Owens exhibit interrogates space and place

“Meeting Places” provides a thrilling multimedia experience.

In conjunction with the academic conference of the same name, Meeting Places is an exhibition featuring select multimedia works by seven different Canadian artists under the theme of place and space. The conference in question took place at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Mount Allison University from September 18 to 21, offering a diverse and academically introspective look into Canadian culture and history with respect to the unifying motif of place and geography.

Although the gallery appears somewhat loosely connected at first glance, each individual display provides its own unique and powerful message about the artist’s own experiences with place. The first work encountered in the exhibition is Alison Creba’s impressive collection of postal paraphernalia entitled “City Mail,” an assortment of cultural artifacts obtained through a project that commenced in Halifax in 2010. After installing vintage mailboxes throughout the city, Creba conducted a free mail service via bicycle, prompting residents to utilize a slower and more personal method of communication while considering the broader concepts of space, community, and social exchange as a cultural phenomenon. “City Mail” continues to operate and expand in various forms, including this past summer at SappyFest, and serves as a public investigation of human connection in a world that is rapidly becoming engrossed in more technological methods of interaction.

As the viewer moves deeper into the gallery, they may be drawn in by the intensely colourful and psychologically stimulating “Echo Station” by Nova Scotia artist Mitchell Wiebe. His  installation is a product of his experimentation while living as an artist-in-residence in a repurposed Cold War bunker in Debert, Nova Scotia. It attempts to capture the “psychedelic” effects of sensory deprivation that the dank depths of the former military facility incurred on his perception of colour and reality, particularly upon exiting this dark and isolated space. The exhibit itself appears as a dimly lit room which the observer can only view from small “windows”, and is strewn with phosphorescent paintings with evocative names like “Synaptical Forest: Screaming Trees – Black Sun Morning” and “Mudhoney – Good Enough.” Because these titles include the names of specific songs, one can infer that some of the paintings are synaesthetic interpretations of music during Wiebe’s experiences in a place devoid of light, colour, and orientation.

Ray Fenwick and Eryn Foster’s installation, the enigmatic “Hexacon,” also touches on this theme of isolationist space and its effect on human psychology. More experiential than visual, this multimedia display invites the viewer to enter a perforated hexagonal pyramid and listen to an audio recording describe the structure as a “living reality” that is a metaphor for an internal sanctum of meditation that transcends the idea of space and place in the physical sense. In many ways, the main theme of this work unites the entire gallery by reminding us that space and place exist both as a location and as the complex network of ideas and practices by which people live within a community, experience their own realities, and define themselves as individuals.

Other artists contributing to the exhibition include Frank Shebageget, Tom Sherman, and Aaron Weldon. The exhibition will be available to the viewing public until November 3, 2013.

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