The Agnes mixes art & meditation in new event

Queen's grad talks public programming at campus gallery

Abby Berry is facilitating the object meditation at the Agnes on Nov. 3.

This Sunday, the Agnes invites gallery-goers to challenge their ability to view art in a new way.

On Nov. 3 at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, the public is invited to participate in an event that mixes meditation with gallery-viewing.

Abby Berry (ArtSci '18) came up with the idea while in Professor Jen Kennedy’s fourth-year and graduate studies curatorial seminar.

In this class, the students had to work together to co-curate an exhibition. What they came up with was Split between the I and the gaze, an exhibit that focuses on sight.

The exhibit explores how the way people view objects and works of art can change depending on their individual lived experiences. The featured artists question if it’s even possible for people to abandon their biases to look at something for what it is.

As part of their project, the class also had to come up with a public programming event to draw in people’s interest.

The class landed on an object meditation event, which is a type of meditation using different items to focus one’s conscious thought onto a particular subject. In an effort to avoid judgment and bias, this is a practice of viewing things for what they are rather than what they mean. Taking into account the object’s texture, colour, shape, and other physical features, the meditator is meant to think only of the item while they focus their breathing and relaxation.

Shannon Brown, the public programming coordinator at the Agnes, came into the class to teach the students about what her job entails and how to hold a successful event.

“She explained public programming to us, and then on a whim, asked us what our ideal public programming event would be at the Agnes. We had to go around in a circle and people suggested what they were thinking,” Berry said. 

The art student was thinking about how people typically view artwork in gallery exhibitions. On average, people spend only 27 seconds looking at a work of art. Berry wanted to plan a public event that would challenge this.

“Through object meditation, we’re asking [people] to meditate in front of an object but also to spend more time with it, and to look more at colour and shape and not look at it in relation to their position in the world,” Berry said. “You’re coming at it with fresh lenses.”

Berry’s decision to integrate meditation into the event stemmed from her knowledge of the practice’s health benefits, and the way it focuses on deliberately changing one’s perception of the world.

The event will start with Berry explaining why object meditation was chosen and how it relates to the Between the I and the gaze exhibit. Then, the meditation itself will be led by Alex Lewis, a yoga instructor at Samatva.

“You’ll work together based on what the yoga instructor has taught you, and she’ll be wandering around helping people,” Berry said. “Meditation’s hard. You can choose to meditate for only twenty seconds if that’s all you can get your brain to do.”

The event is open to beginners and experts alike and is free of charge.

At the end of the meditation, snacks will be offered, along with a group reflection of the overall experience. The event’s goal is to help people separate their own experiences from their view of the world.

“Oftentimes, people will look at the text and then try to understand the work of art based on the wall text. We’re trying to not even look at the wall text—to just look at the work of art and understand its textures and use that to center yourself,” Berry said.



This story has been updated to reflect Abby Berry's correct discipline of study and year of graduation.

The Journal regrets the error.

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