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?

Crafting: Not for the Faint of Heart

So this weekend I confirmed a suspicion I have had for a very long time: I really, really suck at crafting.

To all of you ladies of Pinterest  out there making holiday wreaths out of used q-tips, the classified section of the newspaper and the blood of a male unicorn; I salute you.  Because I am straight-up hopeless with a glue gun.

Let’s back up a little bit, shall we? Remember this summer when I blogged about my experience at Adult Summer Camp? Well, this weekend  I attended another event put on by that crazy group of PeterPan children: a pubcrawl… for charity.

I know. I thought this type of thing only existed in my dreams, too. But guys, it REALLY HAPPENED.

There were about 75 of us total, and we were supporting Santa Comes to Bay Street, a charitable organization that sponsors needy families during the holidays. The plan was to pub-crawl to various bars around Toronto, and on the way stop at Toys R’ Us to purchase gifts for the children we had been given to sponsor.

I was matched with an 8-year-old girl named Vivian.  How amazing is that name  for an 8 year old  by the way? I wanted to buy her a fur, some pearls and a bottle of Chanel No. 5 because that’s what a bad-ass b*tch with a name like Vivian deserves.. but she said she wanted art supplies, so pencil crayons it was.

Anyway, back to the crafting part. We were encouraged  to dress in festive costumes for the event, and were told that ugly Christmas sweaters would NOT do.

I had a group of about 6 friends going, and my friend Lia suggested that we all go as Christmas Trees. She had made this costume before and assured us that it would be really cute. (And, more importantly, would make for fantastic Facebook photos.)

Since it was pretty labour intensive, I was volun-told I would be assisting with the preparation.

I tried to warn her that arts and crafts were not my forte. Growing up, my mom banned almost all craft projects from our home due to their inherent messiness.  For our creative endeavours, we were limited to the use of construction paper, crayons and safety scissors. Glitter was strictly prohibited. White glue was permitted only on special occasions; and under strict supervision.

Because of this, I became very insecure about my crafting abilities, and developed a strong aversion to arts and crafts in general. Plus, I’ll be honest, part of me always thought that once you start crafting, it’s only a matter of time before you turn into this:

But these tree costumes weren’t going to make themselves. so I had to suck it up.

So we set off on a Toronto-wide blitz of craft and fabric stores in search of supplies. Prior to this, I hadn’t been inside a fabric store since grade 7 Home Economics class, when I ambitiously chose to make a series of pillows spelling out “BREE” from a hideous blue and white floral fabric. Obviously this was a disaster and my letters were completely illegible, but I displayed them proudly in my room anyway. Once, I showed them to a confused friend, who asked: “Why do you have pillows that spell NERF? do you really like Nerf guns or something?”.

After that, I switched to shop class.

So basically, I had no idea what to do in places like Michaels and Fabricland. So many decorations! So much glitter! My mom would have an aneurism. Luckily, however, I was dealing with a crafting pro.  At one point I asked her how we would get the decorative stars to stay onto our tree-topper headbands, and she looked at me, with dead seriousness, and said “You’d be surprised at all the things you can hot glue onto yourself.”

Indeed, I would be.

Soon we got to work cutting, trimming, and ironing while eating frozen pizza and listening to the Justin Bieber Christmas album. I know what you’re thinking. Best.Friday Night. EVER. But I’m sorry to tell you it was not. My lack of crafting ability quickly became a bone of contention, and we proceeded to spend the next 6 hours fighting and making passive aggressive comments at each other. It’s not my fault they don’t make proper left-handed scissors, Lia. And like, sorry I never learned how to decoupage; I was kind of busy getting a law degree.  Sheesh.

Plus she kept “accidentally” burning my fingers with the hot glue gun. Likely story.

I didn’t take many pictures of the whole experience because, quite honestly I planned on repressing it.. but here’s an artistic rendering of what I looked like the entire time:

Despite the fact that it literally almost ruined our friendship, in the end I think we came up with some pretty sweet costumes:

Will I have a future in crafting? Probably not. But hey, at least I can say I gave it a shot. And I’ve still got the hot-glue gun scars to prove it.

Question of the Day: Are you good at crafts?