Walking the path of muses

Museopathy fuses contemporary art with Kingston’s museums

One of these things is not like the other. Can you spot the artistic addition?
One of these things is not like the other. Can you spot the artistic addition?

Combining art, artifact and multiple venues is the ambitious aim of Museopathy, the multi-media project that has been installed in no fewer than eleven of Kingston’s historical sites.

By exchanging works between art galleries and museums, the exhibit fuses contemporary art with the locations that inspired them.

Visitors will need their walking shoes. Museopathy requires viewers to embark on a tour of Kingston’s cultural attractions, covering everything from the Murney Tower to Queen’s own Miller Museum of Geology and Mineralogy. At each location, an artist has been invited to create works expressing their reaction to the site. At the Correctional Service of Canada Museum, for instance, Brian Jungen has assembled hundreds of plastic lunch trays in homage to an inmate’s strategy for escape. The inmate in question hid himself in a hollowed-out stack of trays and snuck out posing as dirty dishes. The piece demonstrates the reciprocal nature of Museopathy—only by noting the historical works does the viewer understand the contemporary piece. Moreover, the contemporary piece enhances the artifact’s significance or calls it into question.

Visitors also need to keep their eyes open. Some of the artists have inserted their works in unassuming ways. Look out for John Dickson’s sculpture that lies underwater outside the museum ship Alexander Henry. In the Bellevue Historic House, artist Mel Ziegler added modern objects to each of the period rooms, leaving the viewer to figure out which is the contemporary work.

“I purposefully wanted the objects to blend in with their surroundings,” Ziegler says. By asking viewers to find the art, the exhibit questions the authenticity of the artifacts themselves.

Other highlights include Barbara Hunt’s “Antipersonnel”, which consists of pastel-coloured, knitted replicas of various types of landmines. Displaying these in the munitions magazine of the RMC Museum lends an ironic effect that would not exist had these works been displayed within the neutral walls of an art gallery.

The connection between art and artifact is completed with “Collectioneering,” an assortment of non-art objects in the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. This time, the museum comes to the art gallery. Fake heads used by inmates to deceive prison guards are among the works on display. Museopathy is impressive in the way it combines art with its environment. Although it’s essential to bring a detailed map, this exhibit is a great way to see contemporary works, and become acquainted with Kingston’s cultural landmarks in the process.

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