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Discourse of Elements

Discourse of Elements by BGLDiscourse of Elements is an installation on loan to the National Gallery. At first I didn’t know if it was art, or if I’d stumbled into a storage area, so I asked a guard.

“It’s art,” he said, “It was created by a collective of three Quebec artists known by the initials BGL.”

So art it is.

Discourse of Elements - Dog
It’s set up like a garage, with all the stuff you’d expect to find in a garage, plus a few things you wouldn’t expect to find, like the artist’s euthanized dog. If art is supposed to be evocative, I’d say he nailed it with that one. Anyone who has ever had a pet euthanized probably experiences their own personal vivid-inner-art-show upon seeing that.

There are two doorways going off the garage which we would have missed if the guard hadn’t pointed them out to us. One goes into a room with a sparkly ball travelling up and down a moving ramp. The other goes into a room with a car, and inside the car is Something Unexpected.

The whole installation is peculiar and fascinating. All those ephemeral layers of life, stuffed into leftover space. I like it.

ArtLike much of the stuff in the Contemporary galleries, it left me wondering how stuff becomes art. Is it the deliberate creation of it by an artist that makes it art? Does calling it art somehow transform it into art? Because honestly, that same kind of accumulation just sort of happens in people’s extra spaces…if it just happens, is it not art?

And how does it end up being considered the calibre of art that belongs in the National Gallery? Who decides, and how? I have a feeling – and I’m a bit of a cynic, so I’m probably wrong – that the name of the artist plays a huge role in determining this. A well-known artist could probably create some half-assed crap and get it into the gallery, whereas a talented but unknown artist wouldn’t have a chance of getting his or her best works in there.

David Scrimshaw has a piece of art hanging in his house which he created from an old typewriter. It’s striking and original and clever and I think it’s Gallery-worthy.

Untitled by Robert MorrisThis pile of shredded felt, on the other hand, is not so Gallery-worthy in my humble and artistically uneducated opinion. I’m pretty sure nobody could make their artistic debut with the shredded felt…they’d have to have already earned their place in the art world before the Gallery would consider this pile of art gallery-worthy.
Description of the Untitled Pile of Felt
But someone decided the shredded felt was Gallery-calibre art. And nobody has decided that about David’s typewriter mobile yet. (Maybe David will post a photo of it on his blog so you can all see how amazing it is and then maybe it will come to the attention of the Gallery’s acquisitions people. That’s probably how the pile of shredded felt got its start.)

9 comments to Discourse of Elements

  • Em

    I took my mom through this part of the Gallery on her last trip here, and needless to say, we didn’t stay long. I think all she said was “Oh Jesus, where’s the Group of Seven Stuff?”

  • I actually love this part of the Gallery, even though it mystifies me. It’s like an elaborate in-joke that I don’t quite get.

    The Gallery should have a participatory exhibit, and invite everybody to bring something in to be part of it.

  • Jo (from Illinois, USA)

    Hmm….maybe the felt pile would make more sense if we knew it’s name. It could be kinda funny if it was called something like:

    ‘I FELT Fine Right Up Until the Uruck Came Round the Corner’

    or maybe

    ‘He Said He FELT Fine Until He Died’, something like that.
    See what I mean?? LOL

  • Yes, I do see what you mean. Unfortunately the enigmatic artist entitled the piece “Untitled,” which is kind of cryptic and unsatisfying. (And why did it take him two years to create it anyway??)

  • Jo (from Illinois, USA)

    OOPS….correction…. ‘Until the TRUCK Came Round the Corner’!! LOL

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  • tsertsi

    I went to the gallery with my mum too, and we spent an hour trying to figure the Discourse out. It was hugely fun. We came up with a raft of interpretations that may have nothing to do with what the artists were thinking, but what does that matter? Intellectually, we enjoyed the challenge. The felt, however, not so much.

  • Caroline

    I’m a university student, and I frequent the National Gallery, and one day I was kind of lost and stumbled upon this exhibit. At first glance I was kind of terrified, thinking I had somehow ended up in a super-secret closet full of scap artwork, and then I realized it was a huge exhibition. I was really ready to open up my mind until I saw the dog. I know art is supposed to stir up potentially not-so-pleasent emotions in order to leave a lasting impression, but I really just thought it was kind of cruel. I don’t know… if it weren’t for the dog, I might be more supportive of the ultimate message, but I just can’t get past it.

  • Caroline, I think it would have been cruel if the dog had been euthanized in order to be used as wart, but that’s not what happened. According to the gallery staff who explained it to me, the dog was the beloved pet of one of the three artists. It got sick and had to be euthanized; rather than burying it, he immortalized it by incorporating it into this piece of art.

    I hope that makes you feel better. :)