Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2016/ Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery Exhibit: Close Quarters

Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery Exhibit: Close Quarters

Last Sunday my walking group went on an art walk. Our first destination was the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, which I had never visited before despite walking by it for years. They were running an exhibit called Close Quarters, which consisted of displays involving figurines. There were two artists exhibiting dioramas and one showing some pictures and stop-motion animations.

I was especially struck by a diorama called Democracy City, by Karine Giboulo. The diorama is a commentary on poverty and tourism in Haiti. That sounds depressing and guilt-inducing, and to a small extent it is, but it is also fascinating, brimming with detail, and nuanced in its portrayals of Haitian life. It does a better job of expressing its message than almost any blog post or movie or photograph I have ever seen. Somebody in the walking group commented that the display would be good for children, and this seemed to be the case: small children looking at the installation were as fascinated as I was, and they were filled with questions.

The other installations were interesting as well. In contrast to Giboulo's cluttered displays, an artist named Carmela Laganse put together interactive installations filled with ceramic deer and birds. This installation was more antiseptic and abstract than Giboulo's, but it was fun to see how the Arduinos and Raspberry Pi devices were put to use. There was a third installation by Graeme Patterson involving puppet figurines and stop-motion animation. I did not have the attention span to sit through the animations. There were some interesting still photographs, but nothing blew my mind the way Democracy City did.

I guess this is an advertisement to go see the installation, but it is a pretty stupid one, since the exhibit closes March 6.

In addition to seeing the installations we walked through the gift shop, which contains many beautiful, fragile works of ceramic and glass art. I still don't know how to process the experience. On the one hand, so many of the works were beautiful, and part of me is happy that such beautiful objects exist, and that people have the skills to create them. On the other hand these beautiful artifacts are in some sense trinkets. Some of them are usable as bowls and cups, but it is all fragile and mostly decorative. There was a sign outside the Clay and Glass Gallery that advised us to find the perfect gift inside, and the idea of receiving something out of that gift shop horrified me. Imagine the dusting! Imagine how bad I will feel the first time I chipped such an object! Pottery is really important to civilization, but the age of artisanal work has passed.

On the other hand, if these artists don't sell their wares to consumers looking for ostentatious gifts, then this art doesn't exist. Maybe a few of the artists will be compelled to blow glass or fire pottery regardless, but they will be under no obligation to send them to the gift shop for me to see.

At the end of the day, I do not think about art that much, even though it influences me all the time. When some artistic work changes my perceptions enough that I become aware that good art exists and is important, I am still not inclined to pay for it. Deep inside I feel that art is optional luxury, not cultural necessity. That's doubly terrible, because you can't just pay for good art; in order for good art to exist there has to be a lot of mediocre work coming along for the ride. That sounds expensive. Therefore I do not value art, and I am working to build a world in which no paid art (and therefore no art) exists. There's something upsetting about that.