Election inspires interactive artwork

Studio22’s current exhibition dares viewers to express their own political beliefs

A portion of the Citizen Vox’s collection at Studio22.
A portion of the Citizen Vox’s collection at Studio22.
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In light of the upcoming election, Kingston’s Studio22’s exhibition expresses artists’ deep-rooted political beliefs, encouraging viewers to do the same.

The exhibition, Citizen Vox — “vox” meaning voice in Latin — started off as just an idea one year ago. With the Canadian election date fixed for this fall, Studio22 co-owner Ally Jacob sent a call out to artists who had work that could speak in response to the election.

“Some of the submissions are pieces of work that artists created prior to the call to artists; they already had something political that spoke to them. However, other pieces were created for the show specifically,” Jacob said.

The gallery placed a list of words and phrases in the exhibition’s front room in order to simulate a reaction from artists when submitting their own work and to provoke a response from visitors.

“There’s all kinds of material we put out when we were trying to get a response from artists,” Jacob said. “The list of words up here are words that have been bandied about over the last 10 years.”

Placed under the list of words and phrases — some of which included ‘idle no more’, ‘proportional representation’, and ‘the ugly Canadian’ — was a blank sheet of paper that allowed anyone to write down their own reactions.

Citizen Vox is more than just an exhibition for people to experience visually. It also breaks the confinement of the traditional museum by allowing visitors to touch and interact with some of the works on display.

Tell Us Mrs. Field, created by Kingston-based artist Robin Laws Field, is a series of square cut fibre pieces with poetic segments reflective of her anti-Harper government views. One piece reads: “Harper is killing the CBC. Is it to balance his budget or avoid investigative journalism?”

Field then invited visitors to share their views by ‘telling Mrs. Field’ using the provided paper and pencil.

Other pieces, such as Rebecca Cowan’s Testament, are inspired by local history. According to the exhibition catalogue, the piece is based on a newspaper article about a controversial series of events that happened 10 years ago at the Kingston Prison for Women. The events were those surrounding the questionable and unsettling death of a prisoner — whether the prisoner’s death was a suicide or murder remains a mystery.

From sculptures to wood panels to embroidered and screen printed clothes, the 22 artists featured in Citizen Vox take the ordinary and create an extraordinary, unique vision using their creative voices.

“We wanted to take anything anyone wanted to give us. Our action here is to bring this show as an organized and put together collection, rather than to decidedly curate what we were given,” Jacob said. 

For the artists showcased in Citizen Vox, art can make a powerful statement.

A Tony Richardson quote has been featured throughout the gallery and in exhibition flyers as a part of the exhibition’s interdisciplinary theme.

“Art doesn’t change anything,” it reads. “But it’s the only thing that makes the horrors of politics and public life somewhat bearable.”

Citizen Vox will be running until the night of the election on October 19. 

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