Curator Sanaz Mazinani’s show The Third Space is wrapping up this weekend at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. MIXED BAG MAG caught up with this busy and multi-talented woman whose career as an artist, educator and curator has her bifurcating herself between Toronto and San Francisco. In the second part (read Part 1 here) of MIXED BAG MAG’s look into the work of contemporary Iranian art Sanaz offers historical background to the contemporary foreground of some of the work included The Third Space and the symbolic and visual power of script.
The History of Calligraphy in Persia
Persian Calligraphy has had a significant effect on the enhancement of Persian arts and culture. The various Iranian Calligraphic styles, such as Taliq, Nastaliq, Naskh, Thulth, Reqa, Towqi, Shekasteh, and Kufic each carry with them an emblem of an era of history. These decorative scripts allow the reader to visually enjoy the composition of the word, in a wholly new way, providing the viewer with multiple levels of engagement with the work of art.
Contemporary use of calligraphy by Iranian artists
Many Iranian artists find inspiration in the traditional forms of Persian Calligraphy. However, few are able to successfully marry the traditional forms of calligraphy with a contemporary voice in new and successful ways. One of these artists is Gita Hashemi, whose recent project “The Book of Illuminations” is featured in “The Third Space” exhibition. In this work Hashemi explores the intersection between politics and the personal through calligraphic representations of culturally charged words. Her calligraphy paintings do not merely render poetic verses, but aim to unpack the meaning behind words that we use on a daily basis to symbolically question cultural in-tolerances. One example uses the word “غربتی” which is a derogatory term that comes from the root word “غربت” and means the longing for one’s homeland. But used as an offensive term, it takes on a new meaning and refers to that person as someone who does not belong, and does not fit into the norm. These terms shown here in proximity to the personal narration of the artist’s life writing speak to the expectations placed on us and the limitations of societal benchmarks. Hashemi’sThe Book of Illuminations is a fresh approach to the long tradition of calligraphy from Iran and uses a feminist perspective to challenge this traditionally male-dominated, decorative practice by inserting the political into the equation.
In another project, Toronto based artist, Sona Safaei, uses the Farsi and English alphabet and essay writing styles to uncover the differences in the two languages, which intern demonstrate alternative ways of thinking through a subject. Her process often engages with lost meanings in translations, as she questions the possibility of communications across cultures through looking at the self and the feelings associated with otherness. In The Third Space exhibition, Safaei-Sooreh two works respond to the meeting of two languages (English and Farsi). In Alphabet, the viewer finds herself in front of a split screen video as the camera tracks two alphabets being hand written in pencil – one in English, from left to right, and the other in Farsi, from right to left. A dense and textured sound enhances the experience of watching each gesture. The sounds from the left and right videos combine in a seamless collaboration. An amalgamation occurs precisely at the moment when the video loop comes to a close and both sets of alphabets have been written out tin their entirety. This charming momentary union marks an important occurrence, as the English alphabet includes 26 letters and the Persian alphabet 32, this serendipitous synchronicity signals a potential for cohesion of these two cultures. Safaei-Sooreh’s second work titled, Border is a dual channel video installation in which two sets of texts on the subject of art intersect at the corner of a room. The writing disappears on the borderline where adjacent walls meet, creating a unique experience for the viewer, as the piece examines the duality of experiences always at play in transcultural situations.
Music, Visual & Performance Art in James Street North area of Hamilton, Ontario.
There is always lots to do in the city but there is also always a reason to get away and this weekend Hamilton’s SuperCrawl 2013 offers as good a reason as any because this successful festival, now in its 5th year, is expected to draw of crowd of over 80,000 and will feature music, visual and performance art!
