Monday, June 14, 2010

Just a second it's my favorite song they're gonna play And I cannot text you with a drink in my hand, eh?

Every so often (usually once a month) the Vancouver Art Gallery opens it’s doors to the night life, offering a different type of night on the town with FUSE. Combining art, music, and live performances, FUSE is definitely a twist on a typical Friday night, allowing you to not only see all the exhibits after hours, but offers a wide variety of different forms of art, each centered around one theme.

June was Girls! Girls! Girls! and my first FUSE event.
After a quick bite at Joey’s on Burrard, M, G and I headed over to VAG and didn’t honestly know what to expect. We paid for our reasonably priced tickets and made our way inside, only to be greeted by a surprisingly varied crowd. Like the opera, there didn’t seem to be one set type of group in the surrounding area. Young, old, hipster, chic, there were all types around.

Unfortunately we came right in the middle of Ballet BC’s offering and quite the crowd had gathered. Being short yet again foils my plans so we decided to take a look around at the art. I’ll break down the exhibits by floors and my opinions on each.

I’ll be honest here and say that we didn’t spend much time on the main/first floor when you first come in the doors. Partly this was due to the fact that we all desperately wanted to find a washroom of some sort and partly because nothing was particularly engaging about these works. There were some interesting histories on portraits and how they evolved from simple pictures to a psychological impression, but it was only two rooms in when we gave up and headed upstairs to the bathrooms.

After some serious loosing our way around and becoming a little more giggly than necessary in frustration, we found the bathrooms.

And then took lots of pictures. In light of The Moustache Factory exhibit that was apparently on the fourth floor, VAG had stuck vinyl moustaches on the mirrors.

After the third or forth one, I was pulled away we decided to work our way from top to bottom and proceeded to get in the elevator to find her jazz noise collective playing.

4th floor - Her Jazz Noise Collective/The Moustache Factory.

I’ll be honest and say that Her Jazz Noise Collective was really out of my comfort zone music wise and rather ambient/progressive? I suppose is the best word for it. However the people around us seemed to quite enjoy it and while it was definitely not my cup of tea, I can appreciate the effort behind it. Yeah, that sounds lame even as I write it.

The Moustache Factory, however was probably one of the most fun things all night. Imagine a bunch of felt, scissors and liberty to make as many and as goofy moustaches/beards and other funny facial hair as you wanted. Some were pre-made, while there was the option of making your own.

Yeah, it was a little random and silly but as far as I could tell everyone us was having fun. From the people who took it a -little- too seriously to those who were just slapping on anything, there was nothing but smiles.

Well and pictures. Pictures galore. M, G and I were definitely in on that.

Besides the interactiveness to it there were some great pieces projected on a screen at the back of the room. Sadly I think a lot of that was lost in the hubub of making oneself look as goofy as possible but the pictures I did see were fun and cheerful, which is what I find is missing from art at times. They were whimsical with different types of facial hair on all sorts of different people. I wish there was perhaps another room for those pieces as it definitely got lost in the shuffle.

3rd floor - Kerry James Marshall, Ballet BC, Bearing Witness

Having seen how the crowds inevitably built up, we deiced to stalk out seats a tad early in order to be able to see, especially seeing as I’m shorter than average and neither M nor G are especially tall woosels (no offense guys). We gathered around the balcony which made for an odd view of the dance.

Now, I’m not sure what exactly it was. Perhaps I’m just spoiled with SYTYCD, or perhaps it was the view, or the naggy, pushy older women beside me who think just because they’re old they get the privilege of showing up late and still getting a good view, but I was a tad underwhelmed.

Yes, the movements were gorgeous, yes, the dancers have unbelievable control and sick bodies. Yes, it flowed and it was interesting but overall I was left feeling a little meh. There was no connection and for me, dance needs that connection. I have all these pretty movements and yet no emotion or soul to them and that’s what I need, especially when something like contemporary dance comes along and can do something like this.

