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Metamorphosis Vancouver Art Gallery

Posted by Jhan Dudley on

A current exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery takes its title from Franz Kafka’s novella about a man who wakes up to discover he’s turned into a giant insect.

Rounding up 40 pieces from the gallery’s collection, the VAG’s The Metamorphosis is linked to Kafka’s famous 1915 story through the idea of change.

“It’s a porous structure, from which we could pull these highlights from our permanent collection,” said co-curator Tarah Hogue.

The exhibit is made up of recently acquired works, some on display at the gallery for the first time. Film, photography, and sculpture are among the media used. The pieces showcase local and international artists such as Sonny Assu, Beau Dick, Lyse Lemieux, Marianne Nicolson, Skeena Reece, Fiona Tan, Wang Jianwei, and others.

Hogue co-curated the exhibit with Bruce Grenville and Emmy-Lee Wall. It marks the first opportunity to curate an exhibition from the collection for Hogue, who last year became the gallery’s first Senior Curatorial Fellow of Indigenous Art.

“It was very special to pull works by artists whose work I’d admired for so long,” she said.

The pieces are divided into three different kinds of change: physical, metaphysical and cultural.

An example of the latter is Tim Lee’s The Move. In this 2001 video installation, gallery-goers see Lee’s face on three old, cube-style TV screens as he recites the lyrics to a 1998 track by American hip-hop trio the Beastie Boys.

“It (the group) is made up of three American-Jewish guys who grew up in Brooklyn and appropriated African-American forms in their own work,” Hogue said.

“Lee’s work is looking at these multi-layered issues of translation and how events shift in their meaning by interpretation. There’s this layer of what the Beastie Boys were as a rap group, and then Lee is adding in himself as a Korean-Canadian performing their work.”

Two masks, one by Wayne Alfred, another by Beau Dick, represent metaphysical transformation.

“Transformation masks are used within First Nations culture and potlatch ceremonies to illustrate the interconnectedness between our realm and the spirit realm,” Hogue said.

“They often reference stories of ancestors who encountered supernatural beings and were transformed by their encounter, and brought powers, and rights and privileges to songs and cultural practices.”

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