I’m not writing about nano today instead I’m focussing on the show of Mona Hatoum’s work at the new gallery in Vancouver, the Rennie Collection. A local developer/realtor, Bob Rennie, has amassed a substantive modern art collection which he’s showcasing in his own gallery in a restored heritage building in Chinatown. You can read more about the gallery and its opening here in an article by John Mackie in the Vancouver Sun (Oct. 24, 2009). There’s also an in-depth profile written by Matt O’Grady in Vancouver Magazine (April 2009 [corrected 12:50 pm PST, Dec.4.09]) here.
The gallery is a first for Vancouver in that you have to make an appointment to view the show. It’s open one day a week on Thursday and there are three guided showings. I went yesterday having booked almost 1 month ago. They say that they allow 10 people in a showing but we had 11 so I guess they do make exceptions which surprises me since the experience is highly controlled.
I’ve never before had to sign a release to view art work. According to that piece of paper, I cannot sue them if I trip and fall and I’m not allowed to touch the artwork nor am I allowed to take pictures or videos. Oh, and I was given a sticker with the Rennie Collection brand to wear on my coat. I have no idea why we were given stickers. There was no need to identify us as we were the only visitors in the gallery. I even had to check in and I’m not sure but I may have failed to check out when I left. (drat)
The only time I’ve gone through more security checks was when I visited a local high tech company that had contracts with the US Dept. of Defense.
Given Hatoum’s work, the Rennie Collection security experience was perfect. Before I launch off into my impressions, I don’t have an art history degree or an intimate knowledge of the art scene. Basically I look at stuff and then I describe it in standard English. I don’t use ‘art speak’ although I may use some of the same words. (e.g. When I was teaching I used to talk about ‘techno English’. Terms that are used in standard English but mean something different in the technology community.)
Mona Hatoum works conceptually. Most of her work seem to centre around concepts such as the fragility of life, pain, alienation, and rootlessness.
Thankfully, the guide helped to provide context (stories) for the pieces. There were a couple pieces that have me wondering how this stuff could possibly be described as art. For example, she hung a mirror up on a wall so you could see yourself in it. I don’t care how many times someone declares this to be art, I’m not buying it. (pun! Obviously Bob Rennie did as these pieces are from his collection)
The two pieces that were most exciting to me were Hot Spot and Projection. The first is a tilted 8-foot high (or more) globe with the continents outlined in red neon. The globe looks like a rounded cage or grid (you see a lot of cages in Hatoum’s work). The neon which outlines the continents is powered by electric outlets and cords which are plainly visible through the bands of metal that form the globe. As Hatoum sees it, the entire world is a hot spot.
Just across from the hot spot is a map of the world called Projection. The map is not the standard Mercator map that many of us know but the Peters map which is a more accurate representation of the landmasses and oceans on the planet Earth. The North American and European continents have been distorted on the Mercator map to seem larger than they are and the Peters map redresses that distortion.
Looking from ‘Hot Spot’ where she’s used the Mecator map and viewing it in relationship to ‘Projection’ with its Peters map, is disorienting. This state lends itself to new perceptions and ideas and it was for me the richest and most exciting part of the show. The rest ranged from laughable (the mirror) to somewhat intriguing.
There’s also some work on the roof but those are other artists and I’m running out of time today. Do visit the collection if you don’t mind signing releases, booking weeks ahead of time, and wearing the Rennie brand (I kept the unpeeled sticker in my hand).