I went to the AGO today to meet Ryland, a friend from back home. AGO, for those who aren’t familiar, stands for Art Gallery of Ontario. When I asked Torontonians about “the Ago” they looked puzzled. Apparently everyone calls it the A-G-O. Why? It’s longer! At least Ago is easy to say. Admittedly, you could just call it the “ago” but that somehow doesn’t sound right. Anyway, I’ll continue to call it the Ago until it catches on. Who’s with me?
We went for an Ai Wei Wei exhibition called “According to What?”. Ai Wei Wei is a Chinese contemporary artist, who pissed off the government and is now not allowed to leave the country. About half of the art was what I’d call “protest art”, the rest was “thoughtful” contemporary art examining culture. I found the exhibition very accessible and easy for me to make meaning off (usually I’m a bit stumped with contemporary art).
There were a number of art pieces relating to his (and volunteers’) work compiling a list of the names, sex, age and school of more than 5000 children who died during an earthquake in China in 2008. The government wouldn’t release the number of deaths so Ai Wei Wei, after seeing the destruction in Sechuan, set about compiling the list himself. This work earned him imprisonment, a beating (for which he had to undergone emergency surgery for a brain haemorrhage) and his passport taken away.
There were two pieces I liked the most. The first is called “Straight”. He took two tonnes of rebar (steel rods) from the site of the earthquake and each rod was beaten about 200 times (by hand by his workers) until they were straight again, and then arranged over a large space. To me, the effect created what looked like shifting tectonic plates causing ruptures in the ground. Straight lines broken sort of thing. There was a short documentary on the making of the artwork. So much effort went into it, straightening each piece.
The other I loved was a group of boxes with two holes in them. They were lined up so that when you look down the hole (the second hole is out of reach) you can see every phase of the moon. It took a little while to see it as I had to look at the empty space, the shaded space and the light space all at once then in isolation to get it. Loved it.
There were so many other impressive pieces there. A really worthwhile exhibition.
Ryland and I then checked out the rest of the gallery. Some of the small carvings in one of the galleries were just amazing. The level of detail that went into the carving was so intricate it looked naturally formed because how could someone create something so detailed and delicate. A wonderful portrait photography exhibition too, my favourite being the one of the Queen taken in 2002 in Winnipeg. She’s smiling warmly but with her eyes closed like she’s blinked at the wrong moment. So charming.
The building is wonderful too. You suddenly emerge into the side of the building which looks like a ship’s ballast (or the inside of a whale) and there’s all this light. Stunning. Liked it there so much that I’ve joined Glen and I up as members. The membership also allows us guests and entry into other galleries in the US and Canada. Plus there’s a David Bowie exhibition coming soon.
We then went for yum cha in Chinatown. Walking towards Rosewood Restaurant I saw Kevin running towards us, on his way to class so only a quick wave. Felt nice to randomly bump into someone you know in the city. One of only a few but it helps me feel like I’m home.
At lunch Ryland and I chatted some more about what each of us has been up to. Ryland’s been travelling for the past year, working at a ski resort in Vernon for about six months, saving enough to go on amazing trips. He’s hoping for another year of the same. It was so good to talk to him and to hear such positivity. Good for the soul. And made me itch for more travel. We’re hoping we’ll catch up again before he heads off to New York and then who knows.
In an act that I consider the antithesis of a life of travel, I bought a TV on the way home. I’ve plugged it in and scrolled through the guide that comes on the cable box. Over 500 channels (though lots are double-ups). Am going to have to keep myself away from it as much as possible. The only upshot is that it might be handy in winter when it’s near impossible to go outside.
This evening Glen and I went to a late (for us) screening of Gerontophilia, another TIFF film. It’s about a young guy who has a thing for old men. He goes to work in an old people’s home and starts a relationship with one of the male residents. For all it’s hype of being “ground-breaking” it was a bit disappointing. The medical side of things didn’t quite make sense The relationship between the two men wasn’t explored in any in depth or new way. For example, how are the experiences they share different because of their age difference, and what can one impart to the other? And in the end the young guy comes off as predatory, his predilection for older men nothing more than a fetish. Old people as just another object. After you get over the young person falling for old person the movie is pretty flat. There were a couple of nice moments but there wasn’t enough in it to make it a truly great film.