A Profound Experience Of Art… Or Something Like That

While I won’t delude you into thinking I am a particularly sophisticated woman, every once in a while I do get a whim- a flight of fancy if you will– to get off my couch and do something cultural for a change.

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He knows

One such temporary break in sanity occurred this past weekend, when I attended both Ai WeiWei’s According To What? exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and Nuit Blanche in downtown Toronto on the SAME DAY.

What can I say? I was bored just really love contemporary art.

The first stop on “BreezyK’s Excellent Bougie Adventure” was the AGO. If you haven’t heard of Ai WeiWei, he is a Chinese contemporary artist, famous for designing the “bird’s nest” stadium at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as well as for his activism.

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An outspoken advocate for democracy and human rights in China, Ai has participated in several investigations of government corruption and alleged cover-ups- including the 2008 collapse of government schools resulting in the death of thousands of children following the Sichuan earthquake.  

As a result of his activism, Ai has been unable to leave China since 2012; his passport confiscated by government officials. His studio and home have also been under constant  surveillance, and his daily blog monitored and censored. 

Regardless of your stance on Ai’s political ideals, his work- which includes sculpture, installations, photography, film and architecture- is pretty incredible. I particularly enjoyed his sculptures, which were massive pieces of work requiring tons of manual labour and raw material to create. Like this piece, made from wooden stools fused together using an ancient technique with no nails or glue!

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Or “Straight”- composed of 150 tons of steel rebar recovered from the sites of the collapsed schools in Sichuan- each meticulously straightened by hand.

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It was a pretty cool, and but also extremely emotional experience. Here’s me cutting the tension and showing my instagram followers how artsy I am:

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The exhibit is on until October 27 in Toronto, so check it out if you have the chance!

Stop 2 of the day was Nuit Blanche – the annual contemporary art festival in Toronto where museums and galleries open up their doors for free from dawn till dusk, and over 150 projects are exhibited around the city by more than 500 different artists and curators.

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The pieces ranged from “Forever Bicycles” (pictured above) by my BFF Ai WeiWei, a sculpture of over 3,000 bicycles suspended in air, to smaller projects like Parallax, a light fixture of sorts composed of horizontally stacked tubes of different sizes.

020… Not gonna lie, it kind of reminded me of a Lite Brite. 

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The other pieces ran the gamut; from “Ferris Wheel” designed to evoke “joy and delight”:

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To “Music Box”, a jack-in-the-box like collection of instruments that feed off each other and produce one random symphony:

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…to whatever the hell this is:

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Something about “childlike innocence”?

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As I walked the streets, watching others marvel at the pieces before them, I thought of a passage in a book I read recently called Leaving The Atocha Station by Ben Lerner. The book is about a young American poet named Adam Gordon on a prestigious fellowship in Madrid. One day, Adam witnesses a man openly weeping in front of a painting at an art gallery, and begins to worry that he himself has never been moved to such a level by art:

“Was he, I wondered, just facing the wall to hide his face as he dealt with whatever grief he’d brought into the museum? Or was he having “a profound experience of art”? I had long worried that I was incapable of having a profound experience of art and I had trouble believing that anyone had, at least anyone I knew. I was intensely suspicious of people who claimed a poem or painting or piece of music ‘changed their life’ especially since I had often known these people before and after their experience and could register no change. [...] The closest I’d come to having a profound experience of art was probably the experience of this distance, a profound experience of the absence of profundity.”

I could sort of relate. While I appreciated some of the pieces; others (like that scary giant insect) were just completely incomprehensible to me. I wondered if this was because these pieces didn’t  especially “speak” to me, or because I straight-up didn’t “get” it.

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In any event, I’ll have some time to think about it, as I’ve now fulfilled my entire culture quota for 2013 and can happily go back to rotting my brain with as much reality TV as humanly possible (which, let’s be honest, was really the goal of this entire exercise.)

Question of the Day: Have you had a “profound experience of art”? Do you believe in it?

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9 thoughts on “A Profound Experience Of Art… Or Something Like That

  1. I remember going to one of the art galleries in London a few years ago. Some of it was very good, but plenty of it was just utter shite.

    One of the exhibits was just an empty copper box and I got told off for banging my fist on it.

    That birds nest stadium is awesome though.

  2. I’m actually a fan of art, mostly because I always wanted to be able to draw. (I struggle with stick figures.)

    Me and my bestie went to the Impressionism and Fashion exhibit at the Chicago Institute of Art this summer. It was pretty awesome. …We also to went this Russian Tea Room place, and while it was totes bougie and civilized, the pastries sucked so bad.

  3. Who would have thought it? Culture, right here! Wow! Sounds like you are off the hook for the need of any cultural activities until at least next summer!! As for being profoundly moved by art, I can’t say that I have been. I look at a piece of art usually I am like you, I don’t understand what is so great about that. :-) But that is the point of all artistic displays, some people will connect deeply and others will not connect at all, it depends on the art and the person. Many people simply pretend to “get it” simply to look intelligent or portray that they are sophisticated, but deep down they are thinking, WTF? I applaud your efforts, perhaps you should start a reality show about young people and art galleries. I am sure MTV would add it to their lineup if you put a couple of pregnant teens, or college kids getting drunk, blacking out and destroying art in it. :-) In all seriousness, I actually learned something on your blog today.

    • I think the same thing about people pretending! And don’t even tease
      Me with the prospect of my
      Own reality show.. It would just make all my dreams come true haha

  4. Breezy… whatever it is you’re on, I want some … I mean, total silence for weeks, then suddenly, boom, 80 posts in like a week. :-)

    It’s nice to have your humor show up in my reader — you are the only funny writer I follow … so, without you, my reader is filled with angst and drama…..

    Thanks for keeping me smiling this past week.

  5. Pingback: Friday Five | The Camel Life

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