'Lost in Transit' makes item collections into abstract art

Exhibit finds creativity in ephemera

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Luggage

Joyce Wang

LOOKS LIKE COURTNEY LOVE LEFT HER SUITCASE AT LAX. SADLY, DRUGS WERE MISSING. "Lost In Transit" features collections similar to this one, Hannah Siteman's "A Case Of Seduction," at the John Labatt Visual Arts Centre.

When people think of collecting things, stamps and other obscure items typically come to mind.

“Lost In Transit,” the latest exhibit to hit the John Labatt Visual Arts Centre, applies the concept of collecting to everyday items and abstract perceptions.

The pieces are showcased on a conveyor belt, accompanied by noises of an active airport terminal and projected images of a fluctuating social space.

Susan Edelstein, who teaches the Introduction to Gallery Practices class hosting the project, says many objects in everyday life are unconscious personal collections.

“It was a surprise to the students,” Edelstein says. “They felt as though they didn’t know anything about collecting, and when they looked closely in their homes, they discovered all kinds of collections.”

This exhibit takes accumulated objects and, by placing them in a gallery setting, compels the viewer to consider their meanings.

Student Kerry Porter focused her piece, “An Accidental Collection,” on her experiences living with Type-One Diabetes.

Porter has to take upwards of four injections of insulin per day.

“I can’t throw out my needles,” she says. “So when I thought about this in the context of a gallery collection, it seemed to gain artistic validity.”

Her piece " a duffel bag full of bottled needles " demonstrates this idea in a visually overt manner, making viewers consider their own easily discarded collections.

The show also looks at the accumulation of intangible entities. Lulu Wei addresses the retention of memories in her work “Tangible Memories.”

Wei incorporated her enjoyment of photography with the desire for a visual reference of meaningful events.

“It’s about trying to collect the ground you walk on and make those memories tangible,” she says.

Wei’s briefcase includes a host of images she took of her own feet in different locations, along with the shoes in the photographs and a map documenting her journeys.

Similarly, Chris Magowan collects sound in his own piece, “The Terminal,” a work featuring a duffel bag accompanied by headphones, which recorded the noises within the London International Airport.

“We hear ambient noises all the time, and I wanted to take those passing moments and collect them,” Magowan says. “Airports and art galleries are both transient spaces. Things are either coming in or going out. I wanted to approach this concept in my piece.”

Pamela Vega examined conflicting ideas of beauty in “Collecting Beauty,” a delicate bag holding contents typically deemed disgusting from an aesthetic point of view, including disposable razors and used hair-removal waxing strips.

“By seeing [such undesirable objects], we’re confronted with these notions of beauty and can come to terms with why we think they’re such bad things,” Vega says.

“Lost In Transit” places gallery observers in an active role of thinking about collections in their own lives. Everyone collects something, whether they’re aware of it or not.

Lost In Transit runs March 9 to 15 in the ArtLAB at the John Labatt’s Visual Arts Centre.

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