A new WorkPLACE at Open Space

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October 22, 2014

WorkPLACE

Curated by: Lynda Gammon

Until Oct. 25

Open Space, second floor, 510 Fort Street

Reviewed by Adam Hayman

Lynda Gammon has turned Victoria’s Open Space into a WorkPLACE. Not her own work place, but a curated exhibition examining how we have worked and continue to work in the modern world. Gammon, a Victoria artist and associate professor at the University of Victoria, is known for questioning both space and place. At Open Space, she showcases eight works from four artists.

The idea of WorkPLACE was not to accumulate a large selection of work, nor was it to question how an artist works. Instead, a small collection of quality pieces examines the word work.

I found it easy to absorb the entirety of each piece in 90 minutes, including the time it took to watch Christine Welsh’s hour-long documentary. This is why Open Space’s admission by donation policy is perfect for exhibitions such as this. The gallery on lower Fort Street is a simple stop to make if you have the extra time during a visit downtown.

The theme of  “work” is  clear throughout the majority of the pieces with the exception of the beautiful Eyeless Dragon by Dong-Kyoon Nam. Nam is a Korean-born artist who works with found or everyday objects. He received his MFA from UVic and now teaches at the University of Manitoba. In Eyeless Dragon, a halogen light stares down at the exposed innards of copper wire and electric cord, but the piece doesn’t register as easily with the theme of work as the others. It is, however, still powerful and can absorb a large amount of the viewer’s time.

Tommy Ting is a London-based artist who works in many mediums, and his pieces, ‘Machine’ and Workers Posing as Workers, brought political weight to the show by looking at workers in the past. Swiss born photographer/filmmaker Thomas Kneubühler provided a collection of photos titled Absence, which were a series of shots of people staring at what we assume must be a computer screen. This depiction of modern society provoked self-conscious thoughts—how do I look when I’m sitting in front of a screen? The photographs were also perfectly situated next to Ting’s Workers Posing as Workers, a reproduction of a photo showing faceless Asian and Native Cannery workers from the turn of the century. The proximity of these pieces poked at my social conscience, which was a great choice by Gammon.

Gammon’s decision to present two videos, and where she placed them, however, needs re-examining. Christine Welsh, Metis filmmaker and women’s studies associate professor at UVic, had her documentary about the Coast Salish women who make Cowichan sweaters displayed prominently in the exhibition. It proved a fitting choice for this collection and the film runs just under an hour. This isn’t hard to sit through, unless, of course, you’ve just watched the shorter documentary, Currents (six and a half minutes) by Thomas Kneubühler, which is situated just to the left of the stairs when you enter. Sitting through seven minutes of a film, and then more than 50 minutes of a separate film is not easy on a millennial’s attention span. So if you are like myself I would recommend starting with Welsh’s film, and then moving around the gallery to end on Kneubühler’s.

WorkPLACE runs until Oct. 25.

Adam Hayman is an amateur woodworker and fourth year writing student at UVic with a passion for visual arts. 

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