January 28, 2012

A walk around the art gallery can reveal local history but also bring up questions about heritage, remembering and the passage of time.

I didn't actually read the description of Guided Tour, I just knew that it was a performance by UK artist Peter Reder who was responsible for the show City of Dreams at last year's festival. In that show a map of the city was made from hundreds of found objects (sticks, candles, lego, dominoes, sand) which were slowly and methodically assembled in about an hour.

Guided Tour is very different. It is in fact a guided tour of the Vancouver Art Gallery. In some ways it is just like being on a traditional gallery or museum tour. In some ways it is quite different. Peter began by talking and joking a little bit about the conventions of a guided tour and beckoned the audience to "follow me." We then made our way through the galleries (the museum was closed and mostly dark). When we stopped it was often to discuss the early days of Vancouver, the history of the building, its days as a courthouse, a few famous ghosts and the smell of books. It was neat to see some corridors and rooms normally off limits.

The real theme is history and memory, I suppose, and Reder certainly mentions Proust and muses about the types of triggers which cause us to remember and ponder. Near the end of the tour things became a little more personal and strange. The penultimate stop was in the top gallery where we watched a slideshow, mostly pictures of Reder's family holidays in the 1970s. He also showed slides from the East End of London, where his father grew up and talked about his love of old doors, a family who eschew modernity and eat by candlelight and gentrification.

Finally we saw a short film with an older woman in wings (possibly as Walter Benjamin/Paul Klee's angel of history) eating a madeleine and going on a swing.

The show was very understated and gentle in its approach. I believe it is intended to make us think but it does not particularly want to tell us what we should think. I think it asks us where we find history or fragments of the past. It also posits that a change is upon us, and that now everything is becoming "heritage," and wonders whether there is no present left or whether everything has become the present.

January 26-29 6pm & 9pm at Vancouver Art Gallery, 750 Hornby Street.

The show looks to be sold out but some tickets may be available at the door.


January 28, 2012

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