As part of Culture Days celebration CAG Communications Coordinator Jill Henderson tours the work on display and explores the 40 year history of the CAG.
Guided visits are open to the public, providing free opportunities to engage with exhibitions and develop new skills for interpreting contemporary art. We also encourage visits from primary and secondary schools, ESL groups, university and college students and community groups. For more information or to book a guided visit for your group, contact email@example.com or telephone 604 681 2700.
Opening: Thursday, November 20, 7-10pm
November 21, 2014 – January 11, 2015
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents the first solo exhibition of work in North America by renowned Japanese artist Shimabuku. A major career moment, this survey follows recent exhibitions in Europe where he is arguably much better known and provides a crucial opportunity for North American audiences to see his work, an important stage in understanding Shimabuku’s artistic practice.
The exhibition includes pieces dating back to the mid-1990s, when he first emerged as an artist in Japan, through to presenting a wide variety of more recent pieces for which he has since become internationally celebrated, exemplifying an extraordinary curiosity and freedom of expression. Shimabuku uses installation, video, photography, drawings, sculptural pieces and events alike to convey his intense fascination with the natural world—equally the animal and vegetable realms—and the countless manifestations of human culture within it. His artistic proposition is essentially one of discovery. He encourages us to assume an “alien” identity whereby we break with established habits of perception, and enjoy experiences as if they are happening to us for the first time.
From the beginning, incongruity has characterised much of Shimabuku’s work. For example, Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere (1994) is a performance (with subsequent photographic documentation) that involves the artist standing by a railway line in Kobe, in the guise of Father Christmas. Instead of sacks of gifts, he is holding blue plastic bags full of rubbish. The gentle surrealism of the image is compelling. Enchanted by the thought that Christmas occurs during the summer months in the southern hemisphere, he hoped to inspire passengers who might catch a fleeting glimpse of him from the train window, with dreams of Christmas in the summertime. In his work Shimabuku is not so interested in discovering the reasons why, instead preoccupied, through a joyful approach, with unions of myth or mystery and the everyday. This is epitomized by Something that Floats / Something that Sinks (2008), a work through which the artist draws our attention to the fact that some pieces of fruit and vegetables float in water or appear to swim, while others sink. It is as wonderful as it is seemingly miraculous.Likewise, in later works, we see a the artist dressed up as a bear, waiting for days on a park bench with a live octopus, or standing behind a market stall giving away ice cream covered with pepper and salt. Of the latter he explains, “I think cooking and art are similar. They are both about unexpected meetings of far-away ingredients, to create something delicious, something good”.
The inversion of the way things are conventionally seen to be is crucial to Shimabuku’s practice. He is interested in what is normal being made strange and often picks up the theme of the journey in his work, the means by which difference occurs through translation in both time and space.. The photograph Cucumber Journey (2000) commemorates a two week performance travelling slowly north on British canals while learning to pickle vegetables. In his video Then, I decided to give a tour of Tokyo to the octopus from Akashi (2000) we see him with an octopus in a fishtank taking a Shinkansen train to Tokyo. There they make touristic visits to the Tokyo Tower and the famous Tsukiji fish market before getting back on the train for a return trip so that the octopus can be submerged again, back home in the Akashi Sea. The artist refers to this work as his Apollo project, involving as it did an adventure far from the natural habitat of the octopus – the fishtank being the equivalent of a spacecraft – isolated from the surrounding atmosphere so that the octopus could survive its voyage into unfamiliarity. We easily imagine how weird our world must have seemed to the octopus whilst being reminded of how “wonderful” such a creature is from our point of view.
The involvement of others, not only in the consumption but also the production of his work, marks Shimabuku out as a major figure in the recent development of relational art practice. Since his early collaborations with other Japanese artists such as Makoto Nomura and Tadasu Takamine, he has produced many events, interventions and performances that are very open to audiences, to the point that they become active participants. When the Earth Turned to Sea (2002) requires dozens of volunteers to fly Chinese fish kites, the result is a shoal of fish in the sky – or a flock of fish – and so the world is turned upside down. Passing through the rubber band (2000), similarly invites gallery visitors to step through the stretching loops, a simple act of fun and wonder via the most modest of means.
Demonstrating the breadth of Shimabuku’s oeuvre, works reveal an essential correspondence to much that is happening elsewhere in a wider art world. At the same time, the exhibition insists on our grasp of the continuity that exists between art and (non-art) life. Its unpretentiousness is refreshing, and leads us to the conclusion that he is one of the most radical and engaging artists of our times.
The exhibition forms a loose allegiance and is complementary to recent survey exhibitions in Europe, namely Something That Floats, Something That Sinks, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK, July 24 – September 15, 2013, and Flying Me, Kunsthalle Bern, April 4 – May 25, 2014.MORE
My name is Sally, I’m a temporary addition here, volunteering at the CAG, and with my time here hurrying by I wanted to fill you in on how I got here and all the cool stuff I’ve been doing at the CAG.