SOME OF THE SUPERCRAWL HIGHLIGHTS:
1. Brooklyn Artist Jason Krugman
Jason Krugman is an artist who invents new applications for LED lighting technology. His work combines materials with electronics, referencing nature through accumulation and modularity. His studio produces large-scale LED cable systems as well as installation artworks for public spaces and events. Read more…
BGL is a collective of three Québécois artists (Jasmin Bilodeau, Sébastien Giguère and Nicolas Laverdière) whose productions find their pleasure in breaking down the distance between art and audience, bringing the viewer into a vivid and active experience. Read more…
3. Canadian Muralists Alexa Hatanaka & Patrick Thompson
Alexa Hatanaka and Patrick Thompson’s work encourages individuals who see, interact and move through their artworks to rethink, contemplate and renew their relationships to their environment. They are a team that values public art and collaboration, and together they paint large-scale murals using latex and aerosol. Their work combines colourful figures and stream-of-consciousness mark-making. Read more…
4. Circus Orange
“Our show at Super Crawl this year will be a custom ensemble of a number of our more awesome show components fit together seamlessly to create a spectacular twenty-five minute long performance. The show will consist of the following elements: Our pedal powered flying Pyrocopter, a flying opera singer with a dramatic pyro waterfall, our truly original flamethrower trampoline act, a crane based aerial silks performance (suspended underneath the Pyrocopter), fire/pyro performers and our animated hydraulic lift stage. All this will be staged with special effects and high-elevation pyrotechnic highlights. It will be great!” Read more…
Shows starts at 8:05 Saturday, Sept 14 at the Circus Orange Event Area
5. Superbrawl by Hammer City Roller Girls
This year the Hammer City Roller Girls are excited to hold their annual outdoor roller derby bout as part of Supercrawl, Hamilton’s premier festival for music, arts, and performance – and now roller derby! SuperBRAWL will place on Saturday, September 14 at 2:00 pm on the skatepad at Hamilton Waterfront Trust’s Pier 8, as part of Supercrawl’s new Waterfront stage.
“Deserts that we made, that we provoked with our own hands.”
The beauty of Sebastião Salgado’s message in Genesis? That the solution really is so simple! It’s not without hard work but if we want to start to reverse the damage done it is doable and Sebastião has proven it with his own hands on his own land.
Upon inheriting his parent’s cattle ranch in Brasil, the rainforest that was already almost 50% gone when he was a child was now diminished to 0.5%. Experiencing the devastation of the deforestation that had occurred over the decades of living far away, the love of his life, his wife Lélia, dared him with a “crazy idea.”
“Why don’t you put back the rainforest that was here before. You told me you were born in paradise. Let’s build paradise again.” And so began Instituto Terra.
GENESIS is a global call to action.
Steven Laurie, the Associate Project Manger at the ROM, recounts this story:
I was lucky enough to have a brief conversation with a visitor in the gallery a few days after Genesis opened to the public. The individual, who was in their mid 20’s, questioned Sebastião Salgado’s notion of untouched landscapes by presenting a compelling argument: “The landscapes, people and animals depicted in the photos cannot be removed or isolated from the environmental impacts experienced globally.”
While initially Salgado’s idea of untouched landscapes presented a problem for the visitor, it also provided a great starting point for a richer conservation. We discussed how Genesis, conceptually from title to the photos shown, communicates a desire to prospect a “truth” or in the least seek an “origin” from which to measure, map or index change. From this viewpoint, the visitor suggested the idea of Genesis possibly being a story created to incite environmental activism through an individual’s “revelation” and journey for “faith”. He finished our chat by saying, “You can’t fault Salgado for trying!”
“Curated by Lélia Wanick Salgado, GENESIS takes you on a journey to rediscover the far corners of the world and urges you to consider what is left of our planet, what is in peril and what is left to be saved.”
The images in the exhibit that moved me the most were the ones where human beings are wrapped in the intimacy of their relationship with their environment. I am in agreement that the people pictured in the images cannot be “removed or isolated” from the rest of the world and are part of the cumulative impact but what comes forth from their relationship to their environment is an understanding of how to innovate with design – design that is sustainable leaving the lightest of footprints.
Sebastião’s images of the Nenets of Siberia show the lightness of being that comes with a nomadic culture that follows the seasons for the sake of their reindeer herds. Easy come. Easy go. The freedom of a sustainable lifestyle.
