Interacting with the Department

It is all fun and games

April 13, 2002 | Isa Tousignant

The space on top of St-Laurant Boulevard infamous Segals grocery store felt more like a playground than an art venue last weekend. Part of the impression probably came from the kids running amok -- dramatically splashing their arm into the liquid surface of Jed Lind's serene Pond installation, in one instance -- but it also stemmed from the art itself.

Populated with big, mostly interactive installation pieces, the group exhibition curated by Lind and Kyra Griffin called The Department doesn't so much have a common theme as a coincidental effect of unity. "Originally we just wanted to put on a show of installation works in a big space, with no more specifications than that," explains Griffin. "And we just really liked the other artists' individual work, so we selected it. Only later did the theme of process and interaction with the exhibition space come out and sort of unify things."

The other artists involved -- Thomas Begin, Kristen Roos, Anthony Burnham, Suzanne Dery and Amelie Pomerleau -- are as varied as they come, except for the fact that most of them went to Concordia. But their works do jive. An odd harmony exists between Begin and Roos's Resonating Dome Module and Lind's Two Dimensional Landscape, for example. Module -- an igloo made of plywood and cardboard and set on huge springs, where sounds of throat singing play and into which visitors are invited to climb -- raising questions about the viewer's relationship to cultures and traditions. Landscape, too -- which consists of a mechanized wheat field that moves sporadically in response to the stimuli outside the gallery window -- addresses issues pertaining to the environment and technology in modern life.

I felt compelled to feel my way through the milky liquid of Pond to understand the work's mechanism. My companion couldn't suppress the urge to intervene in nature's course and manipulate the wind sensor into crazy wheat action. Walking through the show -- weaving through Pomerleau's wooden arches, inspecting her sculpted heads, side stepping Dery and Burnham's inflatable fabric grid that breathed at the gallery's entrance -- was engaging and quirky.