In the Nanaimo Arts Council latest online exhibitions, viewers can examine sculptures from all angles and experience what it’s like to be a precariously employed arts and culture worker.
From Sept. 2 until Nov. 28 the NAC presents Exhibition by Institution: a Culture Work Simulator by Nanaimo-based artists Amber Morrison Fox and Matthew Fox and Delicate Ruin by Vancouver resident and recent VIU art grad Celena Barnes.
Morrison Fox worked at the Nanaimo Art Gallery in paid and unpaid roles for five years and she draws on those experiences in the video game-style piece Exhibition by Institution. The game takes place in a 3-D recreation of the NAG, with the player completing tasks like cleaning up after an exhibition, leading a class of small children and serving drinks at a reception.
“You basically get to embody my role in that institution but in a playful, imaginative way to try and get at this precarious notion of working at an insecure job…” Morrison Fox said. “It’s like the micro view of the overall situation of being an arts and culture worker in Canada.”
As the game progresses, the player gets to explore a mine shaft below the gallery in a sequence that Morrison Fox said is meant to connect Nanaimo’s labour past to the present.
“The precarity that I’m facing isn’t necessarily the same as the coal miners that worked down below,” she said. “But across time in this same area we’ve had this long labour history of being unsupported long-term in terms of job security.”
Barnes’s exhibit features two pieces: Soft Entropy, an industrial barrel topped with a sculpture made of local felt and reclaimed blankets, and Habitual Feminine Pains, a hanging sculpture made using stuffed hosiery intended to resemble knotted intestines.
Fox turned those sculptures into 3-D models which can be rotated and viewed from up close, far away and from the inside.
“It was very unique to be able to zoom in and see all the texture and all the detail,” Barnes said. “And of course being able to go through it, even accidentally, or look up from it as if you were below ground.”
Barnes said she appreciates the “juxtaposition” of seeing her soft materials in the form of static digital images.
“In-person I know them as being very plush and very soft … but then to see them in a 3-D rendering they are so sharp and so jagged,” she said. “And he did a wonderful just replicating the textures, but as the artist I can still see how different they are and I think that’s quite lovely.”
WHAT’S ON … Opening reception for Exhibition by Institution and Delicate Ruin takes place Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. on the NAC YouTube channel. The show is on display in the online Moon Jelly gallery until Nov. 28.