Artlab at Western has earned a reputation as a physical space where students, faculty and staff can share and showcase their thought-provoking works.
But until the pandemic necessitated it, they hadn’t ever considered translating the intimacy of a show into a long-distance experience.
Calling it a display of “separate togetherness,” exhibition co-organizer Ruth Skinner said this latest show is an opportunity for artists and students alike to express their experiences during COVID-19.
The show of works by faculty, staff and graduate students called “Distance makes the heart grow weak,” a reflection on shared solitude, can be viewed online through images and video.
“None of us are seeing as much art in person as we would like to right now,” said Skinner, acting manager of Artlab. “A lot of spaces had to shut down altogether. But since we could be in the space and no one was walking through it, we were able to do a little bit of everything.”
That included creating a video walkthrough, photographs, and printed and audio artists’ statements as well as a dynamic catalogue of the show, assembled by Shelley Kopp.
The catalogue is a collection of art, photos, poems, and reflections, resembling an old-fashioned yearbook – moments and thoughts unique to this particular period.
“We didn’t document it as a traditional catalogue. The virtual and physical would enrich each other, rather than one just a shadow or a mirror of the other one,” Skinner said.
One installation, for example, shows video of two masked cyclists – each on opposite sides of a screen – as their silhouettes ripple outwards without ever touching.
Artist Dickson Bou, co-organizer of the exhibit, said his “Rolling for Feedback” piece, with Charlie Egleston and Peter Lebel, explores how the pandemic has affected our everyday lives: always riding in one spot and going nowhere, with no one.
In collaborative short film called “Extraordinary Measures,” Sasha Opeiko and Martin Stevens place a yellow, two-metre measuring stick between different objects in an ordinary home: a representation of distance and isolation and the invisible viral threat that might be present in the spaces in between.
Pandemic art-making and teaching during this “weird time” has meant no one has been able to walk down halls or knock on studio or office doors to share ideas and inspiration, Skinner said. But it has also been a time of optimism, one that shows there are other important ways of connecting with each other, she said.
Borrowing its title from a lyric in the song, “Lonely, Lonely” by Feist, the show features the work of 46 faculty, staff and graduate students of the visual arts department, as well as local artists and poets.