NEW MEDIA GALLERY, New Westminster BC – Sep 17 – Dec 5
by Michael Turner
The times we live in are measured as much by our innovations as the contradictions they generate. Our passage from an industrial to an information age can be seen as a continuation of laboursaving “breakthroughs” that, ironically, allow us more time to consider the cost of our so-called freedoms, where every gift we click on is assembled by those intent on keeping us online. For the New Media Gallery, assembly (“the human desire to collect, categorize and control knowledge and data”) is a natural response to – and perpetuation of – our “chaotic world.”
The best-known artist in this three-person exhibition is Fiona Tan, who was born in Indonesia. Tan’s Archive (2019) reimagines the utopian archive of Belgian author Paul Otlet (1868-1944), who believed world peace could only come about through the collection, ordering and sharing of the world’s knowledge. Tan’s single-channel audiovisual installation is based on the remains of Otlet’s archive after the building in which it was housed was requisitioned during Nazi occupation.
In A Restoration (2016), a two-channel audiovisual installation by Turner Prize-winning UK artist Elizabeth Price, the focus is on British archaeologist Arthur Evans (1851-1941), who is infamous for his imaginative reconstruction of the ancient city of Knossos, Crete. For her part, Price provides a “chorus of museum ‘Administrators’ who describe a collection that is being sorted, ordered and interpreted,” with the same permissive zeal employed by Evans.
The final work in Assembly is 300 prepared dc-motors, cotton balls, cardboard boxes (2021), by Swiss artist Zimoun. Under instructions from the artist, the gallery has assembled a tower of boxes that visitors can enter to experience “a closed system that is allowed to develop its own complex behavior and rules.”