Visiting The Ontario Museum of Art

Between breakfast and the post office, I stumbled across the Ontario Museum of Art. A friend had recommended it the night before, so I figured I’d pony up the 18 CDN and pop in for a few hours to see how we stacked up. I have to say, it was a spectacular collection, and I would definitely go again if given the chance.

As for sharing the highlights, Ontario, or perhaps just Canada as a whole, has ridiculous copyright laws surrounding works of visual art that prevent people from taking pictures of the artwork itself*. While I understand that this in some way protects the artists intellectual property, it also makes it hard for people to share their experiences at art galleries with their friends. Basically, I’m forced to use words to describe things that are, largely, indescribable by their very nature of being great works of art (or just really cool).

Here goes nothin.

There were four pieces that I really appreciated, as well as one collection. Most of this was in the contemporary area on the top two floors of the museum. All of these are unknown pieces by unknown authors because I didn’t have a pencil and I was finger-wagged every time I tried to take a picture of a plaque.

The first piece, was actually an installation. Most of the time, I have mixed results around installations, because they involve more interaction than I’m really want to have. While wandering around near the back of the top floor, I heard the fainy sound of bagpipes. I looked around for a bit to try to find the source and caught the gaze of an older woman doing the same. We started a short conversation about where we thought the sound was, and then went to investigate. We wandered over to a window and looked out over the city of Toronto, and chatted for a bit about each of the areas we could see below. We gave up on the bagpipe noises after a minute or two, turned around, and discovered a hidden set of speakers behind a pole. Later that day, I caught other people looking for the sound of a marching band, a protest, and our phantom pipers. I thought that this piece was really effective in how it caused me to interact with my space, and with the people around me.

The next piece falls into the cool category. There was an 8 foot cube sitting in the middle of a large room. The cube was covered in what appeared to be geometrically patterned black fur. Upon closer inspection, I found that it was actually a box with magnets running in patterns along the inside, and it had been covered in a think layer of iron filings. The filings stuck out nearly 4 cm’s in places, and gave an almost irresistible ‘touch me I’m fluffy’ feeling.

The third piece, also on the same floor, was designed to represent the intersection of First Nations culture with Western culture. It was designed by an artist from Fort St John, I believe, and was a set of four totem poles that had been sculpted out of golf bags. I was super impressed with the level of detail you could create for an eagle’s face out of a set of club covers.

The fourth piece was actually an archeological dig that was occurring out back of the museum. As the story goes, the museum was built on some land, called ‘The grange’ and included a heritage home as part of it’s property. A few years ago, a collector in the boston area heard that the museum was renovating, and sent up a diary from property’s butler from 150 years back. He said that he felt it might be interesting to read before making any structural changes to the building. In the diary was a map of the original property, with 30 odd X’s marking something that was never described. After some convincing, the Museum asked an archeologist to look into one of the X’s and a small wax ball contain a human blood sample was found inside of the wall. The museum secured some funding to look into more of the map, and has since uncovered 20 or so more items, each carefully sealed in wax and hidden inside of the structure of the building. The person who buried the items was thought to be the Irish maid servant, Mary O’Shea – the most perfect Irish name I’ve heard next to Patrick O’Malley. The dig is still going on, and the museum allowed tours through the area, the dig, the office, and into Mary’s workshop, which was hidden behind a wall in the cellar. No one knows why the items were hidden – perhaps she was just ‘touched’ – but it’s certainly a very cool exhibit to be able to walk through.

In addition to these pieces, the museum also contains a stunning collection of work in the contemporary section from artists in the 80s struggling to represent the feeling in Toronto during the early years of the AIDS crisis. In the case of these pieces, it was the collection as a whole, not any particular piece, that was worth seeing again. As far as ‘art that evokes a feeling’ goes, this is probably the best collection that I’ve seen.

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Whirlwind wedding in TDot.

Last weekend I flew out to Toronto on a whirlwind trip to catch a good friend’s wedding. Brian had originally asked me to participate in the wedding party, but unfortunately I didn’t have my visa when I was asked, and had no guarantee that I’d be allowed back into France if I were to leave it. As soon as I got my carte sejour back in February I eagerly booked the trip at the last minute. In an effort to reduce the late booking premium a little bit, I picked a flight that left Saturday morning, and returned the following afternoon. This meant that I only had to find a place to stay for one night, and could skimp a little on the food. Breakfast and lunch would be provided by the airplane in both directions, and dinner would come during the wedding.

The morning flight out was surprisingly nice. Unlike the 14 hour craziness of going to the west coast, I only had to spend 8 hours, or 3 1/2 feature films (Australia: Fantastic – go see it; Quantum of Solace: OK; Largo Winch: OK; X-Files: meh.) on a plane. My flight left about 10 am here, and arrived around 1 pm in TDot which would have been plenty of time were it not for my perpetually broken internal compass. Somehow I ended up at a hot dog stand, Cafe Crepe and a Tim Hortons well before I got anywhere near to my hotel, which was conveniently (read: cheaply) located in Chinatown above an all asian grocery shopping mall.

With only 15 minutes between check in and the ceremony, I didn’t have much time to get ready. Just enough time for a quick shower and I ran out the door with my unwrapped gift. I made it to the wedding with only a few short minutes to go, and located the nearest top-hat wearing wedding authority in the hopes that he could direct me to my seat. We talked for several minutes before I discovered that he was a musician, not an usher, and didn’t have much more of a clue about where we were supposed to be than I did. The spot we randomly selected turned out to be a pretty good choice, as it put as both near the only other person that I knew who was not in the wedding party; Annie. I hadn’t seen her in at least 5 years, and we caught up over Indian food between the ceremony and reception.

I won’t spoil the ceremony by describing it in any level of detail. Needless to say, it was beautiful. The theme was scottish, and included a Kilt for the groom, and 4 red-headed bridesmaids, and matching bride. There was an open bar following, and a good selection of tunes for dancing that lasted well into the night.

The following morning, I got up pretty early, and had to find a post office so I could mail some Birthday gifts Express Post. Nothing was open until 1, so I killed time at the Ontario Museum of Art. More about that later. Breakfast was rad. The upside of having a cheap hotel in Chinatown, is that you are near to the cheap food in Chinatown as well. I popped into a bakery down the street just in time for the hot-out-of-the-oven Bar-b-q Pork Buns. That, and some more Timmies, made up the bulk of my Sunday diet.

Some touristing and travel later, and I found myself on a plane back to Paris. I had specially selected the seat second from the back of the plane so that it would be quiet, and I could recline the seat to sleep. When I got to where I was meant to sit, I found an old french guy snoring in my place. The flight attendant looked a little put out that I wanted to sit in my seat, and carefully explained to me that they had moved the old guy there because his seat, the one behind mine, smelled too terrible to let him sit there. I asked him where I was to sit then, and he looked even more put out. He went in search of a better place for me, and came back with a different flight attendant instead. She sniffed the seat and deigned it worthy afterall, and I was invited to sit in the stink chair for the flight back. All things considered, it wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be, and I slept most of the flight back anyhow.

My flight arrive back in paris at 7 am, which left me plenty of time to make it home for a shower, and onto my usual train for work. The trip was quick, but I’m now convinced that reasonable travel can happen in a weekend. This is good, as I think it just opened up all kinds of weekend forays around the Ile-de-france area.