By Sasha Semenoff
CALGARY — The last time you saw an art exhibit was likely in a museum or gallery – to which the very act of viewing art has become so inextricably linked. There is public art, but often it is easily recognizable, taking the form of large murals or sculptures in busy squares, drawing the ire of all-too-vocal taxpayers; meanwhile paintings hang on white walls in air-conditioned corridors and performances are viewed in dark rooms filled with rows of seats. Everything in its right place, or so it would seem. But these common conceptions of when and where it is appropriate to experience art is exactly what festivals like Intersite are trying to subvert.
Intersite Visual Arts Festival is being held for its third year this November in Calgary, but the term festival itself might be a bit misleading. There is no dedicated, central location for the variety of works on offer. Instead, the artworks will appear at locations throughout the city including the Bow Building, the Central Memorial Library, and other seemingly random locations.
“We believe that contemporary art practices are really diverse and broad, and a lot of that work really fits well in a gallery context but some of it isn’t ever really meant to live there, and so this festival is an opportunity for those works to live and be presented and to also be acknowledged for what they are,” says Ashely Bidet, programming coordinator at The New Gallery and Intersite committee member.
Some of these works are performances and interventions in which the artist is central, but others take the form of objects left inserted in the public realm, sometimes hidden in plain sight. Many of the works are less loud and overt than what is commonly accepted as public art, certainly less permanent, and are more dynamic than what often appears in galleries. Despite the wide-ranging nature of the work, all of the pieces have in common the fact that they offer unexpected encounters for unsuspecting viewers: you, the public.
You might seek some of these works out intentionally, but you are just as likely to stumble upon them serendipitously as you make your way through the day. According to Bidet, that’s the beauty of the festival.
“One of the most beautiful things is when people come across the work and are actually in dialogue or conversation with the artist. There’s something very genuine and lovely about that exchange that I think is something unique to Intersite that it can offer as a festival because it’s not a huge cross-city ordeal, it’s very one-on-one. You might come across it or you might not, but it’s something to look out for because even just the act of looking predicates that maybe you’ll find some art somewhere.”
For artist Maggie Flynn, who will be presenting In Circulation, which takes place on various Calgary Transit buses, Intersite is an opportunity to offer experimental work outside of a gallery context.
“I do projects, often, that don’t have a clear relationship to the gallery. And so thinking about the ways that I want to get support for those projects or bring those projects into dialogue with the arts community is not always clear. But Intersite is such a lovely space where that’s already understood and that’s what they’re seeking. So it was such an easy fit when they reached out to me.”
Flynn will be delivering cut-and-pasted news stories from independent media sources to transit commuters, exploring the various power dynamics in play that control who sees what and how in an age of social media newsfeeds dictated by algorithmic suggestion.
Calgary artist Angela Fermor’s A Map of Hollow Spaces is markedly different from Flynn’s work in that it does not feature her direct presence; instead, Fermor will be leaving empty, hollowed-out books throughout the Central Memorial Library in an exploration of space, both outward and public, as well as inner and private. Such contrast between works is indicative of the wide range of experiences facilitated by the festival.
Intersite Visual Arts Festival runs from November 2 – 5 at various locations in Calgary. See website for details.AB, Alberta, art festival, fine art, Intersite, Intersite Visual Arts Festival