I’m from the UK and have come to Vancouver for six weeks as part of a four month adventure that has been the most memorable of my life.
My time here is part of a plan that involved leaving all the sensible things in my life, like a job and a flat so that I could stretch my legs over to the West Coast …or I should say, the ‘Best Coast.’
Things took shape after I sent some emails, one to Anchorage Museum in Alaska and the other to the CAG. I have been involved in arts and museum education since University, volunteering or working for different organizations and so I thought it would be brilliant to gain some experience overseas. The reply emails were nerve racking to open but I received, to my delight, welcoming replies. So it was decided and before I knew it I was Alaska bound, looking at the glaciers below wondering what the next four months would bring.
I spent seven weeks in Anchorage, with six of those as a volunteer at the museum getting to develop informal learning activities and facilitate family events. The photo below was taken on my phone in Sitka, onboard a little boat as I looked out for and encountered humpback whales. For me it captures how I feel about my time in Alaska.
After Anchorage I spent a couple of weeks exploring South East Alaska, Seattle and San Francisco before arriving here! My time in Vancouver keeps getting better. At the CAG I have been helping Shaun Dacey and Jas Lally with exciting projects that are teaching me loads. I have been developing learning resources for teachers to accompany the current exhibition, Shimabuku, When Sky Was Sea, helping with the CAGs first Teachers Social as well as the monthly Free Family Day (I am now an Octopus expert… ask me anything!). I have also had the opportunity to get to know the talented team selected for The City in Motion – CAG/TELUS Garden Public Art project, I’ll have to come back to see the final installation!
I have been supported and welcomed by the CAG team, they have made sure that I eat at yummy places, find the best coffee and of course see loads of exciting art. And so I can’t say thank you enough, I’m sure my last week here will be a brilliant conclusion.
- Sally PageMORE
Hello all! My name is Jas Lally and for the next 10 months I will be working as the Programs Assistant. I am excited to work with Shaun Dacey, Curator of Learning and Public Programs, the staff and volunteers at the CAG. I have been working and volunteering in the arts for the past few years and some of you may have seen me at the Vancouver Art Gallery and Access. I worked a the Vancouver Art Gallery for 5 years in Visitor Services and Administration where I was able to meet local and international artists. At Access, where I first met and worked with Shaun, I was able to work one-on-one with the Director/Curator and artists. I really enjoyed this more intimate level of work.
My experiences at both galleries solidified my choice in pursing my Masters in the History of Art which I recently completed at the University of Birmingham, UK. I studied at the Barber Institute of Fine Art where I co-curated an exhibition on portraiture with the Barber and the National Portrait Gallery. I also completed my dissertation on exhibition practices where I examined why textiles change meaning when exhibited. I was able to use Lady Barber’s lace collection as my case study. My time at the Barber gave me perspective and hands on experiences into the multidisciplinary world of curatorial.
My first introduction to the CAG came only three days after starting when I helped set up and greet guests at the CAG’s annual Art Auction. The auction went really well and it was such an exciting way to start a new job! My new role will allow me to help coordinate some interesting learning programs. For example, we recently launched the Telus Garden project, The City in Motion, where 11 young emerging artists are creating an original film to be permanently installed at the new Telus building. Look out for my blog on this project where you can follow along on the progress. I have also started to work with the artist in residence at the Burrard Marina Field House. The CAG recently hosted Fluid Frames: Filmmakers Series with Ben Russell. We hosted a film social at the Field House.
Look back to the CAG’s Blog for exciting updates about what I’m getting up to!
PS: if you haven’t already seen When Sky was Sea by Shimabuku drop by and say hello and sign up to attend one of the talks on the exhibition!
PSS: Did you hear about our exciting new project in partnership with Ballet BC? and in association with the Art|Basel Crowdfunding Initiative and commissioning artists John Wood and Paul Harrison? to find out more click here: http://bit.ly/cagXbbc
See you at the CAG soon! – Jas LallyMORE
We are so happy to be teamed up with Satellite Gallery and Audain Gallery for the Downtown Gallery Tour series.
Every few months, members from the public are invited to spend a Saturday afternoon on three respective tours of the current exhibitions at Audain Gallery (1pm), Satellite Gallery (2pm) and the Contemporary Art Gallery (3pm).
The most recent incarnation of this series took place on Saturday, November 22nd and the next one will likely be in early 2015. Keep your eyes peeled!
Ellie from Satellite Gallery hosted a mail art workshop with a committed group of local art admirers and artists after the final tour. As a result, this morning we received a whole pile of postcards relating to Shimabuku’s exhibition! Everyone at the CAG greatly enjoyed reading and receiving the cards, as it’s always so rewarding to see what people take away from the exhibitions.
Thank you so much to everyone who came out and to those who created and sent the cards!
This could indeed be the beginning of a beautiful friendship…
- Jaclyn BruneauMORE