Thursday, October 15, 2009

Prairie Artsters: Glow Hotel*

Back in January when the skies darkened before the evening news, some peers and I had driven up to Grande Prairie for the outdoor public and intervention art exhibition Here Now or Nowhere. Curated by Micah Lexier and coordinated through the Prairie Art Gallery, the outdoor exhibition emerged as the sun settled and Grande Prairie's main street storefront windows came alive with an array of video and media works. As a project to facilitate the presence of visual art in the community in lieu of a gallery space under construction, the calibre of the exhibition was undeniable as it featured new work by Adad Hannah as well as intervening in the local newspaper with engaging works of art.

Running for three weeks all together, the exhibition also featured a weekend of panel discussions and a weekend-long showing of Kelly Mark's Glow House (#4), an installation that has been reincarnated throughout the country and in the UK since 2001. As the buzz project of the exhibition, a small group of us turned off of main street and walked along the darkened river bend. Isolated save for the passing vehicle on the quiet residential street, we had come to experience the fleeting sensation of Glow House set against the complete darkness of a quiet Northern Alberta town.

From the street, the house at first appears like every other house standing on the corner of any suburban street. Already carrying a local reputation as a haunted corner lot, the sudden glowing pulse of the house garnered pauses by passing vehicles, but lacked any real pedestrian audience. As any suburban walker may intimately know, the flicker emanating from living room windows at night casts a virtual light show. A friend had always noted the same moment of passing window after window of glowing television sets, but she was depressed by the mundaneness of it all. Multiplied and hyperbolized, Glow House takes this common experience and projects it from every single window, heightening the entire house into a pulsating orb of a fleeting moment.

Now less than a year after this mini-art pilgrimage to the north, Kelly Mark will be altering this project into Glow Hotel for one night only on Stony Plain Road. As the former main street of the town then known as Jasper Place before being annexed by Edmonton in 1964, Stony Plain Road continues today as a major expressway that is better known for pawn shops and sex stores. Programmed as part of Store Front Cinema Nights, an initiative by the Stony Plain Road Business Association and co-presented by the Art Gallery of Alberta and the Edmonton Arts Council's Public Art Program, Glow Hotel marks the occasion of attracting high calibre artists to Edmonton for artistic opportunities unique to the city.

As the Glow project is almost a decade old and has since existed as indoor gallery installations with televisions playing specific videos, it remains unknown whether Glow Hotel will have a similar affect of its predecessors; but as the season of long nights starts up again, I for one am certainly looking forward to finding out.

*First published in Vue Weekly

Kelly Mark's Glow Hotel will be available only from 7 – 9 pm at Jasper Place Hotels (15326 Stony Plain Road). An artist talk will precede in the Hotel eatery at 6 pm.

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