Important lessons for a post-modern world weighed down by the burdens of a lifestyle of accumulation.
GENESISCLOSES THIS LABOUR MONDAY, SEPT 2. DON’T MISS YOUR CHANCE TO SEE THIS MOVING & BEAUTIFUL EXHIBIT!
More than several times a day my heartbreaks as I watch what comes through my Facebook feed, like today as more information regarding the children of Syria killed by chemical weapons punctuated a moment. In these Orwellian times when we discover that Big Brother is indeed watching the wonder of the internet and social media is that we are watching too. We participate in bearing witness.
The other stunning quality of social media is that for every story that crushes me and makes me weep there are double, even triple, stories of action and resistance that offer hope and inspiration.
For example, my feed also includes what’s happening right now at Canada’s major cultural institutions and auxiliary events and projects surrounding these exhibits. We have amazing curatorial teams that have produced shows that challenge the Chinese Government’s position on Human Rights, Canada’s policies on Aboriginal issues and the Economy of Oil, and global attitudes regarding the Environment.
My concern – do we walk away from these shows changed at a deep core level? Do we return to our daily lives radically motivated to stop being part of the problem and act in service of social justice and environmental causes? Will we change our level of comfort for the sake of stopping someone else’s pain or the loss of natural resources?
I pray that all the illumination will indeed cause a spiritual shift towards a tipping point that will alter the world. I want to see civilizations that are socially and environmentally just because today as children’s lives are ended by chemical warfare in Syria in this country Aboriginal women are being sold into the sex trade and the land along with the women is being violated.
It’s time to get radical folks.
What we experience in these exhibits can be our entry points into living with intention.
RECOMMENDED SHOWS THAT WILL CHANGE PERSPECTIVES:
Sakahàn@ The National Gallery, Ottawa on until Sept 2
“For centuries, colonialism has been the cause of suffering, oppression and violence perpetuated against Indigenous people in Canada and many other countries. But attributing the rise of resistance, activism and the associated art to colonialism itself is disingenuous. The destructive ideologies inherent in colonialism are manifest by the interactions of people. The events caused by these interactions change people and their societies. Indigenous art is not predicated on “colonialism,” but on the events that it causes…Ghost Dance examines the role of the artist as activist, as chronicler and as provocateur in the ongoing struggle for Indigenous rights and self-empowerment.”Steve Loft, more on RIC’s website
“Say Their Names, Remember” by Chinese artist / activist Ai Weiwei taking place from noon to 5 pm, August 18, 2013 at the AGO, Toronto.
When the government fails its citizens we can still participate in creating a space for remembrance, healing and change. In conjunction with Ai Weiwei’s exhibit “According to What” the AGO is hosting a community memorial for the children who were lost in the Sichuan Earthquake of 2008.
Community Art Performance
Sunday, August 18, noon to 5:00 p.m.
Five years after the devastating earthquake in China’s Sichuan province on May 12, 2008, close to 300 community members will join together at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) for Say Their Names, Remember to honour the memory of the thousands of school children who perished that day. Inspired by provocative Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s powerful artworks Remembrance (2010) and Names of the Student Earthquake Victims Found by the Citizens’ Investigation (2008-11), the community participants will read out 5,200 names in a poignant remembrance.
Say Their Names, Remember is directed by Toronto artist Gein Wong, Artistic Director of Eventual Ashes.
For those unable to attend but who would like to watch from home, we will be live-streaming the performance here.
The children were attending schools that had been carelessly constructed in China’s boom expansion. Part of the problem – rebar snapped during the quake causing the schools walls to collapse concrete onto the children.
In an act of outrage at the Chinese government’s (mis)treatment of the destruction, Ai launched a social media campaign to begin a citizen’s investigation into the disaster and to create a full list of the names of the missing / dead.
As well Ai and his crew went onsite to the wreckage of the schools and collected the rebar. His work seen here, “Straight”, is the result.
