We all have "stuff". Sometimes you don't realize how much you have until you have to move or you decide to do a purge. Then you wonder WHY you have so much "stuff". I've always been intrigued by collections. Why do people collect the things they do? How does it start? When I heard about the new exhibition The Whole Shebang: A Research Project at Cambridge Art Galleries|Idea Exchange, I had to check it out.
The Whole Shebang seeks to question what it means to collect and the principles and policies in place around such an act. Who decides what is worth preserving and what isn’t? What happens when the trajectory of a collection changes? Is there a point when collections overstep their mandate? For the duration of this research project, the vaults will be emptied and every work in Cambridge Art Galleries’ collection of 200+ works (Contemporary Canadian Fibre Art Collection) will be on display simultaneously and all within the same gallery space. Drawing attention to the volume of works as well as the tools and materials used to protect them, Cambridge Art Galleries is not only displaying a collection spanning 30 years but presenting an opportunity to rethink what it means to collect, the policies around such an enterprise, the logistics of objecthood, and whether or not collecting should still be a relevant and active practice.
Over 115 Canadian artists are represented in the permanent collection dedicated to fibre based works. On their website, the gallery explains that in the late eighties, they decided to pursue a particular collection mandate focused on the fibre medium, partly because the region’s flourishing industrial base was originally established by the textile industry, and partly because such specialization would set them apart from other institutional collectors.
The first thing I noticed upon entering the gallery was the smell. It smells old and like fabric, not too unusual, considering that the collection spans 30 years. It's a smell I'm familiar with, having spent a lot of time in fabric showrooms and fabric warehouses (my Mom sews custom window treatments and I have freelance interior design experience). I have been in the gallery many times before, but the second thing I noticed was just how much the collection changes the space. It's an obvious observation, but the room felt very different from previous times I've been there.
The gallery's curator Iga Janik and her colleague Josh Cleminson spoke to the attendees about the project. Interesting points:
-The Whole Shebang is not thematically or conceptually organized
-A model of the gallery was built prior to install (this is not a usual practice as the curator has a sense of the space already)
-They discovered things in the vault they didn't know they had
The project brings up interesting questions about storage and logistics. Why are some pieces only shown once and then locked away and never shown again?
Some of the artists whose work is in the collection were present and I overheard a lot of nostalgic conversations. The symposium on Saturday January 27, 2018 debating the collection, is bound to be interesting. I snapped some pictures of pieces that I found interesting. You'll notice that some of the pieces are only partially installed.
Research and Tour Hours:
Tuesday to Thursday: 2 – 5pm, 6 – 8pm
Saturday: 10am – 12pm, 1 – 4pm
Sunday and Monday by appointment
Admission is free and all are welcome.
For more information, visit ideaexchange.org/art
The exhibition runs until February 11, 2018.
The Whole Shebang: debating the collection - Saturday January 27, 2018
Photos and story by Glodeane Brown
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