New York, London, Berlin, Paris… Vancouver? The Canadian city is not exactly known as an art capital, but that's changing, fast. Mashup: The Birth of Modern Culture, the latest exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery, is an important milestone not just for the city, but in contemporary art and curation as well. An international survey of dazzling scope this exhibit is itself a manifestation of its theme: incorporating the work of 30 curators of diverse backgrounds, who've worked collaboratively over three years, across eight countries, negotiating with 75 public and private collections to bring 371 works from 156 artists together for one bold mashup of a show.
And what a sublime immersive treat it is.
Chief curator of the VAG, Daina Augaitis, sees the monumental project as a natural and almost inevitable result of the museum's continued commitment to accurately reflect past and current phenomena in visual art and culture. "As curators, we have all observed the presence of collage and sampling...in contemporary art for some time," she says. "Bruce Grenville, senior curator at the gallery came forward with this idea of doing a comprehensive investigation of mashup culture, extending it beyond visual art into aspects of visual culture such as music, film, and design."
Grenville puts it this way: "Our principal role as a museum is to document the history of creativity, from our point of observation, within a global context that shapes and influences cultural production…. Mashup methodology acknowledges art as making, not as an idea magically made visible, or an abstract concept given form, but rather as a thing made by putting one thing next to another."
The first exhibition of its kind anywhere to pay homage to the remix, appropriations, reappropriations, hacks, and digital syntheses that have become synonymous with art and art-making in the present day, each of the four floors of the museum refers back to older iterations of mashup as methodology. The show begins on the first floor with the section that is most immediate to us in this post-Snowden era: The Digital Age: Hacking, Remix and the Archive in the Age of Post-Production.
This irresistibly provocative show juxtaposes the emergent alongside the canon, and poses subversive questions on artistic categories and institutions. Was this intentional? "There are many ideas that weave throughout the exhibition, and the notion of a subversive gesture is indeed at the core of many practices," Daina says. "If you think of Picasso and Braque collaging an existing image onto their canvases in 1912—that was radical! So was Duchamp's notion of the readymade, an idea that can also be traced throughout the exhibition and into some DIY practices in the show that blur the edges of art and popular culture, professional and amateur."
For more, see vanartgallery.bc.ca.