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Comments on local art gallery displays for "Nuit Blanche, 7 e-mails

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October 4:
Michael Monastyrskyj wrote:


Did anyone go out to Funktion Function on Saturday night? If you did, what did you think?

I was out for about an hour. I liked the exhibit at Fountain 123. Let's just say the exhibit at the Funktion gallery wasn't to my taste. :-) I thought the project at the Mercer Union where mycologists and astronomers trade notes was fun, but that's because I used to be a bit of an astronomy nerd. But is that really art?

D. A. wrote:

Michael, you always know how to get my old curmudgeonly knickers in a knot. I'm really glad these galleries are in the neighbourhood now, it's changed the street for the better. However, since you asked, I gotta say: I didn't go to the Funktion function, but I think I know what you're talking about. Only time I went to one of these new galleries was the opening of the Mercer, and the only "art work" was an ironic vintage popcorn machine in a room showing slides of a cartoon of someone giving themselves a blow job.

At best a lot of the stuff I've seen in "avant garde" art galleries (or post-modern, or whatever you want to label it) is making some kind of "statement" - but it's not what I would call art, which to me means an intelligent use of symbols to represent truths that have deep meaning for various diverse levels of humanity and reality, as well as having beauty and value as much as possible from what could be called an "objective" point of view, for want of a better term (in other words, it at least tries to approach the truth synthetically, uniting our awareness by somehow linking many things and perspectives in ways that only symbolic representation can). Of course, there are degrees of this - for example, it seems like the impressionists were at least trying to climb that ladder - and to be fair, there's some modern avante garde art that also strives in this direction.

However, a lot of avante garde art seems to be an "inside" joke for some clique or another, or a way for people to explore fairly random elements of their own subjective psyches and perspectives. While the Mercer union concept sounds like it tries to see reality through a kind of synthesis of mycology and astronomy, it doesn't sound like the synthesizing element of symbolism was really used well there. Although I didn't see it, so I could be wrong.

October 5:
A. H. wrote:

I just want to give a big thank you & congratulations to the whole Funktion Function team – Function Gallery, 69 Vintage, FlySpins, Joel Richardson and The Loft. This was truly a local effort. A collaboration of --

§ local artists – The Faceless Few Collective, Mauz Man, EmCee Rae, Joel Richardson, Guerilla Puppets

§ business – 69 Vintage’s Irene Stickney, FlySpins’ Katie Graham

§ community – DIG IN, Christie Ossington Neighbourhood Centre

It was wonderful to work with all of the crew at Funktion Gallery – Jose Gabrial Sandival, Jamie Roy, Andrew McRae, Dave Pakula and Clem Watson, and more. A hardworking collective of young artists, DJs and all-round organizers.

Thanks, too, to Fountain 253 and Mercer Union for keeping your doors open late.

Big thanks to the Bloordale BIA for financial support, Councillor Adam Giambrone’s Office for production support (and for bringing out a nice party of Nuit Blanche-goers), and to The City of Toronto’s Special Events team.

It was great to see the neighbourhood out on Bloor.

THANKS TO ALL. It was great working with you.

Michael Monastyrskyj wrote:

There is a wide range of contemporary art. I imagine there are thousands of artists in Toronto alone working in different media, reflecting different tastes, etc. There is contemporary art I like and there is stuff I don't like.

A lot of the conceptual art - I won't say all - strikes me as being silly. For example, at the Mercer Union exhibit there was a photo of snow balls inside glass jars. Next to the photo there was a message that said that during the Parisian riots in 2006 the artist made snowballs in Toronto, froze them in jars and sent them to Paris with instructions on how to use them. I know some people who will think "Wow, what a great idea!" But I'm not one of them. To me this is silly and frivolous and has no value. It's not a meaningful political statement and it's not funny. To me it's pretentious and dumb.

On the other hand at Fountain 253, they had silk screens depicting the martyrdom of Christian saints. I grew up Catholic and I have always been interested in religion, so the topic attracted me. I don't know how to describe the silk screens but they were not traditional Christian iconography. They were prints of collages and hand-drawings and looked a bit like cartoons or the kind of renderings you might find in a graphic novel. That's not a great description, but it's the best I can come up with. I could some Christians being offended by it. I could see them saying this is disrespectful, etc. but that's not my opinion. I don't know why but I found the silk screens compelling and beautiful. In fact, if they didn't cost $800 I might have bought one.

My taste in art tends towards the traditional and I wish more contemporary artists produced the kind of work people used to, but I won't right off all contemporary art. There is art like the silkscreens at Fountain 253 that does appeal to me.

B. G. wrote:

For the purpose of discussion, and in response to Michael's request, i restate my definition of "art";

"ART is emotional communication"

[it is not the only form of emotional involvement, but always can be recognized by this 'symptom'.]

October 6:
D. A. wrote:

I think you nailed it when you used the word "traditional." The most stupendous art forms in the world all seem to be connected with some orthodox tradition or other, whether it be Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, or any of the other traditional forms of expression.

D. A. wrote:

Emotional communication is certainly one element or "symptom" of art. But to merely say "art is emotional communication" and stop there includes any emotional communication, unless you qualify it further. Hitler was obviously full of rage and communicated it very well, but by all accounts he was a mediocre artist at best. At any rate, if his atrocities were the result of his "artistic temperament", then I want no part of any art. So what are the other real distinguishing features of art? I think it always comes back to at least striving to represent some kind of integral, objective truth using symbolism (in its widest definition, which to me could include words, images, music, architecture, sculpture, theatre, dance, etc.). This means it ultimately has a sacred purpose, one that strives to rise above the literal or prosaic in order to represent some sense of the vast universe that lies beyond our tiny minds. Such a process can only be intuitive. Of course, most of us fall pretty far down on this scale of things, but real art should at the very least be striving for higher truth. A well-designed political poster (for whatever cause) may have some very base "artistic" merit in the sense of using certain well- crafted or even beautiful symbols (often stolen from higher sources) and evoking some emotion, but as propaganda it is qualitatively at a lower level than, say, a work by Dali, who at least tries to break through to a higher level. The best stuff, such as the poetry of Rumi, for example, or the traditional puppet theatre of the Balinese or some aboriginal West Coast peoples, combines highly advanced technical skill with what appears to be an actual inspiration from - or original connection to - higher sources. If you really listen to a master of the east Indian classical music tradition, you can start to hear all other musical forms pouring out of it, including all western classical music.

I just googled a good example of what I'm talking about. Listen to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan sing Qawwali music, and then tell me if you really think our modern western "avante garde" artists (or musicians) even begin to approach his level of artistry (for that matter, some of the divinely inspired architecture in the video provides another good example of real art.)


Content last modified on October 21, 2009, at 05:15 PM EST