Tag Archives: exhibits

The Eye of Faith Gets “Lost in the Memory Palace: Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller”

 

portrait_cardiff_miller_2012

[Photo: Zev Tiefenbach]

The world of Canadian artists Janet Cardiff and Geroge Bures Miller exist somewhere between reality and the vortex of our imaginations. . . 

The artist duo are known for their of-this-world out-of-this-world creations that combine objects, sound, images, mechanics, lighting, construction, and cinema to create one-of-kind experiments and showcases in the transcendental quality and nature of art.

As one of the world’s most internationally respected artist partnerships, we were lucky to get a chance to enjoy a retrospective of their work, in an exhibit appropriately title “Lost in the Memory Palace”, which runs from April 6 until August 18, 2013 at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

From the beginning of their partnership in 1995 to their work today, the artist duo have expertly managed to create evocative and multi-textural and dimensional works that transport its viewers to other worlds and often exotic states of mind.

portrait-janet cardiff and george miller_Bodtlaender

The duo has cited cinema as a major driving force in their work, bringing the immersive technology of the cinema to life in a gallery setting,  allowing the viewers an accessibility and availability that is mostly foreign to other works in the art gallery setting. While we are often encouraged to keep a distance in the world of art, Cardiff-Miller’s pieces are encouragingly tactile and require a closer look.

This is not a show that you can skim through and really “get” immediately. Going into it with this frame of mind would be disaster.

Like a film, the pieces require a dose of commitment, and an ability to get lost in the world being offered to you by the artists. The worlds are often slightly disturbing as you notice odd-looking effigies, or are startled by an abrupt sound; the element of mystery is definitely in the air, forcing you to question your own reality.

Such is the case with “Dark Pool”, the couple’s first installation created in 1995.

Cardiff Miller- Dark Pool

darkpool_4

I like that the technology is so popular it is almost invisible so that people can become intimate with it. At the same time the recorded voice is removed and has a sense of past that a real voice doesn’t, so it can actually get closer to the audience through that removal. They feel safe being intimate with a removed voice.

-Janet Cardiff

You are invited to open a paint chipped antiquated door to enter a long, dark, small room filled to the brim with boxes, books, furniture, rolling racks, and antique objects. You might want to, at first, turn back in fear of what could be lurking in the shadows, but very quickly you find yourself exhilarated by curiosity. As you walk through the room, you hear voices and whispers from the past (children, an elderly woman, a young couple), and begin to notice the clues all around you:

darkpool_3

darkpool_5e

darkpool_5c

[Photos: Cardiff/Miller]

An opened book on reading tea leaves sits behind a tray full of dirty empty tea cups. Two viewfinders, side by side, show a man and woman in a passionate embrace, the other shows a couple with signs of stagnant disdain. You see a collection of porcelain hands. A half-eaten biscuit on a plate. You hear the sound of Judy Garland launch from the radio singing her tragic anthem, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. You notice a book that dictates the signs of mental instability.

Often times, as in the case of “Storm Room” (2009), the imagined world is created so thoroughly, you really do question whether the artists have perhaps maneuvered a time slip or some sort of trans-continental teleportation device to get you to the empty Dentist’s office near Tokamachi, Japan, that was recreated for the piece.

Storm Room 1

[Photo: N.M. Hutcgubson]

An elaborate system of pipes, lighting, and speakers provide an uber realistic rendition of finding yourself unsure, even whilst in the comfort of “safety”. You can hear the coughing of a neighbour in the next “room”, and while you wait for the storm to “end”, you find yourself wondering where exactly you might have landed.

Storm Room 2

[Photo: N.M. Hutcgubson]

As water streams down the windows, and the rolling sound of thunder rattles the floor, you notice a roll of Japanese dental floss, buckets filling with water, a telephone, some old Japanese calendars, and a floor fan that only helps instil the uncomfortable quality of a 1960s Hiroshi Teshigahara film.

