Last week the Lord Strathcona 6/7 students explored two exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Artist Carmen Papalia led a series of activities throughout the gallery across two exhibitions; Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg and 空/Emptiness: Emily Carr and Lui Shou Kwan. Beginning in the gallery’s rotunda, the class discussed the history of the Vancouver Art Gallery as the former provincial courthouse. Although now a public art gallery, the gallery should still be remembered as a colonial site where marginalized groups were often put on trial unjustly and consequently incarcerated. Together, everyone acknowledged that they were living, working and playing on the unceded Coast Salish territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.
Proceeding to the 2nd floor, which featured the exhibition, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg, the class split up into pairs and took turns guiding each other throughout the exhibition. In their pairs, one student closed their eyes and was guided by the other. The student with their eyes open would describe the works that they felt drawn too, the architecture of the gallery and other visitors in the room. The student with their eyes shut imagined the gallery and let themselves be guided by the nook of their partner’s elbow.
On the 4th floor, which featured the exhibition 空/Emptiness: Emily Carr and Lui Shou Kwan, the class engaged in another eyes-closed exercise, but this time the group focused on the soundscape of the exhibition. Choosing a spot that they felt comfortable in, the group focused on the acoustic qualities of the room and formed narratives around the artworks based on their aural findings.
At the end of the visit, the class met back in the rotunda. Coming to terms with their reflections on the social etiquette expected at the gallery, the exhibitions, the gallery history and the two activities they engaged in, the class responded by clapping loudly on the two staircases, an outburst of energy at the end of the day that garnered the attention of fellow gallery visitors!
We would like to thank the Vancouver Art Gallery for having us for this very special occasion!