Art brings people together, connecting individuals across different times and places. It is typically meant to be viewed and experienced first-hand, within a designated space. Amid a global pandemic, however, society has been separated from these spaces and isolated at home.
Although many galleries and museums had pre-existing digital databases before the surge of COVID-19, these institutions were forced to move completely online in order to accommodate the closure of exhibition spaces. Viewing art digitally separates the audience from the work through a barricade of screens. As a society that relies heavily on technology, the physical experience of art allows people to detach from the internet and experience creativity both sensually and emotionally.
The pandemic has made life a struggle for everyone in myriad ways and sustaining galleries and museums that rely on public donations has become increasingly difficult. Viewing art digitally has become the new “normal.” This reliance on technology has been recognized and availed by some institutions more than others. For example, the Koffler Centre of the Arts used isolation as an opportunity to improve its online platform. However, not all institutions made this transition successfully. The Koffler Centre’s success is owed to their interactive virtual space, which makes this newly developed and necessary form of viewing art welcoming. This institution recreated the connectivity that everyone was missing by making a collaborative project with the ability to reach multiple audiences.
Most digital catalogues take art that was meant to be viewed in person, and makes it available online. However, the Koffler.Digital online exhibition Eleventh House consists of art that is intended to be viewed digitally. This exhibition reaches out to younger audiences through its youthful charm and amusing interactive experience.
Koffler.Digital’s exhibitions are more immersive than most. Eleventh House does not display art formally like most databases do, but rather blends art into a reflective experience. The project strays away from potentially passive experiences of viewing art online and actively engages the audience. The exhibition uses both mature language and humor to appeal to older audiences; it references pop culture and media to relate to younger viewers. This method of viewing art may not be preferred by everyone, but who is to dictate that this is not the “proper” way to view art? Art is ambiguous and constantly changing. That is not to say that art is not monitored, however, as many institutions set and define boundaries.
Eleventh House, active from April 27 to July 31, 2020, delves into astrology and horoscopes as a way of connecting to individuals during these hard times. It combines traditional methods of viewing with a deeply immersive experience. The project gives space for graphic artists that are not always focused on in physical gallery or museum spaces. Eleventh House, curated and edited by Letticia Cosbert Miller and designed by Natasha Whyte-Gray, is broken down into sections where each artist can showcase their original work within a specific niche. The first section, Signed Advice,features work by Meech Boakye and Dainesha Nugent-Palache. The second section, Heartbreak Horoscope,consists of work by Meg Prosper. Walter Scott is featured in the third section, Toxic Astrology. Lastly, annieanniewongwong and Emmie Tsumura showcase their artwork in Kindred Trines. Each section has an interactive introduction before the artwork is displayed.
Signed Advice gives guidance as to how one should approach the season. It does so in a way that feels like a discussion, one that gallery spaces usually create. Astrology and horoscopes are something that many analyze daily, and can now through this interest form both a spiritual and artistic connection. This bond occurs through viewing and taking part in the project: participation allows the work to take on meaning through the immersive experience. The allure that one feels stems from the borderless illustrations, moving sections of the page, slowly revealing elements, and changing images. Signed Advice encourages reflection and connection through honest horoscopes that give one the feeling of being seen and understood, regardless of physical distance.
Heartbreak Horoscope tackles something many have faced during the pandemic: a broken heart. The poems convey the experience of heartbreak and are tuned towards each zodiac sign. The use of handwriting in creating these poems adds a personal aspect that makes viewing the collection a more human experience. It creates a space for connection and sharing experiences collectively.
Toxic Astrology uses comic-like illustrations to represent the downfalls of each zodiac sign in a humorous way. The honesty here, like that in the first section, creates a shared experience with other viewers and with the artist as well.
Kindred Trines showcases four groups, which involve the compatibility of each zodiac’s animal. The trines reflect on one’s relationships; there are links within this section to interesting Chinese zodiac stories that are informative and that create a multi-layered understanding of the stories. The links within the text enrich understanding and create an enjoyable and informative experience. The illustrations show an artistic interest in Japanese folktales, and the section creates a relatable experience that reminds one of their connections to friends and family during this isolating time. Individuals can use their time at home to self-reflect and self-discover, helping them make the best of the current situation. Although society is moving forward with re-opening, the experience presented here is nonetheless a true sign of the times. It makes great use of the technology that society relies upon and makes a transition that will be useful going forward.
Many smaller institutions took this opportunity to bring physical art to an online platform. They converted traditional art so that it was as close to the in-person experience as possible. Larger institutions, like the Royal Ontario Museum, took a more interactive approach and utilized Google Arts & Culture to make the experience more immersive. Although the Koffler Centre is not as large as the ROM, it created a more memorable experience. Koffler.Digital was created before the pandemic, with their earliest archived exhibition dating back to September 2018. Nonetheless, they created a digitally accessible experience before it was a necessary means for viewing art. The Koffler Centre seems to have been ahead of the times, and they are continually connecting with their audiences in novel ways.
Other methods of digital viewing are being utilized by various institutions as a result of the pandemic. Virtual Reality (VR) has been newly introduced and is on the rise in the art world. The first-ever VR fair, Untitled, Art Online by Artland and Produced by Untitled, presented art virtually that recreated the gallery space. They even included sitting spaces and window scenes, which create a false reality, yet the pixelated quality of the experience reminds viewers that they still remain in their homes. Although this technology is more advanced than that used by Koffler.Digital, it comes with its own issues. The VR experience can create feelings of disorientation and other odd sensations. By using VR, one is transported to view art “physically,” but the experience still lacks the comfort of truly being present Thus, some at-home gallery experiences surpass others, and their enjoyment depends on the preferences of the viewer.
