Saturday, June 16, 2007

    • Saturday, June 16, 2007
    Raising awareness of our public presence is key in our audience development efforts. To enhance our physical presence and bring art to the public sphere, two art projects have been installed on the external walls of the gallery. The idea behind these two ambitious projects was inspired by public mural projects that represent local histories and community visions. These projects also highlight vital connections between politics and art, public and art. As collaborating artists we proposed a wall project that involved both the visual and literary arts. The text’s style is elaborate and iterative, its content a mixture of the familiar and the strange. Text surrounds the horse, which provides a still point—a simple, almost storybook image. The positioning of the text, like a dialogue balloon in a comic book, encourages viewers to read the words as the horse’s thoughts. But that assumption leads to ambiguity and elusiveness. Who was Minnie the Mooch? What was her relationship to the nameless horse? How did she die? What carried her aloft in the first place? The text and the image, then, are so constructed that they persuade viewers to continue the narrative, to fill in the back-story and imagine what will follow upon this tragic fall. Art at its best alters viewers’ perception of space and time. Our intent is to draw viewers in, to slow them down--make them stay longer than they might usually do with a work of art. When we first discussed this project, we agreed on two things--that an animal figure be included and that whatever we did needed to respond in some discreet way to the presence of the funeral home across the parking lot from Gallery 101. A scene from Julian Schnabel’s film, Before Night Falls inspired the text. A group of sexual and political dissidents decide to flee Castro's dictatorship in a hot air balloon. But a traitor in their midst foils their departure, launching the balloon with himself as the only passenger. The great balloon rises into the sky, then falters, only to slump back to earth, spilling out its sole cargo, dead on the hard Havana pavement. We didn’t want to do a literal depiction of the scene. Pao, who is drawn to and likes to draw animals, suggested we should do the scene as a fairytale or children’s story, with day-glow creatures watching the departing balloon against a dark sky. Pao chose the image of a single horse for its air of lonely melancholy. The text came to me in one piece. The idea of fairytale animals—the beast-fable that goes back to Jean de la Fontaine, Chaucer and Aesop—also suggested Disney cartoons to me. Minnie Mouse leapt into my mind even as I knew I didn’t want Disney characters scampering anthropomorphically across the wall. But Minnie Mouse led inexorably to Minnie the Mooche in the Duke Ellington tune. A mooche (or mooch) is a parasite or an addict, or both, and that fit the idea of someone who would casually betray her friends. I wrote the text to be elegiac and slow, with lots of clauses and parenthetical expressions and commas to slow viewers down even more, to lull them into the dreamtime of Nightfall. But most of all I wanted to get the complex emotion we feel when we’re betrayed by someone we love—that strange mixture of sadness that they would so thoughtlessly hurt us, and a sneaking admiration of the bravura of such heartlessness. If love is strong enough, we even love the traitor. There’s something stalwart about the horse as he stands there, mute but eloquent, contemplating the departure and death of someone he loved so much that he misses and mourns her despite her treachery. Beyond that, we wanted the text to present mortal longings--the desire to escape to a better place and the difficulties, within this life, of ever achieving such a transcendent goal. Will Aitken and Pao Quang Yeh And when the fog had cleared he saw that all of Minnie the Mooch’s dreams of escape, after rising in that strange conveyance light as down, had slumped back to the accepting earth where they, and she, lay broken now. He would have wept if he had been able, and yet there was nobility in the attempt, and beauty in the upward sweeping image of her departure that could never be cancelled by The Fall. He would miss her, he missed her even now, though she was there on the cool ground a few steps from where he had frozen to watch her flight. But he would always, in his mind, see her aloft. Alight. Acknowledgements: This project is presented with the generous support of The Dennis Tourbin Fund for Emerging Artists, administered by the Community Foundation of Ottawa. It is a permanent tribute to the greatly respected late Ottawa artist and his legacy. The fund seeks to encourage emerging artists to carry out creative works of art that cross disciplines and traditional boundaries, as well as expand the presentation of art outside of the gallery walls into the public arena, reaching new audiences and engaging community. Gallery 101 extends its sincere gratitude to Nadia Laham who oversees the Dennis Tourbin Fund, and to Stephen Bunga, Wet Paints, 240 Bank Street, for providing the paint necessary to the creation of the work. Both have demonstrated their generous support and belief in the gallery’s programming and vision. If you wish to make a donation, please send a cheque to: the Dennis Tourbin Fund, Community Foundation of Ottawa, 301-75 Albert Street, Ottawa K1P 5E7. Gallery 101 also gratefully acknowledges the support of General Contractor Mike Muller and Jason Basil, Michael Tatsis, Ristorante Fiori’s, Aenos Foods, Chiarelo Foods, Steam Whistle, Dragani wines, Gilmore Printing and Optima.