Romping through the forest on an adventure with wild characters might seem to be a memory from a childhood story, but no matter your age, it does raise the question of our interaction with nature. And with Earth Day just behind us, the themes behind Where the Wild Things…Aren’t? seem especially timely.
The exhibit, which opened on Sunday, contains a variety of work from nine artists, including locals Barbara Cuerden, Stefan Thompson, and Carmella Karijo Rother. It’s been a busy week for curator Cynthia Mykytyshyn (who is currently completing a Master’s degree in Cultural Studies and works part-time at Wall Space), however she took some time to answer a few questions via email, explaining some of the key aspects of the show.
Apt613: How did the initial idea for “Where the Wild Things… Aren’t?” come about?
CM: I’ve always been really interested/concerned with environmental issues. During my undergrad at University of Ottawa, I began looking at how art and the environment intersect, and am currently pursuing a Masters degree in Cultural Studies at Queen’s, focusing on this very thing. Cultural Studies at Queen’s is really supportive of community based work, and I figured an art show would be a great way to bring my interests into the world in a tangible way. The show revolves around a passage from William Cronon that has become pivotal in my thinking about the environment. You can view it here.
What does the word wild mean for you?
Wild is a problematic term that treats everything outside of the ‘human’ as somehow separate, distant, “out there”, object. I almost don’t know what it means anymore because I see it as a cultural construction rather than a “truth”
We’re seeing more and more work being done that focuses on elements from nature and the natural world — a return to nature, if you will. Why do you think this is?
It probably has to do with the widespread paranoia (whether justified or not–there is still debate) about an apocalyptic doomsday scenario where humans completely destroy the planet. We hear a lot about climate change, deforestation, and extinctions these days–it’s all over popular media and news. It’s difficult to ignore and I think it’s getting people nervous and forcing them to return to this idea of ‘nature’ so that we can re-think what we’re doing in and to it.
For someone who hasn’t been to Wall Space Gallery, can you describe some elements in the exhibition?
Wall Space is a wonderful gallery and has proven an ideal space for the exhibition. There are 9 participating artists who’ve created a diversity of works for this show. There is painting, sculpture, photography, installation, video–it’s a really strong group of work, in my opinion. I think it might challenge people a little because the materials are unconventional, which I find REALLY exciting.
What have you learned about your curatorial practice as you’ve been putting “Where the Wild Things… Aren’t” together?
I’ve realized that curating is actually an incredibly creative and stimulating practice, and that the curator plays an essential role in making sure a show ‘makes sense’. It’s more than just a bunch of artwork thrown randomly into a gallery. Every choice is considered–from what text goes on the wall, to how ‘this’ artwork ‘speaks’ to ‘that’ artwork, to what height is ideal for the various components. Plus, you have to orient the viewer so that the show as a whole makes sense–that’s been the most labour-intensive part. The artists did all the work in terms of giving me this wonderful collection to work with, but it’s my job to help guide the viewer through understanding how all of these works speak to a larger concept. It’s been really interesting and I was so lucky to have such great artists to work with.
What will John K. Grande be speaking about on Thursday evening?
John K. Grande has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the art world, particularly regarding art and the environment. He’ll be sharing his knowledge and experience, and hopefully providing a bit of context for environmental art in general. I expect that he will also reflect a bit on the exhibition. It’s open to the public and it’s free so it’s worth people coming to hear what he has to say.
Where the Wild Things… Aren’t? runs until Sunday, May 6. Join John K. Grande at Wall Space for a discussion about the exhibition on Thursday, April 26 at 7:00pm.