One general criticism of online exhibitions is their approach towards accessibility. Gallery and museum spaces have been increasingly working towards making exhibitions accessible to all. The sudden necessity for solely online spaces makes the question of accessibility even more prominent. How are these institutions going to make these online experiences as accessible as their physical spaces? Accessibility spans from visual and auditory assistance to technological and internet availability. Although these online exhibitions may be great, are they able to be equally experienced and accessed by all? This is just one of the pandemic’s many setbacks.
Eleventh House is a collaborative project that uses honesty and personal touches to create a fundamentally human and deeply relatable journey. The diverse media and range of artists create a broad but unifying experience. The use of astrology encourages participation, making the encounter an active one. Koffler.Digital’s newest exhibition, A Matter of Taste, furthers ways of connecting and bonding during this time through culture and food. The projects created help facilitate the connections and communication that often occur in a physical gallery or museum space. The level of interaction available here surpasses most other institutions that made the shift to primarily online art during the pandemic. The collaborative and highly contemporary experience created by the Koffler Centre of the Arts is one that is hard to forget.
High end art stolen In Silver Lady Lane break-in – BayToday.ca
Not many details yet, but City Police are investigating the theft of several high-end pieces of art from a Silver Lady Lane home this morning.
Items include a 2’x3′ Jan Van Kessel painting, Limoges casket, 6″ blue/gold plate, and 6″ aventurine brush washer.
Silver Lady Lane runs off Trout Lake Road and a number of expensive and exclusive houses sit on the shores of Trout Lake.
Police are asking for the public’s help.
Jan van Kessel was a Flemish painter active in Antwerp in the mid 17th century.
Wikipedia says he was a versatile artist and he practiced in many genres including studies of insects, floral still lifes, marines, river landscapes, paradise landscapes, allegorical compositions, and scenes with animals.
Van Kessel’s works were highly prized by his contemporaries and were collected by skilled artisans, wealthy merchants, nobles, and foreign luminaries throughout Europe.
North Bay Police investigating theft of several high-end pieces of art from a Silver Lady Lane residence this morning. Items include a 2’x3′ Jan Van Kessel painting, Limoges casket, 6″ blue/gold plate, and 6″ aventurine brush washer.
Please call with any information. #5555
— North Bay Police (@NorthBayPolice) September 19, 2020
Toronto's outdoor museum for street art is a perfect activity for these pandemic times – blogTO
All murals can be explored virtually on the museum’s website, which includes info about the works and artists.
It was inspired by similar public space projects in places like The Bronx and Berlin.
One of the new initiatives from the museum is an app that you can download to your phone and use to make your way among the murals, finding out information about each piece and the artists that created it as you go.
As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, finding safe, outdoor activities in Toronto is on many people’s to-do list and this outdoor museum might just be one that’s perfectly suited to the times.
Art as reconciliation: Ymir artist hosting BC Culture Days event – Nelson Star
It took Damian John decades to realize words weren’t always the best way to connect with people.
When John was in his 20s he became woke to the problems of the world and hoped to make a change. In his 30s, having failed to make that change, he struggled with depression and anxiety.
But four years ago the now 43 year old quit his career as a massage therapist to focus on his art. That choice led to an epiphany.
“I think the dialogue that we have with words is limited. You have this understanding of words, I have an understanding of words. Sometimes they don’t match up,” he says.
“We’re really bad at telling each other what we’re feeling and we’re really bad at understanding what the other person is saying to us in general, even with people we know well. So I thought, but what about having art do that for us and being creative with how we speak to each other.”
John, a Ymir-based artist, hopes to meld words and art into a new type of conversation when he hosts a workshop for BC Culture Days on Sept. 26. Jones was the only West Kootenay artist named ambassador to the annual event, which will run Sept. 25 to Oct. 25.
His livestream is titled Exploring Reconciliation Through Creativity, in which John plans to tell the story of how colonization affected his family and people before having participants create art based on the discussion.
A member of Tl’azt’en First Nation near Prince George, John grew up with a family traumatized by the residential school system. His father attended nearby Lejac Residential School, a Catholic-run facility that operated from 1922 to 1976.
The school is partly remembered now for being the place four boys froze to death while trying to escape from in 1937.
“All of my family on that side is directly impacted by colonization, by residential school,” said John, “and that impacts us as his children, that affects nephews and generations that are coming after us. There’s a heavy, heavy impact mentally, health wise, relationally, all of these various components which would take a long time to talk to or speak to in a real strong way.”
First Nations art has always been a part of John’s life. His father brought pieces home, and John was later influenced by artists Robert Sebastian and Roy Henry Vickers.
John’s own art is vibrant, colourful and distinctly modern. In his work he’s found a place to explore his culture and voice concerns while also being in control of the outcome in a way he never felt he could in conversation.
“If I want to have a life that has any feelings of quality to it, I need to shift things,” he says. “So making things that I think are beautiful, and allowing people to engage in that space as well, felt useful.”
That’s how he hopes the people who take his workshop feel after creating their own work. John wants to inspire new ways of discourse about difficult topics despite personal differences, and he thinks art is the key.
“How do we bridge those spaces to come to a place of community and goodwill and conflict resolution?” he says. “In spite of being devastated by all the information out there I still have hope we can do things differently.”
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