By Meredyth Cole
VANCOUVER — British artists Paul Harrison and John Wood have been collaborating since 1993 and are still finding new things to do. The Contemporary Art Gallery will be presenting I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know It, Harrison and Wood’s first solo exhibition in Canada, followed by another first — a collaboration with Ballet BC. The duo have choreographed a dance piece to compliment the drawings, sculpture, photos, and videos that will be shown at the CAG.
The move to choreography was natural. “It felt like everything fell into place,” says Wood. Both artists have long been known for their performance-based work, usually pieces that explore how the body navigates its environment. Wood describes much of their early work as “us trying to understand what was performance art and what was contemporary dance.”
Harrison and Wood work out of a studio in Bristol where they come up with the deadpan pieces they are best known for, mostly videos and droll sculptures. Yet, the two are comfortable creating exhibitions in far-flung locations. “We are used to it as a way of working… it’s really nice for us to go out and see these different spaces,” Wood says. The artists have put the CAG to good use, creating site-specific text pieces for the windows and using the interior of the gallery as a guide.
I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know It is a fun title that also serves as a blueprint for the show. The works explore “that thing when you think you understand something but then you realize that you don’t.” But rather than cringe at the humanizing moments when we are confronted with the limitations of our knowledge, Harrison and Wood find these missteps inspiring. “That’s quite a nice thing,” Wood says. “It shows that…there is always that sense of wonder, even with things you think are fairly straightforward and everyday.”
Harrison and Wood are similarly fascinated with what they call “human improvisation,” the inclination we have to “use things not quite in the way they are supposed to be used,” Wood explains. “For instance, the different objects that people might use to prop a window open.” Many pieces in the show are “improvised and changed” in a nod to this unsung art form.
For the artists who find such delight in the minutiae of daily life, it’s hard to imagine a point where inspiration runs out. For now, they are focused on bringing their signature sensibilities to a new space, a new genre, and a new audience in Vancouver.
I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know It runs at the Contemporary Art Gallery from February 12-April 3.BC, British Columbia, Contemporary Art Gallery, fine art, I Didn't Know I Didn't Know It