The crooked metal was straightened out and the 38 tons laid intimately on top each other to construct a rising and falling landscape of metal.
“Straight” is not the only work to come out of the wreckage of the earthquake.
“Remembering” and “Snake Ceiling” are installations made from children’s backpacks also collected at site of the earthquake.
“Remembrance” is an audio recording of people from around the world reading the names of the children.
“Names of the Student Earthquake Victims Found by the Citizen Investigation”, also seen here, is a document turned into an installation of the compiled list of all the names of the children.
AGO engages the community in an act of remembering.
This Sunday, August 18 AGO is inviting the community of Toronto to participate in an act of remembering the lost children of the Sichuan Earthquake. From noon to 5 pm at the AGO the names of the 5000+ children will be read out loud in an collaborative performance by those who attend.
I was determined and praying to the Gods & Goddesses of Transport that they would remove all obstacles one may encounter when riding the TTC.
I made it. A little late but it was worth the sprint up to Fort York from Bathurst, camera bag and all.
What a stunning venue! The open air, the smell of the fires, the grass covered hills, old rock walls and the cityscape in behind. The context was beautiful but the visual juxtaposition points to an unfortunate history. The Honouring is:
“a site-specific multi-disciplinary performance honouring First Nations warriors of the War of 1812, featuring Onkwehonwe families who sacrificed to protect Haudenosaunee sovereignty, culture and land. Audiences have the opportunity to understand the complexity of the War of 1812 through the experiential lens of First Nations, offering a human face to our history. All First Nations took part in the War of 1812 as sovereign Nation allies to Britain.The Honouringpays homage to their personal sacrifices and belief in what was the best for their family, community and future generations.” More info…
Here’s a sampling of just how stunning the work of Kaha:wi is:
“Kaha:wi Dance Theatre (KDT) is one of Canada’s leading contemporary dance companies, recognized for its seamless fusing of indigenous and contemporary dance into a compelling signature choreographic vision.”Read more…
All of these organizations, programs, artists, and exhibitions work to dismantle the legacy of stereotypes that has stopped the dominant culture from seeing the dimensionality that we all carry within us as creative human beings as well as offer a critical voice regarding not only Canada’s First Peoples but Indigenous Peoples from around the world.
The below list focuses on Aboriginal arts in Canada and predominantly new media /visual artists. Stay tuned for a part two that will include much more!
ARTS ORGANIZATIONS AND GALLERIES THAT FOCUS ON CONTEMPORARY FIRST NATIONS, MÉTIS, INUIT & INDIGENOUS CULTURE
ImagineNATIVE Film & Media Festival (Toronto) “The imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival celebrates the latest works by Indigenous peoples at the forefront of innovation in film, video, radio, and new media. Each fall, imagineNATIVE presents a selection of the most compelling and distinctive Indigenous works from around the globe.”More info…
Planet Indigenus (Toronto)
“Since 2004, Planet Indigenus, in partnership with Brantford, Ontario’s Woodland Cultural Centre, has explored such ancestry and cultures through Indigenous artists. Through a 10-day, international, multidisciplinary arts festivals attended by over 700,000 people… Planet IndigenUS has raised public awareness, broken stereotypes and fostered a cross-cultural dialogue between Canadians.”More info…
Woodlands Cultural Centre (Brantford) “The Woodland Cultural Centre was established in October 1972 under the direction of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians upon the closure of the Mohawk Institute Residential School. The Centre originally began its focus on collecting research and artifacts to develop its library and museum collections.”More info…
Urban Shaman (Winnipeg) “Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art is a nationally recognized leader in Aboriginal arts programming and one of the foremost venues and voices for Aboriginal art in Canada.”More info…
