at Lethbridge’s Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Hoffos and two full-time assistants spent 17 days turning two floors of the Gallery into a fully-immersive funhouse of strange and haunting scenes. This fall, Hoffos and crew will remount it the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. The logistics required to transport an exhibition of this scale require more effort and funds than the standard show, and Hoffos is sharply feeling the absence of the Department of Canadian Heritage Exhibition Transportation Service, which was cut from the Federal budget in April of 2008. As a direct result of the cutbacks, the original presenter for Scenes from a House Dream pulled out, and Hoffos and his supporters had to rethink almost the entire original tour.
Now, there are potentially three to six stops across the country after the National Gallery installation, but with an intricate and labour-intensive installation, every step of this show is proving to be a stretch of human limits and imagination. With 21 large crates, and the logistical expertise of laying out each discrete installation and its light sensitive construction into a navigable experience, the act of touring this show has become an art unto itself.
“In this last year of the project and first year of the tour, I have really needed my long-term Canada Council grant,” Hoffos says. “Just to free me up to focus properly on this one project. I have also had support from my commercial agents — they had committed to financing the crate-building, which is very generous considering that there is no immediate return for them.” Currently coordinated through Rodman Hall at Brock University — where director and curator Shirley Madill brought it from her previous post at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
Scenes from a House Dream opens in Ottawa on November 6.
*First published in Galleries West, Fall 2009