These Places We Built

By Alexandre Pépin, Exhibit Production Assistant

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Every artwork needs a space to exist, to be experienced. As a production technician intern at The Works Art and Design Festival, I worked with a team of other artists to create spaces for various artworks to be displayed. Building up these white gallery spaces required knowledge, effort, energy and commitment. These often long, exhausting installations got me to start thinking more about the important role these white, almost invisible gallery spaces play in the artistic practice.

I love the generic nature of this space.  The presence of lights, of masking-taped and drawn lines and of patched and cleaned walls indicates that everything is ready to be experienced but the art. In the absence of art, the space emphasizes the purest form of artistic regulation, informing any viewer that what was there or will be there is art—regardless of what will actually happen to the space. This context begs the question: Does the value of art lie in its presentation–the strategies we use to elevate art–or in the work itself?

As both an artist and a production technician, I found the experience of building a space to be very similar to the process of creating an artwork. If many artists are finding inspiration directly from what is in their studio, I wonder how important the hidden aspects of gallery norms influence an artist’s work.

 

Christine FrostComment
Volunteering at The Works

By Vanessa Mastronardi, Curatorial Coordinator

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I really believe that one of the most important things that The Works gives to its volunteers is the opportunity to lead public tours around the city to talk about our art exhibits. If you’re a person who isn’t in the midst of a fine arts degree, or heavily involved in the city’s art community, it can be really daunting to find a venue to think and talk about art. The Works Training in Art program (TART) empowers individuals who have an interest in art to take on a facilitator’s role in engaging with the public about work in the festival. There are no prerequisites needed in order to become a tour guide, you just need to be interested and attend the orientations.

Personally, I can be pretty shy when it comes to public speaking, so I was surprised at how many volunteers jumped at the idea of leading tours. Then again, I surround myself with other fine art students and spend an absurd amount of time talking about art. It made me realize the need for people who aren’t in my position to have a space to have the same important experiences. There are 39 tours throughout the festival, and almost all of them were filled with volunteers guiding. It was so exciting to here about different conversations and even healthy arguments that happened during these tours.

I hope that the tours helped volunteers to realize that conversations with strangers about art can create realizations in both parties that neither would have come to on their own. Maybe next time we won’t whisper to each other about our opinions in the art gallery so that the people around us won’t hear; instead, we’ll challenge each other and end up with conclusions we hadn’t expected.

Find out more about volunteering at The Works here: http://www.theworks.ab.ca/volunteer/

Christine FrostComment
The Conversation of Art

By Nathan Levasseur

imagePhoto: Sara French as Reena Smith at Buying and Selling

The Works to Work Internship has given me the opportunity to meet and work alongside professional artists, both local and national, up and coming artists, students, volunteers and the public.

During the internship I was fortunate enough to discuss many topics including systematic oppression, Canadian colonialism, male privilege, power and hierarchy both pre and during festival. The pre-festival discussions were facilitated by Stephanie Bailey and ran through May for four hours a day. During this time our group had many class discussions and workshops, some facilitated by artists, the most notable being Dawn Marie Marchand. Marchand discussed pan-indigenizing, Canadian colonialism, residential schools and multi-generational violence. I found the discussion to be very positive and I hope to engage in more discussion and become more active in community.

 During festival I had positive conversations with performance artist Reena Smith and my supervisor Olivia Chow. Reena and I discussed alternative housing styles and personal fulfillment through ‘home’ and space. Her exhibit, Buying and Selling,  in collaboration with the Department of Unusual Certainties (DoUC) provides insight into these themes. Olivia and I discussed gender and performance through video and installation. This conversation was sparked by Tony Olivares’ performance at The Works Gala.

 In conclusion it was the people I met, the relationships I formed, the discussions and the sharing of information that made the internship meaningful.

Christine FrostComment
On the Politics of Festival Design

by Ali Louwagie, Production Assistant

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A couple of years ago the layout of The Works Art & Design Festival changed in order to separate the art market vendors from exhibiting feature artists, raising the question of where the line lies, if it exists at all, between the two.  Oddly enough, it was my landlord who first asked me this one evening as he was fixing a pipe that had burst in the basement. Amidst sodden towels and dripping ceiling tiles, I found that I could only explain my own opinion of why a line should be drawn.

As an artist I often receive feedback based on marketability; whether a viewer approves or disapproves of my work is oftentimes communicated by a remark of “I would buy that” or “That would never sell”.   There is an expectation that art is a product to be bought and sold, perpetuating a perceived value in the demand of consumers.  Highlighting exhibits like Matthew Walker’s Device for the Emancipation of Landscape and Sara French’s Buying and Selling encourages the public to interact with work that challenges these expectations.

My general impression is that the former layout of the square seems to have been popular among the attending public, with Churchill Square resembling something more of a market place in comparison to the current layout.  I recognize the appeal of wandering about and perusing stalls; however, I am of the opinion that one’s experience with artwork should be greater than a simple appraisal of commodity. This is where the line was drawn, where the value lies in seeing and experiencing the work instead of  “I would buy that”.

Christine FrostComment
Why Edmonton?

By Lucille Frost, Marketing Coordinator

This is a question many locals ask themselves while they bear through the long cold months of winter and one that I have answered many times in the years I have lived here. The feeling of triumph every spring when the city blooms back to life and the bleak grey sky transforms to the kaleidoscope of color. I choose to stay in Edmonton because of the way the sky and the city transform itself into living art every year, this is what I draw my creative inspiration from. Without the stark contrast in the seasons I would not be able to appreciate the transformation for its brevity and for its sublime power.

As an artist I find myself bonded to this meeting of sky and land, to the proportions of our horizons. When I have traveled and returned I find that I must reacclimatize to the overwhelming size of the sky stretching above, to the vast expanses of this intangible beauty that is always evolving. I fall in love with the combination of color and form that are created in the sky-scape, I fall in love and moments later the masterpiece I adore has drifted away and a new composition sits before me. The way the sky decorates our city is one of the things I love most about Edmonton being the home to The Works Festival, it is like having a performance piece constantly transitioning over the festival and engaging an experience entirely unique to this place and time.