Hidden gallery

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FNUniv’s art gallery begins offering consistent exhibitions

Paul Bogdan
A&C Writer

“Half of the problem is that people didn’t know we had a gallery. I barely knew,” said Katherine Boyer, research assistant at the First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) Art Gallery.

“It’s out of the way, even though it’s really just a skip and a jump from the U of R. I go over to Riddell Centre for lunch every once in a while and it takes me twenty minutes (laughed). I recognize that it’s a difficult place to get to sometimes.”

Despite being as old as the building, the art gallery at FNUniv is in its first year of consistent programming.

“It was built into the university, but this is really the first time that we’ve had regularly scheduled programming,” Boyer said. “We could say it started in September. We’ve had prior shows in there, but it would be for the six weeks of the show and then nothing for the next four months. This is the first time that the institution is really giving it an effort.”

Boyer believes this fact to be related to the gallery’s lack of an actual name, a fact that is looking to be changed by a committee at the gallery.

“We’re just starting up a committee, and that’s the first thing on the agenda – to get a good name. It’s always been the First Nation’s University of Canada Art Gallery, but that’s a mouthy, wordy, and unfortunate title,” Boyer said. “I think [the gallery’s presence is] going to be aided when we have a cool name.”

But the U of R already has an on-campus art gallery that I don’t have to walk outside in – -30°C to visit, so why bother with another art gallery?

“Sometimes it’s nice to have a place where you can go and be to yourself and think about art … and learn,” Boyer said with a chuckle. “I guess learning is probably pretty important.”

On a more concrete level, though, the gallery’s research assistant, whose job is much more than the title suggests, is quick to draw distinctions between the First Nation’s University Art Gallery and the Fifth Parallel Gallery, the University of Regina’s other on-campus gallery. Unlike the Fifth Parallel, the gallery at FNUniv is not run by students and instead is more of “an artist-run centre.”

“The hard thing about student-run things is that there is a time limitation to any type of devotion that they can give to the projects,” Boyer said. “You’re always dividing your time between classes. A lot of artist-run centres are volunteer based, so it’s a similar problem, but a lot of times there’s a paid position that can monitor the gallery and make sure the volunteers are working cohesively with their timelines.”

Another notable difference between the First Nation’s University Art Gallery and the Fifth Parallel is the audience whom each gallery is structured towards. The Fifth Parallel’s audience is largely student-based, and the First Nation’s University Art Gallery’s is “more aboriginal.” Artists’ work on display here will be “seen by a unique, aboriginal audience.”

“[It] feature[s] mostly aboriginal students,” Boyer said. “We’ve reserved a slot at the end of the winter semester for students who have gone through the [fine arts] program to have a show of their own.”

But the gallery is still in its infant stages, so even that is subject to change.

“[We’re] still trying to find an identity, and that’s the starting point,” said Boyer. “Should we stick with strictly aboriginal artists, emerging artists, switching back-and-forth between emerging and established artists? It’s finding what we want to be known for that we’re exploring right now.”

Notwithstanding the distinctions from the Fifth Parallel that Boyer has made, she asserted the close working relationship between the two galleries.

“I’m really close with the Fifth Parallel, so we’re in pretty good exchange of publicity,” she said. “They tell people that go to their gallery to head over to the FNU[niv] gallery too … There’s a really nice exchange happening right now.”

Unique to the art gallery at FNUniv is the ability to display everything in the universe ever. Well, theoretically speaking that is.

Every Possible Image is a piece in John G. Hampton’s upcoming show at the FNUniv Art Gallery, Between Imminence and Permanence, which theoretically can produce any image that can or has existed in 200 x 120 pixels.

“It works by showing every pixel combination on the screen, since an image on a screen is just pixels, and it’s in grayscale to make it more manageable,” Hampton said. “It shows every configuration that could exist on that screen in different grays, whites, and blacks.”

While it usually looks like static on a television set, “Every Possible Image” has the potential to show exactly what the title suggests.

“Technically, in this piece, it can theoretically show any photograph that could ever be taken, any text, or any combination of the two. It theoretically contains an image of everything in the universe or any universe that could exist,” Hampton said. “Although in practice it looks mostly like white noise because that’s the most likely state.”

Even if Every Possible Image sounds like a complex idea, it is run by a fairly simple “cellular automata.”

“You could think of it as a robot organism,” Hampton said. “It’s a very simple program that travels through a system with a series of rules. It doesn’t need to store any information, such as all those images, all it needs to know is where it is in a grid and what its neighbours look like. From that, it uses simple rules to create patterns … What I really find interesting is that with that one rule exists all of these interesting patterns.”

Though people may not recognize the fact that they’re witnessing every image that could exist on a screen, Hampton “think[s] it’s liberating to not have to pin down what you’re witnessing, but know that you are.”

Every Possible Image isn’t the only piece on display in Between Imminence and Permanence. Hampton’s upcoming show is a combination of some previously created pieces and some that were created specifically for this exhibit.

“It’s a selection of recent work that I’ve done, some made specifically for this space,” Hampton said. “It’s really a map of ways of ordering thoughts, concepts, and intangibles into some mode of artistic production or visual communication; it’s experiments in communication.”

Another one of the works on display encompasses room for audience participation and creation where the viewer can look through a series of prints and rearrange them as they see fit.

“The audience is allowed to wear these gloves that are next to the prints and shuffle through them or rearrange them if they feel the urge …The viewer can look through them, and in the process of doing that, rearrange them,” Hampton said. “It creates new relationships that are mapped out through here.”

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