The Killing Machine- Cardiff Miller

[Photo: Seber Ugarte & Lorena Lopez]

Another unsettling piece, 2007’s  “The Killing Machine”, transports to a world unexpected and unknown. Forcing the viewer to imagine the violence and pain of being held on its soft pink fur chair at the will of two  elegantly choreographed, rotating stabbing wands, the piece is equally unsettling as it is beautiful.

Cardiff Miller- the killing machine - 2007

[Photo: Seber Ugarte & Lorena Lopez]

A statement on the nature of capital punishment, as well as a riff off Franz Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony”, the piece works on the level that it blends these horrors with a beautiful array of coloured lights, a disco ball (who doesn’t love a disco ball?), and almost triumphant orchestration for a bizarrely amusing and eerie imagining of our society’s indifference to killing.

The most impacting piece, had to be the first piece ventured to in the gallery – “Opera for a Small Room” which the couple created in 2005. The piece is a 20 minute long immersion into the tale of a sad and mysterious man (“R DENNEHY”) who speaks throughout the piece about his sad tale of lost love, and a seemingly lost sense of self.

Cardiff Miller - Opera for a Small Room

[Photo: Cardiff/Miller]

Contained in a small shed-like space filled to the brim with nearly 2,000 individual records, eight record players, and twenty-four antique loudspeakers; the piece encapsulate a mysterious, melancholy, and mildly sinister mood, all while telling the story of the strange man who embodies the space between the sounds of various arias, sounds, songs, and pop music. The entire story is aligned with the change of synchronized light and colour.

cardiff miller- opera for a small room- detail

cardiff miller- opera for a small room- detail 2

[Photo: Cardiff/Miller]

As the piece progresses you are enticed to circle the “room” to peer through the wall’s various cut-outs and doorways in hopes of gaining new perspectives on the world inside. As your eyes begin to wander you notice bowling trophies, suitcases, and other objects that add to this strange simulated reality. Its an opus of emotion, and another testament to the artists’ unique craft.

opera for a small room- cardiff miller- room

[Photo: Kunsthaus Bregenz]

   Writing is like a 3-Dimensional process for me. The words and sentences have to work with a physical space, resonate with that space. One thing works on the page but it’s a different thing when they are juxtaposed with a physical environment.

Janet Cardiff

Like a movie in real time playing before your eyes, the works of Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller are remarkable and exciting works of contemporary Canadian art that we are lucky enough to have gotten the chance to enjoy so closely and thoroughly.

The artists’ cinematic tendencies and unusual combination of various sound and media point to a world where the disparate worlds of various arts and industry can coincide and exist together, for engaging and elevating works of art that not only provide an aesthetic experience, but delve deep into the psyche to penetrate the world of dream, nightmare, and emotion.

To put it plainly, “Lost in the Memory Palace” is as close to Utopia as we’ve seen in this world yet. There are plenty of other pieces by the couple to enjoy at the exhibit, so be sure not to miss out on this incredibly poignant and realized showing on now at the AGO.

“Lost in the Memory Palace: Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller” at the Art Gallery of Ontario {April 6, 2013 – August 18, 2013}, for more info click here.

Until we meet again,

{theEye}

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God is in the Details: Revealing the Early Renaissance @AGOToronto

Revealing the Renaissance at the AGO - secrets in florentine art - the Peruzzi Altar Piece

Revealing the Early Renaissance: Stories and Secrets in Florentine Art (March 16 – June 16, 2013)

ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO (317 Dundas Street West)

$25 adult admission (includes admission to the rest of the gallery)

When thinking of the Renaissance, one might automatically conjure up images of Da Vinci, his Vetruvian man, and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. It is a period in history renowned for its surge of creativity, knowledge, and innovation in areas of art, literature, music, architecture, and science.

