Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Couches in 108: A Group Exhibition

When tasked with creating an exhibition for the Point Gallery, we were given the theme of public engagement. Our goal was to get as many students as possible to come down to the Point Gallery and participate in our exhibition. When brainstorming ways of getting people to come to the gallery we thought of the couches in the library. Everyone always rushes to the couches and tries to get the best spot for themselves and their friends. For our show, we decided to explore this obsession by bringing couches down to the gallery...but our artistic process didn’t end here.
We were inspired by Vancouver artist Ken Lum’s piece Red Circle, in which he created a couch that challenged the convention and efficiency of furniture.

We liked the idea of the awkward couch that Lum used and decided to explore this concept of awkward-comfort.
We sourced four couches from around the school and each day, we arranged them in new unconventional positions that not only challenged how visitors interacted with the furniture, but also how they interacted with the people around them in accordance to how the couches were set up.

During each lunch period, we took photos of people interacting with the space and displayed them in a linear arrangement on the gallery wall. This created a timeline of sorts and served as documentary evidence of how the exhibit evolved each day, as well a method of creating intrigue. As the exhibition began to take off, we noticed that certain students returned to the space just to see if they were captured in the previous days’ round of photos.

Every day we noticed differences in how people responded to the exhibit: when there was more comfort and it was less awkward, more people came but didn’t understand that they were participating in an art intervention. When the couches were more awkward and less comfortable, less people came but those that did come understood the intention of the show.

The best set ups were when the couches were positioned in a way that was awkward, but didn’t impede on the conversations between people. The spiral pattern on Day 5, and the corner arrangement on Day 6 had the best mix of the two elements and drew the perfect crowd with a good size and mindset.

Over the course of our seven day exhibition, certain regulars started showing up but new people continued to arrive every day.
Our forms of advertisement included a Facebook page, where we posted daily photos and information about upcoming events, posters that we hung throughout the hall ways, and many announcements over the P.A. In our advertisements we concentrated solely on one phrase: “Couches in Room 108”. The repetition of this vague line conveyed what we were doing in its simplest form, but also sparked intrigue.
The show had certain aspects that made it a success and certain aspects that were failures. It was successful in the way that we got huge crowds down to the isolated room and made it known that the Point Gallery existed. On the other hand, the crowd that came to the gallery was dominated by Grade 12s who were only looking for somewhere to sit.
This conflict could also be partially attributed to the fact that prior to our exhibition, the majority of the student body was not aware that Room 108 was in fact an art gallery.
But it is understandable how this mistake could be made. From the checkered floors, to the frosted windows, to the chairs and tables stored in the space, the Point Gallery looks more like a retro storage room than a typical art gallery. It is far from being the typical “white cube” that people are used to. This led us to question how context plays a role in the outcome of interactive exhibitions. It would be interesting to recreate this experiment in a space where it was obvious that one shouldn’t interact with the couches and observe how the exchanges would modified.

Looking back at the exhibit there were certain things that could have been done differently to attract a more diverse crowd. Many of the younger students seemed to be intimidated by the Grade 12s and wouldn’t stay for long. There should have been signs showing people where Room 108 was actually located and we should have been more proactive about getting the younger grades to come to the gallery.

Overall, although Couches in Room 108 had its pitfalls, we learned a lot about collaboration and what it takes to put together an art exhibition. We would like to thank everyone who participated and supported our show, as well as Mr. Long, Mr. Enns, and Kirsten Hermanson for letting us borrow your couches.

-Aly Slobodov, Cosette Bote, Kevin McCallum, Kiel Torres

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