How Soon Is Now

“How Soon Is Now” is an exhibition that is happening now until May 3rd, 2009 at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The exhibition introduces selected artists from the province of British Columbia whose work utilizes range of forms such as sculpture, painting, video, audio installation work and more.
In one part of the gallery, a series of works that are bizarre yet at the same time eye pleasing, is Brendan Lee Saish Tang’s Manga Ormolu. Tang, born in Dublin and raised in Nanaimo BC, links his interest in hybridity to his family background, which includes a number of generations of ethnic intermarriage and intercontinental migration across India, China, Trinidad, Ireland and Canada.

Brendan Tang (in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery)

Manga Ormolu enters the dialogue on contemporary culture, technology, and globalization through the relationship between ceramic tradition (using the form of Chinese Ming dynasty vessels) and techno-Pop Art. The futuristic update of the Ming vessels recalls the 18th century French gilded ormolu, where historic Chinese vessels were transformed into curiosity pieces for aristocrats. But here, robotic prosthetics inspired by anime (Japanese animation) and manga (the beloved comics and picture novels of Japan) subvert elitism with the accessibility of popular culture (Brendan Tang—Artist’s Website).
The title “How Soon Is Now” evokes one characteristic of the work in the exhibition: a sense of immediacy that speaks to the present moment (19th issue of Glance, news and event of the Vancouver Art Gallery). Through developed technology, it is un-questionable that the world is coming closer. Hence, Tang’s work flawlessly fits with the title of the exhibition and just like his background he has created work that mirrors the hybridization as a cultural effect of globalization.

Raymond Boisjoly—Expanding Fields. Christmas lights and wooden construction.

Wood and lights compose Raymond Boisjoly’s Beginnings and Latecomers, a unique hybrid of cultural ideas.  Made of yellow cedar, the sculpture is adorned by Christmas lights of different colours.  The lights form to outline figures similar to those found on totem poles.  This mixture of West Coast Native symbolism with Christian-based tradition evokes a strange juxtaposition, creating an odd, desecrated version of a totem pole.  
Boisjoly offers a unique translation of local Aboriginal tradition and culture. His representation of a totem pole, bright lights and all, is one for the modern, market-oriented world.  Today, artists are expected to go beyond their local art communities and serve and appeal to a more global market.  I see Boisjoly’s work as a critique of this idea, bringing to the viewer’s attention how Native culture has become a cheap commodity.  Aboriginal icons and beliefs have been appropriated time and again in order to make money in the name of celebrating local art tradition.  This is at the expense of true Native culture, however, as traditions are boxed up into packaged products for the mass consumer.

Noah Becker in the studio. Photo Big Tiny Smalls

Noah Becker’s piece entitled, Dysfunctional Landscape, is currently being featured at the “How Soon Is Now”.  This artist’s work is labelled as “commenting on contemporary culture.”  Becker’s, Dysfunctional Landscape, consists of a mountain structure broken down with levels of several tiers, containing both objects and human figures.  This frame provides the piece with a downward motion, containing an end when the bottom of the work is reached.  In the depiction, objects appear to be passed and shared.  Some are left on the floor, while others are in use.  These individual abstract fragments include a person with a marionette puppet and the act of building in progress.  While all these individual identities are presented in the piece, so are segregated entities. 
The notion of globalization is here evident.  Individuals choose to partake as consumers in the shared concepts and notions of cultures outside of their own, even if they are not aware of their involvement.  Together people are building a universal point of recognition; however humans are still members of their personal culture.  The scattered objects represent the notion that there is no infinite answer to the implications of globalization.  Cultural overlap exists, however no one is quite sure how to encompass identity into a single definition.  In other words, the lack of certainty of the meaning and repercussions of globalization is represented.

Other Artists in the exhibition:
Jackson 2bears, Abbas Akhavan, Sonny Assu, Cedric, Nathan and Jim Bomford, Aaron Carpenter, Hadley+Maxwell, Antonia Hirsch, Allison Hrabluik, Instant Coffee, Christian Kliegel, Germaine Koh, Laiwan, Kristi Malakoff, Kyla Mallett, Luanne Martineau, Damian Moppett, The Music Appreciation Society, Lucy Pullen, Marina Roy, Samuel Roy-Bois, Carol Sawyer, Kevin Schmidt, Kathy Slade, Ken Singer, Mark Soo, Erica Stocking, Dan Starling, Kara Uzelman, Holly Ward, Paul Wong, Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky.

Next Talk: Pleased To Meet You: Socialibility and Art Thursday, March 26, 7pm In the Gallery Panelists: Abbas Akhavan, Instant Coffee, Laiwan and Holly Ward; Moderator: Lorna Brown With: PDA for your PDA (Public Display of Affection for your Personal Digital Assistant) Laiwan will present this participatory event as a complement to the panel. Bring your PDA. 
Jen Lee, Matthew Sy and Melissa Assalone