It is a period that is also become more and more in vogue due to its resurgence in popular culture with T.V. shows like “The Tudors”, “The Borgias”, and the upcoming “Da Vinci’s Demons”, all putting their spin to this exciting and important moment in history.

But, what is rarely captured is the true birth of this period, and the movers and shakers who brought it all to life.

Perhaps its the fact that most art historians do not even know the names of most of the incredible artisans who painstakingly brought the churches of Florence to life with incredibly illuminated manuscripts, carvings, stained glass windows, and beautifully detailed panel paintings, between the years 1300 and 1350, that truly did start it all.

Revealing the renaissance: stories and secrets in florentine art

This is what Sasha Suda and the curators of the Art Gallery of Ontario‘s latest exhibition, “Revealing the Early Renaissance: Stories and Secrets in Florentine Art“, aim to bring to the forefront, allowing visitors to explore the lost masterworks that truly sparked a revolution, and would change the face of history forever.

In partnership with the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the curators have painstakingly worked on this exhibition for the past 10 years, travelling far and wide to analyze and bring overseas for the first time some of the most elaborate examples of work from this period that define the breaking point from the flatness of Medieval art to a more expressive and “humanized” perspective that has come to characterize the Renaissance.

Many of these pieces have been shut away from the public for centuries, making this one of the most impressive exhibits the AGO has ever premiered, and one that is sure to capture the imagination of all those lucky enough to visit.

The main gallery at Revealing the early renaissance- stories and secrets in florentine art - AGO- March 12, 2013

Sasha Suda Talks Art With Culture Minister Michael Chan

Curator Sasha Suda talks art with Michael Chan, Ontario Minister of Culture, Tourism, & Sport.  

One might, at first, be intimidated by the prestige of such an exhibit, but fear not, as this portal on the past is as much a reflection of our present day, as it is the 14th Century.

Whether or not you know a great deal about Renaissance art, the exhibition is packed full of information, from the audio guide, to the i-pads strategically placed amongst the exhibition to give you the full backstory on some of the exhibition’s most intriguing pieces. The curators have created an easy to understand story, that truly captures all the excitement and mystery of the artists and the works they created amidst the social context of Florence during this period.

Detail of the Peruzzi Altarpiece - christ wounds- revealing the early renaissance: stories and secrets in florentine art at the AGORevealing the Early Renaissance: Stories and Secrets in Florentine Art at the AGO -

God is in the Details . . .

As you first step into the gallery, it may not immediately strike you how these works differ from the Medieval illustrations and paintings you are used to, but upon closer examination, you will find how rich, textured, and full of emotion each piece truly is.

They are not works of art to be admired from afar, but works that deserve an acute eye, and a willingness to get lost in the stories being told within them.

There is a certain excitement generated as you begin to see the layers of colour, and painstakingly small brush strokes that capture the most miniscule details of hair and embroidery. While our culture might be used to multiple images rapidly flashing before our eyes (surely a luxury akin to witchcraft for the men and women of the Renaissance), one must note that the multi-faceted panels and illuminated manuscripts are akin to the cinema of the Renaissance, with all the drama, suspense, horror, and spectacle you could expect from a film of today, with even a bit of special effects here and there.

Revealing the Early Renaissance: Stories and Secrets in Florentine Art at the AGO

An exquisite panel painting. Blood, gore, and devotion. The piece reads almost like an expensive 14th Century comic . . .

It”s all for devotion sake, of course; used to invoke prayer, meditation, deep-thought, or contemplation. There’s definitely that sense of entertainment in the midst, often showcasing the more brutal and tumultuous moments of martyrs and Christ: Agatha with her breasts being cut off, another martyr is grilled on coals in ecstasy, and check out any crucified Christ in the mix and you’re bound to see more than your year’s worth of blood squirt (the most impressive, hands down, being Pacino Di Bonaguido’s “The Crucifixion” from 1315-1320, whose flowing blood rains on the spectators of the scene, as well as a juicy squirt from the chest for the viewer).

