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CBC show ‘Crash Gallery’ turns art into spectator sport

Tuesday 06th, October 2015 / 18:33
By Austin Simpson
Photo: Courtesy of CBC

Photo: Courtesy of CBC

VANCOUVER — What makes art, Art?

There have been whole schools of thought dedicated towards this question; Aristotle’s Poetics is an early example. Thousands of years of debate and argumentation has provided few answers outside the contextual. Art, apparently, is what you make of it.

Into this fray steps CBC’s Crash Gallery, an art-based contest show that pits three artists against each other in a test of technique and versatility, although not necessarily theory.

“In order to make something interesting and to give life to your idea in 30 minutes, along with all of the crazy obstacles we throw at the artists, you need to have a strong sense of how to take an image and translate it through artistic media.” says host Sean O’Neill. “Theory requires time, discipline, reflection — all things that can work against you on [Crash Gallery].”

Versatility and technique are certainly nothing new to O’Neill. He had a part time acting role on Degrassi: The Next Generation and won the 2011 Summerworks Jury Prize for Risk and Innovation. O’Neill is also the associate director of adult programming at the Art Gallery of Ontario. His love of art bleeds through into the show; he appears genuinely interested in each artist as they attempt to work within a medium outside of their normal practice, perhaps because of how far outside of their “comfort zone” the artists and audience are actually pushed.

“[All] of us — myself included, as someone who works at a major art museum and is obviously invested in thinking about what kind of work merits a broad audience — are pushed by the show to be less precious and more open to having fun with creativity. That goes for the artists, the audience and me.” O’Neill says.

“We’re not making masterpieces on Crash Gallery,” he adds, “we could never claim to do that and I think you’d be hard pressed to find an artist who would agree that the show creates anywhere close to the ideal conditions for them to make their best work.”

This is certainly true; in the Oct. 2 premiere episode’s first round, the artists are given water guns filled with paint and 30 minutes to paint a representation of “love.” The results are…mixed, at best, and the artists’ frustration is palpable.

Yet what Crash Gallery does bring to the table is a new idea: art as spectator sport. Crash Gallery threatens to burst open the doors of artists’ studios and force them into the light of day, to be observed by the public as they do their level best to showcase their talents.

Whether it will be successful is yet to be seen, but one must applaud the initiative.

Crash Gallery airs Fridays on CBC at 8:30 p.m.

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