Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Instant Coffee Needed Our Help*

Last week, members of the Toronto/Vancouver arts collective Instant Coffee were in town holding an open afghan call out. The reason: Instant Coffee will be completing an upcoming Public Art commission to be installed in the new Commonwealth Stadium Community Centre opening in 2012, and like with most of its projects, the public is implicit.

Known for creating events-based projects through forms of public participation in projects such as "Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?" and a series of explorations on the power of light, the collective comprised of Cecilia Berkovic, Jinhan Ko, Khan Lee, Kelly Lycan, Kate Monro and Jenifer Papararo have been collaborating for close to 10 years under the guise that exhibition strategies are not necessarily separate from studio-based ones.

For example, the event held last Wednesday was an integral part to the final "show" piece, which will be a three-part interactive indoor billboard that will feature selected afghans shared from Edmonton's community. The participation of the public is crucial to the piece, and there's a blind faith in relying on a certain level of critical mass for social response.

Lycan and Papararo, who both originally hail from Alberta via the Rocky Mountain House and Calgary areas respectively, were on hand for this leg of the project. Noting that they have a history of taking over venues through events using colours and light (and sometimes afghans), their works have always been based in the potential of an event.

"Afghans seem to adapt to our esthetic," says Lycan, who is now a Vancouver-based artist mostly working in installation and photography that are occupied with value systems and consumer culture. "They are also very do-it-yourself, inexpensive, and their graphic esthetic is something we respond to."

Papararo, who programmed Mercer Union in Toronto before taking the helm as curator of Vancouver's Contemporary Art Gallery, continues the train of thought by pointing to the multi-patterned, multicolored afghan on display.

"It's so complicated—who would put those colours together? It's amazing, and it's a quick way to take over a space by using bright colours."

"It also involves other artists," Lycan adds, "We often use bright pinks and oranges, that sort of op art from the '70s that's acidic and garish. We find it fascinating."

It was unclear as to how participatory Edmontonians got, and perhaps that's just a sign of our general malaise to engage with art beyond a spectacle, but here's to another public art project injecting a much needed dose of contemporary attitude into our city's arts community.

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*First published in Vue

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