Also on the 3rd floor was Kerry James Marshall’s work. I’ll admit to not being very interested in these pieces as there was nothing to connect me to the work. I thought the artwork itself was pretty but there wasn’t much to make me take a second glance or more of an interest. I moved through that floor pretty quickly.

The only painting I could really that stood out was towards the end and it was a play on/inspired by the Invisible Man. The artist basically painted black on black with minimal change in texture/lighting to let you see the picture. It was a very neat and fascinating idea to use one colour to paint a whole picture and yet with just some simple changes in tone, you were able to see the picture completely, despite the fact that it almost looked pitch black to at a first glance. I'd love to attempt to re-capture that in my own style one day.

Also on that floor were some typography pieces. While one or two of them were just obvious and a little too much in the try department, there were quite a few that I loved. Although, being a bit of a typography nerd I guess this isn’t exactly a surprise. 

One of my favourites of the small series were two “street signs” that instead of typical writings of warnings/traffic violations were simple and obvious statements written in a very dry humorous way. The other favourite was one of those “missed encounter” ads that a lot of people find a guilty pleasure in reading.

The last that was on the 3rd floor was Bearing Witness, which was made up of a few different genres of art, my main focus was on the paintings. While I could understand the concept behind it and there were certainly vivid imagery used to depict such brutal acts, I did not enjoy it. Stylistically it was too unfinished in my opinion and the subject matter was not something that I enjoy. Not to say that art cannot be inspiring or uncomfortable at times, but this was just not my cup of tea.

2nd floor - Fiona Tan: Rise and Fall

I will admit that this combination of photography and video installations was probably my favourite exhibition out of the lot.

The photography was probably my favourite thing there, although it wasn’t anything especially groundbreaking, especially when compared to her video installation work. However, the clean, crisp feelings and the cool colours really attracted me to them and while not overly original it was still nice to see.

M and G both agreed that the video installations were their favourites and there’s no doubt as to why that was. I thought it was an interesting concept, using the style of regular picture frames and then creating videos instead, filming with few cuts or without any special effects, just plain, regular regular scenes. 

When I first saw them I was immediately reminded of Harry Potter’s moving pictures. Unfortunately I was disappointed when these were not just “moving pictures” as it were but actual mini films. I personally would have preferred to see something along the same vein as Harry Potter but these were interesting.

Using a steady cam she filmed various scenes and did not break out of a scene or the mood. A lot of the shots are long and steady, unflinching looks at people’s lives. While it may leave a lot of people uncomfortable it was an interesting look and it was brave of her to try this particular style out. 

Probably the two biggest draws of her pieces were a dual projection of a single piece. Often the scene was projected on two different screens, slightly off centre from one another or at different times. According to the program it is "a narrative of isolation, loss and dislocation by using water as an evocative metaphor for the memories of a woman’s life" and it do manage to do that. There is a definite feeling of isolation which is only helped by the fact that beside those two screens and benches, there not much else in the room. I was left with a definite sense of loss and loneliness, despite having two of my best friends beside me.

The overall effect of all her work was quite engrossing and fascinating despite what would be perceived as mundane subject matter.

4th floor - House of  La Douche with Michael Venus

Wait, I know. We already were on the 4th floor. Having received a copy of the program schedule we decided that this act would be our last one. So we showed up early and hung out and oh my god am I glad we did.

This was without a doubt the highlight of my evening. And that includes my mint Aero McFlurry.

I don’t think there are words to properly describe it and I managed to track down a video so I won’t even bother. I just wish y’all could have seen it live as the only thing the video doesn’t quite capture is the energy that came from that room. I don’t know whether it was the show itself or just the fact it was later in the evening but the room was PACKED. There was this energy that flowed through the room and it was just so unbelievably fun and entertaining.

Without a doubt and despite getting Single Ladies stuck in my head for the rest of the night it was the perfect cap to a great evening. 

All and all, FUSE was a night to remember and to be able to hang out on a Friday night and not just see a movie or go to a club or go out for dinner was refreshing. I’ll definitely be checking out what the next show has to offer.

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