Sunday, June 21, 2009

Further Afield with Sorrel Muggridge and Laura Nanni

It was hard to resist the request for participants in Further Afield, a collaborative art project between Toronto and UK-based artists, Sorrel Muggridge and Laura Nanni. I was to meet Laura in front of the Bellgo building on the X, and then instructions would be given to me. Sounded cool. I signed up.

Laura met me, accompanied by her documentarian, at the exact time and place. From there, we placed a call to Wales, where Sorrel and her colaborator, Lisbeth, were waiting. The two teams each took 493 steps, to symbolize the kilometers separating us. I wandered away from St. Catherine, towards the old port, reaching Rene Levesque as our starting place.

Then, Laura wrote instructions on the ground. Look towards the ___________________ and turn right. I was to find something in my field of vision that could fill in the blank. Seeing a woman in an obnxiously monotone hot pink suit, I suggested, "The woman in the garrish pink outfit." The instructions were relayed to Lisbeth and Sorrel, who were then to find an individual in a garrish pink outfit and turn right. I, on the other hand, had a much easier task of finding a "reception" which I interpreted as a reception desk for a hotel.

So we continued for about an hour and a half, relaying instructions back in this mad-libs style art project. It was fun -- mainly to come up with unusual things to fill in the blanks. I was rather proud when I took the word "wonder" from a travel agency called "Vacances Wonder" to give the instruction, "Follow the wonder and find a place to rest yourself."

At the end, I was told to describe my view to Lisbeth on the phone, and she did the same for me. As she described her view, I was instructed to draw it on a postcard given to me and finally to mail the postcard to her. And so it went... artist and creator sent postcard to artist and creator.

This wonderful (yes, there's the wonder) way to spend two hours was certainly not my typical art outing. sure, I go to gallery openings. But the art is passive and I am a viewer who interprets. In this case, I was turned into collaborator for the duration of the project. Although documented, the project in fact ends when the walking tour ends. I suppose the postcard is really its only remaining component.

I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. I did enjoy myself immensely. Would I consider this art? Not typically, I guess. But, that is part of the beauty of making art -- it can challenge one's preconceived notions of what art is. I am intrigued by very modern art these days of the land art genre and minimalist genre, even though it lacks the technical skills I so admire of line drawing and color. But, when explained, I appreciate the intent of these modern artists. I suppose Further Afield is very much in this vein. It warps and reinterprets the premises of art and makes one say "Aha! Thank you for stinging me out of my rut."

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