The Crucifixion by Pacino Bonaguida at the AGO - March 12, 2013 - Revealing the Early Renaissance: Stories and secrets in florentine art Revealing the Early Renaissance: Stories and Secrets in Florentine Art at the AGO - Detail of Bonaguida's "THE CRUCIFIXION"

Pacino De Bonaguida’s “The Crucifixion” and Detail of (1315-1320)

And while, we might cringe at the sight of this, its patrons felt the bloodshed and pain was the human aspect of their faith, and that one day perhaps, they may themselves reach divination, as did their faithful predecessors.

Getting lost in each piece, you begin to see that this society was obsessed with their idols, and their chance to be a part of them was as easy as getting a master to paint them into a panel or manuscript. In essence, it equated a wealthy merchant to the status of celebrity, having made his way onto the pages alongside the kingdom of heaven complete with Christ, the Virgin, and all the many martyrs who gave their life to the dedication of their fate.

The most entertaining example of this is the Laudario of Sant’Agnesse; an illuminated choir book commissioned by the Compagnia di Sant’Agnese, a fraternity of merchants, for use in charitable events and prayer, and who are also illustrated along the margins of the music. This remarkable collection of 24 illustrated manuscripts have been framed and reunited for the first time since the early 1800s, and will be performed by musical guests Lionheart on April 6 in the Walker Court of the AGO (click for more details).

Detail of Daddi's "Crowned Virgin Martyr" - Revealin ghte Early Renaissance at the AGO - Toronto

Detail of “A Crowned Virgin Martyr {Catherine of Alexandria}” (1334 – 1338) by Bernardo Daddi. 

It is amazing to think that at one time, masters like Botticelli, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Michelangelo must have set their gaze on these exact works to hone their own craft, and garner inspiration to create the masterpieces of the Renaissance we marvel at today. For when staring at the suggestive expression of Bernardo Daddi’s “A Crowned Virgin Martyr” (1334-1338), a glimpse of Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”  with her mysterious stare, and face full of subtle shadows that delicately sculpt her face, can definitely be seen,  which make the exhibition all the more exciting, and relevant.

In many ways, the exhibition brings to light that not much has changed in the world of art and commerce; citing the importance of banking and the prosperous merchant class to the creation of these vital works of art. Being so wealthy, members of the merchant class became so concerned that they may not  reach heaven, that they began spending their fortunes on commissioning buildings, and filling them with new art that expressed their hopes, fears, ideals, and emotions.

Revealing the Early Renaissance at the AGO-A view of Bernardo Daddi Italian The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula and 11,000 Virgins

With prosperity, comes art – and not much has changed today, as many of the world’s most successful artists rely on wealthy investors and corporate big wigs to the cut the cheque on a commission. Perhaps they no longer fear purgatory for their sins, but they are most definitely keeping their fingers crossed that their commission could strike them big dollars, and in that way, achieve idol status, and a bit of heaven.

The exhibition has already been lauded by the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times as one of the most important exhibitions in recent years, so don’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel through time, and take in 90 once-hidden masterworks that came to redefine life as we know it today.

Agony and the Ecstacy - Blood and Gore - Revealing the Early Renaissance at the AGO

All the Agony & The Ecstacy . . .

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Revealing the Early Renaissance: Stories and Secrets in Florentine Art” opens at the AGO on March 16 and runs until June 16, 2013. To book your tickets today, click here!

Also be sure to check out the event schedule at the AGO for exciting insights inspired by this latest exhibit (Click here).

Sasha Suda, Michael Chan (Ontario Minister of Culture), and CEO at the AGO, Matthew Teitelbaum - March 12, 2013 - AGO Press Preview

Matthew Teitelbaum (CEO at the AGO), Sasha Suda (Assistant Curator of European art at the AGO), and Michael Chan (Ontario Minister of Culture, Tourism, & Sport) – March 12, 2013. 

Until next time,

{theEye}

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