Grunt Gallery (Vancouver)
“Grunt is an artist-run centre founded in 1984 in Vancouver, BC, with a vision to be an international renowned artist-run centre furthering contemporary art practice. Through the exploration of our diverse Canadian cultural identity we offer innovative public programming in exhibitions, performances, artist talks, publications and special projects.” More info…
AbTec (Montreal) “AbTeC is a network of academics, artists and technologists whose goal is to define and share conceptual and practical tools that will allow us to create new, Aboriginally-determined territories within the web-pages, online games, and virtual environments that we call cyberspace.” More info…
CURRENT & RECENT EXHIBITIONS CONTEMPORARY FIRST NATIONS, MÉTIS, INUIT & INDIGENOUS CULTURE
Indigenous & Urban @ The Museum of Civilization (Ottawa) OPENING TODAY! “Live. Engaging. Diverse. Inspired and challenged by contemporary urban life,Canadian Indigenous artists address issues of identity and stereotypes through humorous and thought-provoking works. Indigenous and Urbanis a summer-long program featuring visual and media arts, music, dance, film, readings and interactive workshops.” More info…
IN THE FLESH (Ottawa)
“In the Flesh examines the hierarchical relationship between humans and animals within a cultural and museological context, and investigates colonial politics, as well as issues of gender as they relate to the mastery of the natural world…In the Flesh grants us visual access to nature while calling into question the politics of representation. As the guest catalogue essayist Ariel Smith notes: “With In the Flesh, the Ottawa Art Gallery participates in a city-wide indigenization of gallery spaces to coincide with the National Gallery of Canada’s Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art exhibition. This indigenization does not exist within a vacuum, and we must reflect on the ways in which these acts of claiming space respond to and are in conversation with both the current and historical politics of Indigenous cultural sovereignty.””More info…
Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art (Ottawa)
CURRENTLY RUNNING UNTIL SEPT 2, 2013 “Sakahàn—meaning “to light [a fire]” in the language of the Algonquin peoples—brings together more than 150 works of recent Indigenous art by over 80 artists from 16 countries, celebrating the National Gallery’s ongoing commitment to the study and appreciation of Indigenous art. This exhibition is the first in an ongoing series of surveys of Indigenous art. The artworks in Sakahàn provide diverse responses to what it means to be Indigenous today. Through their works, the artists engage with ideas of self-representation to question colonial narratives and present parallel histories; place value on the handmade; explore relationships between the spiritual, the uncanny and the everyday; and put forward highly personal responses to the impact of social and cultural trauma. The artworks range from video installations to sculptures, drawings, prints, paintings, performance art, murals and other new, site-specific projects created specifically for this exhibition.”More info…
“Border Cultures: Part One (homes, land) brings together artists working locally and nationally with those exploring these issues in Ireland, Mexico, Palestine to list a few. Using drawing and printmaking, sculpture and photography, video and sound-based installations, artists in this exhibition develop nuanced critiques and perspectives on questions of nationhood, citizenship and identity in the border-lands” More Info…
Beat Nation (Toronto) 2013 “Beat Nation describes a generation of artists who juxtapose urban youth culture with Aboriginal identity to create innovative and unexpected new works that reflect the current realities of Aboriginal peoples today. ”More info…
Fashionality @ The McMichael (Kleinberg) 2012 “Fashionality” is a newly coined term that refers to the visual culture and semiotics of dress and adornment. Combining the words “fashion,” “personality,” and “nationality,” it reflects the interplay between clothing, identity, and culture.”More info…
Poster for Fashionality featuring the work of KC Adams.
