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June 18, 2012

Galleries around the world are queuing for an opportunity to show Christian Marclay’s The Clock. The (time-)piece is currently being screened at the National Gallery in Ottawa. I welcomed the chance to immerse myself into Marclay’s perpetual work on Saturday when the nation’s capital was going through a heat wave.

The idea behind The Clock is simple, yet profound. Every minute is represented by a clip from a historical or recent film. A collage of these movies, pieced together by the artist, tells actual time. I sat through the work from around 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm and recognized clock or watch faces from movies such as Blade Runner, Kramer vs. Kramer, Taxi Driver, The Soft Skin and many others. Several of the movie narratives alluded to the middle of the work or school day, leading up to the tail-end of our society’s 9-to-5 routine. Leading up to every hour, the pace became frenzied and hectic then drift to slower rhythms with actors experiencing tardiness and the guilt of being late.

44 seconds past or 16 seconds to…

Marclay’s work plays with escapist dimensions of narrative cinema and we forget about time and at the same time we are constantly reminded of it. Some interesting facts behind the work: 

  • sourcing and editing the film took over 3 years of ten hour days to complete
  • the artist hired several research assistants to scour movies with appropriate time references
  • The Clock climaxes at midnight with an array of horror and New Year’s Eve footage
  • The Clock slows in pace between 4:00 AM and 5:00 AM with cinematic dream sequences
  •  a specially designed computer programme keeps The Clock running to the microsecond
  • The Clock will be in Ottawa until August 6. You’ve still got time!

August 12, 2011

There are a dozen artworks currently in our country that changed the world of art. I’m speaking of the Caravaggio exhibition at the National Gallery in Ottawa. This is a first. Well, the last time there were this many pieces by the Italian master on the continent was back in the early eighties at the Metropolitan in New York. In fact, that show had twice as many pieces than the current show in Ottawa. Nonetheless, this show is a once in a lifetime blockbuster. Rare squared!  

Caravaggio and his Followers in Rome hones-in on key Caravaggio pieces and spins off with the impact that he made on his contemporaries and beyond. The show is comprehensive in gauging this seventeenth century maverick and his revolutionary style. If you’ve seen the show, I’d love to hear some of your impressions… here are some of mine:

  • I was surprised to learn that Rome in Caravaggio’s day was about the size of  Whitby with a population just over 100,000
  • there are a mere 70 known works authored by Caravaggio
  • a small exhibition design critique—the paintings are hung too high for the average viewer, not too mention kids, people in wheelchairs, etc.
  • a large exhibition design accolade—excellent interpretive resources such as a “tableau vivant” room where you can get your picture taken dressed up in period costumes, a screening room running a documentary about Caravaggio, short and informative docent talks, an amazing brochure, etc.
  • Artemisia Gentileschi’s The Beheading of Holofernes (painted exactly 400 years ago) was a sparkling highlight—a bloody mess!
  • Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers a major exhibition sponsor–how fitting for an oil painting show?
St. Francis in Ecstasy (1595) currently at the NGC

July 16, 2010

The east coast has a magnetic pull. I was in Newfoundland in May and had a craving to return to where the water gets salty. I did just that last week and spent my vacation driving to the east coast. We ended up on the north-east coast of New Brunswick in a place called Caraquet on the cliffs of Chaleur Bay (see picture). Soaking up the Acadian spirit, we drove back through Quebec along the north shore of the St. Lawrence, stopping off in Ottawa to check out the Pop Life  exhibition at the National Gallery.

Floating on Chaleur Bay

I was surprised by the ease of getting camping spots. In many cases, we were the only ones at the campground—we owned the place. It seems like the days of the “staycation” have ended and Canadian tourists are travelling abroad rather than staying home. The round trip was 3300 kilometres and my car’s first road trip proved very fuel-efficient—getting just over 5 liters per 100 kilometers. Very affordable, even with the recent HST gas hike.

Let me know if you’ve gone on your vacation yet and what kind of experiences on the open road you’ve had recently. Are you planning to travel around Canada or to go elsewhere?