Position Paper: A trip to the Vancouver Contemporary Art Gallery

Position Paper 2
A trip to the Vancouver Contemporary Art Gallery                James Siddall

On Friday, October 23 our CultureNeT English 100 class forayed out of Capilano University’s mountainous campus to experience and explore Vancouver’s own Contemporary Art Gallery.  This little class expedition was something I was personally excited about; as was the rest of the class I’m sure.  A chance to learn out of the classroom adds a level to the educational process that encourages change and innovation.  I mean, who doesn’t like field trips?  I believe it good to disrupt the usual Monday to Friday routine as it can refresh that original start of school excitement that is so often lost as the months wear on.
The gallery itself is not much more than two largish rooms, so our exhibit tour was more like a briefing and discussion of the different pieces on display by the CAG’s gallery coordinator Jill Henderson.  The exhibition at the time was Playing Homage, which ran from September 11th to the 1st of November.  The Contemporary Art Gallery describes this showcase by saying “In Playing Homage, the persona of artist is the subject matter”.  The art on display was either a reproduction of another piece, or work that simply used a reference for inspiration to create something new.  As one can imagine, this interesting theme made for some equally interestingly works of art.
In one room a projector flashed a film with every character played by artist Ming Wong.  Be it old, young, short, tall, male or female, you name it and he was it (and with a German script no less!)  Another piece, and my personal favorite, displayed artist and musician Rodney Graham posing as a painter with his “late early styles”.  The photograph aims to show an act of the stereotypical view of an “artist”.  The paintings were his, though most of Graham’s work is not as conceptually strait forward.  This creates some interesting layers of art in one piece.  Is the focus the photograph, the act or the paintings themselves?  Other art in the exhibition gave a more identifiable link to another piece of work, such as Christos Dikeakos’ pencil on paper sketch and Evan Lee’s photographic replica of work done originally by his father.
Based on the one exhibit I was able to observe, the Vancouver Contemporary Art Gallery definitely provokes some thought.  Each work was interesting and in it’s own way left room for a second glance.  However, some required a third glance and a fourth and a fifth.  Considering my piers and myself are fairly learned (I hope), we started to get a bit confused.  The feeling was that some of the “art” was so because that it what its creator classified it as.  I think the question of the day was what can qualify to be officially labeled as a piece of artwork.  Can one take a tomato and nail it to the wall and expect a gallery showing?  As the CAG shows in its name, it is “contemporary”, not “mainstream”. Unlike the Vancouver Art Gallery there seems to be a broader sense of guidelines.  For some broad is good, for others not so much.  For me, the positive outweighed the negative on our little expedition and I left curious for what other exhibitions were to come in the future.

Word count: 555

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