Not So Fast | NSF (Toronto) 2012 “Objects tell a story and reveal a history through the way they are made. In the current state of late-capitalism, value is often measured in terms of speed and efficiency. NOT SO FAST | NSFinvites a reconsideration of time and place to present different kinds of value. This exhibition brings together works by seven Indigenous artists who address the many products and by-products of consumer society.”More info…
2012 “In aboDIGITAL, Mi’kmaw artist Jordan Bennett examines the interface of audio-visual technologies and the internet with his First Nations heritage. Bennett’s art deftly blends such seemingly disparate elements as Mi’kmaq worldview, hip hop culture, ceremonial practice and graffiti aesthetics, creating dynamic works that express the fluidity, vitality and continuity of Aboriginal cultures in the present.” More info…
Decolonize Me (Ottawa) 2011 “Decolonize Me features six contemporary Aboriginal artists whose works challenge, interrogate and reveal Canada’s long history of colonization in daring and innovative ways. Deliberately riffing on the title of Morgan Spurlock’s film, the pop-cultural phenomenon Super Size Me (2004), the exhibition’s title emphasizes the importance of recognizing the role of the individual within larger discussions of shared colonial histories and present-day cultural politics.” More info…
Inuit Modern @ The AGO (Toronto) 2011
“The exhibition considers how the Inuit have coped with and responded to the swift transition from a traditional lifestyle to one marked by the disturbing complexities of globalization and climate change.” More info…
& The Inuit Modern Symposium
“Inuit artists and thinkers reflected on this statement during a three-part online symposium... It explored the questions: What are the current issues affecting Inuit art today and how has modernity complicated life in Canada’s far North? How has Inuit art changed the way that Canada and Inuit are viewed internationally?”More on…
Close Encounters: The Next 500 Years 2011 “A banner project for Winnipeg Cultural Capital of Canada 2010 Program comprised of a large-scale exhibition focused on presenting Indigenous art from around the world. This is an incredibly important show, featuring the work of a number of renowned Canadian Indigenous artists, complemented by some of the most innovative and engaging work drawn from Indigenous populations across the globe” More info…
The content on MIXED BAG MAG is about exploring the possibilities of what a new cultural landscape could look like in Canada. The people in projects listed above are our contemporary storytellers that are assembling an inspired mythology that has as its centre core values regarding the protection of our peoples and our environment.
Aboriginal cultural provocateurs are playing a key role in compelling Canadians to re-think identity and the national narrative.
It’s fitting that Andrew Dexel’s work should follow MIXED BAG MAG’s post on the Journey of Nishiyuu. Andrew is another example of how young Aboriginal voices are getting our attention regarding the importance of referencing Indigenous Knowledge as a source for solutions to today’s problems.
Hailing from Vancouver, Andrew is from the Nlaka’pamux Nation. His work acknowledges the clash of values we have in Canada yet in its own way bridges the gap as he soothes the viewer with an artistic remedy.
“My work relates my spiritual path; my journey. I express the inspiration lovingly given to me through teachings and stories from my elders and mentors. My work embodies the powerful visions that I have been given through these teachings. I am grateful. My work is a modern expression embodying the symbolic abstract inspired by my home: Coast Salish Territory.” ~ Andrew (Enpaauk) Dexel
“A fusion between graffiti and North West Coast Art”
“Ceremony and spirit, transformative art and ancient knowledge, these are themes throughout Nlaka’pamux artist, Andrew Dexel’s work…the voices of younger artists like Dexel who are working to fuse indigenous perspectives, aesthetics and tradition within new forms and materials are the cutting edge of ‘Native’ art. Dexel’s earlier work with graffiti art and street art led him to looking more diligently at Westcoast formline design and really solidified his ideas in line work. His unique palette, comes in part from this graffiti reference and also from the world of ceremony, the explosion of colour is a form of medicine, blowing up our expectations and creating new forms and ideas with diverse starting points. One part medicine, one part magic Dexel’s new body of work continues his exploration in healing and indigenous plant wisdom and ceremonial culture, with the beauty of his lines, the hopefulness of his palette and the spiritual animism that populate his canvasses.” ~ Tania Willard (co-curator of Beat Nation)
Andrew is part of a growing movement of contemporary Aboriginal artists who hover in the in-between space of traditional and modern. These artists blend together indigenous knowledge of healing with a street smart aesthetic. It is here that Andrew (Enpaauk) Dexel moves fluidly. He offers us “visual medicine.” Experience the healing.
“Dexel’s new body of work continues his exploration in healing and indigenous plant wisdom and ceremonial culture”
Re-contextualizing and re-energizing the Art Gallery of Ontario space with a eclectic and provocative set of performances.
