Harbourfront Centre is a 10 acre site on the Lake Ontario waterfront that features art galleries, theatres, public squares, a pond (it becomes an ice skating rink in the winter), outdoor stages for concerts, artists’ workshops, and outdoor spaces where numerous festivals are held.
What makes it so awesome and unique is that most of the events and activities at Harbourfront Centre are completely free. I am a huge believer that arts and culture programming should be accessible to everyone, so I am a big fan of this place.
I recently visited Harbourfront to take in some of the art at its three main galleries. I visited “The Power Plant” first.
The exhibition they have on now is called “The Unfinished Conversation: Encoding/Decoding” and features many different artists.
I would describe the theme of the exhibition as:
a reflection on how our perception (both individually and as a society) of current events, which then become history, changes over time and therefore also changes our perception of others and ourselves.
The work that I found the most powerful and affecting was called “The Unfinished Conversation” by John Akomfrah. The piece consists of three separate screens, each playing a different video. The artist has managed to put the three together beautifully – almost seamlessly, capturing and holding one’s attention…
… while allowing the viewer to somehow watch all three at once…
…while still understanding the meaning of the piece.
The official write-up of the installation describes it as “weav[ing] issues of cultural identity, using… archive footage of [cultural theorist] Stuart Hall, drawing in references to William Blake, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolfe, …jazz and gospel, set alongside news footage from the 1960s and 1970s.”
You don’t have to know Stuart Hall’s work to understand this piece. It is at once beautiful, unsettling, and brilliant. I would go so far as to say that this is one of the best pieces of contemporary artwork I have seen in many years.
That exhibit was a tough act to follow, but the “REWILD” exhibit at the Architecture Gallery (which is located upstairs in the Bill Boyle Artport – right beside the Power Plant) held its own.
This piece was called “Reclamation in Progress.” Artist Fionn Byrne has invited us to wonder what will become of the Alberta tar sands once the extraction of oil is over. The companies are required to complete “reclamation” of the area, which means redesigning it somehow. Who will decide how this will be done, and what will they decide?
The third collection I visited was on the main floor gallery and the surrounding hallway area in the Bill Boyle Artport. The entire exhibit is called “Deep Woods.”
“Stopping by Woods” is the exhibit inside the main gallery featuring several artists.
I would describe the theme as:
taking the time to observe and investigate our natural environment is an important activity which allows us to better understand our world.
Here is the official description:
Here is a section of the gallery’s interior,
and a closer image of artist Janet MacPherson’s work.
She describes her pieces as follows:
This is an interesting piece in the hallway area (adjacent to the main gallery) by artist Darren Rigo:
In describing the inspiration for his work, he expresses sentiments that I think most of us can identify with.
I found all the exhibitions to be interesting, thought-provoking, and relevant. I don’t think a person has to have a knowledge of art trends or art history to appreciate and to “get something out of” these pieces. It is ACCESSIBLE art – something I really believe in. And, as I mentioned before, it is free (i.e. even MORE accessible) to go to any or all of the art galleries in the Harbourfront Centre.
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