At the tail end of 2012 AGO introduced a new event – 1st Thursdays – that has been running the first Thursday of the month ever since. And it is always SOLD OUT. What to expect? Interactivity, performance, unique giveaways, live music, and a well dressed crowd. And of course, art. For the price of the ticket ($10) you get full access to the Gallery as well as entertainment by provocative Canadian acts like the Yamantaka Sonic Titan (self described as a multidisciplinary hyper-orientalist cesspool of ‘east’ meets ‘west’ culture clash) and Indi DJ collective A Tribe Called Red.
“Their innovative blend of underground club sounds with pow wow music has reached a much wider audience than they’d imagined when they started throwing their monthly parties in Ottawa in 2008. And no one could have predicted the role they’d play in promoting a wider dialogue around aboriginal rights.” (read more on www.nowtoronto.com)
Tonight the AGO snagged “Godmother of Punk”, Patti Smith, as the performance of the month to coincide with AGO’s show Camera Solo an exhibition of Patti’s beautiful photography.
“Smith, known for her improvisational approach, looks for process-based accidents. Going through the exhibition, I was reminded of a line from “25th Floor,” a song on her second album Easter: “The transformation of waste is perhaps the oldest preoccupation of man.” It is certainly Smith’s preoccupation, an imbibing of Mapplethorpe’s Catholic attachment to the object-world, and to a belief in transubstantiation, resurrection and other forms of metamorphosis.” (read more on www.canadianart.ca)
A definite unique time, if you want to get to next’s month 1st Thursday, plan ahead!! Follow @AGOToronto & #AGO1ST to catch the moment tickets go on sale for April’s event.
Balloon Sculpture by artist Willy Chyr. Image courtesy the artist.
On a chilled night in a 2011 I walked quickly down Ossington Ave to meet up with friends to tour around Toronto for Nuit Blanche. Just beyond an open doorway my eye caught a glimpse of a mass of balloons twisting up and sprouting out in controlled chaos. Interesting. Weirdly beautiful. I was intrigued and stopped for a second but then quickly moved on to grab my friends downtown. I figured I would come back later.
Well later never came. My big regret of Nuit Blanche 2011 was not investigating this strange sculpture further. Usually I am the kind of person to take the time to pause so I reprimanded myself for being in too much of a hurry to stop and “smell” the roses art. I knew that I had to find out the what, who, and how behind this project. The brief mental snapshot I took that night was stuck in my mind’s eye and it wasn’t leaving.
Flash forward a couple of weeks later. I was at my monthly networking group Design with Dialogue. One can always expect to meet inspiring minds at DwD and that night I was about to meet someone quite special. When the evening wrapped people did the usual swap of contact deets and I walked away with a business card that had a unique image on the front. A few days later I looked up the website on the card and I realized I had found my “who” behind the brilliant balloons.
“Oh my gosh! You’re the Balloon Man!” I wrote to Willy Chyr then gushed on about how insanely-crazy-gorgeous-joyful his work was.
Balloon Sculpture by artist Willy Chyr. Image courtesy the artist.
Since then I have been following the rapid growth of Willy’s career. Expanding almost as fast as he can fill the balloons with air he has been busy making his mark on contemporary art. What I also love about his work is that its uniqueness arises from the fact that Willy truly is one of those people whose brain fires off inspiration in equal parts from both right and left hemispheres. Willy’s degree in Physics and Economics informs his art.
While earning his degree at the University of Chicago Willy “joined Le Vorris & Vox Circus and performed as a juggler, unicyclist, and magician. It was during his time in the circus that Willy learned how to twist balloons.” (cited from www.willychyr.com)
Willy’s educational and career twists and turns are as interesting as his balloon installations. I am delighted he had the courage to take the road less traveled. In the 21st Century minds that can move with ease between disciplines to fuse the generative source that is the seed of creative genius are going to change the world. For better! We will benefit in many ways from their illuminations and discoveries.